Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Composition of Parody

I thought it might be interesting or at least time-consuming to make an entry detailing the processes by which I wrote one of my poetic parodies. I'm sure some poets would prefer having it understood that they compose by ecstatic intuition--A Fine Madness (1966), if you will, starring Sean Connery & Joanne Woodward--& would shudder if the public took a peep behind the scenes at the unspoken crudities of thoughts, or worse yet, witnessed the totally groddy reality of throwing back chalices of Cold Duck, burning clove cigarettes down to their nubby butts, vociferously disowning hackneyed ideas like skanky promiscuous cousins while selecting & rejecting pretentious, possibly plagiarized lines from poets long dead, gratefully, their work now public domain.

For my part, I have neither sympathy for the alluded repugnances (hint: set out a bowl of chips & wear more than a bathrobe when the public plans to drop by) nor the least difficulty in recounting the progressive or retrogressive steps, the chutes & ladders, the candy apple red & metallic blue spray painted graffiti, the fancy faded feathers of my great great great grandmother's mothballed boa, the ridiculously numbered & numerous saved files & folders that comprise my literary histrio, so I hope it will not be looked upon as breach of decorum or, worse, interminably dull if slowly I turn-- for the sake of analysis & self-promotion--& step by step, en by en detail the M.O. of one of my works, i.e., "Aspects of Dagwood."

I've selected this poem because it is conveniently located on my publisher's website, where my book, Nearing Narcoma, can be procured at a reasonable price.

If we dismiss as irrelevant to the circumstance--or say, the drunken debauchery, requisite, if we are to understand determinism, of my graduate studies--which, in the first place, gave rise to the intention of composing a poem, this post would proceed considerably faster, so let us, then, skip giddy as schoolgirls ahead.

Obviously, there's a limit in relation to length for all works of literary art—that limit being the patience of today's reader--think fruit fly--& although in certain genres this limit may be exceeded--I'm looking at you, Stephen King--in a poem, eh, not so much. Indeed, the poem seems to have, at least on some level, an intimate relationship with its merit—in other words, to the excitement or degree of elevation (if you know what I mean, wink, nudge) it is capable of inducing; for clearly length is in direct ratio to the intensity of the intended effect, with one proviso—that some duration is absolutely necessary for producing any effect at all. Am I right, ladies?

Again, in other words, it's not the length, but how you use it. Holding in view these considerations, as well as that degree of excitement which I hoped to achieve, I reached at once, having meditated long & hard, a right length for my intended poem: 30 lines, the exact number of lines Weldon Kees should have used in "Aspects of Robinson," which, coincidentally, I'd chosen to parody.

My next thought concerned dinner. The choice of an impression or effect to be conveyed I kept in view throughout the rendering of the meal, a recipe universally recognizable as stew. I should be carried too far out of my immediate topic were I to elucidate upon the ingredients--corn, peppers, chicken, onions, potatoes, green beans, etc. However, my point is, as I repeatedly insisted between nibbling saltines & slurping spoonfuls of victuals, whereas Beauty is the sole legitimate province of the poem, Humor, if not a self-governing commonwealth like Puerto Rico, is (at the very least) an unincorporated territory like Guam.

The question of citizenry settled, my next question referred to tone. All experience has shown the tone of poetry to be one of sadness. "What's profoundly sad/is often beautiful," I myself have written in a poem which appeared a few years ago in Main Street Rag. Unfortunately, unless you purchase a back issue of the magazine, you won't be able to read this potentially classic poem in its entirety until I find a publisher for my second full-length manuscript. Adding to this tone--or, if you will, tome--of melancholy, is the difficulty I have encountered in finding a home for this aforesaid manuscript, although well respected editors at more than one university publishing house have deemed it "smart & funny."

Thus, melancholy must surely be the most "legitimate" of all the poetical tones. Having stayed out all hours on the weekend--despite having sworn "nevermore" to such escapades--& waking up next to a wild eyed apparition with a screeching raven tattoo on her left breast, I asked myself—“Of all melancholy topics, what, according to the universal understanding of mankind, is the most melancholy?” Sunday morning—was the obvious reply. “And what,” I said, “of this most melancholy of topics is most ironic?” For anyone who knows me, the answer, here also, is obvious—Sunday funnies because, unquestionably, they're just not funny.

Here then the poem may be said to have its beginning—at the beginning, where all works of art should begin--for it was here, at this point of my preconsiderations, that I began:

Dagwood dealing poker in Ed Feeley's garage; an unshaded
Bulb blares over his pin-cushion head. At the table,
Simple men puffing black stogies, quaffing frothy mugs.
The one with red hair, buck teeth takes the pot with three aces,
A king & a queen, all the same suit. A fearful voice.
—Here comes Blondie mad as a goose, Dagwood.

I may as well say a few words about versification since I have a few minutes before tee time. My first object (as usual) was originality, to the extent to which this is possible in parody. Where I have been negligent, I offer in my defense: 1). for centuries, no one has, in reality, done anything original; 2). the attainment of originality is less the product of invention than negation, the baliwick of parody; & 3). I have a terrible slice that I can't seem to straighten out, if you'll pardon the pun, no matter how many buckets of balls I hit at the driving range.

However skillfully handled, there's always a certain hardness which repels the artistic eye. For my part, I've included nonesuch imagery in my poem, having declined to impart into a work of art details of the more grotesque nature I have personally encountered, in especial, the turd frozen in the inoperative public toilet at a local Texaco. Rendering instead the colorful, dream-like quality of the comics, the stomping grounds of today's transcendentalists, I thus instilled my poem with lasting literary quality, as is apparent in the concluding stanzas—

Insomniac Dagwood with a fat sandwich of cold cuts.
Dagwood squawking in the tub when the ladies' club
Drops by. Dagwood dangling from the bathroom window,
Drippy wet towel draped around his bottom,
Red Z’s masking his face like a bland whodunit. Bells.
—Mr. Dithers wants you, Dagwood.

Dagwood whooshing out the door. Dagwood late for the bus.
Dagwood sporting the familiar bow tie & slouch hat.
Dagwood in polka-dot boxers, hiking his trousers,
Pecking Blondie on the cheek, slurping down coffee
As he runs out, slamming pow! into the postman. Letters
Flutter around them like fragments of Dagwood's recycled pulp.

4 comments:

Riley said...

This reminds me of a funny "Philosophy of Composition." Poe's not whom I turn to for a largh. Does that make "Dagwood" your "Raven"?

Matt Morris said...

I don't know why it would remind you of "Philosophy of Composition" other than I copied & pasted Poe's essay into my blog for riffing. As for "Dagwood" being my "Raven," I understand the comparison, but I'd hope my poem wasn't that bad.

Riley said...

Well, as Mr. Dithers might say, "Dagwood, you shall work here Nevermore!" Okay, I doubt seriously he'd say that but that's the closest pastiche I can get from the two. I'm only fake literary and falsetto intellectual. Deal.

Matt Morris said...

Yeah! I should totally write a parody of "The Raven." I could start: "Once upon a Monday morn, Dagwood surfed the web for porn . . ." Why didn't I think of it before?

Quoth Mr. Dithers, "Nevermore!"