The following is a transcript of a talk I gave last Tuesday, July 24, as a part of the Mixtape Reading Series at the Casbah in Durham. It is actually sort of two talks in one, a treatment of parody and a Longfellow recovery operation, merged together with a twist in the middle.
Tough Love: Parody & The Song of Hiawatha
by Brian Howe
|"With both hands his face he covered."|
I believe that in order to truly love something, you have to perceive and rejoice in what is ridiculous about it. This is also a good description of one of my favorite arts, the art of parody. To be sure, some parodies are simply catty and cruel, coming from disinterested or even hateful places—and these can be quite fun. I want to warm up with an occasional doggerel by Byron, which he seems to have written in an absolute fury over Peter Bell, a notoriously awful book that Wordsworth self-published even though his friends begged him not to. I should note that I’m using the term “parody” broadly here, to also encompass burlesque and drive-by attack poems such as this: