From the third annual Poets Forum, presented by the Academy of American Poets on October 17, 2009 in New York City. On the second panel of the day, Harryette Mullen, Robert Pinsky, and Kay Ryan begin a discussion of what it means for poetry to be "Seriously Funny."


Kay Ryan: This is funny already. [laughter] You know, one of the awful things about talking about the 'seriously funny' is that it just dries your mouth up terribly.

Harryette Mullen: I'm going to have some water.

Ryan: Doesn't it? As soon as you think about being funny, you feel very not funny.

Robert Pinsky: We have the hardest subject.

Audience: Could you talk louder, please?

Pinsky: (louder) We have the hardest subject, because being funny is hard and hard to talk about.

Ryan: Are we okay? Is the volume okay now?

Voice: (over the P.A.) You know, let them speak for minute, and we'll get it all straightened out, before you start yelling out things.

Ryan: You want us to keep talking? Sounds like we're not going anywhere at all.

Pinsky: We're going to do the comedy panel in mime.

[Pinsky stands and gestures theatrically. Ryan and Mullen join in.]

Pinsky: (bows) Thank you for your attention.

Ryan: Are we okay now? Can you hear us? Okay. Well, that was it. (pause) I will say something. I think that the comic is a force of lightness. It takes the same material as everything else does, including the tragic, and it evaporates it. It turns it to gas. And it rises.