I’ve let my inner Weird Al out to play a few times for the comic. Sadly, the first several cases were rush jobs to be used as filler, not something I actually put more than 10 minutes of thought into. That turned around with the caroling mini-arc in December (which begins here at #191 and still makes me chuckle). I wanted to do more strips in a similar vein, because I am a firm believer that a more Weird Al-esque life is a better life.
The grand scheme was to spend much more time crafting clever avian pop song parodies. The reality is that strip #255 also came together in not much more than 10 minutes, an irony which I can’t help but appreciate. I’d had the nugget that Bird would go ahead and do the Bird thing of Bird-ifying a song, but then Dog would respond and take the one-off into a discussion about poetry.
(Side note: this isn’t the critters’ first brush with poetry. Eagle-eyed observers may recall some verses at the very very beginning of Bird’s job hunt way back in #62. Normally I wouldn’t retread prior ground, but it’s just too fun to write limericks.)
Because poetry is great! Really!
It’s an art form that still seems to carry a bad rap. Maybe it’s a holdover from our days of writing terrible, angst-ridden rhymes when we were teenagers. (Don’t lie. You know you penned some godawful stuff back in the day.) Or it’s something our English teachers mishandled over the years. Or maybe some of us, like Bird, just haven’t found the poets who’ll speak to us.
I can’t say what the reasons are for each reader, but what I can say is that poetry isn’t something you need to fear or deride. It isn’t even something you need to overthink. You can just enjoy it for enjoyment’s sake.
That’s how I landed on the poem for #256. I had a few ideas about what Dog might recite as I started the arc last week, and while I was working on the bookending panels, I was totally convinced that it’d be Shakespeare. Classic, reasonably familiar Shakespeare, an easy entry into the poetry world. But the best comedy usually stems from honesty in the unexpected, right? So as I was researching sonnets, I had a eureka moment of the poem I should use.
It’s called Pied Beauty by Gerard Manley Hopkins.
I love that it’s a poem about beauty, about freckles, and about flaws that are not flaws. I love every word, how they’re both aurally and visually vivid as each one flows into the next. I love how it upends the expected structure, taking out a whole line and a half because that’s the kind of reverence you give divinity. I love how my heart swells when I read it, every single time.
Seriously, the right poem will literally move you to wax poetic. And yes, it might seem very ridiculous but my reaction there is also deeply true and real. I think poetry is about that emotional reaction, how a handful of words creates so much nuanced feeling.
Tl;dr – the world needs more poetry. Also more Weird Al. Get on that, world.