Laughing with or at?: The simple joy of parody poems

It’s been a while since I’ve covered a new poetic form, so what better form to cover than a humorous one: the parody poem.

A parody poem is one that pokes fun at another poem or poet. For instance, I recently read a parody of “We Real Cool,” by Gwendolyn Brooks, in an online version of Coe Review called “We Real White” that cracked me up. I even showed former Poetic Asides co-blogger Nancy Breen, but now it’s apparently disappeared in the ethernet.

Soooo… I’m going to provide my own example that is not nearly as funny as the “We Real Cool”-“We Real White” parody. Instead, I’m going to parody one of my all-time favorite poems by Walt Whitman–“Song of Myself.”

Here goes:

“My Song”

I congratulate myself and talk to myself;
I make a bunch of assumptions and descriptions;
what I talk about you listen to me talk about;
I talk about myself a lot;
but that’s okay;
and boring.

The original version was much longer,
but nobody read it,
because it was longer,
because it had too many long descriptions,
because I have an affinity for exclammation points!!!!!!!!!!!!

So let’s cut to the chase,
and get this over with,
and celebrate me,
and celebrate you,
and whoopity-doo!

So here’s the short version,
and you better read it.


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14 thoughts on “Laughing with or at?: The simple joy of parody poems

  1. Iris Deurmyer

    I think it is called inspired. I write my best quickly also, but I have to be listening. Sometimes the prompts are fun but I am not very creative. Whenever I feel creative, it does seem to flow. I only write short stuff too. I especially like short stories and poems. I have just finished a query letter to try to publish a book of skits. Keep on listening.

  2. Earl Parsons

    Iris & Sheryl, Thanks for the uplifting comments. For some reason, this one didn’t take that long to write. I’ve been blessed with the ability, in many cases, to pour out a lot very quickly. This one poured out as fast as I could type it. I only had to edit a couple of lines when it was all typed out. This happens a lot with poetry, skits, and daily devotions. I just wish I could do this with longer forms of writing. Maybe that’s God’s way of telling me to stick to the shorter stuff. Thanks again.

  3. Sheryl Kay Oder

    This poem took on a life of its own. I had thought it would be easy to create a poem using Hopkins’ alliteration as a base, but soon I was also aware of his rhyming scheme. He was a master, and I could only do my best, at times using his very words or following his lead, and at other times doing my own thing rather than slavishly following what he did, thus wresting words or rhymes. It is still lacking, but I am glad I tried it. Robert, I had no idea how much doing this helps a person learn more skill as a poet. Of course, this is far from as good as I would like, but I have never done such a thing before and see it as a great exercise in poetic expression. As you will see, there is no attempt here to be funny, though.

    The meaning of the poem has changed, too. Originally it was to simply be a description of things I do during the day—hence the rip off title Whatever. However, I chose to take the lead of Hopkins in dedicating the poem to my Lord. I made a not-always smooth connection between poetic words and the Word, following much of Hopkins’ own thought pattern. At that time the meaning of the title is more in line with Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” ESV


    To Christ the my Lord and the Word

    I ate this morning, morning’s muffin, a-
    long with deviled eggs, delicious, darling-not quite dawn-drawn breakfast, in its
    With the rising level of brain-borne words inside me bursting forth, and bringing
    Thoughts there. How I hung upon the reign of a word-filled wing
    In my ecstasy! Then, off, off forth to sing,
    As the Spirit’s sway marks me on a word-wind; the hurl and
    Rebuffed the brain freeze. My heart in striving
    Stirred for the Word, – the meter of, the poetry of we sing!

    Bright beauty and vigor and phrase, oh, stanza, alliteration, and joy
    Sparkle! And the flame that comes from Thee, then, a billion
    Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my Savior.

    No wonder of it: sheer plod makes words on paper
    Shine, and life-made ashes, ah, the Word,
    Fall at Your feet, and morph into beauty supine.

  4. Nancy

    I have always valued the parody. Rather than making fun of a single work, it is almost a tribute. Just as you need to know the Arthurian legend to appreciate fully Monty Python and the Holy Grail, you must really appreciate the craft of a poem to parody well. X.J. Kennedy’s parody of William Carlos Williams’ "This is Just to Say" comes to mind, as does "Dover Bitch," a clever parody of Matthew Arnold’s "Dover Beach."

