Reviewed Book: Laughing Matters: Poems with a Wink and a Smile by James A. Tweedie, Duncrest Press, 2023

by Theresa Werba

This collection of humorous poetry by the excellent James A. Tweedie is more than a mere collection of clever jokings and funny sayings. James Tweedie is reveling in the power of language, and celebrates its gift-giving capacity in the ways in which words and phrases, and even various authors, and styles, and forms can be experimented with, played with, coaxed, and birthed into a fantastic array of poetic expression.

James Tweedie is not only a first-rate poet, but is also a musician and composer, which is very refreshing to me, as I am also both a poet and a musician. You can hear the musicality exuding from his poetry. The meter is clean and precise, the rhymes are perfect, rarely slanted, so you get the full effect of the satisfactions inherent in perfectly-executed formal poetry. But it never upstages the humor and wit of Tweedie’s funny perspective, and the results are often quite unexpected! It is very refreshing and satisfying indeed to “hear” the sonorities and the rhymes and meter within my head as I read his work.

Tweedie is highly creative in his use of form. He employs the traditional Shakespearean form ABAB CDCD EFEF GG plus the variant ABBA CDDC EFFE GG. The opening poem “Fleet of Foot Pheidippides,” is an excellent example:


Fleet of Foot Pheidippides

A Grecian runner named Pheidippides,
From Athens, ran to Sparta with a plea.
“We need your help to fight the Persians, please!”
But Sparta sent him back with, “Nosirree!”

Two-hundred eighty miles is what he ran,
For four or maybe five days he was gone.
But Athens received help from the god, Pan,
And Persia met defeat at Marathon.

Pheidippides, we’re told ran all the way
To Athens to announce that they had won.
That’s why it’s called a “marathon” today.
For twenty-six-plus miles he had to run.

They say he gave the message and dropped dead.
But why did he not ride a horse, instead?


He also uses the Petrarchan form (in “I Wrote a Poem”) as well as some unusual presentations such as an Anapest Dimeter sonnet, a Monometer sonnet, and a 20-line sonnet variant (as opposed to the traditional 14-line sonnet). He also creates a short piece of prose (in the poem ”Doublespeak”) from a sonnet by reformatting it, literally disguising the form and structure of the sonnet so it reads like a short essay. Ingenious! Some of his poems also have a Dr. Seuss-like quality to them, the prime example being the alliterative poem “Beastly Betty.” You can tell Tweedie was having fun while writing this one!


Beastly Betty

An Alliterative Poem

Beastly Betty badly breaks her brother’s
Buttocks with a bat upon his butt.
Broken, beaten brother barely bothers
Bellowing at bawdy Betty. But
Because bad blood between both babe and bro
Builds baleful bias brought by Betty’s bane,
Beleaguered Bob bestows a bitter blow.
By blasting boiling bile on Betty’s brain.


Tweedie often groups his poetry into cycles or themes: a sonnet cycle on the Brothers Grimm nursery stories, a set of “Equilateral Proverbs” (where the first and last words of the couplet rhyme), three limericks based on famous poems by Shakespeare and Dante, with the folksong Molly Malone thrown in, as well as a collection of seven riddles. He also has a poem on the death of Edgar Allen Poe, delightfully executed, and a collection of “Groaner Poems” with some truly groan-inducing puns. Simply put, there is such a joyous wordplay and revelry in language that exudes from Tweedie’s work!

What I truly love about Tweedie’s poetry is his interesting rhyme combinations. I am delighted when I see such rhyming as death/shibboleth, if/glyph, tease/Diogenes, oogenesis/diaresis, Guinness/amanuensis, and antipode/postal code. There is a love of language that just exudes from each poem presented, a revelry and a celebration of the poetic possibilities waiting to be uncovered. It’s truly enchanting! I couldn’t wait to see what he would come up with next as I read!

I would have to say my favorite poem of the collection is “Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You,” which sold me on its very first line. Anyone who can put together “A pyroclastic vomit’s what I call it” is a hero in my book!


Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You

A pyroclastic vomit’s what I call it;
An up-chuck from Mt. Shasta’s north west side.
I bet you the last dollar in my wallet,
That everything that lived beneath it, died.
The famous Captain Cook saw from the ocean
Its pillared smoke arising in plain view—
A seventeen and seven-six commotion.
A record of the last time Shasta blew.
Now every volcanologist agrees
That since its active period reappears
In clockwork cycles of three centuries,
Its next eruption’s due in fifty years.
Because the end is near, I wrote this sonnet
To warn you not to build your new house on it!


I also like this poem particularly because Tweedie employs the rhyme sonnet/on it, which I also have used in one my own sonnets.

