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Poetry Moment: Antonio Vallone and 'Why I Hate Clowns'

Antonio Vallone

Poetry Moment on WPSU is a program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Shara McCallum is this year’s Penn State Laureate.

Today’s poem is “Why I Hate Clowns” by Antonio Vallone.

Antonio Vallone is an Associate Professor of English at Penn State DuBois, the founding publisher of MAMMOTH books, and poetry editor of Pennsylvania English. He is also the co-founding editor of The Watershed Journal Literary Group—which provides publishing opportunities and community for Pennsylvania Wilds-area writers. Vallone has published four collections of poetry. Two more books, American Zen and Blackberry Alleys: Collected Poems and Prose, are forthcoming.

The title of the poem, “Why I Hate Clowns,” invites us into an argument. It also establishes the poet’s matter-of-fact tone. Vallone’s voice is direct as an arrow. His syntax is clear as can be. Yet the poem’s images create tension. Are they sincere expressions of the speaker’s aversion to clowns? Or are they meant to be heard as playful and absurd? “Why I Hate Clowns” is essentially a list. Vallone catalogues the reasons clowns are offensive to his sensibility. The cumulative force of his argument is what makes the turn at the end of the poem so very satisfying.


Why I Hate Clowns

They wear wigs, white pancake makeup, and false noses
to distort their features and disguise their true identities.

They wear silk pajamas to work like jockeys and Hugh Hefner.
They wear white gloves indoors like burglars.

They pile endlessly out of small cars. They trip and fall for the spotlight.
Their misshapen shoes hide their tracks.

They carry huge cardboard scissors and climb into the audience
to cut your grandmother’s hair while people laugh.

They wear greasepaint smiles. They don’t speak.
Underneath it all, they’re just women and men.

That was “Why I Hate Clowns” by Antonio Vallone.

Shara McCallum was the 2021-22 host of "Poetry Moment" on WPSU.
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