How to Write a Parody Poem
 
by Bruce Lansky
 
“I received a request for advice about how to write a parody poem

A teacher in Singapore asked me for advice about how to write a parody poem. It struck me as something many teachers may wonder about—because parody poems are so much darned fun. Here’s my advice. I hope you find it useful.

 

1)      Start with a rhythm and a rhyme pattern you like and stick with it like glue. A consistent rhythm and rhyme pattern is an essential element in a poem that’s going to be fun to read. Probably the best way to accomplish that goal is to write a “pastiche” of a well-known poem or song. I often write poetry while humming folk tunes like “Oh Susannah” or “On Top of Spaghetti” or patriotic songs like “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “America the Beautiful,” or “God Save the Queen.” Christmas carols also work well, but don’t be afraid of using top-40 pop tunes too—as long as they’re widely known and highly recognizable.

 

2)      You’ll need a premise or concept that expresses your humorous point-of-view about the subject. Then make a list of funny facts that support the humorous point you are trying to make. For example, if you are making fun of a teacher, principal, sibling, parent, or  politician, you might want to write verses about how forgetful, contradictory, ineffective, or out of touch they seem to be.

 

3)      Then add humorous “facts” (the closer you get to the truth, the better) to support your point of view.

 

4)      What makes a humorous or parody poem worth recommending is that is well written and makes the humorous point well—so well that it makes your readers laugh (or at least smile). In practical terms, a humorous poem or song is worth recommending if it makes me laugh and isn’t so poorly written that it is embarrassing rather than fun to read. From experience, I can advise you that what makes it even better is if people can sing the poem—because you wrote it to the tune of a well-known song. If you want to perform this parody poem at an assembly, over the school loudspeaker, or at a special event, singing it in a group can have your friends rolling in the aisles.

 

I hope you find this list of things to consider and things to do when you’re writing a parody poem helpful.

 

You’ll find examples of parody poems and songs in many of my poetry anthologies and songbooks. There are a number of parody poems written to be read aloud as a “morning announcement” at school. My favorite is “The Teacher’s Show,” which you’ll find in No More Homework! No More Tests! (Meadowbrook Press). F.Y.I., it was written to the tune of “My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean,” so you can read or sing it!

 

The Teachers’ Show

(Read or sing to the tune of “My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean”)

 

I have an important announcement.

I want everybody to know:

on Monday all classes are cancelled.

The teachers will put on a show.

___________________ will be juggling meatballs.

     [Teacher’s name]

___________________ will dance with a bear.

     [Teacher’s name]

___________________ and ____________________ will yodel.

     [Teacher’s name]                   [Teacher’s name]

___________________ will tear out _____________ hair.

     [Teacher’s name]                                [his or her]

___________________ is quite entertaining.

     [Teacher’s name]

___________________ does something you’ve never seen.

         [He or  She]

If you want a bad case of measles,

___________________ paint them on red, white, and green.

       [He’ll or She’ll]

___________________ is also performing.

     [Principal’s name]

___________________ come up with something quite new.

       [He’s or She’s]

___________________ doing ________________ act in the kitchen.

       [He’s or She’s]                                      [his or her]

___________________ dumping the cook in the stew.

       [He’s or She’s]

Your parents are certainly welcome,

but make sure to tell them the rule:

If any of them arrive tardy,

they’ll have to be kept after school.

I know that our show is exciting.

I wish that you all could be here.

But school will be closed for vacation.

I can’t wait to see you next year.

 

Text © Bruce Lansky, reprinted from No More Homework! No More Tests! published by Meadowbrook Press.

 

 

I also have lots of funny songs in I’ve Been Burping in the Classroom (Meadowbrook Press) and Oh My Darling, Porcupine (Meadowbrook Press). The songbooks show how I and other poets write new lyrics to familiar tunes. Notice how I use a popular American patriotic song, “This Land is Your Land” and change the lyrics and the focus so it’s about being with a boy or girl (or parent) who you don’t want to touch or get near, “This Hand is My Hand.”

This Hand Is My Hand

(Read or sing to the tune of “This Land Is My Land”)

 

This hand is my hand.

It isn’t your hand.

The thought of your touch

is what I can’t stand.

And being near you

is not what I planned.

This hand was made for me, not you.

 

This hair is my hair.

It isn’t your hair.

My hair is one thing

that I will not share.

So if you touch it

my friends will all stare.

This hair was made for me, not you.

 

These cheeks are my cheeks.

They are not your cheeks.

So please don’t kiss them,

because your breath reeks.

I’d rather be kissed

by twenty math geeks.

These cheeks were made for me, not you.

 

These lips are my lips.

They are not your lips.

I’ll never kiss you,

because your nose drips.

If you get near me

I’ll do ten backflips.

These lips were made for me, not you.

 

Text © Bruce Lansky, reprinted from Oh My Darling, Porcupine published by Meadowbrook Press.

 

My most important advice is to have fun! If you do, it’s likely your readers or audience will too. To be on the safe side, I should add that if you are making fun of someone, it’s best to make sure your poem or song is clever and funny rather than hurtful (which isn’t funny).

 

 

© 2009 Bruce Lansky. Text reprinted by permission of the author. Permission is given for individual school classes to use this lesson and to make as many copies of the lesson as are needed for the students’ use. All other reproduction is prohibited under penalty of law. For use outside individual classes, please contact info@meadowbrookpress.com. All rights reserved.


 

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