    I will report back later with my parody poem. I just wanted to chime in.

  5. Earl Parsons

    I hope this fits the parody theme. It’s something I wrote a couple of years back. Hope you like it.

    ‘Twas the Night……..

    ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and I could hardly remember
    The blur of the season that started in September
    When on shelves there appeared for girls and for boys
    The new lines of play things and high-tech toys

    So early it seemed to display these temptations
    We had barely paid off our summer vacation
    But there they all were, all boldly displayed
    In the minds of the kids, an impression was made

    An impression that just never seemed to go away
    As they reminded me of wishes at least twice a day
    Of course, there were more days and much more to see
    So their wishes changed often, and that was fine with me

    Because I already knew what I’d get for each one
    So I let them wish on, that was part of the fun
    By the time Christmas came, they’d forget what was there
    On the shelves in September, they wouldn’t even care

    But for now they were all tucked snugly in bed
    With visions of tech toys playing in their heads
    And mama and I were so frantically wrapping
    The last minute gifts I’d found today shopping

    You see, in the paper was a sale at the mall
    Some things we’d forgotten to buy for them all
    So I in my Cherokee headed off on the fly
    At five in the morning, more presents to buy

    The mall was just twenty quick minutes away
    That is, on a normal, non-holiday day
    This trip took a little bit longer, however
    It felt like my arrival time was closer to never

    But finally I made it and found a parking spot
    Then a half-hour-stroll through this big parking lot
    Just to find that the line was another mile out
    Should I even be here? I started to doubt

    Too late, as it was, I was standing in line
    And I wondered just what on the inside I’d find
    Would the items I’d seen in the paper be there?
    If not, the disappointment could be too much to bear

    Still I waited, ne’retheless, as they opened the doors
    And we all hurried in, running from store to store
    With excitement I hunted for bargains to purchase
    With plastic in hand, the frenzy was in progress

    I bumped into people and grabbed what I could
    I knew if I didn’t, someone else would
    It was fun and exciting, and sometimes quite rough
    But I had to complete my last list of stuff

    After five crazy hours it all came to an end
    My list was complete, no more would I spend
    My mission was over, to the house I would go
    And all of my treasure to my wife I’d show

    And I did, and that brings us back to the house
    I was madly wrapping with my loving spouse
    The last-minute presents I’d found at the mall
    No one was forgotten, no, no one at all

    So we wrapped and we wrapped on into the night
    Our room was a mess, our bed out of sight
    For ribbons and paper and bows filled our room
    The presents our children would have very soon

    But first we must get the presents under the tree
    Without waking the children, not so easy, you see
    Mama loaded my arms, down the hall I started
    This load and three more, and all would be carted

    But as I walked t’ward the tree, I saw a strange sight
    A fat man in red with a beard of pure white
    Disappeared ‘round the corner having finished his chore
    Down the hallway he went, and straight out the door

    So I dropped all the presents and after him I ran
    Who was this white-bearded, red-dressed fat old man
    I chased him outside and around to the back
    And froze when I saw the red sleigh and big sack

    With eight reindeer waiting for their boss to return
    As he neared them, he looked right and made a quick turn
    Over to my Nativity shining bright as could be
    Old Santa walked up to it and sank to his knees

    And he said a little prayer that nobody could hear
    Got up and returned to his waiting reindeer
    With a smile on his face he waved me good-bye
    Then the reindeer pulled Santa up into the sky

    The sleigh took a turn and came straight back at me
    Old Santa was laughing as loud as could be
    And I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight
    “He’s the reason for the season, Merry Christmas, good night.”

  6. Iris Deurmyer

    Joyce Kilmer is rolling over in the grave. I recited the poem "Tree" in high school and loved it. Here goes my parody


    I think that I shall never see
    A lady as beautiful as me
    A stunning fox who may wear
    Lovely ribbons in her hairr

    At whose feet boys are slain
    Whose best friend is Michael Cain
    Poems are made by fools like he
    But only God could make me!

