Poem Spark May 15-22 – Nonsense Poems

Salutations fellow poets!

Today as I began reading my copy of Poetry, I found the following paragraph:

Kay Ryan wrote:
4 INCONGRUITY. Nonsense revels in working incompatible elements “into a paste.” For example, “some cream, some slices of Cheshire cheese, four quires of foolscap paper and a packet of black pins.” The poet too feels that things which bear no outward relationship to one another must nonetheless be brought into proximity.

This is from Kay Ryan’s essay, “A Consideration of Poetry,” the full text of which you may read here: Poetry: Featured Prose.

This essay and some of Ryan’s ideas on nonsense in poetry brought to mind some poems I’ve read that feel like nonsense at the beginning, but by the end of the poem the reader has been ushered into a world of startling insight. How is this achieved? How can a poem that makes no sense at first glance become a thing of beauty? Or emotion? Or realization?

In thinking about this, I feel the above paragraph is particularly interesting. When brought together, seemingly unrelated things, ideas, or images take on a relationship together. The reader is forced to compare the things and often, surprisingly, the result is sense. Some examples of this kind of poem follow.

e.e. cummings
(This is a poem of startling strangeness that nonetheless opens within the reader a greater understanding of grief and love.) love is more thicker than forget

Mónica de la Torre
(How does one begin to understand a poet in terms of a greater human relationship? One reads this poem several times) On Translation

Ted Kooser (This poem begins with an impossible assertion. How does the speaker know about a glacier? Yet this is how the poem illustrates the sense of the speaker’s underlying emotion which is too huge for normal images.) After Years

This week’s spark: write a nonsense poem. Use the above poems as examples of what can be done: no punctuation, no capitals, no rules of grammer, impossible comparisons, hyperbole, etc. Let go of the formal rules and see what happens. Be creative and have fun!