Friday, April 20, 2012

On Parody

I've been writing a poem a day for National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) mainly because a few other poets I know are doing so. There's been a "prompt" every day which I've pretty much ignored, but several days ago the suggestion was a "parody." Without going into detail about they thought by that, I decided to have a go - and in the "mini sequences" within my April writing.

I've now written half a dozen "parody" poems - quickly and without too much thought. Parody can mean different things, can't it? I guess Katy Evans Bush's "pirate Prufrock" would be an obvious example - taking T.S. Eliot's poem and writing it in the style of a pirate. This is obviously funny, a well crafted entertainment, that requires a knowledge of the original poem (the better you know it, the better the spoof). Yet "parody" doesn't have to be broad, I don't think. The Prufrock poem is done with love, both for the original and for the language of pirates (The internet has promoted "a talk like a pirate" day which may have led to this one).

Yet I like to think that "parody" doesn't necessarily have to be funny, but can be homage or critique as well. My parodies are loose ones - and I've deliberately not mentioned the poet I'm thinking of in each one (they are well known ones, and not necessarily ones I've read that much.) What struck me in writing this series was how "parody" is a little like Mike Yarwood or Rory Bremner's impressions. You don't necessarily know the parodied writer that well, but there has to be enough of "signature" (the equivalent of a facial tic or a particular prop that a Bremner or Yarwood might accentuate) for you to do something "in the style of" that is in itself a new poem. There are quite a number of prize winning poets that I'd find it hard to pull out what their USP was. Even with these, I do wonder whether a poem like "Playing with Guns" is "generic Irish poet" rather than the one I was thinking of.

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