Puns? Wordplay? How does one do?

One of the things that I have noticed in a lot of my fellow poet’s writing is that they include puns and wordplay. And I really like this but it has always been a hard thing for me to do. What is it that makes a pun or wordplay great? Well one of the reasons why I like wordplay is that a line, or sentence, can have a double meaning. For example I absolutely loved Chloe’s last two lines in her poem that we revised because I saw it as having a double meaning. And I am wondering how does someone do that? Does it come naturally or do you have to sit and write for hours until you can get a pun or wordplay going?

So, for those who are great at putting in puns or wordplay in their poems can you tell me how is it that you do it? And if there are any poetry puns that you just want to share, I would love to read them!

I found this Buzzfeed list of poetry puns that are pretty punny:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/ninamohan/puns-that-will-satisfy-all-poetry-nerds#.bg94blR3ED

4 Replies to “Puns? Wordplay? How does one do?”

  1. Diego,

    I think it’s funny that you cited my poem as an example of a pun, because this is something I have struggled with this semester, too. In fact, before this semester I had never even thought about puns in poetry. I guess when I came across one, I just considered it “clever” or sometimes “cheeky,” but never considered the way a pun could show up in a poem.

    For me, I have pretty much avoided the cheeky or silly pun, and only ever worked with more serious wordplay puns (I think just because of my poetic voice this is the way it has worked out). And it has never really been intentional. I don’t think to myself when I’m writing, “Oh I should sneak a pun in here.” It’s more like I write a line, and only after realize how its double meaning creates a pun. Or sometimes I see potential for double meaning after I have written something, then change it to allow that double meaning to happen.

    Maybe it’s a case of laziness that has prevented me from ever trying to fit puns into writing (except for that one writing exercise where it took me a longggggg time to try to figure out how to be “punny” in my poem). Maybe it’s just that my poems don’t call for that sort of intentional insertion of clever or cheeky wordplay. Either way, I definitely didn’t spend hours slaving away at those last couple lines to try to create the double meaning pun. It just sort of unfolded that way.

    Also, nice buzzfeed link. It was a good distraction during Bio lab. 😉

    -Chloe

  2. Diego,

    When I include a pun in my poetry, it’s not a product of long thought. Like Chloe, it happens after the fact. I’ll read my finished piece and realize that I included a pun unintentionally. While this may not be the most helpful response, I will say that homophones are a great place to start if you’re thinking about including a pun in a poem.

  3. Diego & Chloe & Maya,

    I also struggle with puns. Whenever I intentionally try (fail) to employ wordplay or make a pun it always ends up being a little bit too overt (in my opinion) and coming off unnecessary, cutesy, or ‘cheeky’ as Chloe put it. Because of this, when wordplay comes into my work it’s not usually for humor purposes and more as a way to add complexity or layers to a small, typically one-dimension space: a single word or phrase. This often translates into a word or phrase with a lighter initial meaning that upon more consideration can indicate a darker or more negative meaning.

    However, once I come up with this double meaning I often want to then delve further into both meanings, which has on one occasion led to a poem that begins in one vertical string of stanza’s and then splits at a word with double meaning into two separate vertical string of stanza’s. Just an idea!

    -Christy

  4. Diego, Chloe, Maya, & Christy,

    Like Chloe and Maya, when/if I write puns, I don’t usually notice them until after I write the line. These tend to feel more organic, while intentional puns tend to be more fleshed out/expounded, as Christy said. Usually, if I try to make a pun work, I personally end up writing around it too much, and I worry I may be sacrificing the content of the poem for the wordplay. There’s a medium between a quick pun that may seem like a quick attempt at humor and essentially writing a dual-poem, dueling for the meaning of the poem.

    I digress.

    However hard puns are, I feel general wordplay is infinitely easier and more organic to fit in a poem. Wordplay doesn’t always have to take the form of puns, and can work on rhyme/alliteration/homophones (as Maya said). Just have fun with your wordplay and something interesting should come of it.

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