Jab, Cross, Uppercut! Humor in Bruce Covey’s Poetry

What would you expect from a poem titled “I’m a Bitty Cupcake”? Some lines about the virtues of buttercream? Maybe a study of sprinkles? Ganache, perhaps? Whatever you might have going on in your head about tiny bits of fluffy wonderful, I bet it wasn’t this: “I’m a Bitty Cupcake But if you fuck with me, I’m gonna kick your fuckin ass, you know what I’m sayin?” (109).

Bruce Covey’s poems are always unexpected, always challenging, and often funny as hell. I know that, from now on, every time I see a cupcake, I’ll snicker inside. Children’s birthday parties will become immensely more entertaining when I envision a dozen cupcakes going off half-cocked. Covey’s humor works. I mean, seriously.

Consider the poem “A True Account of Talking to the Moon in Atlanta, GA.” This is a dialogue between Covey himself and the moon. Like, the moon in the sky at night. He plays with the idea of poets overuse of the moon to hilarious effect. “Look, I don’t know shit about poetry. Fucking poets are always staring at me, talking at / me, writing about me. I’m fucking sick of it. You want inspiration? Use fucking Google, / like the Flarfists do” (83). Covey manages to make poet-readers flinch just a little bit when they think about all the references to la luna that they’ve penned over the years. I started to think about just how many of my own poems involve the moon, and I was a tad embarrassed.

Covey’s Chevy Impala-driving, cigarette-smoking, panhandling moon doesn’t stick to railing against poets and poetry in general, no. She gets personal. “Look, I’ve never heard of you. Bruce, right? Don’t go nuts on me with all of your moon / stereotypes. I don’t give a shit whether you write poems. I just want a fucking cigarette. / Now give me the 5 bucks?” (83). The idea that the moon, something many people dream on, something many people associate with lovers and long moonlit walks on the beach and a way-super-cool light to bathe in, that this moon is indifferent about poetry…well, it makes me laugh. It takes some of the gravity out of the concept of poetry (get it? gravity?).

While not all of Bruce Covey’s poems are this overtly humorous, a good number of them invite the reader to play by playing on words and by playing with concepts. Covey’s sense of joy in language is clear, even while his bitty cupcake throws a mean uppercut to the jaw.

Covey, Bruce. Change Machine. Las Cruces, NM: Noemi Press, 2014.

The Beauty in Intention

by Gabrielle Freeman

Obvious fact about books of poetry: in most cases, the reader can open the book to any random page and have the full reading experience. The individual poem on the page does not usually have to be read before or after any other poem in the collection. Before anybody gets all excited, trust me, I do understand that putting a book of poetry together is very difficult and does involve order. I once compared the process to wrestling a pissed off cat. Each poem needs to at least lead in to the next or make some sort of sense when read together, even if it is not linear. However, each poem should also be able to stand on its own.

I am currently reading Bruce Covey’s book Glass Is Really a Liquid. Writing a blog post about an entire book of poetry is daunting, so I decided to try my luck and go with open-to-random-page-and-write-on-that-one. I am enjoying the book, so I wasn’t necessarily worried about which poem I would land on, but serendipity brought me to page 110.

“The Difference Between Toggle Bolts & Molly Screws” and I became instant friends at its title. Because I have spent at least an hour total in my life trying to hammer, shove, and force toggle bolts through disintegrating drywall, ditto Molly screws, I thought this poem must have something to do with force. Well, yes and no. It has more to do with the purpose or intention of the bolt/screw than its application. Both expand, in different ways, once through the drywall in order to hold tightly to the wall, thereby allowing heavy objects to be hung where there is no wall stud without, you know, ripping through your sheetrock resulting in spackled patches and copious swearing.

Now, consider the following: “I do this: press gently through your center / Nestling, mixing into your microcosmic control / Until its wings finally cross the cusp, detach, / Unfold again on the opposite side, drawing me / As close to you as relative density might allow” (lines 7-11). These lines are sexual and technical, describing human intimacy as a fastening. The metaphor of the bolt and screw offer a concrete image that the reader can visualize, and it lends beauty and reverence to ordinary items. It almost made me forgive all those minutes I’ve spent pounding away at them, and I do say that tongue in cheek. I find a nod to humor in the imagery as well. When a poem can make the reader swoon and giggle at the same time, it really works.

I do want to mention my favorite lines from the poem: “where order / the first, trace to follow up your spine & amidst / Your hair an intended & immediate kiss” (26-28). The combination of the intimate and the rather mechanical is continued here. The kiss together with the words “intended & immediate” add to the feeling of truth written in this poem. The reader believes the action and the emotion presented because the poet includes the reader in the speaker’s experience; both the words and the actions are intentional. The action of the bolt and screw are intended; they achieve their purpose immediately.

Covey, Bruce. Glass Is Really a Liquid. Reston, VA: No Tell Books, 2010.