Poetry, or parody?

by Mikhail Simkin

Some of these verses are masterpieces, created by the great modernist poets of the early 20th century, Ezra Pound and Amy Lowell. Ezra Pound was the founder of the Imagist poetic movement, while Amy Lowell was the "fair Trotsky of the Imagist revolution." The other verses are parodies, written by two poets, Witter Bynner and Arthur Davison Ficke, to mock the modernists. They used fake names, Emanuel Morgan and Anne Knish, to found the Spectric School of Poetry, which was meant as a spoof. Many advanced poets and critics were completely taken in by this Spectric hoax. And what about you? Can you tell true modernistic poems from ridiculous parodies? Take this quiz to find out.

After each verse choose what it is. Hit the Submit button when done. The quiz will be graded and you will see the correct answers.

I have not written, reader,
That you may read...
They sit in rows in the bare school-room
Throwing rocks at windows is better,
And oh the tortoise-shell cat with the can fled on!
I would rather be a can-tier
Than a writer for readers.

I have written, reader,
For abstruse reasons.
Gold in the mine...
Black water seeping into tunnels
A plank breaks, and the roof falls...
Three men suffocated.
The wife of one now works in a laundry;
The wife of another has married a fat man;
I forget about the third.

1. Poetry Parody

Reiteration !...
The seconds bob by,
So many, so many,
Each ugly in its own way
As raw meats are all ugly.
Why do we feed on the dead?
Or would at least it were with cries and lust
Of slaying our human food
Beneath a cannibal sun!
But these old corpses of alien creatures!...
I loathe them!
And too many heads go by the window,
All alien-
Filers of saws, doubtless,
Or lechers
Or Sabbath-keepers.
Morality comes from God.
He was busy.
He forgot to make beauty.
Why does he not call back into their hen-house
This ugly straggling flock of seconds
That trail by
With pin-feathers showing?

2. Poetry Parody

Skeptical cat,
Calm your eyes, and come to me.
For long ago, in some palmed forest,
I too felt claws curling
Within my fingers...
Moons wax and wane;
My eyes, too, once narrowed and widened...
Why do you shrink back?
Come to me: let me pat you -
Come, vast-eyed one...
Or I will spring upon you
And with steel-hook fingers
Tear you limb from limb....
There were twins in my cradle....

3. Poetry Parody

The gentleman with the grey-and-black whiskers
Sneered languidly over his quail.
Then my heart flew up and laboured,
And I burst from my own holding
And hurled myself forward.
With straight blows I beat upon him,
Furiously, with red-hot anger, I thrust against him.
But my weapon slithered over his polished surface,
And I recoiled upon myself,

4. Poetry Parody

They brought me a quilled, yellow dahlia,
Opulent, flaunting.
Round gold
Flung out of a pale green stalk.
Round, ripe gold
Of maturity,
Meticulously frilled and flaming,
A fire-ball of proclamation:
Fecundity decked in staring yellow
For all the world to see.
They brought a quilled, yellow dahlia,
To me who am barren
Shall I send it to you,
You who have taken with you
All I once possessed?

5. Poetry Parody

Red slippers in a shop-window, and outside in the street, flaws of grey, windy sleet!

Behind the polished glass, the slippers hang in long threads of red, festooning from the ceiling like stalactites of blood, flooding the eyes of passers-by with dripping colour, jamming their crimson reflections against the windows of cabs and tram-cars, screaming their claret and salmon into the teeth of the sleet, plopping their little round maroon lights upon the tops of umbrellas.

The row of white, sparkling shop fronts is gashed and bleeding, it bleeds red slippers. They spout under the electric light, fluid and fluctuating, a hot rain -- and freeze again to red slippers, myriadly multiplied in the mirror side of the window.

They balance upon arched insteps like springing bridges of crimson lacquer; they swing up over curved heels like whirling tanagers sucked in a wind-pocket; they flatten out, heelless, like July ponds, flared and burnished by red rockets.

