From the irresistible-followup-dept.:
(Poem #623) Ten Ways to Avoid Lending Your Wheelbarrow to Anybody
1 PATRIOTIC May I borrow your wheelbarrow? I didn't lay down my life in World War II so that you could borrow my wheelbarrow. 2 SNOBBISH May I borrow your wheelbarrow? Unfortunately Lord Goodman is using it. 3 OVERWEENING May I borrow your wheelbarrow? It is too mighty a conveyance to be wielded by any mortal save myself. 4 PIOUS May I borrow your wheelbarrow? My wheelbarrow is reserved for religious ceremonies. 5 MELODRAMATIC May I borrow your wheelbarrow? I would sooner be broken on its wheel and buried in its barrow. 6 PATHETIC May I borrow your wheelbarrow? I am dying of schizophrenia and all you can talk about is wheelbarrows. 7 DEFENSIVE May I borrow your wheelbarrow? Do you think I'm made of wheelbarrows? 8 SINISTER May I borrow your wheelbarrow? It is full of blood. 9 LECHEROUS May I borrow your wheelbarrow? Only if I can fuck your wife in it. 10 PHILOSOPHICAL May I borrow your wheelbarrow? What is a wheelbarrow?
From 'The Apeman Cometh', 1975. [Martin's commentary] Another brilliant poem from Mitchell. Thomas has called Mitchell his favourite contemporary poet, and while I wouldn't go that far, there's no denying that his is an unusually refreshing voice, blending humour and cynicism with a power that prevents the former two from lapsing into brittleness. That same power raises what could have been merely a mildly amusing parody of Stevens' Blackbird poem into a biting look at the hundred and one convoluted ways people have of saying 'no'. The poem is hilarious as much for its perceptiveness in cataloguing these turndowns as for the deft way each is exaggerated to precisely the right extent. IMHO, one of Mitchell's funniest works, and one that suffers not at all for being 'merely' a parody of a more famous poem. In fact, I'd hesitate to call this a parody, in that it doesn't draw upon the original for anything other than the idea, and that having read the original is unnecessary to appreciate it. It's more a poem *inspired* by 'Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird' - knowing the original will give the reader a brief thrill of recognition, but add nothing else to the poem. [My own commentary] What, you want more? <g> Actually, Martin's already covered most of what I wanted to say about this poem. So I'll content myself with a few quick notes. Firstly: No, I wouldn't call it a parody either. In fact, I'm pretty sure the generic construct "n ways of doing x" was in currency well before Stevens' magnificent poem; Mitchell's title is no more evidence of parody than, say, Paul Simon's "50 ways to leave your lover". (That said, I would be happy to be proven wrong). Secondly: I must betray a certain curiosity as to who Martin's favourite contemporary poet is. Spill the beans, do. Thirdly and lastly: 'dying of schizophrenia' - ah, immortal phrase. [Links] Kenneth Koch, "Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams": poem #278 A previous irresistible followup - Harold Monro, "Overheard on a Salmarsh": poem #594. I'm sure there are more IFs elsewhere on the Minstrels, but this was the only one I could remember offhand. While we're on the ways-and-means theme, check out Edwin Brock's "Five Ways to Kill a Man": poem #105 Other Mitchell poems: poem #397 poem #337 poem #211 poem #95 poem #28 thomas.