"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

Pastiche

ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
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:

SAVE
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
preferred.
~ 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:

Words

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


SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS FOR MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Thursday, February 14th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

4 comments:

  1. Dear Kitti,
    I've always thought of your blog as a contemporary Commonplace Book, a digital assemblage/scrapbook of poetry, prose, wisdom, recipes linked by your particular sensibility. You have become most present here to me in the choosing, gathering, shaping. Don't we reveal ourselves in sharing what we love, what speaks to us, resonates with us, to others?
    Anyway, here are some lines about Commonplace Books from Wikipedia:
    "Such books were essentially scrapbooks filled with items of every kind: medical recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas. Commonplaces were used by readers, writers, students, and scholars as an aid for remembering useful concepts or facts they had learned. Each commonplace book was unique to its creator's particular interests."
    So carry on with your rich and glorious pastiches!
    xo Ann

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  2. Thanks so much Ann for these inspiring words of encouragement!

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  3. Eileen,

    Can you see the word "Hair" right in the middle of the Women's Studies Collage? I couldn't enlarge the picture enough for easy reading, but I think you'll understand why this clipping, from a ~Seventeen~ magazine in 1978, spoke to my heart . . . and to my head!

    Here's what it says, "I used to throw brushes at the mirror -- now people tell me how pretty my hair is."

    "I loathed my hair," KIT says [I pasted over the original name with my own]. "I tried everything to straighten it till, I realized how damaging that was." Actually Sarah's wild hair is one of her best beauty assets. She never blows it dry ("It gets too bushy"), just combs it into a ponytail and lets it dry naturally. Babe's Extra - Shine conditioner helps keep it manageable. (Makeup from the Babe collection, Faberge.)"

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  4. Dave also wrote to say:

    "Kit, Do you have an encyclopedic memory of poems or a really good search engine? You seem to always find one that fits the occasion. Cool trick. Guess I shoulda paid more attention in one of those English classes that I seem to have forgotten. ~Dave"

    Haha! Thanks Dave! I have both -- the memory & the engine!

    ReplyDelete