A clown is like an aspirin, only he works twice as fast.
Hello dVerse Poets! Today is my first official time behind the bar, serving up tasty drinks and hopefully an appetizing prompt for you to juggle with.
I’m not sure how clowns came to mind, but it didn’t take long to see that clowns aren’t just another funny face. The most ancient clowns served a socio-religious and psychological role. Traditionally the roles of priest and clown have been held by the same persons. A society in which such clowns have an important position are termed clown societies, and a clown character involved in a religious or ritual capacity is known as a ritual clown.
In Native American mythology, the Trickster channels the spirit of the Coyote and becomes a sacred Clown character. A Heyoka is an individual in Native cultures who lives outside the constraints of normal cultural roles. Many native tribes have a history of clowning.
Clowning is often considered an important part of training as a physical performance discipline, partly because tricky subject matter can be dealt with, but also because it requires a high level of risk and play in the performer.
The clown character first developed out of ancient Greek and Roman theater. The English word clown was first recorded c. 1560 (as clowne, cloyne) in the generic meaning rustic, boor, peasant.
The now-classical features of the clown character were developed in the early 1800s by Joseph Grimaldi, who built the character up into the central figure of the harlequinade. Clown was a buffoon or bumpkin fool who resembled less a jester than a comical idiot. He was a lower class character dressed in tattered servants’ garb. The comedy that clowns perform is usually in the role of a fool whose everyday actions and tasks become extraordinary—and for whom the ridiculous, for a short while, becomes ordinary.
In the early 20th century, the rustic simpleton or village idiot character of everyday experience disappeared, replaced by North American circus characters such as the tramp or hobo. Bozo arose in the 1950’s; Ronald McDonald in the 1960’s. Based on the Bozo template, the US custom of birthday clown and private contractors who offer to perform as clowns at children’s parties, developed in the 1960s to 1970s. The 1980s gave rise to the evil clown character.
The attraction of clowns is thought to be based in their fundamentally threatening or frightening nature. The fear of clowns, particularly circus clowns, has become known by the term coulrophobia.
Clowns or clown figures of modern times vary. Who doesn’t know about the clown looking out from the sewer grate in Stephen King’s, “It”? What about the musical group, Insane Clown Posse, whose fans, known as Juggalos, are considered gang members by the Feds? Last year’s blockbuster film, “Joker,” shows a clown as a complex character that can be empathized with as well as feared.
Finding good examples of clown poems wasn’t difficult, but it wasn’t easy either. Here is an existential one that looks at the origins of clowns and their place in the scheme of things:
The Clown by Sandra McPherson, February 1979
There, between yellow fingernails,
was the first skull becoming human.
And the angels, who could use gold
paint, were also pedigreed in their time.
Whatever the order of beings, the clown
was roped off from our gods and our families.
Barren, a visitor of removable brains,
there under his blindingly pale face
(geisha layers – and yet nothing
is womanly about this Bubba)
shines a self to match, a blue and burning
spotlight determined to reach our gods
and our families. Sixty children are holding
their breath. He is as excited as fleas.
He falls with a bounce, a fish in his pocket
clangs, and he’s somehow still dapper, the skinning
absorbed by gloves, and the laughter
directed at every henspeckle part of him.
The next one shows the gritty charm of a street clown:
The Magic Trick by Nicholas Friedman, November 2012
Half clown, half Keebler elf, he works a throng
of meth heads and young mothers who peruse
the storefronts, tugging surly kids along.
The pant legs bunch around his wing-tipped shoes.
When a couple walks up to his TV tray,
he hands them each a tattered business card.
Who wants to see a magic trick today?
He grins and cuts a deck: His hands are scarred,
but seldom shake. The two confer, agree,
and fidget as the magician fans an arc
of cherubs laced with flips of filigree.
The man inspects them for a crease or mark,
but they look clean. I’ve watched him do this trick
for weeks now, each time to polite surprise:
He hams it up; he lays the charm on thick.
(As always, haughty jacks materialize.)
The woman smiles and nods in mild content.
Another trick: He pulls a wrinkled bill
from his lapel and folds the president,
explaining how a wise investment will
turn one buck into ten—et cetera.
He taps twice on the bill, a modest “one,”
unfolds it square by square, and then voila!—
the bust of Alexander Hamilton.
They clap as the magician takes a bow.
He’s greasy, but he’s on the up-and-up,
and magic tricks are good enough for now.
The woman floats a dollar to his cup.
