Books Editor Bill Eichenberger interviewed Andrew Hudgins, the poet behind Shut Up You're Fine, Poems for Very Very Bad Children for The Columbus Dispatch this week, saying "It takes a special kind of mind to get excited by the fact that mommy and salami are a perfect double rhyme." Here is an excerpt from the piece:
Q: My Bed Is Not a Boat is, superficially, funny. But like most of the poems, including I Love Ruby, there is an underlying trauma beneath the veneer of laughter, isn't there?
A: Mel Brooks once said, "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall in an open sewer and die." Comedy is all about perspective. What I like in the poems you mention is that the kids don't even know what they are telling us. Say you got drunk at the junior prom and your date walked out on you. You'd be, I hope, ashamed and miserable for awhile, but after 30 years you can decide if you want to make the story funny when you tell it or, if you are so inclined, you can enjoy your misery all over again. That's also true about being a bed wetter.
Q: You write about a "flawless slice of bread." Is there too insignificant a topic for your poetry?
A: I've never seen a poem about trimming toenails, but I can imagine one. And then it might really have to be about something else, like the importance of insignificant things. In the bread poem, I was trying to capture the way a kid's mind works. I remember being so young I didn't know if there were principles involved in eating a sandwich. Which side should I choose to be the top of the sandwich, and wouldn't that make the bottom side feel rejected? And potato chips. You could spread them out across the plate and eat from large to small. Or, more likely, small to large. But you could also eat from most symmetrical to least. Or ugliest to prettiest. Even though I knew I was being silly, I couldn't stop my mind from wanting to organize the food. Which in retrospect is pretty funny.
Here's a thought about poetic subjects. Just today I saw an article about a group of gastroenterologists offering a prize for the best poem about colonoscopies. I'm guessing they aren't expecting humorous poems. And I'm also guessing that's exactly what they'll get.
Read the entire interview with Barry Moser's illustrations here!