I make the mistake of bringing my husband to a poetry slam. We sit near the front of a packed cafe. The first poet, a self-depricating high school English teacher, gets a lot of laughs, especially from my husband, the loudest laugher in the room. The second poet, a gaunt, angst ridden teen in the full throws of his first breakup, gets no laughs. Except from my husband. But because my husband is laughing, others in the audience get to giggling. Whether they too are beginning to see the humor in the poem, or whether they are laughing at the guy who is laughing at the earnest poem, I do not know.
What I do know is that after the slam, the tall timorous youth confronts my husband. His voice quivers as he declares, it wasn't cool, laughing at his poem. My husband apologizes, agreeing it wasn't cool. But the poet grows more indignant explaining that it was a serious poem, not a funny poem and that you aren't supposed to laugh at serious poems.
"Listen man," my husband says, "You put your stuff out there, and that's great, but you can't control how people interpret* it. I thought it was funny. And that's not a bad thing. It was just funny to me. So I laughed." I try to explain to the kid that we've been married a long time and have wizened leathery hearts, that, at our age, heart-break poems take on a farcical hue. This is not a satisfactory explanation, but the kid's friends, smartly, drag him away. We watch him leave, hoping what we hope for all of us. That he can take his pain and turn it into a fine piece of art (something about a churlish middle manager perhaps?), art that he will love, regardless of whether it makes people laugh or not.