I truly adore the character study of the next one, which captures the essence of a clown so well. Every line is a delight. Sylvia is addressing her as-yet-unborn first child.
You’re, by Sylvia Plath (1960)
Clownlike, happiest on your hands,
Feet to the stars, and moon-skulled,
Gilled like a fish. A common-sense
Thumbs-down on the dodo’s mode.
Wrapped up in yourself like a spool,
Trawling your dark as owls do.
Mute as a turnip from the Fourth
Of July to All Fools’ Day,
O high-riser, my little loaf.
Vague as fog and looked for like mail.
Farther off than Australia.
Bent-backed Atlas, our traveled prawn.
Snug as a bud and at home
Like a sprat in a pickle jug.
A creel of eels, all ripples.
Jumpy as a Mexican bean.
Right, like a well-done sum.
A clean slate, with your own face on.
“Send in the Clowns” is written by Stephen Sondheim.
Information on clowns was gleaned from wikipedia.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to take one of these two paths:
1) Write a poem using the word clown or a word – real or created – with clown as the root. OR
2) Choose a line from one of these three poems and create a poem of your own with it. Please be sure to include which poem you chose and attribution for it in your post.
If you are new to dVerse poets pub, here’s how to join in:
*Write a poem (in any form) in response to the challenge.
*You will find links to other poets and more will join, so check back later to read their poems.
*Read and comment on other poets’ work–we all come here to have our poems read.
*Please link back to dVerse from your site/blog.
Hello All! It’s a sunny and 70s day here. The bugs are singing a sweet chorus out there. Good poetry writing weather, but when isn’t it? I am ready, willing, and able to serve up whatever liquid refreshments you might be hankering for and look forward to step down the poetry trail.
Björn Rudberg (brudberg) said:
Hello Lisa… today you need to pour me a Magner for a change. 🙂 welcome as a bartender.
When I think of clowns it’s more the evil kind, the one made from nightmares, John Wayne Gracy kind… maybe I just have a touch of coulrophobia.
Bjorn, thank you for your welcome 🙂 One pint of Magner in a frosted glass coming right up. I usually think of them that way too, but today I brought back a memory of when my kids were young.
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Hi Lisa, thank you for hosting. I am scared of clowns (i think) so clowning around is a better term, smiles.
You are very welcome on hosting. Clowns are definitely a mixed bag for me.
Good evening all, and thanks for hosting, Lisa! Like Grace and Bjorn, I have suffer from coulrophobia, so I need a stiff drink for his prompt. 🙂
My pleasure to host, Kim. Hope you are feeling better. What sort of stiff drink would you like? 🙂
Because we’re clowning around today, surprise me with some kind of clown cocktail.. 🙂
OK how about raspberry vodka with Hawaaiian Punch and pineapple juice in a frosted glass rimmed with multi-colored sugar? With a pink parasol of course.
Sounds delicious, but I might spend all night just looking at it, it’s so pretty!-
I ‘m impressed by the amount of information you’ve gathered and presented. I loved reading about clowns. As of now I’ve no idea what I’m gonna write. Very interesting prompt, thanks for hosting.
Why thank you, Jay. Clowns are fascinating and I wanted my first hosting to be entertaining. Good luck with which clowning aspect inspires you 🙂
Hello Lisa, I’ve submitted my story I’ve written in verses. Well I loved writing about this topic so I got a little carried away, the complete story is about 1000 words long. I’ve divided it in 3 parts and submitted each part seperatly. First one is about 300 words long. I hope you’ll enjoy it. Take care!
Jay, I haven’t seen your story yet, but the prompt calls for poetry. If it is in prose form, it doesn’t meet the prompt.
Linda Lee Lyberg said:
Hi Lisa, and welcome to the team! Great post and lots of wonderful information. I will give it some thought, and most likely try to post in the morning sometime. I try to rest in the afternoons these days…
Linda, thank you very much for the welcome and glad you enjoyed the info. Just take it easy, my friend.
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Hi Lisa! A great prompt for a first-time tending the pub. Glad to have you here. I’d love a gin and tonic with a twist of lime on the side. Sunny and hot today in Boston.
I must admit….I have never been fond of clowns….so I chose to verbify the word 🙂
Thank you much, Lillian, for your kind words and welcome. Short glass of gin and tonic with a twist of lime on the side coming right up. That should refresh you on your sunny hot day in Boston. I love what you did with the word 🙂
Donna Matthews said:
Welcome as a bartender Lisa! Great first prompt…
Thanks much for the welcome, Donna and glad you like the prompt 🙂
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Hi Lisa, welcome to your new role clowning about behind the bar!
