Directions for Writing a Mimic Poem
In a mimic poem, the writer is purposely influenced by an established poet. Writing this type of poem is an exercise in copying the rhythm, language, style or subject of another poem. The purpose of creating a mimic poem is to consider all the elements that combine to create a memorable work. Done often enough, a poet might be able to incorporate a specific trait admired in a classic work.
When developing a mimic poem, you should be aware of a few distinctions. A mimic poem, also known as an imitation poem, is an experiment in which you study an existing poem and adopt its form for your own work. A parody is a humorous poem, but it’s more than simply funny. It’s designed to comment upon or lampoon another work. Weird Al Yankovic has made a career of this by rewriting lyrics to popular songs, such as his recent parody of Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way”: “Perform this Way.” In addition, when drawing upon the poetry of others, it’s important to make the distinction between mimicry and plagiarism. A writer of a mimic poem openly admits being influenced by another's poetry. On the other hand, a plagiarist claims the work of others or does not cite the source of inspiration.
To begin your mimic poem, examine it and determine the rhyme scheme. The rhyming patterns of poems are identified by letter; words that rhyme share the same letter, and each set of rhymes adds another letter. For instance, in "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," the rhyme scheme is aabbaa. The pattern of a more sophisticated poem, such as a Shakespearean English sonnet, is abab, cdcd, efef, gg. Note the rhyme scheme of your target poem on the paper or computer page you are composing on so you can continually refer to it.
When mimicking a poem, strive to copy its rhythm or meter. Note the location of the stressed and unstressed syllables in each line. For example, falling meter has a stressed syllable followed by one or two unaccented syllables. In English language poetry, the syllabic stress of words is not ordinarily changed, so do not try to force a word to fit in order to copy the meter. Avoid changing the flow of words by altering their stressed syllables unless you see this was purposely done in the poem you are imitating. A helpful technique is to write out the number of syllables for each line, then circle the syllables that are accented.
The poem you select may have other distinctive characteristics for you to mimic. The tone of the original poem -- playful or serious -- can be copied. Language is important; your word selection will be different for a Shakespearean sonnet and a modern poem. A mimic poem might copy an iconic first line -- such as "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways" by Browning -- and then move on to original content. You might need to imitate the imagery that some poets use to create a clear mental picture of the subject, such as Wordsworth's "I wandered lonely as a cloud." Mimic poems may mirror the subject of the original poem, such as love, nature or a dramatic event.
Living in upstate New York, Susan Sherwood is a researcher who has been writing within educational settings for more than 10 years. She has co-authored papers for Horizons Research, Inc. and the Capital Region Science Education Partnership. Sherwood has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University at Albany.