Pastiche Poetry

[  # 77of My Favourite Short Poems  ]


A pastiche, created in PRISMA, of a painting of my own of Aberaeron,  Ceredigion, West Wales.

pastiche is a creation of visual art, poetry, literature, theatre, or music that imitates the style or character of the original work.  A pastiche poem  imitates the form, style, and often the subject matter, of an original poem.  A parody also does this, but, unlike a parody, a pastiche is not written to mock or satirize the original poem, but it is written in a spirit of respect for the original.

I have used such a poem before when I included, in one of my blogs, Brian Patten’s poem ‘Mary had a bit of Lamb’.  It is a pastiche version of the nursery rhyme composed by the American writer, Sarah Josepha Buell Hale (1788 – 1879), which Patten first published in his book, ‘Thawing Frozen Frogs’.  See my earlier blog:  Mary’s Lamb

Perhaps my favourite poem in this style is Spike Milligan’s:

I must go down to the sea again, 
to the lonely sea and the sky;
I left my shoes and socks there – 
I wonder if they’re dry? 

Yes, that is just what a pastiche poem is.  Often short and commencing with the traditional opening of the original, usually well-known verses, which it is intended to imitate, but with altered context, frequently with humorous intention.  Of course, there is a fine line to be drawn between pastiche, which can border on parody, or even bowdlerisation (See definition).


I recently came across, on my surfing travels, the following brief (two-line) examples which are the work of a Harvard academic, Francis DiMenno  (1979).   Here is a selection from  his longer poem he calls: ‘MY FUZZY VALENTINE’ . . .

‘The Passionate Shepherd to His Love’, By Christopher Marlowe

Come live with me and be my love, 

I’ll even come and help you move. 

‘Upon Julia’s Clothes’, by Robert Herrick

Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
I hope she owns some less expensive clothes

‘On the Tombs in Westminster Abbey’, by Francis Beaumont

Mortality behold, and fear,
We’re almost out of bottled beer. 

‘Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part’, by Michael Drayton

Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part 
There’s never been an argument you wouldn’t start.

‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’, by Thomas Gray

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, 
And now it’s time to squander all my pay. 

‘Spring, the sweet spring’, by Thomas Nashe

Spring, the sweet Spring, is the year’s pleasant king, 
And Sammy, Frank, and Dean go Ring-a-Ding-Ding.


Over this coming week I will present a selection of my own attempts at this style, hoping that in doing so I offend no one, including the artistic sensibilities of those poets, living or dead, whose memorable opening lines have suggested these alternatives to me.