Friday, May 18, 2007

Writer's Diary #26- Border (A Mashup) first draft

I've been struggling with this one for quite some time. Right now, I'm going to throw it out to the masses (hmm-hmmm) and solicit advice. I've got it at a place where I need some outside intervention/perspective...

Border (A Mashup of Al Purdy's "At The Quinte Hotel", Robert Frost's "Mending Wall" and e.e. cummings's "next to of course god america i")

I am drinking
      (Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
      That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it)
            He spoke.

            By jingo by gee by gosh by gum
      (And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
      And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.)
I am drinking beer with yellow flowers.

I tell him about his beer
      (To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
      No one has seen them made or heard them made)
            Then the voice of liberty be mute.

            Oh say can you see by the dawn's early…
      (We keep the wall between us as we go.
      To each the boulders that have fallen to each.)
I tell him his beer is half fart and half yellow horse piss.

I have to walk around
      ('Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
      We wear our fingers rough with handling them.)
            like lions to the roaring slaughter.

            What of it?
      (Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
      One on a side. It comes to little more)
I am a sensitive man.

Would you believe I write poems?
      (He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
      My apple trees will never get across)
            Why talk of beauty?

            He rapidly drank a glass of water.
      (Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
      That wants it down.)
Poems will not really buy beers or flowers.

It was a mistake
      (He said it for himself. I see him there
      Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top)
            Tis of centuries come and go.

      (at spring mending-time we find them there)


John Mutford said...

At The Quinte Hotel by Al Purdy

I am drinking
I am drinking beer with yellow flowers
in underground sunlight
and you can see that I am a sensitive man
And I notice that the bartender is a sensitive man too
so I tell him about his beer
I tell him the beer he draws
is half fart and half yellow horse piss
and all wonderful yellow flowers
But the bartender is not quite
so sensitive as I supposed he was
the way he looks at me now
and does not appreciate my exquisite analogy
Over in one corner two guys
are quietly making love
in the brief prelude to infinity
Opposite them a peculiar fight
enables the drinkers to lay aside
their comic books and watch with interest
as I watch with interest
A wiry little man slugs another guy
then tracks him bleeding into the toilet
and slugs him to the floor again
with ugly red flowers on the tile
three minutes later he roosters over
to the table where his drunk friend sits
with another friend and slugs both
of em ass-over-electric-kettle
so I have to walk around
on my way for a piss
Now I am a sensitive man
so I say to him mildly as hell
"You shouldn’ta knocked over that good beer
with them beautiful flowers in it"
So he says to me "Come one"
So I Come On
like a rabbit with weak kidneys I guess
like a yellow streak charging
on flower power I suppose
and knock the shit outa him & sit on him
(he is a little guy)
and say reprovingly
"Violence will get you nowhere this time chum
Now you take me
I am a sensitive man
and would you believe I write poems?"
But I could see the doubt in his upside down face
in fact in all the faces
"What kind of poems?"
"Flower poems"
"So tell us a poem"
I got off the little guy reluctantly
for he was comfortable
and told them this poem
They crowded around me with tears
in their eyes and wrung my hands feelingly
for my pockets for
it was a heart-warming moment for Literature
and moved by the demonstrable effect
of great Art and the brotherhood of people I remarked
"— the poem oughta be worth some beer"
It was a mistake of terminology
for silence came
and it was brought home to me in the tavern
that poems will not really buy beers or flowers
or a goddam thing
and I was sad
for I am a sensitive man.

Mending Wall by Robert Frost
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

next to of course god america i by e.e. cummings

"next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims' and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn's early my
country tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?"

He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water

Anonymous said...

I've never read mashup poetry before. Yours came out very interesting. I kinda like it. How do you decide which poems to use?

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I admit I am struggling to understand this one. I'll have to go through it a few more times, but I can certainly see how this mashup would be challenging. Those are some pretty lengthy poems you are tackling.

John Mutford said...

Stefani, I'm a little embarrassed that you came in on this one. My previous mashup poems were better, in my opinion anyway, but you can decide for yourself by clicking here.

Anyway, you say you've never read mashup poetry before? I'd be more surprised if you had! That term is mine, I don't know if anyone else has done them before under a different label or not, but if you do come across something similar, please let me know! I'd really like to read it. (And if anyone wants to submit their own here, please feel free to do so!)

Last year, a blogger by the name of Gregory Pincus developed a new form of poetry call Fib poetry that sparked a lot of excitement and spread like wildfire. He's been the subject of numerous news stories and has a Wikipedia article devoted to the form. I'm not under any illusions that mine will take off like that, but hey, maybe a few others will hear about it and give it a whirl.

