Prose from Poetry Magazine

Like, A Noticeable Amount of Pee

It’s funny because it’s edited.

by Michaelanne Petrella

My poetry experience has always been confined to a scholastic atmosphere, with one exception. My dad made me memorize Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Time to Rise” when I was ten. It was a very hilarious inside joke that he and my mom had about shaming me into waking up before noon. Beyond that, elementary school introduced me to a whole world of poems that rhymed with cat and bat. Most of the poems that I wrote at that time were either scary or funny, and nothing in between. I wrote a poem once called “It.” I believe it went something like, “It lay on the ground, it does not make a sound.” I remember thinking how scary it would be to give as little information as possible so that the reader’s imagination would fill in the gaps. So, by that point, poetry, for me, was either a series of ominous terror “images” or rhyming poems making fun of school lunch meat.

It wasn’t until college that my legitimate poetry experience began. I hadn’t been looking forward to my poetry classes at first, but by being forced to take them I found that certain kinds of poetry were in sync with my own writing sensibilities. For instance, haiku class was one of my favorites because it allowed for strange wording. We could write whatever we wanted within the standard haiku form. We were encouraged to mimic the greats like Buson or Bashō, and invoke natural images and subtle wisdom. I remember liking haiku quite a bit, but not necessarily for its content. I liked the sound of translation. When it was translated, it sounded almost Jedi-like. There was this famous haiku by Issa:

Don’t kill that fly!
Look—it’s wringing its hands,
wringing its feet.

I remember thinking that I wanted everything I wrote to sound like that; I liked the idea of making poems sound as though they were translated. I wanted my poems to have a Björk-like lyric quality, where everything was so oddly specific, but at the same time, inappropriately funny.

Many of my haikus went like this:

Baby in the yard.
Where is the baby’s holder?
Holding the cell phone.

Or:

Mashed cantaloupe soup
It does not taste like you’d think
Unfortunately

Or:

There is a stupid
Stupidly stupid stupid
Stupid stupid horse.

Often I would get a laugh from one or more students, and almost always a laugh from the professor (of course, not without obligatory head shaking that signified fake admonishment). I found that most people actually appreciated humor in poems. There was a willing audience, eager to hear something that didn’t make them sad or bored. Most of the students’ poems were about death, grandma, grandma’s death, rain, or questions about life, all of which were overwrought, indulging in cliches and dramatic description. It was odd that these college-level English majors didn’t have the ability to show without telling. Many poems were thinly-veiled confessions or metaphors by way of rain or wound imagery. Sometimes it rained directly inside of the wounds. Sometimes the rain was hurtful. Sometimes the wound itself rained blood onto their cheekbones, which implied eye blood, I guess.

I think it was for lack of practice in some instances, but I couldn’t help but feel that some of it was just unbridled therapy. In our most emotional moments, we don’t tend to edit. I found that funny poetry worked well because it was all about editing and timing. Much of my time was spent whittling down the exact joke, or emotion, that I was trying to convey. The best moment from class was when I read a particularly short poem that ended with the lines, “When my dog Pepper peed in the pool. Like, a noticeable amount of pee.” It got a laugh, but the laughter felt like a big sigh of relief, as it was the last poem read aloud during a day of dead grandma poems, but more than that, it became a classroom example of solid editing.

My professor pointed to various parts of my poem where I could have elaborated and how that would have basically killed the punch line. She said that in its simplicity, the emotion was stronger, and as a result, the reaction greater. After that, we had a group discussion about editing, timing, and the word “pee.”

Learning to make poetry funny gave me some invaluable editing experience. I found an ally in poetry, and although I don’t write poetry professionally, I know that my experience with it helps to inform my editing process, and hopefully makes me a funnier writer along the way. Polonius said it best, during his ironically rambling preface in Hamlet, that “brevity is the soul of wit.” Or, as my incisive professor would say, “Brevity=Wit.” So keeping that wisdom in mind, I’ll end this in the same way: Good poetry=Edited poetry.

Originally Published: October 3, 2011

COMMENTS (58)

On October 17, 2011 at 6:27pm Lauren wrote:
I found it quite entertaining and thoughtful reading your experiences with poetry growing up. I am familiar with the poem “Time to Rise”; sometime in elementary school I was exposed to its words. When it comes to writing poetry it tends to be our most emotional moment, some find it as an outlet to express their most inner thoughts and like you stated some use it as their therapy. I believe poetry is an assessable and healthy way of venting but at times it starts to become over-whelming. Drama, death, and pain are all I see. There isn’t enough entertainment and excitements in poems, so reading the way you incorporate jokes within your poems is refreshing. I will sway in your direction and start making more simplistic poetry.

On October 19, 2011 at 6:04pm Shataria wrote:
I agree about the fact that a lot of poetry isn’t edited. When I write poetry I never spend time editing to the point where I get the joke narrowed down to a well constructed subliminal thought, I guess now is a fine time to start. I do agree that where there is simplicity in writing there is strength as your professor pointed out to you. For the most part I rarely wrote funny poetry, because I did write aggressively, and in a sort of matter-of-fact type of tone. What editing tips would you suggest for someone like me? Also do you totally rule out poetry that seems as if it is a therapy session?

