A feature of English landscape architecture, a ha-ha is a wall at the bottom of a ditch; its purpose is to allow the presence of cows and sheep on one’s lawn, but at an agreeable distance and with none of the malodorous unsightliness that proximity would bring. Similarly, The Ha-Ha, the latest offering from poet David Kirby, is both an exploration of the ways in which the mind invites chaos yet keeps it at a distance and an apologia for humor, reflecting Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh’s observation that tragedy is merely underdeveloped comedy. Embracing wit, wide-ranging scholarship, and an equal love of travel as well as the pleasures of home, The Ha-Ha depicts comedy as a radical form of intelligence, a way of thinking that just happens to be noisy and rumbustious.
We are staying with Barbara’s parents on Oahu,
and the first night
we’re there, I notice an angry-looking man is staring at me
out of the neighbor’s upstairs window
and mumbling something,
but the second night I realize that it’s that poster of Bo Diddley
from the famous Port Arthur concert, and there’s a phone wire
in front of his face
that bobs up and down when the trade winds blow,
which they do constantly, making it seem as though
Mr. Diddley is saying something to me.
From “The Ha-Ha, Part I: The Tao of Bo Diddley” published in The Ha-Ha: Poems by David Kirby. Copyright © 2003 by David Kirby. All rights reserved.
David Kirby is the author of numerous books, including The House on Boulevard St.: New and Selected Poems, a finalist for the 2007 National Book Award, and Talking about Movies with Jesus, winner of the 2011 L. E. Phillabaum Poetry Prize. The Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of English at Florida State University, he is a recipient of National Endowment of the Arts and Guggenheim fellowships, among other honors.
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