Another of my favorites is “The Perfect Poem,” a perfectly-executed sonnet on the creative process of formal poetry-making:


The Perfect Poem

There is, I’m sure, in someone’s file drawer,
A perfect poem, written on a whim,
Perhaps, or, maybe as a simple hymn
Of thanks and praise to God, and nothing more.
Or, then again, the poem could express
The burning passion of a lover’s heart,
A terse description of a work of art,
Or soul-torn angst amidst some cruel distress.
All grammar, syntax, perfectly intact,
Each foot a proper iamb, anapest,
Or trochee, dactyl, spondee, at its best,
Each comma in its place, each rhyme exact.
In spite of flawless tittle, jot, and letter,
There will be some who think they could do better.


Anyone who enjoys clever wordplay and creative use of language in novel and unexpected ways would be delighted to have their mind’s ear experience the rich variety of form and humorous content in Tweedie’s Laughing Matters. Highly recommended!



Theresa Werba is the author of three books of poetry, most recently Sonnets, a collection of sixty-five sonnets (under the name Theresa Rodriguez, Shanti Arts, 2020). Her work has appeared in such journals as The Scarlet Leaf Review, The Wilderness House Literary Review, Spindrift, Mezzo Cammin, The Wombwell Rainbow, Fevers of the Mind, Serotonin, The Art of Autism, The Road Not Taken, and the Society of Classical Poets Journal. Her website is www.bardsinger.com. Follow Theresa on Instagram and Twitter @thesonnetqueen.

NOTE TO READERS: If you enjoyed this poem or other content, please consider making a donation to the Society of Classical Poets.

The Society of Classical Poets does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or commentary.

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14 Responses

  1. Paddy Raghunathan

    Congratulations, James! I especially like winking Shakespeare as your book’s front cover image.

    And warm praise indeed from Theresa.

    Best regards,


  2. Mark F. Stone

    James, I just bought the Kindle version, and I’m looking forward to reading it. 185 pages of humor for $2.99 is quite the bargain!

    • James A. Tweedie


      I recently discovered that the kindle version does not appear to have been formatted properly. My apologies if it is difficult to read.

  3. Roy Eugene Peterson

    Besides the wonderful sense of humor on display, the poems are extremely well written. I was particularly taken and impressed by your classical Greek poem on the runner Pheidippides and your amazing alliterative poem. Your book review was written by a master of synopsis, yet detailed describer that should make all who read it hungry to purchase your book. I have a guess as to whom that might be.

  4. Lushan

    When i was a student at bu
    I had a date with the classroom star
    She was more interested than me
    For my intentions reached none to far
    At the boston marathon she saw
    That i was a gem sealed with elmers glue
    Her own perseverance was no such
    So she angrily looked for something new
    (And of course the stud stood her up) that answers the horse question no?

    We can all do better thats a fact
    For like golf your playing with yourself
    And uf no diversion’s to be had
    You wont know perfection’s even there

  5. Warren Bonham

    I splurged for the paperback version. Well worth it (as long as the rest of the poems match the ones shared above).

  6. ABB

    An excellent appreciative review. Glad to see you back on the site, Theresa, and that Tweedie’s new book is getting the attention it deserves.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Yes, I’ve seen Theresa’s old poetry and enjoyed reading it… though I started writing after she left, I’m glad to see her back on, too.

      Theresa, got any more poetry for us?

  7. Joshua C. Frank

    I bought a copy myself, and I’m really enjoying it. One of my early exposures to poetry (real poetry, not crappy po-biz “poetry”) was a collection of humorous children’s poetry called “The D-Minus Poems of Jeremy Bloom” (in which the speaker is a middle school student who inadvertently signs up for a poetry class), and I was delighted to see a similar kind of humor in a collection of good, classical poetry that (unlike po-biz) is far from D-minus!

    Thank you for this collection, James.

    • James A. Tweedie

      Thanks all for plugging my book and an even bigger thanks to Theresa for reading it and writing the review. If you would like a copy you can tap on my SCP ad and it will take you to its site on Amazon.

  8. Paul Freeman

    Pheidippides ran for several days,
    while half an hour has me in a malaise.

    One of the best book reviews I’ve read. If that doesn’t get the poetry aficionado and aspiring verse-smith clicking on Amazon, nothing will.

    Wink returned to Shakespeare.

  9. Theresa Werba

    I am very glad that James Tweedie’s excellent poetry is being given exposure and recognition here at SCP! Many thanks to Evan and congrats, Jim!

  10. Margaret Coats

    Theresa, glad to see you back. I notice that several categories of poems you discuss here are names of Poetry Challenges at SCP. James is not only an able author of amusing verse, but our premier Challenger, taking up the tournament role of turning others in his direction. Here’s a toast to him on the wink-and-smile publication!


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