On October 19, 2011 at 8:08pm Allison wrote:
When I was a teenager, I loved poetry and I loved writing it. When it came to explaining a poem, or what it meant was sometimes difficult for me. When I started College, I didnt come across poetry until my Humanities class. I learned alot about poetry, but not enough. I decided to take a literature class. In my literature class we are learning about Haiku poetry. I never knew that poetry could be funny, but at the same time interesting. Your article about your experience actually opened my eyes and made me very interested in this type of writing. Most of all I love your line about the dog peeing.

On October 19, 2011 at 11:07pm Tim wrote:
I enjoyed reading this article and agree with your views on two fronts. One: comic relief is definitely necessary in both life and art, perhaps especially so in an art form such as poetry where the content can be so bloody dreary. In your case, I'm willing to bet that your poems were more memorable than those of all your classmates' dead grandmas combined. Variety is the spice of life and monotony is the goulash. Two: Brevity is an underrated virtue of writing and is indeed achieved by good editing. Writing for writing's sake only dilutes the power of the piece.

On October 19, 2011 at 11:50pm Louise wrote:
Hi,
This was a very interesting read. I just attempted my
first haiku yesterday. It is pretty generic in that it
talks about nature and such. I was able to avoid the
most common clichés, though (I hope!). I can relate to
what you said about all the cliché poetry that people
write. I can relate because I am one of them; or at
least I was when I was a teenager. All poems were about
love, written in a very dramatic way, mimicking what I
had seen more experienced poets do. I thought it
sounded good because there was so much emotion there. I
think what made it bad was how I was not trying to make
it real. They were just descriptions of any emotion I
could think of, because I suppose I thought that was
what makes a poem good. You are so right about being
your own critic and editing your work.

On October 20, 2011 at 12:11am Audrey M. wrote:
When I first read the title, I was sure that it was used as a way to get readers. However, I was so blown away by how funny, down-to- earth, and real the author' admission was. In this article, you have a real sense of someone journey with writing. I especially enjoyed the personal experiences that dated back to her child hood. To have that desire instilled in her so young, obviously played a role in guiding her to write professionally. One thing that stood out for me was the author's desire to bring out the laughter with her writing. She wasn't afraid to be different. Writing about pain and death is so easy because we all experience it. Sometimes stepping away from the norm, makes the poetry more special. I truly enjoyed this article.

On October 21, 2011 at 5:27pm Diana Ruiz wrote:
First of all with that title, it was a given I had to read it even if the intent was to attract more readers or if it was to be funny, without a doubt its genius. I thought your piece was very interesting because it stems from a very relatable place, where you show reader s your child mentality in the beginning of your article. And about how you didn’t have an affinity for poetry until you became older. You can tell that your humor transcended throughout your life, from childhood to college student. I love that you think outside the box and use humor in your poetry aside from your other counterparts that use the typical themes. By the way I can relate to a dog peeing, I have two!

On October 22, 2011 at 2:51pm zach wrote:
I can relate to Ms. Patrella, writing poetry as a form
of shock tactics. I often times find myself reading or
listening to poetry and thinking it's hokey and cliche.
I got quite a laugh out of the "dead grandmother"
reference. Perhaps this is the reason I refrain from
writing while in a deep emotional state. When writing
highly emotional content, it seems like the author rants
for a while, and doesn't take the time to go back and
edit out all the fodder. By editing out all that filler
content, it leaves a gap for the reader to interpret. I
think the lack of detail makes it easier for the reader
to relate as well.

On October 22, 2011 at 10:06pm David Blaxton Jr. wrote:
I enjoyed reading about how Michalelanne Petrella was introduced to
poetry as a young child. I think explaining how she grew to love
poetry as an adolescent was a good choice. I showed the readers that
growing to love poetry is not some thing that will happen over night. I
can relate to the writer, because it didn’t began to really appreciate
poetry until I was in college. My poetry class has really taught me
about the foundations or poetry and the best way to deconstruct a
poem. It’s good to ready article about poetry from another
perspective. It allow you to compare and contrast your thoughts with
the writers thoughts.

On March 12, 2012 at 9:52pm Kenneth wrote:
I must admit, the title is the very first thing [I paid attention to in] this article. However, as I began to read it I began to feel a closer appreciation for the article. When I was younger the only exposure I had to poetry was “Roses are red, violets are blue”. It was not until I was enrolled in college where I learned different analysis techniques and various poetry styles. Just like you I always heard poetry about people dying or something sad and melancholy. It was honestly a breath of fresh air to hear that someone else shares my point of view that poetry does not have to go to a dark place a majority of the time. I know that you don’t write poetry professionally, however I would have loved to read “Like, a noticeable amount of pee” the sequel. And who knows, you might even have a second profession with poetry. Think about it.

On March 13, 2012 at 6:27pm melanie wrote:
I agree that poetry should at times have humor in it. Often people who are writing know that what they want to accomplish is an emotional attachment to their audience, a quick and known method for that is through intense emotion, mainly pain and suffering or anger. People forget that humor can connect with people as well and that making audiences feel good, while at times much trickier than making them sad, is just as valid a way to connect. This also brings to mind people that are aware of trauma as a good way to write poetry that is very likely to have a receptive audience. In which case it should call into question why the person is writing at all, if it’s only to gain an audience they should think about their priorities and possibly reorganize them.

