In Defense of Monkey Banana MONKEY BANANA

by The Dybbuk

Monkey banana, Climbing trees and smoking canna bis, it's bliss, over the abyss. Monkey banana, No pants, just bandanna, Screaming "ooh ooh aah aah" from inside my cabana.

The point of this class isn't really to decide if a poem is bad or good. But we do, I suppose, want to bring "good poetry" into the world. A better way of thinking about poetry are the ways in which we can enter the poem--or maybe asking "In what ways is this poem "good"? I'm feeling a little sad about denigrating "Monkey Banana" in class today. I think this poem provides us many ways into an experience. Musically, the poem has some entry points right away. The rhyme of "banana" with "canna" is fun and even reminiscent of a nursery rhyme. And the rhyme is so solid, I missed that the actual word is "cannabis" the first time I read it. This made me go back and read--caused a sort of slippage. I think it set me up, too, that the sound of the poem might be more important than other entry points. Rhetorically, it seems just a fun poem at first, someone just spouting out some rhyming words about the freedom of being in nature and smoking weed. But the end of the poem is a little strange. The speaker no longer finds themself in a tree, but pantsless in a cabana, and screaming. This comparison of a human inside a manmade hut with the image of a monkey, which maybe at first seemed fun, actually takes on a sort of ominous tone--like a reference to dehumanizing forces..

Imagistically, this fusing together of the non-human animal with the a human creates a conflict for me. Is the speaker of the poem truly in "bliss" or is it more complicated than that?

Emotionally, though there does seem to be a moment of acquiescence where the speaker doesn't seem to care about much--perhaps happy just to be in the bliss of altered consciousness, perhaps a pleasurable and simple animal consciousness. The story starts so generally and impersonal, just speaking of a monkey. But by the end, we are in a very specific and personal place "my cabana." I think the speaker of the poem takes us from external realms into a personal realm in just two sentences. The voice might be the most difficult entry point for me. I feel unsure if the speaker is addressing the world in a merely humorous way or if there is some sarcasm or satire at play. Overall, I get an experience of jouissance from this poem--a sort of celebration of difference, not just because of the altered state of cannabis use, but not entirely separate from it either. It almost serves as a rally call for the ever-expanding group of recreational marijuana users, perhaps only peripherally engaging with the politics of "the war against drugs" and mass incarceration.

Write freely poets! We'll find some ways into your poem, and hopefully those entry points will help you think of even more entry points, or ways to enhance the poetic experience. Looking forward to reading your poems on Tuesday!

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