An Engagement with Kevin Sampsell

by Christina Serpa

Kevin Sampsell has the unique ability to write humor effortlessly into his poems. On the surface, his poems may seem like mere jokes, but they have a much deeper meaning. His poems “Quietly Awesome,” “Unworldy,” and “Jesusbook” convey the world and the way people act in it, showing his cynical attitude towards human nature. Sampsell suggests that human nature becoming less interactive and meaningful and he even comments on the way technology had added to this issue. Even though Kevin Sampsell brings his sarcastic sense of humor into his poems, he uses this technique to point serious problems that he has found in society.

Sampsell uses sarcasm as a social commentary on the everyday flaws of humans.  In “Quietly Awesome,” Sampsell notes that a person “said / awesome” as “a soft throwaway word / like it wasn’t really that awesome.” He uses this comment on the word “awesome” to show how society has forgotten the power of words. People just pick a word to say without thinking of the actual meaning because they feel that they have to have a certain response or reaction. This ruins the significance of using different words. Sampsell shows a similar example of human flaws in his poem “Unworldly” when he writes, “I cannot tell you where / one foreign country is / in relation to another.” He shows how people are unaware of the locations of the places around them. It seems that humans are so invested in themselves that they do not realize what is going on in the rest of the world. Sampsell even makes up an excuse for his unworldliness by saying, “I have been nowhere,” just as humans always find a reason to explain their flaws. In another poem, Sampsell comments that through technology people have the ability to feel like they have been everywhere and know everything.

In the world today, it is hard to escape technology and Sampsell uses this to within poems to show declining human interaction. Sampsell writes a witty poem called “Jesusbook” as a commentary on social media. He takes well known a figure, Jesus, and uses Facebook, a social media site that the world is attached to, and puts them together into a humorous poem—a combination that no one would expect. He sarcastically writes, “I wrote this on the wall / of Jesusbook- / The new social network for church-goers.” He starts off the poem so outrageously that it is hard for a reader to see any actual meaning in poem. But then Sampsell says, “(I am dabbling in God)” to explain how easy it to see people’s information on social media, even if it is God. Sampsell shows how technology has changed interaction; people are able to get involved in each other’s business through a screen alone. Less interaction is not the only problem, social media also allows people to be whoever they want when he says, “ I use a photo of former NFL quarterback / Kurt Warner / as my profile picture.” The randomness of bringing Kurt Warner into the poem shows how simple it is to change your image to anyone or anything on Facebook. Through technology humans have been able to alter themselves to the person they want to be perceived as.

Kevin Sampsell uses humor in his poems to express deeper problems that he feels are ruining society and the way people act. In the poems “Quietly Awesome,” “Unworldy,” and “Jesusbook,” Sampsell makes social commentaries on human nature. It seems that we have lost the true meaning of words in our language and that social media is actually making us less social. He incorporates these underlying issues into his work, but blankets the true meaning of his poems with sarcastic jokes. The sarcasm in his poems may bring laughter, but also makes readers think twice about their own actions.

Christina Serpa is a first-year student at Boston University and studies in the School of Management. She was born and raised in Massachusetts, just North of Boston.