Jason Bredle

My favorite type of humor is probably that which illustrates the complete absurdity of our lives. I enjoy it in fiction, film, television and poetry. I enjoy it most when it’s intertwined with pathos—I feel like it best replicates the human experience (for me, anyway). When I came to poetry in my early 20’s, I didn’t know humor was even allowed. I think for some writers and readers it still isn’t. My writing was very serious because of this. Then I was introduced to Mark Halliday’s work, which led to Dean Young, Tony Hoagland, Stephen Dobyns, James Tate and Russell Edson, all of whom I really got into. Through them I learned that humor, when executed in certain ways, can lead to so many new and exciting routes in exploring the human psyche and our relationships with our worlds. I also think it’s important to laugh. It makes you feel good.  

Ironically, of all the poets who inspired me with humor from that time, I only find Halliday to continue to inspire me. Others have been replaced by people like Josh Bell, Loren Goodman and Jason Koo. One drawback of humor is how subjective it is and how reliant it is on so many varying aspects of time and culture. What I find funny tons of others do not find funny and vice versa. People are often surprised by the number of poets who might be classified as funny that I don’t find funny, and I myself feel anxiety when someone calls me “funny.” Am I? I think it depends on the reader. I’m sometimes surprised by what things get laughs versus what things do not when I give readings. For instance, I remember reading The Forest of Sadness at an event once, anticipating the oral sex line to get the biggest response, but I was really surprised by how much people responded to the acorn of treachery line. Of course, I was reading to a bunch of squirrels, so I guess in retrospect that makes sense. Everybody knows squirrels don’t do oral.



The Forest of Sadness

Titling something I’ve Always Wanted to Title Something
The Forest of Sadness is one thing but titling
something I’ve Always Wanted to Title Something
I’ve Always Wanted to Title Something
The Forest of Sadness is just too much.
In the film based on the musical titled The Forest
of Sadness which is based on the book I’ve Always Wanted
to Title Something The Forest of Sadness, a group
of sex-crazed teenagers descend upon the forest
to document the existence of Bigfoot for their science
project and hopefully have sex with each other.
The forest is sad because of mosquitoes and because
it’s on fire and bears are frightened and running away
and I do something so ridiculously selfish
to the girl I love that I’m not going to tell you
what it is I do. This is what we talk about
when we talk about an artist who doesn’t always
respect his own medium. I’ve always wanted
to title something I’ve Always Wanted to Title
Something I’ve Always Wanted to Title Something
The Forest of Sadness, but is the forest ever really sad?
Hell yeah it is! Chipmunks and raccoons
die like the rest of us and that makes me sad!
And I think that’s enough to say, yes, a forest
can be sad. In the film based on the musical
titled The Forest of Sadness which is based on the book
I’ve Always Wanted to Title Something The Forest
of Sadness which is titled Hotpants Party
Forest of Spring Break Sadness, the screenwriter took a lot
of liberties with the original because the producer,
Jerry Bruckheimer, thought the original wouldn’t appeal
to a mass audience. Not that I’m saying the forest has to be
sad, or is always sad, not at all.
For instance, trying to portage an aluminum canoe
can lead to some pretty comical dialogue, as can having
a lizard slap you in the face with his tail or a chickling
squirrel throw a bunch of nuts at your head.
I’m just saying I couldn’t care less
about a teenage keg party in the middle of a forest.
I want to see teenagers interact with Bigfoot in ways
I’ve never imagined! We all know having oral sex
on top of the grave of a dead Bigfoot is only going to lead
to problems. And sure enough, Spencer goes missing.
And sure enough, Ben Affleck finds Spencer
impaled atop a fir tree thirty minutes later.
In the original The Forest of Sadness, all these wonderful
things happen to the characters but the audience knows
things the characters don’t, so while you may
hear a loon in the distance, you don’t hear
one teenager breaking another teenager’s heart.
I mean, yeah, he did have a weird thing
about knowing a little too much about Bigfoot to be normal,
but was that a reason to break his heart?
Is there a reason to break someone’s heart?
I remember walking in circles through the forest of sadness
with the girl I love, mostly because the trails
were poorly marked and I stupidly left the map
and mosquito repellant in the car, and yeah, things
got heated because we were lost and my chest
was bleeding which is too complicated to explain why
but my favorite shirt was ruined. If Hotpants Party
Forest of Spring Break Sadness has taught me
anything, it’s to not have oral sex
on the grave of a dead Bigfoot, because a living Bigfoot
will not like that, it’s disrespectful,
and the living Bigfoot will probably impale you on a fir tree,
and Ben Affleck will probably find you and drop
to his knees crying, but if you don’t have sex
on the grave of a dead Bigfoot, the living Bigfoot
will allow you to videotape him for your science project,
which you’ll later use to frame your science teacher
because he thought your Bigfoot stories were childish
and inane. If the forest of sadness has taught me anything,
it’s that the oak of insurrection grows from the acorn
of treachery. I’m kidding, that’s something I saw
in a Viking documentary. If the forest of sadness
has taught me anything, it’s that broken hearts may
be mended, even if you don’t go to the casino afterwards.
An action news team may arrive and a frazzled
teenager may yell something into a crowded auditorium,
but yes, broken hearts may be mended and ruined t-shirts
may be replaced the following week at Sears.


