Book Review: Laughter Includes the Word by Doug Snelson


Laughter Includes the Word: Revealed, A Life in Poetry 
Doug Snelson; Matthew Wilkes, ed. 
Petalous Publishing, 2019

3.5 Stars


For some, writing is a chore and reading anything but a pleasant pursuit. Fortunately, there are vastly more people in the world looking to encounter a new, fresh story or simply revel in the recalled experiences of someone else. It provokes ones own memories and deep feelings for a person, place, or time forgotten allowing readers to more deeply live in their present. Readers of this ilk tend to adore writers like Doug Snelson, an author who has made writing occasional poems a daily practice. In Snelson’s new collection Laughter Includes the Word, readers are treated to a myriad of lyrics composed in the moment and taking as their subject the mundane yet sly experience of everyday living.

These poems cover more than fifty years of Snelson’s life experience. It is a collection of verse giving not so much a glimpse into the mind of the poet but a wide, clear window into one’s thought process. And year Snelson is able to compose gentle verse that’s easily accessible to even the most novice of poetry readers yet not so ordinary as to not earn admiration from the more academic of poetry readers.

Poetry of the everyday can often fall into the trap of being too personal. They can be poems overloaded with intimate totems never explained or relational histories never explored but mistakenly taken for granted. Fortunately, Laughter Includes the Word avoids this, never snagging the readers on unknown persons, meaningless micro-history, or maudlin reminisce.

A pleasant quirk of this collection is the inclusion of Snelson’s actual handwritten drafts of the poems as well as those composed on an Olivetti-Underwood typewriter. It gives each lyric a very present feel making the sentiment at once forgettable (since many of the pieces of paper Snelson used were receipts or napkins, soon to be trash) and urgent (this was a thought that had to be expressed, transcribed). We can see this in the poem ‘lotsam flotsam,’ a poem written while awaiting the subway and ruminating on trash:

lotsam flotsam stuff on shore
swishing, swashing, salty floor

flashing, scrashing to the core
bobbing, bleating, “help me, more!”

feasting, fretting of the lore
dolphin dazing to the roar

of flotsy stuff 
that suffocates
of slooty stuff 
that hesitates

from sight and feel
how could the ocean make appeal

to all of us

oh flotsy junk
and lotsam large
the worst has sunk
just like a barge

of oily sponge
tsunami mommy
adding grunge

i so do wish
if I were fish

lotsam flotsam
I would expunge


Is each poem worth writing? Hardly the right question. Rather, each poem pushed its way through Snelson’s consciousness and demanded to bloom. We read this poems knowing they’ve been cultivated but still retain their rawness making for a unique reading experience. We experience poems from over five decades, we see a man grow, change, and yet in many ways stay the same. Laughter Includes the Word is an inspirational collection of poetry certainly, but it’s strength comes in the pleasure it grants. That pleasure arises in allowing everyday actions and objects to be foregrounded in plain language letting the poet-speaker and reader a moment to revelry.


About the Author


Doug’s storytelling is based on the idea that children and adults should be at play as much as possible.

He believes play includes two intertwined qualities: awe and concentration. Awe is the ability to see the beauty and wonder of life in anything and everything; concentration is a focus on the joy of experiencing simple, everyday activities. 

Doug is available for readings and signings at your school, organization, or special event. He reads Who’s Got the Face? and The Fable of the Snake Named Slim at libraries, bookstores, primary and elementary grades K–3, book fairs, nonprofit children’s programs, and fundraising events. He also teaches parents how to optimize the experience of reading to a child.

He holds a BS in Communications from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications and an MA in Communications from William Paterson University.

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