On March 13, 2012 at 6:29pm melanie wrote:
I agree that poetry should at times have humor in it. Often people who are writing know that what they want to accomplish is an emotional attachment to their audience, a quick and known method for that is through intense emotion, mainly pain and suffering or anger. People forget that humor can connect with people as well and that making audiences feel good, while at times much trickier than making them sad, is just as valid a way to connect. This also brings to mind people that are aware of trauma as a good way to write poetry that is very likely to have a receptive audience. In which case it should call into question why the person is writing at all, if it’s only to gain an audience they should think about their priorities and possibly reorganize them.

On March 14, 2012 at 8:20pm Deon O. wrote:
One of the great things about poetry is that we can make of it what we want. Some many times we are boxed in by rules of an assignment or editorial restrictions. The actual piece of the work gets overlooked or diluted. I really like that you tried to make your work fun and entertaining, and I wished that poetry could all be free standing and not categorized by quatrains and stanzas. My first experiences with poetry came from rap music. At a time when rap music was becoming violent and the government tried to ban this form of poetry, my views were being shaped. I could not imagine a congressman telling NWA or Ice T how to say it and what to write about. I felt a little bit of triumph though when your professor said that in its simplicity, the emotion was stronger, and as a result, the reaction greater. All in all I agree with editing as long as the piece isn’t comprised for its audience.

On March 16, 2012 at 12:32am Candice Anderson wrote:
The best thing about poetry is that there is no wrong or right way to do it. When writing poetry the author has total control over the writing. However sometimes it is appropriate to go back and edit, especially if the author is writing comedy, because it the author is not careful they can blow the punch line and loose the joke by not being properly organized. When I write I make edits every time, sometimes I add words take words out read it aloud and add a whole verse and make my work my best work. I believe edits show growth and engagement towards the material. I like how you talked about your experiences in school, and I can agree that most people do write about more serious things than funny things, and it is refreshing to read humor from time to time.

On October 15, 2012 at 12:25am Candice M. Trybull wrote:
Pee is profound. I wish more people would write about
pee, dog pee especially. I think that humor is an underutilized tool in poetry. Really if you think about
it, humor is under-appreciated in life. Gross, yes, but
the man trying to pee while he’s on the blue line
(Chicago subway) is pretty entertaining, as long as it doesn't get on my shoe. I think that we’re all so
wrapped up in our emotions and our dead grandmothers,
and all of our feelings that we forget to laugh at
ridiculousness. I like humor that sneaks up on you and
smacks you on the tush. I appreciated this article and
will be looking for more of your work.

On October 16, 2012 at 6:24pm Jasmine C wrote:
I found this poetry very funny and entertaining. I like as a child her dad made her memorize Robert Louis Stevenson's "Time to Rise". I also like that she enjoyed writing haiku poems which she can be funny. Poetry has no right or wrong way of writing. My favorite thing in the poetry was "When my dog Pepper peed in the pool" it was very funny me. I would like to read some more of Michealanne Petrella funny poetry.

On October 17, 2012 at 1:59pm Naajidaah Jones wrote:
Naajidaah Jones
October 17,2012
Poetry Online
Valerie Wallace
In the article “Like, A Noticeable Amount of Pee”, I enjoyed the idea that Haiku’s have the ability to be funny and not sad and upsetting. The poetry I write generally deals with love and the idea of love so it was a breath of fresh air to read an article that expresses that poetry is supposed to funny too, it doesn’t always have to have such a sad connotation. This article has inspired me to write something humorous because you can always find humor in poetry. This article helps me to realize that all experiences don’t have to be somber and sullen but exciting and silly.

On October 18, 2012 at 6:04pm Duncan wrote:
I really enjoyed this article. I have to admit, I never
thought I would ever read a literary article on pee
before today! Although poetry is often used as an
emotional outlet, we forget that happiness is an emotion
too. Poems should be humorous and less sad. I think many
writers are guilty of writing of the seriousness of
life, myself included, but your article has made me want
to lighten up. There is enough sadness in the world and
we should baste in the moments that make up laugh until
we cry as much as we can for they are few and far in
between. Thank you for this.

On October 19, 2012 at 10:41pm Krystal Murray wrote:
I would love to address the author and I hope that she (you) will read this at some point. I found this article very informing and entertaining. I was intrigued by the title and the article definitely lived up to its name in a way very differently than I thought it would.

I think it is very true that writers fail to see the importance in editing poetry and I find this very true about myself. The article really inspired me to go back to five year old poetry and see how better it could be if I edited. The college students who made blood rain onto their cheekbones and created “tear blood” in their writing were very hilarious to me and I have seen this over and over again. I think so because I feel I have related to them. The difference is that I was very young. I would think that the poems read in your class would’ve been ripped to shreds by the professor. I think we use poetry as an excuse to write freely, also known as unedited.

I think it was a very important message to convey and doing so with comical poetry was a very relatable way. To hear that a poem that ended with “Like, A Noticeable Amount of Pee” was as great as I imagine, was as funny and innovative due to editing was a simple way to get the point across.

On October 19, 2012 at 11:28pm Sherronda Booker wrote:
Michaelanne, great article! I, too find myself seeing the funnier side of most situations. I’m often accused of not being “serious enough” about something, because I may smirk at an uncomfortable situation. I find it refreshing that you choose to focus your poetry on humor. It is true that people tend to use art as a way to expressed their anger, rage and often to mourn, but when art is used to reflect something positive and beautiful it opens up to something way more amazing. I also find poetry more intriguing during my college years. I have found a new appreciation for the art form. Your article has inspired me to be free in my poems and to let go of all inhibitions while I write. I hope you’ve continue to use poetry as an outlet.

