The connection between humor and poetry is a long and storied one. Notwithstanding the common assumption that poetry is largely an expression of personal angst, today there are thousands of practicing poets producing poems that, while exploring such age-old topics as love and death, do so with comic techniques ranging from sly wit to pie-in-the-face slapstick.

Yet, as transcripts of oral performances from preliterate peoples show, poets from every culture have used humor since the first days of human history, and every period since then has seen rich expression that is, at the same time, both poetic and humorous. In fact, the earliest instances of humor in human culture may have more to do with tribal cohesion than anything else.

Humor in poetry is as old ...

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