  7. Brian

    I wrote this one a couple of years ago and it was published in the most recent issue of Measure. I think the reference is pretty obvious. 🙂

    Unhealthy Sonnet

    Batter my arteries, trans-fatty globules,
    you lock, clog, make me cry and wheeze
    my way up stairs. I stand on worn out knees
    to work to pay to mend me, make me new.
    Reason should command me, tell me “quit
    eating those French fries, burgers, tater tots.”
    But dearly I love you, cannot bring a stop
    to turning whenever I see a drive-in.
    You’ve captured me, hydrogenated oil,
    although cholesterol’s my enemy.
    My body you have ravaged, looted, spoiled;
    called prisoner my gastric cavity.
    Should I embrace my saviour, poor Olean?
    Ah! Never, dear! I’ll always relish thee.

  8. Sheryl Kay Oder

    So the rest of you won’t have to work as hard as I did to find the poem We Real White, try the URL below.It goes directly to the poem rather than to the poet list. The poet was Matthais Peterson Brandt.

    Now, this would be a great pre-Wednesday prompt, giving us time to figure out how to do one of these ourselves. Maybe you could do a two-for-one Wednesday if you had another idea in mind

    I had always considered a parody as making fun of something, but this is simply writing a poem using the original as a template. Thanks for the idea, your poem, and the reference to the We Real White poem. It is fun.

  9. Amy Barlow Liberatore

    Robert – Found something that may help you.

    I’m only good at song parody ("Puppy’s Got Teeth," a tribute to Madonnas’s "Papa, Don’t Preach." Also one unprintable (and, when in polite company, unsingable) version of "You Light Up My Life" (think about it). And "The Addams Family," which begins "There’s Woody and there’s Mia, their daughter from Korea, it’s moral diarrhea, the Allen Family." (includes great rhymes like "crawlin’ and scrawlin")

    Anyway, I found a LINK for the first parody you cited; unsure if you have access to back ccs, but here it is:

    And if you ever need a bawdy piano girl for a party (and you promise not to tell that my husband is a pastor), call me!

    Amy (Momskas)

  10. Bruce Niedt

    I think one of the most copied and parodied poems of all time is Wallace Stevens’ "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird". Here’s me spooof, previously published in the online journal Sunken Lines:

    Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Glazed Donut

    (Apologies to Wallace Stevens)

    Among thirty varieties
    and dozens of dozens
    I pick one glazed donut
    because it is mine.

    Glazed donut with coffee?
    I prefer tea, thank you.
    No, I never dunk.

    The ice storm last February
    made my world
    a glazed donut.

    Bill Cosby once said
    a two-year-old child with a cold
    is like a glazed donut.
    I submit that a glazed donut
    will never
    look like a two-year-old child with a cold.

    My friends all go for the filled,
    the jelly and the Boston crème
    But I take the glazed donut –
    a different drummer!

    One glazed donut left in the box,
    everyone afraid to take it –
    pariah in the coffee room.

    If glazed donuts ruled the earth,
    there would be no coffee breaks.

    Glazed donut
    you were not the inspiration for the wheel
    or the Theory of Relativity
    but you taste so much better than them.

    A mathematician would call it a torus,
    the shape of a glazed donut.
    But what is it
    when he takes the first bite?

    My glazed donut and I
    take a walk in the park.
    It likes to ride in the bag.

    I dream of glazed donuts
    rolling down a hill,
    stopping only for red lights,
    because they are the most law-abiding
    of pastries.

    When I get to heaven I’ll ask,
    Are there glazed donuts here?
    Well, St. Peter will say,
    We have some very nice crullers.

    In the park, I break up
    the glazed donut
    and throw pieces on the grass.
    It is devoured by grateful

  11. Carla Cherry

    Thought I’d have a little fun with my parody of Emily Dickinson’s "I’m Nobody"

    I’m Somebody

    I’m somebody! Who are you?
    I don’t know that name. Sorry.
    I thought you were
    somebody too.

    Would have been nice to have a pair of us.
    Don’t tell me your name again.
    You’re beneath me, you know.
    You cannot be my friend.

    How dreary to be nobody!
    Humiliated like a frog!
    Whereas I, am the lily
    admired by the bog!


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