My friend's uncle was sick and not long for the world. He has one of those thousand-acre ranches in Texas that breeds large horses, the sort of animal that fits on large ranches. He and his wife also breed large dogs, the kind that measure four feet at the shoulder when sitting. The uncle insisted on staying home, without fuss. The wife didn't want to be alone when he passed, she called her friend to stay over for a few nights. Her friend lived next door, a few thousand acres away. A spare bed was set-up in their large bedroom. On the first night; friend, uncle and wife had all said goodnight and gone to sleep. Every night, the two huge dogs who were leaders of the pack would climb into the huge bed and curl up at the foot of the uncle and the wife. In the middle of the night the friend started snoring which woke one of the dogs up. The dog climbed off the bed, went to her and started licking her feet. Possibly thinking this would help revive her from whatever she was going through. This woke the friend up, who started giggling quietly. The giggling woke the wife up, who saw what was happening and started giggling herself. This woke the other dog up, who started licking the wife's feet. The both of them giggling into hysterics. The dogs licking, the women laughing, finally getting the dogs to return to bed. The wife looking over at her husband, who had passed during all the laughter.

Clear, here in the metaphor of coming in as you go out, is to be surrounded by what makes life yours. But also, the vital aspect of humor in the human cycle. I get asked about humor in poetry when I visit a class, how to let the absurd bridge the deep, which then belittles the term absurd. While this ground has been covered, I would acquiesce humor to experimental. The humor in the not-knowing. When you don't know what to make of something do you give up immediately, or do you let yourself go for the ride?

So there's a trust factor implied, in letting the poem not take itself seriously. In letting whatever experiment happens in language lead the reader. Or letting it change the reader in a chant of laughter. The body shaking loose breath for brainpower. Trusting the work by having the discipline to forego sense for beyon-sense.

I wanted to share this story because I thought there was something noble, or affirmed, in the story of being surrounded by laughter as you leave one terrain for the next. And what sort of analogies to beginnings and portals into what might be considered experimental, would allow an ending its flourish.

Originally Published: October 24th, 2009

A self-proclaimed “lingualisualist” rooted in the languages of sight and sound, Edwin Torres was born in the Bronx and is a longtime resident of New York City. He is a poet whose highly acclaimed performances and live shows combine vocal and physical improvisation and theater. He is the author of...

  1. October 26, 2009

    Great story, Edwin. I think that humor mixed with profundity can be found in poetry with a real sense of play. It can be joyful without being light. Or maybe better it can be serious without being SERIOUS.

  2. October 26, 2009
     Edwin Torres

    A quick investigation: Humor...from the verb humere "be wet, moist." Ancient docs believed our moods were determined by our body fluids...and the term "to be in good humor" (to make sure our fluids were in flow) eventually realigned its definition into the fun zone. \r

    I'm more wondering about fun and play within the so-called experimental...or as a product of it. The nervous laughter that follows a group of strange words linked together in the Language/Flarf/Conceptual/Fluxus/Oulipian vein. Or some young Brooklyn punk poet or a homeless Orion, creating a combination of absurd images weaved into impossible conclusions that rip the top off your head and give you a new morning, or a sound poem that reaches past sense to get at this pit inside its vibration where the only response is laughter.\r

    So yes, while there's a curiosity implied in challenging work (curiosity more than intelligence, difficulty is not intelligence) I'm interested in how those openings massage the brain (fluidify the noggin) to let meaning determine direction.