Today’s wood s lot is entirely devoted to William Carlos Williams, who thoroughly deserves the tribute; I urge you to visit and check out the many links. Here I will merely quote the last of his nuggets, a parody by that funniest of poets, Kenneth Koch, of one of everybody’s favorite WCW poems:

Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams
Kenneth Koch

I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next summer.
I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do
and its wooden beams were so inviting.

We laughed at the hollyhocks together
and then I sprayed them with lye.
Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.

I gave away the money that you had been saving to live on for the next ten years.
The man who asked for it was shabby
and the firm March wind on the porch was so juicy and cold.

Last evening we went dancing and I broke your leg.
Forgive me. I was clumsy and
I wanted you here in the wards, where I am the doctor!


  1. Coincidentally, just the other day I used Babelfish to come up with parodies of another one of everybody’s favorite WCW poems. I posted my silly results here:

  2. That’s great! Here‘s the direct link, and here’s Max’s favorite retranslation (via Korean):
    Lapse in the rain adjacent waters which depends in the deep-red wheel grave the wheel me in the side of the white chicken
    I’m not sure whether I don’t prefer this (via Portuguese):
    thus very it depends in top of a red stand on hand of the wheel vitrified with water on rain to the side of the white hen
    It’s a tough call. (You should certainly recognize the original by now, but if not, it’s quoted at Max’s link.)

  3. The “Variations on a Theme by WCW” are indeed one of Koch’s great moments, they come from his first book “Thank You and Other Poems”. This is maybe my favorite book of poetry but I have not liked so much, his later work, what I’ve read of it. Can anyone more familiar than I with the entirety of his work, tell me if I’m missing something?
    Besides “Thank You” I have read “Rose, how did you get so Red?” which is very interesting but not poetry; a book of haiku-y things; and a book-length poem about baseball.

  4. “A book-length poem about baseball”…somebody call Pfitzer: we’ve just discovered the perfect sedative!
    Love the red barrow poems above. The Portuguese is merely zany. The Korean version is actively insane.
    One trembles to think what the same process might do to Ashberry. Perhaps actually bring *lucidity* to his poems?

  5. Just looked back at “Rose, how did you get that red?” and discovered that all I had been remembering was the introduction; it is indeed a book of poetry, just not Koch’s poetry. Collected poems of students in an elementary school class he taught in the early 70’s. (Koch’s method of teaching people to write poetry is, briefly, reading older poets and attempting to write your own take on their poems.) Here are some children’s takes on “This is to Say”:
    Dear Dog by Lorrain Fedison (6th grade)
    dog biscuit
    Dear Biscuit by Mayra Morales (6th Grade)
    Sorry But it was Beautiful by Andrew Vecchione (6th Grade)
    Sorry I took your money and burned it
        but it looked like the world falling
        apart when it crackled and burned.
    So I think it was worth it after all
        you can’t see the world fall apart
        every day.
    There’s (much) more in the book: Rose, where did you get that red?: Teaching Great Peotry to Children ©1973 by Kenneth Koch

  6. I mean Great Poetry of course. And speaking of typo’s, there should be a carriage return between the last two words of “Dear Dog”.

  7. Jonathan Mayhew’s daughter Julia wrote a couple of them too. (Has Julia quit writing, or just quit updating her website? I always enjoyed seeing her new poems.)

  8. This is just to say
    Thank you
    For making my morning.

  9. There’s a children’s book — I’ve forgotten the name — that’s written in the style of a child’s voice imitating famous poems for a classroom assignment. All the poems involve either a big yellow dog or a fast blue car, which then gets the teacher’s attention. I bawled like a baby in the bookstore (I’m bawling right now remembering it) and then bought it for my niece, who loves sad stories.
    On a lighter note, when I was working second shift as a proofreader in a book production department, we would find each evening a note on the refrigerator from someone upset because someone else was stealing their RC Cola. The notes went on for a week, growing in anger and desperation at the daily RC Cola thefts. Although none of us were involved, we decided to post a response on the fridge door. You can guess what the note said….

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