July 16, 2007KR BlogWriting

Stand Up Poets: Carson Cistulli, Dan Nielsen, and Gerald Locklin

A post by the writer Sean Casey. –TM

Returning to Dan Nielsen and the joke as poem, take a look at Jason B. Jones’ recent Bookslut review of Carson Cistulli’s debut poetry collection, Some Common Weakness Illustrated.

Jones writes:

“Cistulli’s poems are quite funny. So funny, in fact, that it is sometimes hard to know whether something is a poem or a joke.”

Jones is attentive, here, to a distinction that doesn’t bother Nielsen. And me, for that matter: why can’t a poem be a joke, Jones? And vice versa?


In related news, poet Gerald Locklin has recently readied his verse for the stage. Not for stand-up, but drama. The Toad Poems played at the SoHO Playhouse in NYC earlier this summer.

Locklin lurks in the same small press underground Dan Nielsen did before turning to stand-up comedy. Longtime professor at Long Beach State, Locklin, prophetically perhaps, coined the label “Stand-Up Poet,” in describing the work of his mentor, the poet Edward Field. The term refers to the spoken and comic qualities of Field’s work, and echoes the title of Field’s debut, Stand Up, Friend, With Me (1963), which itself does not refer to stand-up comedy, but is rather a friendly command issued to a penis.

Fittingly, both Locklin and Nielsen are included in the anthology, Stand Up Poetry (Charles Harper Webb, ed.) Originally published in 1990, the anthology was reissued in expanded form by Iowa UP in 2002, and is a good place for further giggles for those who don’t separate jokes from literature.

Sean Casey lives in Southampton, Ma. His fiction has appeared in McSweeney’s and Fence, and his poetry has recently appeared in Vanitas and Origin. He’s publisher of The Chuckwagon, a small press, and blogs at valleyarts.blogspot.com

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