Short and Funny Poems
September 7, 2012 10:26 AM   Subscribe

Do you know any short funny poems?

For instance,

Do not worry if your job is small
With rewards you can't see.
Just remember that the mighty oak
Was once a nut, like me.

I'm chairing a Toastmasters meeting and I'm looking for some of these quick verses as a light way to end the meeting.
posted by storybored to Media & Arts (55 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
You may want to investigate the works of Ogdon Nash. I'd post a link, but the internet here at work is wonky.

posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:28 AM on September 7, 2012

The works of Ogden Nash

On preview: beaten to it!
posted by griphus at 10:29 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Dorothy Parker is genius at the witty short poem, but her work is often about a few specific topics. Is there a subject you'd prefer your poem were about?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:29 AM on September 7, 2012

Yep, Ogden Nash.

The turtle lives twixt plated decks
Which practically conceal its sex.
I think it clever of the turtle,
in such a fix, to be so fertile.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:30 AM on September 7, 2012

You are screaming out for Them Poems (or anything else) by Mason Williams. They are of varying lengths, but my favorite poem of all time is one of the shortest:

How 'bout them hors d'oeuvres,
Ain't they sweet?
Little piece of cheese,
Little piece of meat.

Otherwise: Ogden Nash, Dorothy Parker.
posted by Madamina at 10:30 AM on September 7, 2012

Dang! Great minds think alike.
posted by Madamina at 10:30 AM on September 7, 2012

Also Edward Lear, Shel Silverstein.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:31 AM on September 7, 2012

On Breaking the Ice
by Ogden Nash

Candy is dandy,
But liquor is quicker.
Pot is not.

Not Waving But Drowning
by Stevie Smith

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

Sunt Leones
by Stevie Smith

The lions who ate the Christians on the sands of the arena
By indulging native appetites played what has now been seen a
Not entirely negligible part
In consolidating at the very start
The position of the Early Christian Church.
Initiatory rites are always bloody
And the lions, it appears
From contemporary art, made a study
Of dyeing Coliseum sands a ruddy
Liturgically sacrificial hue
And if the Christians felt a little blue—
Well people being eaten often do.
Theirs was the death, and theirs the crown undying,
A state of things which must be satisfying.
My point which up to this has been obscured
is that it was the lions who procured
By chewing up blood gristle flesh and bone
The martyrdoms on which the Church has grown.
I only write this poem because I thought it rather looked
As if the part the lions played was being overlooked.
By lions’ jaws great benefits and blessings were begotten
And so our debt to Lionhood must never be forgotten.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 10:32 AM on September 7, 2012

EmpressCallipygos, no particular subject, just short (less than say 6 lines), sweet and funny.
posted by storybored at 10:33 AM on September 7, 2012

Definitely Dorothy Parker.
posted by elizardbits at 10:34 AM on September 7, 2012

Here's one I heard from my uncle as a kid--I don't know its provenance.

John and Ruth, side by side,
Went out for an auto ride.
John hit a bump, Ruth hit a tree,
And John kept driving ruthlessly.
posted by stevis23 at 10:35 AM on September 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

- W.C. Williams
posted by outlandishmarxist at 10:35 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am pretty sure my tombstone will say:

If I didn't care for fun and such,
I'd probably amount to much.
But I shall stay the way I am,
Because I do not give a damn.

Although MISTAKES HAVE BEEN MADE is a close second.
posted by elizardbits at 10:36 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also check out A.R. Ammons. Some are serious, some are funny.
posted by munyeca at 10:43 AM on September 7, 2012

Speaking of Tombstones, Bobby Knight famously recited:

When my time on earth has gone
and my activities here are past
I want they bury me upside down
and my critics can kiss my ass.
posted by cashman at 10:46 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Every time Rose blows her nose
Her clothes blows
And the top of her hose shows.
posted by stubby phillips at 10:47 AM on September 7, 2012

Had 'em
posted by Ideefixe at 10:50 AM on September 7, 2012


God in his wisdom made the fly
And then forgot to tell us why.
posted by scratch at 10:52 AM on September 7, 2012

2nding Shel Silverstein. The first one Ican remember offhand is The Gardener:

We gave you the chance
To water the plants
We didn't mean that way
So zipup your pants
posted by ActionPopulated at 10:53 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Some of e.e. cummings' poems are on the short side.
posted by not_on_display at 11:00 AM on September 7, 2012

Some friend must now, perforce,
Go forth, and bid my boy,
To saddle me my wooden horse,
For I mean to conquer Troy.
posted by RobotHero at 11:00 AM on September 7, 2012

A termite once knocked on wood
And tasted it, and found it good
And that is why your Cousin Mae
Fell through the hardwood floor today.
posted by xingcat at 11:01 AM on September 7, 2012

Oh, pointy birds
Oh, pointy pointy
Anoint my head
posted by kyrademon at 11:05 AM on September 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

My favorite Ogden Nash one:

The trouble with a kitten is that
eventually it becomes a cat.
posted by jbickers at 11:23 AM on September 7, 2012

a couple by Richard Brautigan
Finding Something Is Losing Something Else
Finding something is losing something else.
I think about, perhaps even mourn,
what I lost to find this.

