MASH-UPS IN POETRY

MASH-UPS IN POETRY

“Mash-ups” is a new word for me, but an old art-strategy.  You mix or fuse disparate elements or types of media that don’t normally go together and somehow synthesize new meaning out of the mix.  This is what you do when you play with what artists call “mixed media”.

WHAT’S A MASH-UP?

The word comes out of the music industry, from when a recording is created by digitally combining and synchronizing the instrumental tracks with vocal tracks from two or more different songs.  In computing, a mash-up results when a web page or application is created by combining data or functionality from different sources.

One high-flying definition says that you achieve a mash-up by looking at one perspective from multiple moments.  Mash-ups are supposed to “compress time but allow for a new sort of commentary, intention and irony to emerge”….it says here.  (I’m still trying to figure out what that means.)

THINKING ON IT….

My own thought is that mash-ups are a particularly Hawaiian concept.  In the traditional mele (song), two ideas are jammed up next to each other and allowed to resonate, to serve as metaphors for each other which produces in the listener a feeling of glimpsing at a secret third idea that connects the two original ones.  Names of places evoke particular legends or stories or feelings.  Pile other images of the plants, the weather, and other environmental elements for which a particular place is noted on top of that and you multiply the power of the feelings.

An example of that would be a song that honors a particular wind that blows under certain conditions and only in Hana.  Referencing the wind calls up a feeling of the Hana-ness of it all.

USING “HOOKS”

One thing that is essential for helping the mash-up do its work properly is the use of “hooks.”  These are themes like cynicism, humor, angst, irony, aggression, sex, or sincerity.  Just like building a poem.

This poem was an answer to one of the challenges we give ourselves in the Maui Live Poets Society.  We had a featured guest poet who gave us a “spoken poem,” a particular form of poetry that requires you to speak the poem before a group from memory.  The guest poet gave us a twelve-minute poem!  It was mind-boggling.

I practiced particularly hard on this one.  (Memorization is not my forte.)  I did it, though; I was proud of myself.  The poem, of course, was a protest.  There are a number of words that are probably unfamiliar to many of you.  I’ll explain them at the end of the poem.


THE OLD WAY OF SINGING

(A Spoken Poem)

Okay. 

I understand this spoken poem thing is “traditional” and all,

An art form sanctified through the ages

As a conduit from the Creative

Through the poet,

To the audience.

But, I’ve gotta tell ya,

I tend to avoid it…for good reason.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Hawaiian…that’s me. 

TRA-dition…‘as how.

Speaking from the heart…

‘Alelu, ‘alelu…oh, yeah.

 

But all this jazz feels unfiltered to me.

The gateway gapes wide open

And I am not so sure

That the thoughts on the other side of it

Are particularly street-legal.

It feels raw, somehow.

 

And you know what?

I like poke, and I like sashimi,

But you get different tastes

When you mix ’em up and cook ’em good.

 

I can’t help thinking

That all those ancient master poets,

Our kumu haku mele, are dead already.

And I am not so skilled at metaphor and kaona

(The hidden meanings)

To sing in layers as they did.

 

All our oral traditions never saved us

From the power of those silly-ass markings

On the palapala – the paper –

That now covers over all the stones,

The food of the land that

The old ones were willing to eat.

So, hey…

No.

No thank you.

 

Me, I’ll just keep speaking my heart once-removed.

I’ll write down my thoughts and cook them up fine,

And I’ll read them out loud,

Serving them up pretty.

From behind the veil of obfuscating scribbles,

I will even make them dance.

 

‘Cause you know,

This other way of singing…

It just breaks my heart,

And I would certainly take that out on you.

‘As how” is pidgin for “that’s the way it is.” ” ‘Alelu” is Hawaiian for “hallelujah.”  “Poke” and “sashimi”  are both raw-fish dishes.  “Kumu haku mele” is a master song- and story-writer.  “Kaona” means “hidden meaning.” “Palapala” is “paper,” particularly legal documents.

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit: Mixed Media – Opening Patterns by Andreas Lehner via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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6 thoughts on “MASH-UPS IN POETRY

  1. Man I’ve got to get back to writing poetry at some point.

    It’s funny that I just so happen to run into this post today, as I was just reminiscing on my old poems like this one.

    I appreciate the article, but this feels like it leans a little to heavily towards the “well informed”. What I mean is that I feel that only people already well versed in this sort of thing will understand what you’re talking about.

    I feel that it can be a bit scary to newcomers. You do explain it all very well and I commend you, but I believe you have the potential to be something much better.

    What kind of poems do you write? I’d love to read some.

    1. Hey Jaylin:

      Thanks for the visit and the comments. Almost every one of the posts on my website (except for the ones by guest poets) has a poem I’ve written. Some of the posts are really simple — just “how I came to write this thing” — and sometimes I’ll do a more complex riff just to keep things lively for people who have more experience with poetry-making.

      With this thing, I don’t aim to teach people HOW to write poetry. (I feel it’s already there in them and they just have to open the door to the cage.)

      Mostly, I am trying to point out that my readers are already all creative people…they are ALL Makers of one sort or another and I just use the poetry to show them different ways to tap into the flow that runs through them. It’s just a matter of playing with your own head and massaging the thoughts in there, living your life out loud so that you can understand your own dance better. Kind of like humming a tune as you shuffle along on your journey.

      Please check out the rest of the site. And if you’d like to contribute a poem of your own making to share, I surely would like that.

      I ask three things of my guest poets: (a) a poem of your own making that has great meaning and mana for you, (b) the back-story for the poem — what inspired you or how you made it or whatever you want to tell about it, and (c) an image you own that I can use as the featured photo in the header. (The last is optional. I do ask that the image you share is one you own — either an image of yourself or something that relates to the poem. If you choose not to send an image, then I’ll go find something that works.)

      I would be very pleased to feature your work. Please let me know in these comments if you’d like to do it….

      And, hey, Jaylin…THANK YOU for challenging me to think on what I’m doing with this thing. It helped me clarify my thoughts wonderfully! Mahalo plenty, sistah!

  2. Hey, came across your site today and have to say that I enjoyed my stay. It feels very soft when I say that I mean the layout and color gives it a comfortable feel and makes me want to continue looking around to see what you else you have going on = ) These days im not used to going to a website and not having ads popping up everywhere and I believe it promotes decent site health. I’m curious if you plan on adding advertisement in the long run. Anyways, enjoyed my stay and hope everything continues down the path you are headed. Keep up the great work!
    Mitch

    1. Hey Mitch:

      Thanks for the visit and your question. It’s one I’ve been asking myself as well. I will, of course, have to include advertising in the thing eventually. I’ve been trying to figure out how to do that in the least intrusive way possible. If you’ve got any suggestions, I sure would appreciate it!

      Please come again!

  3. Hi Netta
    I come more from the music side than the written poem side, but I really appreciate the mash-up or combining of things for a new result.

    Our style of music calls on sound bites from something to create a backing audio and playing live over that.

    The aim to create an atmosphere or idea over the track with our music choices.

    I really love your poems on your pages and the stories behind them and makes them more personal.

    Cheers Wade

    1. Hey Wade…thank you for your visit and your explanation of the music side of mash-ups. It is an awesome form. Please come again!

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