On March 17, 2013 at 7:37pm jsun wrote:
I think haiku tends to be "like a noticeable amount of
pee." In many ways, it can be ironic, humorous,
disgusting, or frightening depending on the reader's
experience. I always felt haiku to be a way to create an
image that settles with oneself and germinates as many
emotions as possible...I think I've turned away from
reading haiku on a consistent basis is because many
writer take them too seriously and make the brevity so
dense and full of intellect nonsense that they can be
overwhelming and difficult to connect to; however, the
few haiku you presented here definitely made question if
something like haiku needs a neurotic voice(s). I
appreciate the humor and lightheartedness, it's
refreshing and lifts the form to another level.

On March 18, 2013 at 7:54pm Nestor Zavala wrote:
I must admit I am very curious to what keep you in the
poetry light. I was exposed to poetry not by my parents
but as child through poetry in books or clever teachers
who chose to quote poems from time to time. I was too
young to fully appreciate this exposure and as I got
into my later years in middle school not much attention
was put on any subject other than Science, Math, and
History. It is only now; in my early twenties, I have
once again embraced poetry. I haven’t yet written my
own poem but have no desire to start in the “It”
category of poetry. I wonder if there are inspired,
admiring poetry lovers like myself who are struggling
with this dilemma. I admire your decision in taking a
different angle when writing in “Haiku form” during
college. I think it’s important to think outside the box
when others are still imagining in it. Do you think
poetry should go hand in hand with the teaching of the
English poetry? I would also like to know if you or our
friends in the poetry community feel most poems can be
written without the help of editing?

On March 19, 2013 at 11:14pm Martha Z. Freites wrote:
Editing, to me is a large part of writing in general; it is the opportunity to clarify your work as well as perfect. Even though I do not write poetry, I do construct a lot of literary papers and it is important to edit your work. On another note, I like humorous poems rather than such poems that deal within the realm of despair and misery. I wouldn’t mind such poems if they were well written and constructed. Overall I agree on your take on poetry. Yes death, despair, and misery are great aspects of poetry but I find funny poems as those that we all want to hear. A poem that makes the reader laugh is a poem worth reading because it doesn’t bring you down. In more specific detail, I don’t mean that a poem has to be all humorous in fact; it could be, for the majority “deep,” with comic relief incorporations. I hope that more people see this, thus making poetry much more than a bleeding heart.

On March 20, 2013 at 2:25pm Meagan wrote:
I don't quite know too much about Haiku's but the three
that you had listed were enjoyable. I am so use to
reading poetry that is likewise, sad and depressing.
Reading your article helped me to appreciate the humor
in poems. I can not say I have come across many funny
poems, but I loved your "stupid, stupid, stupidly,
stupid" poem. Growing up that was my mine and my sisters
favorite name for each other, which always got us in
trouble, but still use it to this day. I would also like
to mention how awesome the title of your article is, it
definitely caught my attention and made me choose to
read your article instead of any of the others that were
listed. Your poetry seems to be a different kind of
poetry in itself, I know you said you don't write poetry
professionally, but maybe you should.

On March 20, 2013 at 7:02pm Lyndee wrote:
This was a very good read. Most of the poetry i read is not funny, so it
was a relief that i could read something that made me smile or laugh. I
believe she makes a good point that editing poetry can narrow it down
and not make the joke funny. I think that sometimes its good to not
edit something because writing down what you think at that very
second shows true emotion.

On March 20, 2013 at 8:37pm Matthew Lugo wrote:
I must say that Ms. Patrella had me laughing the moment
I saw the title. When she spoke about her experiences
and poetic influences growing up, it really showed her
evolution into a professional. As a poet who
incorporates humor, I found it interesting how her most
simple poetry drew the greatest reactions from people.
When she discussed having to take a Haiku class, and how
many people introduced cliche topics and descriptions of
things, I thought that she was right in saying that it
removes the specialty and meaning of the poem. When you
consider particular forms and kinds of poetry, many
people try to flock to traditional ideas and patterns.
But with Ms. Patrella, she redefines each form to fit
her own mold, offering a brand new perspective in the
world of poetry and literature.

On March 20, 2013 at 9:41pm Alisa wrote:
I found the article to be very entertaining while educating. I
agree good poetry is edited poetry. Sometimes it may
seem annoying to keep re-editing your work, but it is
worth it. I had a teacher in Highschool make me re-write a
paper for an entire semester. Everytime I turned it in, I was
sure that there was nothing wrong, but believe me he
found something everytime. Now I believe in continuous
editing. I have a book of poems that I write throughout the
year and constantly edit. It actually works for me as a
writer to leave my work alone then return months later and
edit it. You will be surprised how your mind works and
what changes you can make to improve your work.

On March 20, 2013 at 10:38pm Melody Dunlap wrote:
I enjoyed reading this article I personally love poetry
that has some sense of humor. I do not always like
reading poems about death, tragedy, or just a bad
situation. When I read poetry I like to try to see what
the poet is saying. It helps me to understand the poem
better. I wish I was exposed to poetry more when I was
younger I was not really exposed until high school. But
my eyes have really been open since being in college and
writing my own poetry on my free time. I will look more
into MichaelAnne Petrella work I bet I will enjoy of it
from start to finish.

