What’s the difference between a tweet and an aphorism?
A line like “what if hot dogs were the cut off horns of meat unicorns” can be interesting on Twitter because in Twitter it will burst into your feed like a surprise, it’ll be free, and there won’t by any high-minded literary expectation waiting for it in you. But copied & pasted into the literary form of the book and it becomes much more boring (at least to me) especially if it’s a book I’ve paid for, because while briefly interesting, its central juxtaposition doesn’t target anything I more than superficially care about.
I’d overhear someone use the verb ‘carom’ or something… and the little sweatshop in my head would get to work thinking, okay, that’s a strange-yet-familiar verb… what could carom?… death caroms… life caroms… time caroms… okay… off what… time caroms off life… off death… poetry caroms off death… no… more sound… character caroms off time…. okay a context… when does it do this… in death our character caroms off… grief… wait… what does that even mean… I can’t see it… start over… more visceral… laughter caroms off… laughter cannons off… laughter is a cannon fired by…” and so on. Often I would get to something that look and sounded right but wasn’t actually true. Or was true and wasn’t interesting. Basically cycling through until I gave up or found something that pleased all the gods. Sometimes it would be that clinical. Other times it would just come out. I would be writing something else or talking about a movie and an aphorism would erupt like a turd or Minerva in perfect form.
Comedy verus tragedy:
I tend to find more meaning in narrative and monologue, in broader emotional or psychological arcs, than in individual words, or the ephemeral joke-arc of a non sequitur. I think humor depends on depth of tension. There is just so little tension in randomness. Or in a pattern that is only available to the speaker. The first random thing that happens — pig-ponies! — can be funny for a second. But the next time it happens, it’s less funny because you’re ready for it. The listener has less anxiety about the end of the poem because the listener knows anything can happen. But if the joke is stripped of all non sequitur and pushed, relentlessly, along a path of logic which is blatantly available to both listener and speaker, both can have anxiety about where it will end up, and what it will ultimately mean. Maximizing this anxiety and then, at the last second, shattering it, is a key trope of humor. Part of keeping on that path is not breaking. It’s like how if someone told you that The Matrix was the best movie in the world, and then winked, that’s lame comedy. That to me parallels the flat effect of jokey poetry. But if they told you The Matrix was the best movie in the world and just stared into your eyes without blinking… until you blinked, that’s a tragedy so unbearable you have to laugh. You have to say that’s absurd. But this buffoon thinks it’s real? That’s impossible. Because that buffoon is a human like me. The irreconcilability of that wedges into us and leaves a giant triangle of anxiety. We survive by laughing. Otherwise we would simply kill that person. It feels good to laugh. Laughter is the orgasm of fear.