American Sex Machine

Reading Jason Bredle is like zorbing down Everest
with ten naked, oiled up members
of whatever gender you’re into or Reading Jason Bredle
is like having a bazillion caterpillars dropped
down your pants in the middle of a tickle fight
with ten naked, oiled up members
of whatever gender you’re into are two blurbs
that would never appear on the back
of my autobiography American Sex Machine
because I dislike similes about reading unless
the simile says Reading Jason Bredle
is like sitting on a couch with two cats, opening
a book, thinking about how much you’d like
a new shirt, wondering what the weather
will be like tomorrow, masturbating,
taking off your socks, walking to the kitchen
for a glass of milk, washing your hands, returning
to the couch and checking the television to see
if anything good is on, maybe that guy
who eats odd food has finally made his way
to Guyana to eat an agouti or capybara, but no,
so skimming an interview with Werner Herzog
for fifteen minutes before falling asleep. That’s the power
of American Sex Machine! You dream of a sparrow’s
lungs, a window to ocean upon ocean
upon ocean upon ocean upon ocean, you wake
and write weird S&M dream
in the margin. Even though you won’t understand this
later it’s still more interesting than the actual
text—you can only take so much
capybara! Move on already,
I get it! There is a dance. There is an event.
There’s far more masturbation and far
less sex than you’d hoped. There is repression,
explosion, and a leather mask, but little else.
There is the machine itself, which, lined
with rubber, sometimes harnessed to a tractor or horse
or dog or person and connected to an alarm clock
and two beakers of liquid with optional accessories
like the advanced maxi-stimulation turbo lips
and the latex bodysuit with crotch, mouth, nipple
and anus holes, will, fifty years
from now, seem as absurd as the traveling dildo
salesmen who once peppered this country in search
of the housewife in need of diversion. There is a bright
light, there is the author going, tonight
I’ve been wondering about the first Europeans
who saw the capybara and I like the thought of coming
home and cuddling all night on the couch
with a cute little capybara but there is the author
also going, I know there are important things
everywhere and among those important things
exist things I don’t know and I wish
you could understand how I’m always so close
to walking away. It’s not obvious, but you can find it
in the part about the light shower and the sugarcane,
where he’s watching one dog bone
another dog in the plaza after dark and a guy
puts a piece of gum on the gum tree while saying
one more for the collection
or where he’s gotten on a bus at sunset to ride
thirty kilometers to the next village knowing
the whole time he has to return to the person
he’s left behind but the bus won’t run after sunset.
He convinces someone to give him a ride back
for a thousand dollars which isn’t a thousand dollars
in the way we think of a thousand dollars.
What’s so strange is how they pull over
to the side of the road and a woman gives the driver
a container of food, says tonight your cousin brother
has been murdered yet they continue to his destination
which is my way of saying the difference
between here and Guyana is that here the mosquitoes
won’t kill you and though I’m not usually
very good at predicting endings, I’m pretty sure
this autobiography is going to end in suicide.


Jason Bredle is the author of Standing in Line for the Beast, winner of the 2006 New Issues Poetry Prize, and A Twelve Step Guide, winner of the 2004 New Michigan Press chapbook contest. His most recent book, Pain Fantasy, is available from Red Morning Press. He lives in Chicago.