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By Josie Whitehead


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Parody is the imitation of another author’s work, or their style of writing or genre.  All too often it relies on exaggeration to achieve its desired satirical or comical effect.  What can often be imitated to good effect is the rhythm within the poem, but also the style of the words too.  Any writer of poetry is open to this fun.  It is not ridicule of the writer, but usually general fun, and  most writers would not object to this.  I would not.


In addition to “parody” there is also imitating the style and rhythm in a non-funny way, and this is excellent for would-be writers for it is no different to learning to distinguish a waltz from a quickstep and then writing a waltz or quickstep yourself.  What you must not do is to copy the writer's words and claim that they are your own.  This is plagiarism and there are penalties to pay for doing this for it is a criminal offence.  Copy the style of a writer you like.  Eventually, with practice, your own distinctive style will emerge.


So if I have written:


Autumn is wearing her bright golden crown.

Today she is coming to visit our town.


You could write:  


Mary is eating a red luscious peach.

Today she’s sunbathing on a beach.


Or something equally silly or sensible, but you will see that the rhythm of the words in the first two lines of my poem have been copied for the next two lines.  I don’t mind.  It would be rather flattering for me to think that anyone would enjoy my work to the extent that they wanted to copy the rhythm for “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” according to Charles Calob Carlton.  However, all joking apart and speaking for myself, I think one of the very best exercises that children can do in classrooms is to “shadow” a poem which is really good, and by “really good” I do not mean just giggle poetry.  Let the children shadow poetry which has wonderful metre, good use of alliteration or assonance, personification, rhyming, similes, metaphors and all the ingredients that a good poet has used to make that poem “shine”.  You would not expect a child to be able to play an instrument without doing regular daily practice, and I honestly feel that daily practice, copying the style (not the words) of a good poet cannot be surpassed if the children are themselves going to write well.  


For myself I would say that taking the trouble to teach children about metre is well worth while and not difficult at all.  Free verse has crept in in very recent years in the lifetime of “poetry” and although there may be a place for good free verse, all too often I have to say that I have seen many many instances of a piece of prose which has been cut up into random lines, with no reason at all why one line is ended and another line started.  Children at a primary school which I visited told me that they were “bored” with poetry and when I expressed astonishment, for I remembered the wonderful poems of my childhood, they showed me a sentence that spiralled down a page and which had been introduced to them as “poetry”.  The children were disappointed and were quick to point out in their own words:  “This isn’t a poem is it?” to which I would have been less than honest if I had disagreed with them.  So I offered to write them a poem the next week which had all the ingredients which I thought these children would love – and love it they did for they asked me to write more and more.  


So, let your children copy the style of the good poets and let them have fun.  


I have done this many times and Jabberwocky is the one I enjoyed doing most of all.   My poem “Brave Brave Sledderclob” which was a parody on Jabberwocky is on this website for you to enjoy.  BRAVE BRAVE SLEDDERCLOB  It is also one of my published poems chosen by the teachers in many schools of West Yorkshire last year.


The Lobster Quadrille by Lewis Carroll


Will you walk a little faster said the walrus to the snail

There’s a porpoise close behind us and he’s treading on my tail.  


So you, or your children could try:


Will you ……….. a little ……………  said the ………….. to the  …………….


You could start off with any one syllable verb:  eg:  run, dance, swim, talk and then add a two syllable adverb followed by a two syllable word and lastly a one syllable word.  


Here is what I did:


“Will you dance a little faster” said a belle unto her beau.

Your waltz has only two beats and your foxtrot’s rather slow.”


I did not shadow syllable by syllable the verbs, advertbs and nouns, but clap your hands and you will see that the rhythm is exactly the same.  


If you were learning to play an instrument, you would learn to clap your hands and count the beats per line etc and you must do the same with poetry if you are to master writing with rhythm or metre.  You are more than welcome to write some of the lines from my own poems on your blackboards etc and get the children to clap to the metre and try writing several lines using the same rhythm.  Remember, I will be flattered, ha ha.  I would be more than flattered if you or the children you teach can also write poetry using good metre at the end of it all.  


As for the parodies – well, they are just copies of the rhythm of the poem but with fun rhymes and I would love to be sent any really good ones to display on my website.  Try this with your children and it is taken from my poem "The Wizard of Alderley Edge" which is in my Anthology:


A farmer from Mobberley had a white mare


Invite them to give you a substitute for "white mare" that also rhymes.  eg, A farmer from Mobberley had some white hair.  - - - -  had a big bear.  Or even 'A farmer from Mobberley went to the fair.'  Or perhaps he had not one care.  Let the children try this and then read their attempts out to the class for fun.


If you want to see what I think is a really funny parody on Jabberwocky, please go and read this parody called “Tuxedowacky” By Gregory K.  


Last, but not least, you may like to see my parody on John Masefield's poem "Sea Fever", but mine are called "SHOPPING FEVER" and "SHORTHAND FEVER".


Do have some fun shadowing poems.