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Chapter #7 - Parodies

i. In Writing Parodies, Start with the Rhyme Pattern

Parodies are an interesting way to interact with the poems of others, past and present. In writing a parody it is sometimes fun to write in the form of the poem or poet being parodied. Another approach is to simply respond to the original poem. A good way to understand a poet is to write in a similar form. Study the rhyme pattern of the poem and write a poem using the rhyme pattern only, but a different topic.

Read Fire and Ice by Robert Frost. it is available in many poetry books and textbooks or online at

I suppose that having the name Frost adds meaning to his topic. Your name too may have special meanings that may enhance or contrast with your poems. I have always loved this Frost poem chiefly for its rhyme scheme but also for its consideration of human folly.

In examining the poem is is first clear that the end rhyme pattern is abaabcbcb. Here is a poem I wrote using the same rhyme scheme.

Plum and Grape

Some people search the aisle for plum,
Some shop for grape.
The expeditions I have done
Have largely rallied round the plum;
But if the stocker boy was late,
To leave me fruitless with my cart,
And not a plum to grace my plate,
I've got some smarts,
I'd gulp a grape.

Notice that the rhyme scheme is the same, but the subject bears no resemblance to the Frost poem. By playing off the same rhyme scheme, an element of humor is added when contrasted with the more serious tone of the original poem. Frost is serious about hate being destructive. The intricacy of the poem works for him, and establishes a standard for the form. Anyone familiar with the Frost poem would be likely to get the point of that element of humor in the grape poem while someone unfamiliar with the Frost poem would take the rhyme scheme as an original and clever play of end rhymes, which it was for Frost. Of course it is possible that someone in earlier times has used the same pattern and that this was known by Frost.

ii. Use a Similar Title to Hint at the Parodied Poem

The following is another parody of this same poem and this time follows the rhyme scheme in the title as well as the poem.

Wire and Vise

The world, some say, is hung on wire,
Or held in vise.
When freedom lifts the soul like fire,
I seem inspired to glide, with wire.
But see the bondage in man's eyes
As Earth's companions he enslaves
To find expression in the vise,
The way it holds a frozen rage-
The vise is nice.

iii. Study the Poem You Parody: Know Its Development

This version also follows the logical development of the Frost poem and the understated ending. This version is much more likely to be recognized as a parody of the Frost poem because of the variety of character-istics in which there is similarity. Here is a third parody much closer to the original that goes so far as to tell that it is a parody. Poets often parody other poets' work and it goes unnoticed. When you steal a line from the original you should be careful to make it obvious that you are parodying intentionally and not trying to pass of the work as a completely original thought.


Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice,
With all respect to Robert Frost
If I could find myself so bold
I would suggest he count the cost
Of all the drama in those two
And look around at all the brou-
Haha, and if it ended thrice,
I think it may just end in mold.

This parody version differs from the others in that the rhyme scheme is completely different, although catching some of the surprising interweaving of the original. The rhyme scheme is abcdceebd.

iv. Challenge the Origional Poem or Write a Response

Another form of parody is the holding up of a poem to scrutiny in challenging its premise or tone. To demonstrate, there is a poem, Harlem, by Langston Hughes. It is a subdued threat of what happens when people's dreams are not allowed to develop. It presents a hedonistic view of the world and ends with a line suggesting that a dream deferred may explode. Langston Hughes' poems are not available on the Internet but are published widely and can easily be found in a book at your local library or possibly in a school literature book. Read Harlem, also called Dream Deferred, and then read this response.

Mustard Seed

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it wither like a fig tree
In the desert?
Or taste good at first like a bowl
Of pottage?

Does it stink like yesterday's manna,
Or snarl like a man
Possessed of devils?

Maybe it lies in the hogpen
Eating husks.

Or does faith come
And nest in its branches?

This poem satirizes Hughes' premise by playing on a lot of Biblical images of dreams deferred as mentioned in scripture, and suggesting gently that dreams deferred are part of the way people deal with the human condition, and not a sinister plot. The images are drawn from the gospels and from parables told by Jesus. Bible students will recognize details drawn from the story of Jacob and Esau in which Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of pottage, The parable of the mustard seed which teaches faith, the Fig Tree in the desert that Jesus killed because it didn't bear fruit, the complaints of the Children of Israel about the Miraculous Manna which mysteriously appeared every morning but had to be eaten that day and could not be hoarded, the story of the Prodigal Son who wasted his inheritance and had to live with pigs, and the man possessed by demons who was cleansed by Jesus. Familiarity with these stories is important to understanding the whole message of the poem. The reader may understand the gist of the poem without knowing all this, just as the reader may understand the gist of Hughes' poem without knowing the source of his images.

vi. Let the Form Be an Inspriation to You

Another form of parody is a satire of another form. There is a form called a villanelle in which the first and third line of the first stanza are repeated alternately as the third line of the succeeding verses. The other lines provide variety but the form does have some redundancy in the repeated lines. In the following poem I have satirized villanelles by repeating the central line all the way through as well as the lines that are supposed to be repeated. You can read a great villanelle in the writing of Dylan Thomas. His famous villanelle is Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night. His repeated lines are famous.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I have been unable to find the poem on the web but have found sites where Thomas can apparently be heard reading the poem. The poem is widely published and is available at any public library in many anthologies as well as books by Thomas himself. Recordings of Thomas reading are very advisable for any poet who wishes to learn to read well.

Read Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night and then the following:


Redundancy is monotonous.
It happens over and over and over again,
Always the same, dejavu after dejavu.

What goes around, comes around, and around.
It happens over and over and over again.
Redundancy is monotonous.

It seems I have heard this all before.
It happens over and over and over again.
Always the same, dejavu after dejavu.

We are not covering any new ground here.
It happens over and over and over again.
Redundancy is monotonous.

Perseveration kicks in.
It happens over and over and over again.
Then suddenly it freezes-
Ctrl, Alt, Del.

If you read Thomas and saw the power of a well written villanelle, you will likely appreciate the satirization of a serious form in the parody. Parodies can follow many paths. Let your own sense of humor and irony lead you in writing them.

Article written by Don J. Carlson. All Rights Reserved

For more information, please contact: Don J. Carlson

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