T.S. Eliot anagrams to “Toilets”. Francis Heaney therefore uses that theme to parody Eliot’s best-known poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, as the opening poem of the book:
Let us go then, to the john,
Where the toilet seat waits to be sat upon
Like a lover’s lap perched upon ceramic;
Let us go, through doors that do not always lock,
Which means you ought to knock
Lest opening one reveal a soul within
Who’ll shout, “Stay out! Did you not see my shin,
Framed within the gap twixt floor and stall?”
No, I did not see that at all.
That is not what I saw, at all.
To the stall the people come to go,
Reading an obscene graffito.
We have lingered in the chamber labeled “MEN”
Till attendants proffer aftershave and mints
As we lather up our hands with soap, and rinse.
And so it goes, throughout the Holy Tango of Literature: anagram the poet’s name, use that as the theme for parodying their best known poem. Here are some of the openings:
e. e. cummings: “nice smug me”
nice smug me lived in a pretty hip town
(with up so noses snobs looking down)
saks moomba vong prada
i wore my mesclun i ate my uggs
William Shakespeare: “Is a sperm like a whale?”
Shall I compare thee to a sperm whale, sperm?
Thou art more tiny and more resolute:
Gerard Manley Hopkins: “Kong ran my dealership”
I hired last summer someone simian, King
Kong of Indies islands, fifty-foot-fierce Gorilla, out of hiding
Chaucer, Dorothy Parker, Frost, Whitman, Gwendolyn Brooks… it is an extensive collection, including parodies of plays by Wilde, Woody Allen, Beckett, Pinter and so on. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who anagrams to “Multicolored Argyle Sea”, is a particular delight. Beginning
It is an ancient Mariner,
And he taketh lots of drugs,
it surreptitiously develops a second level of parody of a completely different drug-related poem. I’ll let you discover it for yourself.
And one of my favorites is William Blake, “Likable Wilma”:
Wilma, Wilma, in thy blouse,
Red-haired prehistoric spouse,
What immortal animator
Was thy slender waist’s creator?
When the Rubble clan moved in,
Was Betty jealous of thy skin,
Thy noble nose, thy dimpled knee?
Did he who penciled Fred draw thee?
Wilma, Wilma, burning bright, ye
Cartoon goddess Aphrodite,
Was it Hanna or Barbera
Made thee hot as some caldera?
The book is out of print, and its publisher out of business, but even if you can’t find a used copy, it is still available online for free, although without the illustrations. It is the most satisfying collection of parodies I have ever read.