"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Monday, January 28, 2013


Greeting Card Collage

To collage the classics. To repurpose. Two weeks ago, I concluded with a promise (to Eileen) to look further into these concepts. Here, for example, is the visual collage that I created in my undergraduate Women's Studies Class, a successful completion of the assignment, I'm sure:

However, it became a problem when I took a similar approach to my written work as well. I was warned against the pastiche: "literary patchworks formed by piecing together extracts from various works by one or several authors" (A Handbook to Literature, Holman & Harmon). But I liked the pastiche! And I like that it comes from the French pastiche = "a medley made up of fragments from different works" . . . and from the Italian pasticcio = "medley, pastry, cake, pasta, paste." Which brings us to collage = "a pasting." Perfect!

Last time, it was a bouquet of flowers; this time it's a tea tray of pastries. Sweet! Who could object? The pastiche may be derivative but Wikipedia assures us that the pastiche celebrates! And so does my friend Paula! Although she doesn't use the precise word, she offers these encouraging words about pastiching (is that a verb? it is now!):

"I’ve been reading lately that it is bad for one’s blog (GASP! O no!) to post bits and pieces of the web with just a little text of my own, because it will cheapen my brand and make me seem like a moocher. I generally try to follow that advice. Hey, wait! What brand? Aging baby boomer pinko crank? Who am I trying to kid here? The fact is, that’s somebody’s opinion, and there’s every chance in the world that it’s wrong, since I never read one piece of advice without reading its exact opposite within 24 hours. Does that happen to you too? But, since this blog ain’t a money-making, mind-blowing dream machine pumping out pro-blogger amounts of traffic, who cares?"

When left to our own devices, we feel free to pastiche, collage, re - purpose, and juxtapose. To connect! Go Paula! Go Eileen!

I learned to love the literary pastiche early, thanks in part to this this well - worn anthology of middle - brow poetry. Perfect for a middle - schooler, this collection was among my favorite books for as long as I can remember.

The American Album of Poetry
compiled by American radio personality
Ted Malone, 1908 - 1989

As the story goes, my mother brought our old maroon copy home from work years before I was ever born, or maybe borrowed it from a friend and never got around to returning it -- something like that, you know, one of those apocryphal anecdotes of how a certain book was fated to enter your life and find a home on your shelf. Anyway, I have to trust that the original owner was a forgiving soul, because my young reader's heart was opened by the presence of that book in our household. It didn't have to contain the best poetry ever written, it just had to be tender and accessible and introduced by a companionable, articulate editor who knew how to polish each little gem and show it in its best light -- not with paragraphs of analysis but in snippets.

As pointed out in the introduction by Joseph Auslander, this was not your typical anthology, this was Ted Malone's album, containing neither studio portraits nor formal photographs, but snapshots of poetry; nothing well - known, yet everything familiar. Writes Auslander, "The treatment of the Album is distinctive. There are twenty - six sections, each with a fresh and engaging title ["But, Definitely!" "First Person, Singular," "Wit or Without, Brevity is the Soul," "Sing Me A Song of Social Significance"]. And throughout the book, connecting poem with poem, is Ted Malone's friendly running comment ["It isn't so bad, a crowd of people running through your mind, but only two or three tramping through your heart," "Hold your breath while you read this one," "Close your eyes and read this one," "Six days shalt thou labor, six days shalt thou dream"]. Even before I got to the poetry I was charmed by these chapter headings and insightful little prologues to every single poem in the book. It turns out Malone was blogging! Paving the way! He was doing way back then what I like to do now on The Fortnightly and The Quotidian.

I've featured a couple of my old favorites from Malone's Album on earlier Fortnightly posts: "Thoughts of a Modern Maiden" in Time to Write a Letter and "Blue Willow" in That Old Blue Willow. About ten years ago, when more and more vintage books started appearing on amazon and ebay, I was lucky enough to track down a couple of copies of The American Album of Poetry, so that my mom and I could each have our own, and she could at last feel free to return our original copy to its original owner. The results of my search were rather thrilling! For my mom, an autographed copy:

and for me, a copy with the following note inscribed inside:

Reminder: Save! Do Not Discard This Book

I quoted last two lines on p. 38
in my second mystery story he
published for me in 1948 and
for which I used pen name of
Julie Masterson instead of
J. F. as he would have
~ J. F. ~

I have yet to determine who "J. F." might be or why her nearest and dearest allowed this book out of their hands (I purchased it from a bookseller, not an individual or family). Will I ever solve the mystery of these mystery stories by "Julie Masterson"? Was it Ted Malone who published them? In the meantime, I turned straight to page 38 and found -- to my surprise! (or maybe not!) -- another of my old favorites, one that I often used when teaching simile and metaphor:


Our words are flame and ashes, fleet as breath,
Plumes for adventure, pageantry of death.