Punitive Ghosts Like Steam-Driven Tennis Courts
Punitive ghosts like steam-driven tennis courts
haunt the apples in my nonexistent orchard.
I remember when there were just worms out there
and they danced in moonlit cores on warm September

anonymous, overheard my brother-in-law telling his kids
Starkle starkle, little twink
What the heck you am I think?
Up above the world so high
Sortof like a big damn flashlight, shining through holes punched in tin, ya know?

posted by dancestoblue at 11:38 AM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Little Lyric (of Great Importance)

I wish the rent
was heaven-sent.

   —Langston Hughes
posted by ubiquity at 11:38 AM on September 7, 2012

Don't know who wrote these, but:

Billy, in one of his nice new sashes,
Fell into the fire, and was burnt to ashes.
And now, although the room grows chilly,
I haven't the heart to poke poor Billy.


Tobacco is a filthy weed!
(I like it)
It satisfies no normal need!
(I like it)
It makes you sweat, it makes you lean,
It takes the hair right off your bean,
It's the worst darned stuff I've ever seen!
I like it.

Also, check out the cautionary poems for children by Hillaire Belloc.
posted by ubiquity at 11:43 AM on September 7, 2012

This is Just to Say

Now that you've read that, there's an even funnier parody of it.

Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams

I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next summer.
I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do
and its wooden beams were so inviting.

We laughed at the hollyhocks together
and then I sprayed them with lye.
Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.

I gave away the money that you had been saving to live on for the next ten years.
The man who asked for it was shabby
and the firm March wind on the porch was so juicy and cold.

Last evening we went dancing and I broke your leg.
Forgive me. I was clumsy and
I wanted you here in the wards, where I am the doctor!

— Kenneth Koch
posted by ubiquity at 11:46 AM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Burma-Shave slogans - short and funny.
For example:

Drinking drivers, nothing worse/
They put the quart before the hearse

He lit a match to check gas tank/
That's why they call him Skinless Frank.
posted by Daily Alice at 11:52 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Following is the one poem I can usually pretty much recite, not usually perfect but close. It's not funny and it's not five lines but it might be a fit for that group of Toastmasters -- it's really pretty. Ella Wheeler Wilcox

The Winds of Fate
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
One ship drives east and another drives west,
With the self-same winds that blow,
’Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales
That tell them the way to go.

Like the winds of the sea are the winds of fate,
As we voyage along through life,
’Tis the set of the soul
That decides its goal
And not the calm or the strife.

posted by dancestoblue at 12:06 PM on September 7, 2012

Poems of Passion Carefully Restrained
So as to Offend Nobody

When you're away, I'm restless, lonely,
Wretched, bored, dejected; only
here's the rub, my darling dear,
I feel the same when you're near.

--Samuel Hoffenstein
posted by komara at 12:14 PM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

(you are, not you're)
posted by komara at 12:14 PM on September 7, 2012

“That money talks
I won’t deny.
I heard it once.
It said, “Goodbye.”
posted by nightwood at 12:15 PM on September 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

The Lobster Pot

Who can tell how the lobster got
Into the lobster pot?
When he went in he did not doubt
There was a passage out.
There was not.

- John Arden
posted by gudrun at 12:29 PM on September 7, 2012

See the happy moron--
He doesn't give a damn.
I wish I was a moron.
My God! Perhaps I am!
--Anonymous (sometimes erroneously attributed to Dorothy Parker)
posted by yankeefog at 12:44 PM on September 7, 2012

My favourite Shel Silverstein is "Anteater"

"A genuine anteater,"
The pet man told my dad.
Turned out, it was an aunt eater,
And now my uncle's mad!
posted by yellowbinder at 12:56 PM on September 7, 2012

While I was walking on the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today.
I wish to hell he'd go away!
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:03 PM on September 7, 2012

Double doors are justified
by being comfortably wide.
Therefore, you only half undo them.
Therefore, nothing will fit through them.

Piet Hein - Danish scientist, mathematician, inventor, designer, author, and poet - Grooks
posted by DaddyNewt at 1:10 PM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

An easter egg
wearing a party hat
so many polka dots

is my favourite haiku of all time. Can't recall what it's called or who it's by.
posted by windykites at 1:21 PM on September 7, 2012

I think that I will never see
A poem as lovely as a tree
Indeed, unless the billboards fall
I'll never see a tree at all.

-- Pretty sure that's Ogden Nash.

Said Jerome K. Jerome
To Ford Maddox Ford,
"There's something, old boy,
I've always abhorred:
When people address me
And call me 'Jerome'
Are they being stand-offish
Or much too at home?"
Said Ford, "I agree
It's the same thing for me."

That one's possibly also Nash?
posted by meronym at 1:49 PM on September 7, 2012

My favorite dog haiku:

The cat is not all
bad — she fills the litter box
up with Tootsie Rolls.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 1:55 PM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

So Ted Hughes turns up at the pearly gates.

