Today’s poem is about that oft misunderstood word irony: saying one thing meaning the opposite. The textbook refers to irony as “a manner of speaking that implies a discrepancy.” And ironic point of view as “the mask [that the poet is speaking from] says one thing and we sense that the writer is in fact fact saying something else.” It even defines sarcasm (which up until this point I was thinking, “how does one tell the difference between this and irony”) as a type of irony, “if the verbal irony is conspicuously bitter, heavy-handed and mocking.”
I think a great example of irony, and I’ll take this one from television (the great transmitter, and sometimes creator, of culture). In the show Will and Grace, the character Karen, unrepentant gold digger and trophy wife who is known for her excesses whether it be in drinking, drugs or fashion is always making fun of one of the namesake characters, Grace, for having less than a timely taste in fashion – her clothes are more quirky. So, the shoe is on the other foot when she agrees to help out her con artist mother and dress up as a mentally slow, white trash woman in a sparkly, kitty sweatshirt. She looks to Grace hoping it’s not as bad as she thinks it is and asks, “how do I look?” Grace giggles and says, “You look fabulous!”
If Robert Creeley’s Oh No had been written in the 1990s instead of 1959, the title could be implied to say “Oh No You di’nt!” or perhaps “Oh No, Please No!” (as they drag one of Rod Serling’s characters kicking and screaming off to the fate he insisted on having).
This place spoken of in the poem is a pleasant place, a quiet place that is the place everyone wants to be or at least seem to be happy to have gotten to.
by Robert Creeley
If you wander far enough
you will come to it
and when you get there
they will give you a place to sit
for yourself only, in a nice chair,
and all your friends will be there
with smiles on their faces
and they will likewise all have places.