On March 21, 2013 at 6:31pm Racq M. wrote:
You have written a great essay that exposes a different side of this art. Poetry is often times taken a little too serious. I mean this with all due respect, and it is due respect, however having a sense of humor about art tends to take it to the next level. When you are able to see the humor in something, it is usually this exact point that you can see it's beauty; it tends to happen at the same time. It's true that many poems, especially those authored by novice poets, tend to be gloomy. I understand though because when I used to write poetry, many emotions began to surface. It was then that I gave myself the liberty to be sad or angered or frustrated and it would come out in the form of this esoteric, bluesy piece of work I figured was a poem. But the more you edit and refine it, you can translate those exact same emotions with more clarity therefore allowing a wider range of readers to understand you, the poet. I don't think every poem has to be bubbly or funny but neither do I think everything that has to do with death, for example, has to be sad.

On March 24, 2013 at 5:39pm Kris Fullington wrote:
When I began reading your post, I knew that it wasn't going to be another "boring" read. The back ground information in the first two paragraphs were great because I got to learn a little more about you as an individual. Seeing you had/have a sense of humor made me want to finish reading that much more. I write poetry myself and find the self reflecting poems easier to write but, they are infused with a number of punch lines, hopefully timed right. Reading your post was educational in that editing makes for the better poem. Great post!

On April 9, 2013 at 11:02am kieosha ross wrote:
I enjoyed this poem and the information that was shared about what brought you to writing poetry and the inspiration for type of poetry you choose to write. Also, the fact that it wasn't another emotional or dramatized poem that makes me want to cry or dwell on real life issues but a poem that brought laughter and some excitement was great to indulge in.

On October 29, 2013 at 8:54am Lizbeth Rivera wrote:
Reading this article made me realize that when I was in grammar school love and death were the topics I also wrote about. When I think about poetry I think about strong emotions and I guess that is why death and love are topics that are written about the most by students. I am a person who loves to hear a good joke, for me a good laugh is better than a well read poem. Haiku’s do sound cool, they have a certain flow that makes them sounds translated how Michaelann mentioned. For me, Haikus are the easiest form of poetry because they don’t have to rhyme, their short and straight to the point, if there is any.

On October 29, 2013 at 11:57pm Alexander Arnold wrote:
I felt that this was very insightful to read . It really reminded me of how I began to have respect for poetry as a boy. Although my haikus were not as funny as yours were, but they tended to be different from what everyone else in my class was writing. i never thought that poetry could be comical. i always thought that it had to be about love, sorrow, and emotions. now that i see that it can , it makes me curious to see more poets try to be more comical in there writing instead of following the same old tropes and cliches of poetry.

On October 30, 2013 at 12:10pm Kathie wrote:
I found this article to be very relatable. As a kid, I also thought that all poems had to rhyme. Of course once I got older I was showed many different kinds of poems but I will also agree that you rarely see funny poems, like actual funny ones. Most poetry that I have read is either depressing or about love. Reading the funny haikus was very different and makes me realize that there is a comical side to poetry and also made me realize how many different types of poetry there actually is. I enjoyed the authors story because even though she does not write poetry professionally, she still had a great experience in writing it and being different.

On October 30, 2013 at 1:37pm AnnaMichelle Jackson wrote:
Just reading makes me think back and wonder, what exactly did they expect for us as young individuals to get out of poetry. You speak of your teacher making you recite this poem. It appeared that just being able to recite would suffice. Did they ever think that we really had no clue what the poet was trying to get us to see. How about, being young we didn't want to think into anything but maybe recess.Now if you wanted that, we could give a detail report of Who,What,When,Where and Why. I remember that some key features that would draw my attention would be if it was witty and it rhymed...Dr. Seuss type stuff. Have I changed much? In all my years, I say no! I still like witty rhymes because they are charming in sound and don't require much thought. One I remember enjoying is "In da morning" by Langston Hughes. You should read it sometimes, I guarantee that it will bring a smile.

On October 30, 2013 at 2:41pm Tonika wrote:
This Article was great it was a good read and it spoke the truth. I
agreed with a lot of the things that were said. When I think of poetry
first thing that comes to mind is sadness, hurt, pain or bad days. Very
rarely do I think of happiness, celebrations, or comedy (funny poems).
A lot off people focus more on the bad than the good and that's just
with life in general. If something horrible happens you hear about it
first things. But a lot of good things go unnoticed or mentioned. This
article made me crack a smile and I not sure if it was because it was
funny or just because at the time I needed a reason to smile. Either
way funny poems are rare gem in the poetry world in my opinion( or
maybe the good things are rarely mentioned). I enjoyed reading this
article and it inspired me to write about more positive and funny
things.

On October 30, 2013 at 3:43pm Jer N wrote:
I think you raise a valid point. It is often that poets focus too much on the message they aim to convey rather than how they actually convey it. Editing is key to all good writing. Poetry is no different. You not only have certain forms to adhere to, but you also have to effectively express your message.

A good poem is not merely the content itself. A well edited and effective comedic poem can certainly have a greater impact than a more dense, emotional, morose, or political poem which is not particularly well written. It is even more significant if a poem is written well enough to be resonate with readers of listeners who do not even share the poets' sentiments.

I recall hearing a few poets at a local open mic event a year ago, perhaps longer. Two of the poets spoke on similar themes; mainly anti-war and working class economic issues. Both poets actually each had a poem which essentially said the same things; that the US is on a path of self-destruction, that our foreign relations are not in high standing, and that this is leading to more people becoming impoverished or turning to drugs and crime. The difference was that the first one tried to “argue” her points in the poem. It ended up making the poem seem disjointed. The other poet, instead, just read one short stanza of a few lines. Although I did not agree with her sentiments, I still recall the impact she had on the room with the last couple of lines of her poem. I actually remember it almost verbatim; “Lady Liberty used to symbolize justice and prosperity / too bad she's now smoking crack with john in an alley.”

On October 30, 2013 at 4:35pm Brandi Grossett wrote:
Although I am not much of a writer, I found myself wanting to read and write more poetry. I found in poetry you have to know how to tell a story in order to get the reader’s attention. I’m no comedian, but I can see how this relates to poetry. You have to keep the reader’s attention, so making them laugh is a good way for them to relate to whatever you are talking about. I do agree, who wants to read about death? Even though a lot of the older poetry is based on tragedy, no one wants to be said all the time.

On October 30, 2013 at 7:21pm Marina Stevenson wrote:
My high school creative writing teacher was all about editing. She taught me that a poem could never be finished. She said she had been working on poems for years because she would find new things to add or take out. She encouraged us to always read and reread our poems, and although we may love a certain line in the poem, if it didn’t make sense it had to be removed. If I’ve ever written a funny poem, it was on accident. Whenever I begin to write a poem humor is not the intent. But I do appreciate a funny poem. Shel Silverstein is a favorite poet of mine. His poems have been making me laugh since I was a child. I would imagine that his poems took a lot of editing.
I very much enjoyed reading this article. It was informative and entertaining. I especially like the title, Like A Noticeable Amount Of Pee. It is a real attention grabber. I also enjoyed being able to relate to the author. She used a lot of her own personal experiences which aren’t unlike some of my experiences as a college student in an English or poetry class. I agreed with a lot of the points she made as well, especially the one she made about when we write based off of our emotions we do not tend to edit. I know from personal experience. As I am trying to become a better writer, I am making an effort to change. Overall I enjoyed this article and wouldn’t mind reading more of her work.

On October 30, 2013 at 8:38pm Laura M. wrote:
This article was a wonderful read. It really embodied my
exact feelings about poetry. Poetry doesn't have to be
sad and mundane. There can be a brighter side to it. One
doesn't even have to be a professional writer. The
expression of feelings and thoughts through poetry is
what matters most. Not the subject or the words; it's
the the emotions behind those words. I really like that
the speaker admits she just writes silly little poems
that can make you laugh. I love serious poetry that
makes me think but it is never a bad thing to be able to
get a laugh out of something and not take things so
serious all the time. I would definitely love to explore
other writers that take this approach.

On October 30, 2013 at 9:53pm Megan wrote:
I really enjoyed reading this article. At first I didn't really understand
where the author was going to go with her thoughts. I chose to read it
simply because the title was amusing and it interested me and caught
my attention. However, after reading this article, I am so glad that I did.
I completely agree with what the author is saying and the point that she
is trying to make. I loved her laid back sense of humor and how she
talked about poetry being a cathartic vice to her. In saying "I wanted my
poems to have a Björk-like lyric quality, where everything was so oddly
specific, but at the same time, inappropriately funny," she described
why she writes poetry just perfectly. It is obvious that Petrella writes the
way she does because it makes her feel good, but at the same time
without even noticing, she makes her audience feel good and laid back
as well. Her haikus were silly and made me chuckle a few times.
Although they might not be what everyone agrees on as "good poetry,"
it was definitely real poetry that was touching and eye opening.

On October 30, 2013 at 10:49pm April Honorable wrote:
April Honorable
I found your article comical but yet realistic. Parents can be tough sometimes but I bet the experience was a stepping stone. I believe you are a poetic in your own rights. Poetry relies on creativity on the individual and expressiveness of oneself which I believe you have done from the very beginning. I further think because you edited the poem makes it you’re own and a masterpiece in itself. The breakdown of Haiku form was helpful and easy to understand. I often find myself wanting to transform my writing style when I learn something new as well. I really enjoyed your closing remarks "Good poetry=Edited poetry”

On October 30, 2013 at 11:35pm bobby jones wrote:
I do believe that a lot of poems mostly talk about
death, family and the struggles of everyday life but
that’s what makes poetry, poetry. The art of being able
to write whatever we want too. But I do believe that
you’re right about poetry having humor in poems as well.
And you bring up a great point of not always boxing
ourselves into one type of poetry style. Even though I
don’t really write in the haiku style a lot, some of the
poems you included in the article make it seem more
interesting as well as funny. After looking at some of
my pieces I do need to loosen up with and I might start
by writing a haiku.

On October 30, 2013 at 11:49pm Zainab Osman wrote:
Reading this article made me realize there is a word out
there where you can forget sounding sophisticated,
formal, grammar, everything in general except how to
relay images via words to a person. That there is no
right nor wrong. To often these days there's a "right"
way to write but Michaelanne Petrella's work testifies
against that. There is no right way to write. There is
only conveying. And coincidentally, poetry has many ways
of allowing one to express themselves.

On November 2, 2013 at 3:23am J. Huggins wrote:
While reading your article, I felt re-introduced to
poetry in a sense. Most cases poetry is complex,
abstract, descriptively distant, dark, and used a
vessels to release the troubling emotions within; and as
readers we are normally left deconstructing and
rereading just to reach a guess or a glimpse into the
poets mind and the message they are trying to send.
Your expression of simplistic and edited poetry, not
only displays the joyous emotions one might feel, but
also makes discovering the root “easier”. I believe a
lot of people, and I’m not exactly sure why, gravitate
towards the sorrows, pain, or unpleasant side of things
when digging for poetic inspiration. So for you to
present humor, and depictions of average day to day
images, would in essence make you “original”; …a “trend
setter” if you will. You choose to write in a sense that
is not common, and by reading other’s comment you have
opened their view on poetry and are eager to challenge
themselves and their writing.

On November 2, 2013 at 3:17pm Keith wrote:
It's interesting that art is a practically infinite form of expression in the
sense that we are constantly creating and innovating, but that so often
people will choose to rely on tired tropes and cliches to convey a
point. We can use certain stylistic choices to enhance our writing (and
there is where the importance of editing comes in of course), but so
frequently do people choose to stick to something familiar and well
worn rather than express themselves in a new, unique way. Your
classmates used poetry as therapy and many people do want to use
art as a form of emotional release, but what's wrong with defying that
norm?

On November 2, 2013 at 11:31pm Raquel Gillings wrote:
I totally agree that people mostly write poems on death,
questions about life etc. For me it has always been
easiest to write poetry when im unhappy, heartbroken, or
when someone passes away. That's how I vent by letting
my feelings out on paper. More humor should be utilized
in my poetry other than sadness though. Funny poetry
requires more thought process, editing, and timing but
im willing to try it. When I first read the title "Like,
A Noticeable Amount of Pee" I automatically assumed this
article was going to be very humorous, even though it
wasn't it was still an enjoyable read. This article has
definitely inspired me to explore and broaden my
horizons when it comes to writing more happy tones in my
poetry. For my first attempt I will be writing a Haiku,
because Haiku's are short, simple, and to the point.
Like it was stated in this article in its simplicity,
the emotion is stronger, and as a result, the reaction
greater. Thanks MICHAELANNE PETRELLA for the
inspiration.

On March 17, 2014 at 2:53pm Noel Cross wrote:
Much like you, I am pulled in and inspired by humor.
I'm in the midst of taking several literature classes
and the "dead grandma" poem or comment is EVERYWHERE!
What a fantastic way to sum up so much of an English
major's experience. Poems and comments that really
capture my attention are the ones that are thought out,
edited in this case. I love the jaw dropping experience
when a poet can put in a quick joke or messy surprise.
Ideas that are completely out of the ordinary, or a play
on words that is so unique it has to capture the
reader's attention. Haiku's are the perfect example of
a form of poetry that can be funny and well edited (they
basically edit themselves). Thanks for writing this
well edited piece, and I hope you cleaned out your pool.

On March 19, 2014 at 1:03am Teshura wrote:
Like, A Noticeable Amount of Pee is such a funny name, I like it. I didn’t know what to expect after I read the title. Who would have thought you would be talking about editing. Michaelanne Petrella I really enjoyed reading your story, it brought back so many memories for me. I remember rhyming cat, bat and hat from elementary school too, I didn’t have a lot of poetry in high school. I guess you could say my public school like others took the arts out and put nothing in its place. When writing I tend to lean more toward funny or scary subjects too, they are just more comfortable for me. I am so happy I decided to take poetry in college this spring, I’m having fun analyzing poems. I wish I took this class twenty years ago.

On March 19, 2014 at 11:08am kierra johnson wrote:
Reading the article Like,A Noticeable Amount of Pee,
made me chuckle a bit. It reminded me of myself. I
believe that to keep an audiences attention without
boring them, you have to have a sense of humor. I used
to write poems about my life and things I went through
on a daily and most of them consist of something silly
or funny. There is some crazy thins going on in the
world so why not find a reason to laugh. Rereading my
poems made me happy and laugh. Michaelanne started
writing poems and found them interesting at a young age,
so did I. I didn't take my first poetry class until now
but I've always had an interest in poetry and poets.

On March 19, 2014 at 11:49am Carolline wrote:
Of course the name of the article was what caught my
attention. Don’t really think many people talk about pee
on a poetry site. Being a fan of humor myself, I was
eager to read. Poetry doesn’t seem fun at first since
there are so many different types of it being written.
But once you find the type you like it can be
entertaining. Like you I love haikus. They are short
and interesting. And it makes sense that editing works
in poetry. If you weren’t able to edit something, it
could have not been successful, like everyone says
change is good.

On March 19, 2014 at 6:38pm Eric Lipscomb wrote:
I found your quote, “Good poetry = Edited poetry” very
interesting because poetry is a form of writing; I think
that most people tend to forget that fact. Similar to
any other form of writing, edited is definitely
important for poetry. I enjoyed the way you use editing
as a way to remain suspenseful in your poems/poetry. I
also I noticed, like a noticeable amount of pee, that
one of your haiku poems that you posted from Issa went
against the norms of a haiku poem. Let’s take a look.

