Sommer Browning

How Many Poets Does it Take to Screw in a Light Bulb?

Do you have an extra cigarette?

image of a long road that fades into the distance taken from inside a car
long road

Have you ever heard Aram Saroyan read his poem “Biography”?[1] It is a poem in which he recites every year from his birth to the current year in his usual steady, calm cadence. I’m a bit fascinated with this poem; I seem to bring it up often. It really can’t be beat. It’s a pure poem. I heard him read it in 2007 (I think) at Poet’s House in New York. There are a hundred things to say about the poem, how the simplicity of it belies the fact that it describes something huge, i.e.

How many poets does it take to screw in a light bulb?

image of six markers from a board game arranged so that one faces a row of five
Firing squad or poetry reading?

I have one [PG] fantasy of reading poems in comedy clubs and telling jokes at poetry readings. Why waste a fantasy on it? Why ruin a good comedy night for those unsuspecting patrons? I don’t know. I don’t want to answer those questions. They’re rather aggressive, if you ask me. Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you. It’s okay. I’d rather explore what that might do, in my mind, to read funny poems, funny poems that are often also quite sad, on stage, against a brick wall, beneath a blinding Klieg or two, alone. The set up sounds like a firing squad.