Nice to see you here and thanks for an interesting prompt 🙂
Thank you for the welcome, Kate, glad to be here and glad to see you here also. See you on the poetry trail!
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Hi Lisa. Welcome, and thank you for hosting. This is in interesting prompt, though I’m with others in thinking first now of the evil clown in It. I still need to finish reading the responses to my prosery prompt, so I may not get to this.
Hi Merril, thank you for the welcome and comments on the prompt. No worries and glad you let me know 🙂
Jane Dougherty said:
Your first prompt has me pondering a subject that never usually crosses my mind ! Just had a second attempt to get something lucid.
Cool! Will go check it out…
Hi Lisa, thank you for hosting. I loved this prompt, and the poems you chose for inspiration, especially the Plath. I would love an alcohol free beer if I may, as I’m the type who would otherwise end up like the protagonist of my poem…
Hi Ingrid, my pleasure to host. A pint of Gruvi Non-Alcohol IPA beer coming right up!
Oh that sounds wonderful, thank you!
You’re very welcome. Raising my glass of Magners for a toast. Cheers!
Ingrid I just tried to leave a comment on your wonderful poem at your blog but it disappeared. Hoping you got it.
Oh thank you so much! I will check my comments queue but don’t worry, I am glad you enjoyed the poem.
Thank you for hosting Lisa! I find clowns ominous, so I went dark.
Rob!!!!!!!!! So glad to see you!!!!!! My pleasure to host and to see you back at the pub 🙂 Can’t wait to read what you wrote.
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Hi Jade! So lovely to see your smiling face hosting! And not a moment too soon as I’ve been utterly blocked about writing the next in my Where I Lived (we’ve gotten to the places I cared about). I’ve been so frustrated I almost wrote for the Prosery prompt lol. So this was a very welcome respite. Enjoy!
Alexandra thank you and happy to see you as well. Glad to have helped you with respite. Going to check out your poem now…
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just to throw something sweet into the mix:
Such a cute poem. Will you please put a link for dVerse on your blog, then link it up to Mr. Linky?
Helen Dehner said:
I love clowns, always have. Thank you for a most informative post and a great challenge.
Helen, so glad you love clowns. My pleasure to highlight them today. See you on the poetry trail 🙂
Beverly Crawford said:
Thanks for all the clown information. My thoughts went directly to the White House and I couldn’t reign them in. SIGH
You’re welcome. Beverly he’s the first one I thought of when I thought clown!
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What a fun prompt, Lisa! Welcome to the tending of Bar! I’ve linked up, but won’t have time for visits until at least tomorrow. Please forgive me. Just a working clown these days. 😉
De, thank you very much for the welcome and glad you like the prompt. No worries, and see you when I see you on the trail 🙂
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Ali Grimshaw said:
Thanks for hosting Lisa. You make a great hostess. I will see what I can come up with.
My pleasure in hosting, Ali. Thank you, and I’ll be looking for your offering.
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Welcome to your first hosting session, Lisa. I hope you enjoy it.
Sarah, thank you much for the welcome. So far so good, aside from that little bump 🙂
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Paul, I left a comment on your poem at your blog. If you didnt’ get it, please let me know. I’m using my new computer now and things need to get streamlined with it.
I went back to those halcyon high school days and a phrase often used, thank you for hosting Lisa, a great offering.
Welcome, Paul, and yes, the class clown, looking forward to reading what you wrote. Thank you for the kind words.
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Linda Lee Lyberg said:
Morning all- I posted my piece- off to radiation now for another round of fun. 🙂
Good morning (now afternoon, I’m a late riser) Linda. Hoping you have a nice rest after your treatment and the weather cools down in your area.
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Martha, will you please check your Mr. Linky link? I clicked it and it went to a dead end. If you need to re-link, I can delete the other link.
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Hi Lisa! So glad to see you hosting and thank you for the interesting prompt!
Eugi, welcome, and thank you for the kind words. Glad you like the prompt 🙂
Martha Hurwitz, I clicked your Mr. Linky and it didn’t take me to your blog. Will you please check your link and maybe try again? Let me know if you need any help with linking up.
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Frank J. Tassone said:
Good Afternoon, poets! Congratulations on your premier, Lisa, and my apologies for the late showing! How about a Burgundy, when you get the chance? 😉
Hi Frank and welcome. Thank you very much on the welcome. No worries you’re here now. One glass of Burgundy coming right up! 🙂
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way too late for mr. linky…