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.
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)
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.
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.
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]
SOME OTHER POSTS TO EXPLORE
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16 thoughts on “MASH-UPS IN POETRY”
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
Though this is the very first time I am coming across “Mash-ups” , and having read your article I am made to understand that 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. This is incredible as I am amazed of your deep knowledge in poetry. Though am just a novice in poetry, but I can boldly say I have learned a lot just from merely reading this article of yours. Thanks so much for this eye-opening piece of article
Thanks for the visit and comment, Dapoach.
I must commend you for taking your time to share this article, you have really done a great work. This is the first time I will be coming across your site and from now I will start following you to get more of poems like this. I really enjoyed this poem, am into drama and I must tell you this is the first time I will be taking my time to read a poem and to enjoy it. Thanks for sharing this information.
Welcome to my site, Lok Which. Thanks for commenting. I do appreciate it.
I have a history of Ojibwe (American Native Indian) around me as I grew up on the border of Canada in Minnesota and we had some 100% Native Americans in the family. They too have a spoken story tradition and it is much like what you describe.
The old fathers and mothers teach these stories to the next generations to keep their history alive. Many can be quite colorful and engaging. I enjoyed hearing them growing up and still visit the reservation where I spent so much time as a young lad.
But I most certainly understand also the words that you have put together so eloquently in this post. I have a set of my own stories gathered from adventures from traveling over the past 43 years, and they are good ones (I think so anyway!). Speaking in true poetic form is an art, however, and I am likely not as good as you are.
Thanks for sharing your creation and I think you have a future in the business. Your group sounds like it would be a blast to be a part of, I am sure that you get a lot from it. Keep at it and I am sure that you will be up to a 12 minute spoken poem in no time at all!
I do thank you for your visit and for sharing your stories and thoughts, Dave. I think all native peoples have an oral tradition that is a conduit for the old wisdoms and knowledge of the people. I like that us post-moderns are getting back into it as well.
(Share your stories, dude! The young ones are waiting to hear you.)
In any case, the power of story is an awesome thing!
Maui Live Poets is, indeed, a great deal of fun. We enjoy egging each other on to more and better. And that’s a very good thing!
Please do come again….
I have not done anything like this in years and years lol. I write music…kinda the same only with notes…
Great to see the passion for poetry still around as I do not hear to much of it spoken around schools or towns much anymore…I wonder why? Is poetry something we can study now?
Anyways thanks so much for your article,
Luke, thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.
Spoken word and performance poetry were starting to take off in the urban areas and in many middle schools teachers were starting to get kids together to play at it before the pandemic hit. COVID sort of put a crimp in the thing, I’m afraid.
It’s gone viral on the Twitter and like that, but I’m not sure just how the pandemic has affected that trend. Some poets were even figuring out how to monetize the thing. Wo!
As always, poets are still letting their freak flags fly…regardless of whether the world says yea or nay. We go….
Please do come again.
I like that kind of expression and fusion because I perceive myself as a mashed-up person:)). And I think no matter how different things are if we accept them in their beauty of existence and make art of them they start to resonate and get one rhythm – rhythm of the heart and of giving space to any kind of existence.
I would say your style of writing has many beautiful layers and levels. I read it a few times :).Each time I get some new meaning or feeling. And in some way, it is very precise, with great knowledge, and playful, as you go with the flow.
Ho`oponopono (this is familiar to me) .
Zorana, I am taken by your perception of yourself as a “mashed-up person.” Cool! I suppose I am one also.
I do agree that when you make room for a multitude of different-seeming ideas, it is often possible to work with them until they make another sort of rhythm or balance or harmony that can be quite beautiful. Thank you.
Please do come again.