Letter from Poetry Magazine

Letter to the Editor

by Adam Deutsch
Dear Editor,

Since no one has mentioned it, all these months later, I'd like to express how scathing Brian Phillips's review of Funny by Jennifer Michael Hecht was ["Eight Takes," December 2006]. A review that is so negative about poems rooted in humor—and our perception of laughter—seems hilariously absurd.

The jokes Phillips considers to be "worn down" and "old" are classics rooted in a brand of humor that differs from the laughs-at-the-expense-of-others that have become the norm in contemporary entertainment.

Perhaps we should applaud Phillips's reminder that "Jokes are good for enlightenment." It seems to me like something Phillips, and a good number of the rest of us, have forgotten. What was most ironic was that this review came immediately after Christina Pugh's essay on the absence of humor in contemporary American poetry ["Humor Anxiety"]. She asks in that final paragraph, "Can we love our tradition well enough to laugh at it?" Hecht seems to think that, if we try, we can.

Urbana, Illinois

Originally Published: October 27, 2008

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