Retired professor publishes parody book of ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’


Savana Capp

Retired professor David Ewbank presents his book Tuesday. He worked on the book for around seven or eight years.

Savana Capp, Reporter

“The Lamb Cycle” was written by retired Kent State associate professor David Ewbank. He specialized in Victorian Literature and worked at the university from 1968 until 2000.

His book, with the full title “The Lamb Cycle: What the Great English Poets Would Have Written About Mary and Her Lamb (Had They Thought of It First), is a collection of parodies about what 32 great English poets from the 16th to the 20th centuries would have thought about “Mary Had A Little Lamb”.

“You can think of me as an impersonator, I am trying to sound exactly like these poets,” Ewbank said.

The book starts with an introduction of Mother’s Goose’s “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, in case someone was unfamiliar with the nursery rhyme. Then it goes into the different poets’ perspectives, one being William Shakespeare.

“It is rather a strange book, I don’t think there’s another one like it,” Ewbank said. “Imitations of poets all about the same nursery rhyme is a little unusual.”

Ewbank spent years trying to sell the book to publishers and agents but no one was interested until he sent it to Brandeis University.

Sue Ramin, the director of the Brandeis University Press, read Ewbank’s manuscript and knew it would make a great book.

“I owe it all to her, I was about ready to give up,” Ewbank said.

Ewbank was teaching a 19th century British Literature class about 40 years ago when these poems came to be.

The last period of the class was always a review period for the final, but after a few minutes of questions it was silent. He decided to fill up the time by writing these poems to have a good laugh with his students.

“It was never a serious thing, it was meant to be just for fun,” Ewbank said. “You could really just say it was a time filler.”

Over about seven or eight years he ended up doing all 32 of the poets that are in his book now, and started looking for a publisher.

“I thought it would be funny to pick something that wasn’t particularly serious and then deal with it as though it were a serious matter,” Ewbank said.

Ewbank had a book reading in the Wick Poetry Center of the library Tuesday afternoon where he was also selling copies.

He read seven of the poems to the group and gave details about each poet he imitated.

“It would certainly help to know all these poets, but I don’t expect most readers of this book to be English professors or English majors,” Ewbank said. “I think you can read it just simply as a kind of anthology of style.”

He shared rhyme schemes, illustration choices and the ideas behind his metaphors throughout each poem, making it clear that the book was meant to be fun.

“I don’t want them to approach it like a scholar, but if somebody learns something from it I certainly do not object,” Ewbank said.

Savana Capp is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].