Monday, June 27, 2011

Parodic Poems - Chris Hart

This post requires a bit of a preface.  When I'm writing a paper, and it's late into the night on the last day, whether I be finishing the last few pages, or editing, or revising, I usually need to find a way to distract myself.  When I start feeling burnt out, I like to take a break, and one way I do that is to write a parodic poem, usually on the subject of my paper.  I apologize if these hold little humor value for you, dear reader.  They require either a knowledge of the original poem, or of the particular class I was in, as both of the following examples reference professors at my school.  Either way, I hope you find some enjoyment in them!  Following are two examples of my procrastination poetry:

A Parody on Milton's Sonnet XIX:
When I consider how my time is spent,
Ere half my days, in this lib'ry big, bright,
And that one paper which is death to write
Lodged with me useless, though my mind more bent
To serve therewith Prof. Morse, and to present
My true paper, lest he returning chide,
"Doth I exact day-labor, night denied?"
I fondly ask; but Patience to prevent
That murmur soon replies: "Morse doth need not
Your insufficient paper.  He who best
Revise well his writ, serve him best.  His might
Is Kingly; students at his bidding jot
And work all night and day without rest;
They also serve who only sit and write."

Writing a parody on Milton's Sonnet XIX, which I believe I shared in an earlier post, was fun, because I was forced to work within the rhyming and metrical structure of a sonnet, while still working to deliver a humorous message about how I was up all night working on a paper for my professor, Prof. Morse.  I showed him this poem, and he thought it was hilarious.  You, reader, may find it somewhat less so, since Milton is not your career, and you aren't directly referenced as having kingly might.  Either way, the poem stands on its own as a functional, if uninteresting sonnet.  I kept much of Milton's language intact, sometimes even whole lines, because I was able to work them into a coherent parodic narrative.

Parodic Prologue to the Canterbury Tales:
Wan hem clepe Kee with his breo sote
We scolers of bokes hath perced to the rote,
And bathed every-wight in swich trauail,
Of which vertu engendred is the weyle;
Whan Kee eek with his stronge warke
Inspired hath in every scoler irke
And frustir, al-wat the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,
And smale fowles maken melodye,
We slepen nan the night, with open ye-
So priketh hem James in our corages-
Than longen we to gooon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, couthe in sondry londes,
And specially, from every shires ende
Of Worceste to ouren endes we wende,
A holy blisful reste for to seke,
That wille us holpen, encombred seke.

Writing a parody of the introduction to the General Prologue of the Canterbury Tales presented three unique challenges:
1)  The General Prologue's introduction is perhaps the most well known 18 line chunk of poetry in the English language.  So many people are familiar with it, even in its Middle English format, and in translation, that a parody of it must keep a general feeling of the original intact, so that its source may be clearly understood.  Basically, writing a parody on something so well known is intimidating.

2)  I had to maintain the prose of the original while somehow still making it about how our professor, Prof. James Kee, had assigned us a very challenging paper (on, if you so chose, some facet of the Canterbury Tales.  As an aside, my paper was about how the structure of the Canterbury Tales itself, and the structure of some of the tales, namely the Nun's Priest's tale, represented Chaucer as an ironic narrator, who realizes through his poetic career, moving from dream visionary poetry to the Tales, that self-emptying love is the highest ideal of Christian love, and he then proceeded to represent it in literature, etc, etc this is way too long a paranthetical aside) and how we all spent many nights finishing it.  I worked that idea into how we, the students, would like to go on pilgrimage, from Worcester (where we all go to school) to our own "ends," meaning, our homes.

3)  I chose to write it in Middle English, rather than in Modern English.  Middle English is a beautiful language, though it was one that at this point, I only had experience reading.  What reading experience I had was also fairly limited.  It's a challenging language, and it's hard to believe, at times, that it is still English.  I pulled up several reference guides online, and in print, to enable me to write this 18 line parody.  In the end, what was supposed to be a small distraction from my paper ended up taking me nearly two hours, though I would say the end product is worth it.

Now, with both of these parodies as a whole, the only question they really raise is "Why do I spend my time doing this when I should be writing a paper?"  The answer is pretty simple, and pretty silly.  Because I enjoy it!  I know that it's not a terribly productive or smart way to spend time that should be spent in other academic pursuits, but I find it fairly fulfilling, and enjoyable.  As a procrastination technique, it usually revs my brain back up into high gear, so when I finish these poems of procrastination, I'm fired up and ready to continue my real work!  And I get to share these poems with friends who are going through similar situations, and that's fun for me.

What are your procrastination techniques?  Anyone else write poetry?

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