How do I choose the poems? That's one of the things I enjoy most about it. It's forcing me to go back and read through my old favourites, familiar poets and so forth. Usually though I start with one that I remember (most likely because I really liked it), and then think about and/or search for poems similar in some way- theme, imagery, etc. Next I compare the two (or three) and see if I can work them together in a way that somehow keeps the essence/ideas in tact, yet adds a new element. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, and sometimes (as in the one above) I can't decide. I'm not entirely happy with this latest one, but perhaps over time or if I get some suggestions I'll know how to tweak it- either that or it'll get scrapped entirely!

Btw, I'd love to eventually try this by mashing up a couple of form poems like sonnets, or others with an obvious rhyme scheme, and seeing if I can work it out. That however, will be a LONG ways off!

Barbara, If it helps, I intended the voice (narrator) to be Canadian, and the other to be American. Or maybe that was clear anyway. When you've worked on a poem for too long, it's hard to tell.

Gentle Reader said...

I really enjoyed your "mashup" poem! I happen to have known Greg Pincus forever (his blog Gottabook is on my blogroll if you want to visit). I'm going to email him a link to your post!

Allison said...

This does seem like a challenge, I've read it a few times, but struggling a bit. I can see where your going though, I'll have to come back later with fresh eyes!

John Mutford said...

Gentle Reader, Glad you enjoyed it. I just checked out Greg's blog and liked it so much I've decided to add it to my own blogroll! (I hope he doesn't mind!)

Allison, Yes, fresh eyes would help me out as well. Please place them in a leakproof Tupperware and send them right up.

Gentle Reader said...

Greg's a great guy. I'm sure he'll be happy you linked to him!

Dr J said...

You know Purdy's "Beer-Making," of course. Wonderful poem.

Dr J said...

Oops: my addled memory jumbled it. "Home-Made beer" is what I meant. Can't seem to find it online. Will have to post it on my excuse for a blog.

John Mutford said...

Dr. J, Just reread it in your honour. Recently I balked about Dylan Thomas being "Everyman's Poet". I stick by my conclusion that such a poet doesn't exist. Still, Purdy comes close doesn't he? Btw, I don't know if you're familiar with Enos Watts, a Newfoundland poet, but like Purdy, he's able to find poetry in some of the strangest or else the most mundane places as well.

Anonymous said...

Even the best Mashup Artists occasionally place something out of time. Sometimes the solution is to add an ingredient or to take an ingredient away. I can imagine mashing three poems would be much harder than two. As they say in the mash world - Keep Tweaking.

John Mutford said...

Thanks for the advice Fearless. I know what you mean about the greater number of poems, the greater the challenge. Add to this the sheer length of the originals, and you can see where the problem came in. The three are essential to the message I'm trying to convey though. I wanted Purdy's character being the Canadian voice, cumming's being the American and Frost (the frozen ground swell) being the border in between them. I tried to show the silly smug superiority the Canadian and American have over one another, leading them to keep the border in tact despite their obvious similarities. Still, the border is perhaps too great at times in terms of my mashup and there are a few lines that I might chop down or out completely. I originally liked the yelping dogs- I thought they had an air of revolution about them. Now I'm not so sure. I think what I need right now is to take some more distance from it and return to it again later.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's always good to step away and then come back with fresh ears, or eyes in this case. I'm gonna be trying my hand at another Audio mashup this weekend. I'll post the trials and tribulations over at Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

Anonymous said...


"The getting rid of one old man
As nearly seventy--
Dictator, cruel barbarian,
Despot in tyranny!--
Is worth whatever cost required,
The bankrupting a country,
Because--old friendship gotten tired--
It´s time we forced an entry.
If something like a million deaths
Must be required to do it,
All innocents, a greater faith´s
Allowed so to construe it.
It´s time we took old Grandpa down--
Though ten years have so weakened
Him so we need not fear his frown:
It ought to take a weekend."

Thus, urging men´s complicity
In wanton slaughter,
He uttered (and "drank rapidly
A glass of water").

John Mutford said...

imsmall: You sure know how to intrigue a person. This is great. I obviously see why you posted it here "drank rapidly/ a glass of water" but where's the rest of it from?

Daphne said...

nice to see someone else working with splice poetry (or mash-ups, as you call 'em!) i've got them in all four of my books -- there's one at the new york foundation for the arts website, too! cheers!

John Mutford said...

Daphne: Did you read the ones I did before? There's a link in an earlier comment. Where can I read some of yours?

Daphne said...

I will have to go back and look! How wonderful!

Mine aren't so much on the ethernet as in print, but there's one here:

Not classic poetry, but no one's safe from my knife. :) As I'm sure yours, too!