Our words are color -- yellow, blue, and red,
Drumbeat for marching, prayer for bed.

Words are our armor, they are our intent,
The coin we used along the way we went.

Grace Mansfield

Thanks Ted Malone for sharing your snapshots, blossoms, and tea cakes -- and for being a pre - blogger!

Thanks also to my supportive sisters Peggy Rosenbluth and Diane Burrows; and brothers Dave, Bruce, and Aaron Carriker (click each name to read their various guest columns on The Quotidian Kit). They support my blogging enterprise in a dozen different ways: sharing old photos and memories; recommending novels, poems, and recipes; providing insightful commentary on the complex issues of our troubled times; reading what I have written and offering constructive criticism.

In the early days of my blog, my older brother wrote to say: "You are a true master in linking nuggets of wisdom, wit, and rational thought, but I see so little of the inner Kit. Or perhaps, I just haven't been reading enough of your blogs."

I really liked his comment about my nugget - linking skills, because that's what I want to do and what I think I do best -- pastiche! I know some entries are just a quotation and / or picture, but I like doing that -- and it's always a good match, one that no one else would have thought of, or even found (because I'm the careful reader, that's my gift). I took his words to heart and trust that, as he read further, he encountered to a greater extent the voice of the inner Kit -- which I'm sure is there! -- in addition to the cut and paste -- pastiche!

My creative writing teacher in college once wrote in the margin of my paper: "What's at stake here?" I have never forgotten that comment. I think my brother may be asking a similar question. What I took away from his advice was the need to take more personal risk, go out on a limb, embarrass myself a little bit, move beyond "So what?"

To conclude this pastiche, here is one last little pastry
from my most recent reading:

"The tales of our exploits will survive as long as the human voice itself . . .
And even after that, when the robots recall the human absurdities
of sacrifice and compassion, they will remember us.
They will robot - laugh at our courageous folly . . .
But something in their iron robot hearts will yearn to have
lived and died as we did: on the hero's errand . . .
the real heroes are the people NOTICING things, paying attention."

(202, 312)

from the novel The Fault in Our Stars
written by the awesome & multi - talented John Green
recommended by my awesome & multi - talented son Ben McCartney
read aloud by my awewsome & mult - talented husband Gerry McCarntey

Next Fortnightly Post
Thursday, February 14th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Second Page

January Sunrise

Advice for the New Year:
"Arm yourself with clairvoyance!"

from French Composer and Pianist,
Erik Satie, 1866 - 1925

This is the beginning of Year Four for my Fortnightly blog of Connection & Coincidence; Custom & Ceremony, a mental space where the threads of art and life intertwine until a pattern emerges from the chaos. Four years ago, as I was getting the blog underway, my friend Eve -- also a writer and a teacher of writing -- asked me if I had a Dream Job in mind for my Inner Scholar. Indeed I did!

Back in September 2009, I posted my Mission Statement of what I hoped to accomplish in every blog post: to generate some literary analysis -- scholarly yet painless -- about how literature fits into every hour of every day; to share and interpret what I have recorded and remembered over the years; to include a running update of my current reading; and to explain how it all fits together with the little things that actually happen in real life throughout the course of any given day -- in manner of Mrs. Dalloway!

To celebrate the New Year -- and because January is a time to look backward as well as forward -- I thought I'd gather up the positive responses that I have received from supportive friends and readers who assure me that there's something to my project of combining the life, the literature, and the visuals.

For example, I was inspired by Len's view of my blog as an "anthology," in the medieval "flowers of literature" sense of the word. I learned something new that day -- that anthologia comes from anthos (flower) + logia (collection, collecting) = flower gathering. Similarly, florilegium in medieval Latin derives from flos (flower) + legere (to gather) = a gathering of flowers. These collections of "fine extracts from the body of a larger work" were initially culled from religious, philosophical, or scientific writings, eventually coming to describe books of botany (actual flowers!) as well as collections of poetry, epigrams, favorite quotations, and "beautiful passages from authors."