Don’t kill that fly! (have 4 syllables)
Look—it’s wringing its hands, (have 6 syllables)
wringing its feet. (have 4 syllables)

This poem does not have the classic haiku poem form of 5
syllables for the first and three lines and 7 syllables
for the second line which is interesting because somehow
it still works; I can see why it’s one of your favorite
haiku poems. I also enjoyed the fact that you try to
bring humor to your poetry because humor in poetry, this
days, does appear to be a rare thing. Your experience
with poetry and what you interested in poetry is
definitely relatable to my own experience as far as
being “forced” to write poetry in elementary and high
school. And similar to you, poetry has also helped me
with my editing process as far as revealing as much
information I want to with getting my message across.
That’s the good thing about a haiku poem; it’s short,
impactful, and gets straight to the point.

On March 19, 2014 at 6:55pm David Ingram wrote:
I can relate to this poet because I have a close friend
that is very similar. She writes funny poems, and every
holiday or special occasion, she mails poetry to our
homes, or even recites them at gatherings. She also
waits for the laughter, and feels inspired to write
after she has some kind of revelation or something
strange happen to her. Or simply just because she felt
like it. Once, when I was in the hospital having
gallbladder surgery, she even wrote me a poem about the
importance of a gallbladder and just about the
experience overall. I find her poetry to be comforting
in times of need, and truly offers a sense of comedic
relief to awkward or painful situations. I have
appreciated this in her, and wish that I was as creative
as she is. I always tell her that she should go into
writing professionally, but she does not feel that there
is a place for comedic poetry, so I look forward to
sharing this article with her and showing her that there
are others out there, and that all she needs to do it
try. Thanks for the inspiration!

On March 19, 2014 at 9:29pm Hermesha King wrote:
I was pulled in by the titled and intrigued instantly by your humor,
smiling and anxious to read on. Your journey to the writer you are
today was comical, smart and witty. The spirit in you and the way you
approached writing was felt through out the article: I could actually
visualize you writing as a child and you joking and having fun as a
college student. I enjoyed this glimpse into your mind as a growing
writer. Your transition from life as a child writer, (butt of your parents
long running joke), to extreme writing, (funny or terrifying no gray
area), and then your college years (editing to the point of expelling
feelings of sadness from people) was a treat. After reading this
pleasure filled article I am inspired to write and reveal without telling
directly. “Come out Jerry were caught”!

On March 20, 2014 at 3:36am Katharina Swiderski wrote:
I absolutely agree with you. Most poems, especially
written by amateurs are rather dull. Most topics circle
around death, grandparents, love; dreary clichés. It is
rare to find a poem that is not just sarcastic, but
actually funny. Finding such a poem is like a fresh
breath of air. I personally do not write poetry, but
focus more on writing fiction. However dull it gets, I
always try to include humor in order to make even the
dullest moment such as death a little more bearable and
take away its seriousness. Life is so short and filled
with so much pain and suffering that I find it a waste
of time to experience the same while indulging in
literature.

On March 22, 2014 at 8:29pm Erica wrote:
I'm so glad it is okay to not like poetry that rhymes. This article was very refreshing to me. I used to hate poetry that rhymed. It never made sense to me, Can't there be another way to get your emotion across without rhyming 'sad' with 'mad'? Personally, I am not a fan of poetry that rhymes or ‘slam’ poetry that most often addresses the issues of poor city streets or hardships, it’s all so depressing. I respect that you can go out of your way to openly say, “I like funny non-rhyming poems!” It almost seems like some sort of poetic revolution. All in all, great article.

On March 23, 2014 at 8:31pm Karina Romero wrote:
I can relate to this poet in so many ways. I always wrote out of my mind and felt like anything i wrote could be made into a poem. In the beginning, i thought that in order to be a good writer you needed to write with such complex words that's when i thought that i wouldn't make it as a writer. In class i would be so nervous, when i had to present a poem but at the end i actually heard claps. After reading this article, i now understand the process of poetry and that you can write whatever but it has to come from the heart.

On March 28, 2014 at 2:16pm donna morgan wrote:
I found this article intriguing and captivating I enjoyed traveling
with the author as she went through her poetry life experience.
This article even made me think about my childhood in elementary
school doing poetry. Like Ms. Petrella said everyone always want to
write about death or anything else that is dark, because those are
the times that are most emotional. I use to be one of those emtional
writers as well. Now I write more amuzing pieces. I want to make
people laugh not cry or feel sorry for me. As far as the author
Michaelanne Petrella, she seems to be a cool individual. She knows
exactly what to say to change the mood of the reader. I enjoyed this
article.

POST A COMMENT

Poetryfoundation.org welcomes comments that foster dialogue and cultivate an open community on the site. Comments on articles must be approved by the site moderators before they appear on the site. By submitting a comment, you give the Poetry Foundation the right to publish it. Please note: We require comments to include a name and e-mail address. Read more about our privacy policy.

MORE FROM THIS ISSUE

This prose originally appeared in the October 2011 issue of Poetry magazine

October 2011
 Michaelanne  Petrella

Biography

Michaelanne Petrella is co-author of the children’s book Recipe (McSweeney’s, 2012) and is a regular contributor to McSweeney’s publications. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Continue reading this biography

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.