Day 20 – 30 Days, 30 Readings: Kenneth Koch’s, “Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams”

Even Worse
Even Worse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know, long title, right? I love a good spoof. I grew up on the musical parodies of Weird Al Yankovic, and at his best his twists on the popular songs, like Michael Jackson’s “Bad,” both honored and poked fun of the originals. Most artists it seems are happy to give him permission to use their music, knowing that once you’ve been spoofed by Weird Al, you have arrived.

Poem parodies can be a lot of fun too, and the best ones have the ability to stand on their own, sometimes perhaps wobbling on one leg, but still funny even if you don’t have prior knowledge of the poem being lampooned. This one, for instance, by a poet whose name I simply cannot recall at the moment:

Two paths diverged in a well known park,
One well lit, the other dark,
And since I did not wish to die
I took the one more traveled by.

I suppose you needn’t know anything about Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” but if you do the parody is that much more delightful, and yet not disrespectful of the original at all.

Tonight’s poetry reading is “Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams,” written by Kenneth Koch. It pokes fun of the poem by physician William Carlos Williams that we heard yesterday performed by Mr. Mathew MacFadyen. If you missed it, check it out first before listening to my goofy rendition of Koch’s piece, or simply look up the text to Williams’ poem “This is Just to Say.” 

Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams
Kenneth Koch
1
I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next summer.
I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do
and its wooden beams were so inviting.

2
We laughed at the hollyhocks together
and then I sprayed them with lye.
Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.

3
I gave away the money that you had been saving to live on for the next ten years.
The man who asked for it was shabby
and the firm March wind on the porch was so juicy and cold.

4
Last evening we went dancing and I broke your leg.
Forgive me. I was clumsy and
I wanted you here in the wards, where I am the doctor!

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14 Replies to “Day 20 – 30 Days, 30 Readings: Kenneth Koch’s, “Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams””

  1. That was really a well put to together video. Well read and just the right tone. I did LOL a bit it has to because of the sinister look you gave when you put your glasses on at the end!

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  2. Wishes, Dreams, and Lies by Koch is the best book ever to introduce children to writing poetry. This is a little parody I wrote oh too many years ago in college:
    The Anecdote’s Tune

    I plucked a tune in Mozambique
    And loud it sung over the town
    It made the romantic thoroughfares
    Remake the town.

    The thoroughfares went straight to it
    And moved the town, and so it broke
    The tune was bound but never found
    Though high, its melody was scarce.

    It soon was hummed in every lair
    The tune was cold and spare
    It would not bind the Rote and Rhyme
    Like all things seen in Mozambique

    I guess I didn’t know that Mozambique was a country, not a town then.

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  3. Hahaha! SO marvelous, both the poem and your reading. The finale-with-glasses certainly does stick the landing, but on the way there, the little facial twitch right before “Forgive me” and the small flash of a manic grin at “juicy” are priceless. You have a gift for parody, I see!

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    1. Ah, thank you so much! I am working on uploading today’s reading now, it’s a new favorite of mine by Kay Ryan. Should be ready shortly. 🙂 I really appreciate the comments and compliments by the way. It makes me very happy to hear that folks are enjoying these.

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