St Peter: Poet, huh? Let's test that out. Suppose you see a bow-legged man, what would you say?


''I see him in the top of the wood, my eyes open.
Action, no falsifying dream
His hooked legs and hooked feet:
Or in sleep rehearse imperfect steps and gait.

St Peter: you call that a poem? Here - Betjeman! Come over here and give us a proper poem about a bow-legged man.

Sir John B: Oh, er, well:

"I am a young executive,
My suit and cuffs are dandy,
A man passed my Cortina once,
whose legs were really bandy"

St Peter: Well, that's rubbish too. Wordsworth? Bill? Come over here a minute.

William Wordsworth: I believe I may be able to assist.

"I met a druid on the wolds,
He was ninety-eight, he said;
His night-shirt hung in graceful folds,
His hat was on his head.
And as we passed along that road,
I noticed that his legs were bowed."

St Peter: No, I can see we're going to have to go to the top on this one. Shakespeare? Can you give us a minute?

William Shakespeare: What's amiss?

St Peter: Will, can you give us a short poem about a bow-legged man?

William Shakespeare:

"Prithee, what manner of man is this,
That weareth his balls in parenthesis?"

St Peter: See, Ted: that's poetry.
posted by Segundus at 1:56 PM on September 7, 2012 [8 favorites]

Short and sweet, a little bit frisky...

The Shirt

The shirt touches his neck
and smooths over his back.
It slides down his sides.
It even goes down below his belt—
down into his pants.
Lucky shirt.

- Jane Kenyon
posted by batonthefueltank at 2:21 PM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

The hippopotamus

Behold the hippopotamus!
We laugh at how he looks to us,
And yet in moments dank and grim,
I wonder how we look to him.

Peace, peace, thou hippopotamus!
We really look all right to us,
As you no doubt delight the eye
Of other hippopotami.

Ogden Nash
posted by onlyconnect at 2:31 PM on September 7, 2012

You might want to look up the clerihew. It's a kind of verse form named after E Clerihew Bentley, who wrote tons of them. Here are some of my favourites:

Humphrey Davy
Abominated gravy;
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.


Edward the Confessor
Slept under the dresser.
When that began to pall
He slept in the hall.


John Stuart Mill
By a mighty effort of will
Overcame his natural bonhomie
And wrote 'Principles of Political Economy'.
posted by raspberry-ripple at 2:57 PM on September 7, 2012

Funny poetry books:

Letters to Wendy's by Joe Wenderoth
Partyknife by Dan Magers
No Planets Strike by Josh Bell
Angle of Yaw by Ben Lerner
Dear Jenny... by Jenny Zhang
posted by parapluie at 3:36 PM on September 7, 2012

What a wonderful bird the frog are--
When he sit, he stand almost.
When he hop, he fly almost.
He ain't got no sense hardly.
He ain't got no tail hardly either.
When he sit, he sit on what he ain't got--almost.
posted by Specklet at 3:37 PM on September 7, 2012

One of my favorites:

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
a medley of extemporanea;
and love is a thing that can never go wrong,
and I am Marie of Roumania.

By Dorothy Parker, I believe.
posted by jsturgill at 4:29 PM on September 7, 2012

I never saw a purple cow.
I never hope to see one.
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I'd rather see than be one.

(Might be Ogden Nash, dunno.)
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 5:16 PM on September 7, 2012

The Purple Cow was written by Gelett Burgess. He became so annoyed by its success that he wrote a follow-up:

Ah, yes, I wrote the "Purple Cow"—
I'm Sorry, now, I wrote it;
But I can tell you Anyhow
I'll Kill you if you Quote it!
posted by Daily Alice at 5:23 PM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love this poem, ostensibly by poet Karen Shepherd's dog Birch:
You gonna eat that?
You gonna eat that?
You gonna eat that?

I'll eat that.
posted by Lexica at 7:46 PM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

"wearing the collar"

I live with a lady and four cats
and some days we all get

some days I have trouble with
one of the

other days I have trouble with
two of the

other days,

some days I have trouble with
all four of the

and the

ten eyes looking at me
as if I was a dog.

- Charles Bukowski
posted by daisystomper at 8:07 PM on September 7, 2012

Don't Call Alligator Long-Mouth Till You Crossed River

Call alligator long-mouth
call alligator saw-mouth
call alligator pushy-mouth
call alligator raggedy-mouth
call alligator bumby-bum
call alligator all dem rude word

but better wait
till you cross river.

- John Agard
posted by jlibera at 8:51 PM on September 7, 2012

Jeffery Ross does this one:

I Miss Her Sometimes

I ran into my old girlfriend yesterday,
so I backed up and ran into her again.
I miss her sometimes.
posted by Bron at 9:19 PM on September 7, 2012

Oh little Flo
I love you so
Especially in your nightie.
When the moonlight flits
Across your tits
Oh Jesus Christ Almighty.

- Derek and Clive.
posted by Decani at 1:55 AM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

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