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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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