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!

9 thoughts on “Poem Spark May 15-22 – Nonsense Poems

  1. The word nonsense may be non+sense.How does one know there is “non” in “sense”. If there is : its only a few. David thinks all his poems are nosense poems. So Christine thinks. You don’t have to.To me, (mostly) poetry “have” something. Readers may miss that “something”. This is the magic of the word POEM. Its just a proem. May be I’m wrong.

  2. ufukhati,David and I were just teasing each other. We both know that nonsense can give birth to poems, and also that poetry can be nonsense to some readers and utterly serious to others. The readers and the poet have to meet somewhere in the middle.In my opinion, that is the “magic” of which you speak: when the reader does get it, that which the writer intended for the poem, then the communication between two people becomes magic.

  3. Christine,After all :Sence the poem. Appreciate. Like a breeze, I did not care about its small split wings or small fractured feathers. As I still know, it is a breeze and its still blustry.Any how : what Kay Ryan says is very useful. Thanks for the piece.

  4. hehe, it won’t be too hard for me to write a nonsense poem. I am still in time to contribute, Will post one before tomorrow ends.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.