Jamie Olson of The Flaxen Wave has a post about “intertextual” poems that depend for their existence on an earlier poem, to whose structure they adhere closely. This is of course a form of parody, and I doubt one could draw a hard and fast dividing line, but I would say that a parody is purely parasitical: if you’re not familiar with the original, you won’t get much out of the parody. An intermediate case is Lewis Carroll, whose marvelous parodies are so brilliant and memorable in their own right that they entirely eclipse the originals, which have mostly been forgotten (e.g., “You Are Old, Father William” and its source, Southey’s “The Old Man’s Comforts and How He Gained Them“); they are still, however, primarily intended to be funny. Olson is writing about Timur Kibirov, a contemporary Russian poet he has been translating, and in particular his “Кара-Барас! Опыт интерпретации классического текста” (“Kara-Baras! An Experiment in Interpreting a Classic Text”), which is based on Kornei Chukovsky’s 1921 children’s poem “Мойдодыр” (“Moidodyr”), in which “every line in Kibirov’s poem refers to an original line in Chukovsky’s, with plenty of puns along the way”:
In Kibirov’s opening lines, however, it is not the Chukovskian bedspread (одеяло) that flees from the unwashed boy, but an undefined “ideal” (идеал – perhaps Soviet communism?) that flees from the figure of the poet, who has replaced the boy as speaker of the poem. But then Kibirov corrects himself by switching to the plural – ostensibly for the sake of rhythm, though we know he’s up to something else – so that it becomes “ideals” that have abandoned him («Идеалы / Убежали»), taking with them “the meaning of life” and even his girlfriend, who hops away like a frog. What else goes with them? Well, let’s see: the Orthodox faith, secular humanism, Gnosticism, atheism, and the post-structuralism of Derrida and Foucault, just to name a few. And who steps in to clean the boy, so to speak? Logos! The Word of God! The divine and “ancient” figure, who is “forgotten” and “barely alive,” dispatches his minions – gnawings, regrets, and insights – to set the poet back on the righteous path; predictably, they succeed.
As you can see even from this summary, there is far more going on here than simple parody or humor for humor’s sake, and Olson says, quite sensibly, “this is one poem that I have no intention of ever tackling. It defies translation.” (Bonus: The post has a comment by Sashura that is very informative about Russian bathing and sponges.)