Snap, snap, they are cracker-sparks of scarlet in the white, monotonous block of shops.

They plunge the clangour of billions of vermilion trumpets into the crowd outside, and echo in faint rose over the pavement.

People hurry by, for these are only shoes, and in a window, farther down, is a big lotus bud of cardboard whose petals open every few minutes and reveal a wax doll, with staring bead eyes and flaxen hair, lolling awkwardly in its flower chair.

One has often seen shoes, but whoever saw a cardboard lotus bud before?

The flaws of grey, windy sleet beat on the shop-window where there are only red slippers.

6. Poetry Parody

Two cocktails round a smile,
A grapefruit after grace,
Flowers in an aisle
...Were your face.

A strap in a street-car,
A sea-fan on the sand,
A beer on a bar
...Were your hand.

The pillar of a porch,
The tapering of an egg,
The pine of a torch
...Were your leg,

Sun on the Hellespont,
White swimmers in the bowl
Of the baptismal font
Are your soul.

7. Poetry Parody

Beyond her lips in the dark are a man's feet
Composed and dead...
In the light between her lips is a moving tongue-tip sweet,

Her arms are his white robes,
They cover a king,
His ornaments her crescent lobes
And two moons on a string.

Sheba, Sheba, Proserpina, Salome,
See, I am come!- king, god, saint!-
With the stone of a volcano O show that you know me,
Pound till the true blood pricks through the paint!

Twitch of the dead man's feet if he remembers
A bunch of grapes and a ripped-open gown.
And the live man's eyes are night after embers,
Two black spots on a white-faced down...

And in the dawn, lava ... rolling down...
Downrolling lava on an up-pointing town.

8. Poetry Parody

Poet, a wreath!-
No matter how we had combined our flowers,
You would have worn them - being ours....
On you, on them, the showers -
O roots beneath!

9. Poetry Parody

Green arsenic smeared on an egg-white cloth,
Crushed strawberries! Come, let us feast our eyes.

10. Poetry Parody

See, they return; ah, see the tentative
Movements, and the slow feet,
The trouble in the pace and the uncertain

See, they return, one by one,
With fear, as half-awakened;
As if the snow should hesitate
And murmur in the wind,
and half turn back;
These were the "Wing'd-with-Awe,"

Gods of the Winged shoe!
With them the silver hounds,
sniffing the trace of air!

Haie! Haie!
These were the swift to harry;
These the keen-scented;
These were the souls of blood.

Slow on the leash,
pallid the leash-men!

11. Poetry Parody

Goddess of the murmuring courts,
Nicotine, my Nicotine,
Houri of the mystic sports,
trailing-robed in gabardine,
Gliding where the breath hath glided,
Hidden sylph of filmy veils,
Truth behind the dream is veiled
E'en as thou art, smiling ever, ever gliding,
Wraith of wraiths, dim lights dividing
Purple, grey, and shadow green
Goddess, Dream-grace, Nicotine.

Goddess of the shadow's lights,
Nicotine, my Nicotine,
Some would set old Earth to rights,
Thou I none such ween.
Veils of shade our dream dividing,
Houris dancing, intergliding,
Wraith of wraiths and dream of faces,
Silent guardian of the old unhallowed places,
Utter symbol of all old sweet druidings,
Mem'ry of witched wold and green,
Nicotine, my Nicotine:

Neath the shadows of thy weaving
Dreams that need no undeceiving,
Loves that longer hold me not,
Dreams I dream not any more,
Fragrance of old sweet forgotten places,
Smiles of dream-lit, flit-by faces
All as perfume Arab-sweet
Deck the high road to thy feet

As were Godiva's coming fated
And all the April's blush belated
Were lain before her, carpeting
The stones of Coventry with spring,
So thou my mist-enwreathed queen,
Nicotine, white Nicotine,
Riding engloried in they hair
Mak'st by-road of our dreams
Thy thorough-fare.

12. Poetry Parody