December 29th, 2005


A Funny Sylvia Plath story

This is one of those things that, as my Grandmom put it, "is funny ten years from now." In this story "now" was closer to 30 years ago (eegs -- that long!).

I was attending college at Hofstra University and decided to take a creative writing class during intersession. One of the guys in the class was a drama major friend of mine named Larry. Another was a guy named Dave, also a friend of mine. Note that these guys were not mutual friends.

Dave wrote incredible free form poetry. If I ever were to come across a poetry book with his name on it as the author I'd snatch it up in a heartbeat and recommend everyone reading this do so as well. Despite this, our teacher was adamant we dabble in every type of writing on her list. One of those items was standard, rhyming metered poetry. Dave hated that kind of poetry and found writing it about as much fun as being castrated (not that he'd have known about that firsthand, but you get the idea...).

When the teacher told Dave outright she was going to flunk him because he had refused to write "a rhyming poem," Dave finally obliged. What he cranked out was every bit as brilliant as his free-form poetry, but in a different way.

We always sat in a circle. Dave sat to my right that day in class; Larry to my left. What Dave had written was a parody of Sylvia Plath's "Daddy," complete with the Nazi Germany references, only with some of the worst rhymes in history. I "got" what Dave was up to and was choking back from laughing hysterically. This poem was a brilliant example of the "so bad it's funny" genre, and what made it even funnier to me was our teacher didn't "get" it. When Dave read the couplet:

While I was reading Shakespeare
You were drinking Schlitz beer

The class went from creative writing to WWF. Larry, who was normally a jovial and easygoing guy, lunged over me to Dave's chair and tried to beat him up. Actually, Larry was kind of big, so the attempted pummelling was going on in my lap. Several of the guys in the class had to pry Larry off us.

Years later I ran into Dave at Columbia, where he was a very clean cut-looking graduate student in English. He said, "Don't tell anyone about my past."

I replied, "Are you kidding? Nobody would ever believe me anyway."