Literary flower gathering! Definitely a Dream Job! Thus is today's bouquet gathered from the encouraging words and unique perspectives for which I owe my kind followers -- such as Jack, for instance, who always praises, comments, and shares -- many, many thanks! To those mentioned above and below and all the hundred others who goad me on my way . . . I get by . . . gonna try . . . with a little help from my friends . . . and family: Gerry, who not only "likes" but loves me; and Ben and Sam who delight me every occasionally with a "Hey, Mom, I read your blog!" [Okay, I'm saving my long list of sibs for next time!]

Len also said -- "your blog is a public service"

Melinda said -- "thanks for always showing us the second page"

Charlotte said -- "thank you, Kitti, Assembler of Beautiful Juxtapositions"

My "lasting literary fan" Cate said --
"So glad you document all of this.
When people ask you what you do just tell them that you are a documentor.
What's that?
I document things silly. I am the observer."

Ann and Paula were both kind enough to review my blog on their blogs!

Jill most sweetly posted -- "I'm inviting my friends to visit my friend, Kitti's, blog. You will find that she writes, most eloquently, about a variety of interesting ideas and topics, some of which will surely capture your attention and, possibly, your heart."

Jan is always willing to share and collaborate -- "My dear friend Kitti knows literature like no one else. When I first met Kitti in graduate school, she said, 'Literature helps me live my life.' I have always remembered that. Today, Kitti dedicated her Fortnightly Blog entry to my writing. I am so humbled and touched. It's delightfully Kitti, and it's also me! What a treat."

Kisses to our mutual friend Jes who wrote: "How courageous of you to insist on beauty and thoughtfulness every day in this, the 21st century! What a brave blogger you are! Thank you for drawing my attention to Jan's journal in your blog.

"Yay for both of you, journaling, blogging, thinking, creating! May the workings of your beautiful brains never cease. I've always had good taste in friends, you know. It's so reassuring to see that my instincts were then and are now perfectly sound"

And it must have been Victoria who said -- "You have a way of synthesizing the ideas of literature and explaining them in a way that makes sense even in our mundane world. I think the essay is really your literary forte--forget about the collegiate constraints and go for your own book of essays." [Like Vickie, "I hate to brag . . . well, that's not true!"]

Etta wrote at length: "I told you about the dooce blog because it makes me think of you. It's snarky, funny and in the end she knows what to value in life and can express it. In the end, she describes how I feel about life. I know that lots of your friends see those same things in you that I do.

"I have been appreciating your blog. I think the best part is your use of literary quotes to describe the joy in your life. It is put together like the Hallmark cards I always imagined you creating, but better. Who knew you would be so computer savvy? Your entries are beautifully crafted and written and terribly literary. (Those who can, should.) Do you think you will ever add daily life anecdotes? You and your family are terribly interesting and I would love to hear more. Tell us a good story about your kids.

"You are going to be unstoppable now. Who knew that you would be so inspirational in your writing. It seems like the whole world opens up to you when you read poetry, and I know you have many poems just waiting to share with us."

[Etta concluded, "I wish I had the nerve to post a comment but I'm not sure I have the courage to have lots of other people read my writing." Well, Et, now they have! Thanks for being so optimistic on my behalf, and for sharing with us all!]

Eileen suggested that "The Fortnightly Kitti Carriker is a medium whose own being is a message -- not a mere channel but an offerer of love / motivation / comfort to fit the occasion. Better than seemingly random information coming at you from the great beyond, it aids the receiver in transcending, more of a transmission, in its best sense, vs a trance-emission.

"Creatively chosen, there is agency as well as receptivity, but it seems to me that some folks do their thing with an eye toward referring back to 'authorities' while others use extant literature creatively to respond to current circumstances, each more or less (just my bias, no slur on the first sort, just not my tribe). I like to collage the classical stuff and ~ omg! ~ I think I am about to say repurpose."

Collage? Repurpose? No kidding, Eileen! These terms are going to be just perfect my next post . . . see you in a fortnight!

Next Fortnightly Post
Monday, January 28th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading