I’m obsessed with this inscription in my second hand copy of Back to Methuselah. So I’m writing a poem about it.
Above is the first draft of the first stanza.
This Text Thursday is brought to you by literary mash-ups. A mash-up, much like Austin Kleon’s Black out poems or Dada‘s cut up technique is about taking a pre-existing text and finding new narratives within it. Kleon’s poems are born of crossing out all but a few words to create a new text. The Dadaists cut up texts, re-arranged the words and formed new sentences. The mash-up takes a text and stretches it, filling the spaces between words with new words to form a narrative. It was first introduced to me by one of my poetry lecturers, Gareth Jenkins. He also pointed out that it’s a good idea to use non fiction texts as they are often the most unintentionally poetic (much like Kleon’s newspaper’s eh?).
for copyright reasons because I happen to have a copy of Bernard Shaw’s Back to Methuselah (1945), I’m going to use that as an example.
So, page x (10) of the Preface – ‘Political Inadequacy of the Human Animal’
Ten more years elapsed. Neo-Darwinismin in politics had produced a European catastrophe of a magnitude so appalling, and a scope so unpredictable, that as I write these lines in 1920, it is still far from certain whether our civilization will survive it (Shaw 1945).
and then stretch it, add a few words (and in this case I’m taking a few out) and it might become:
“Ten more years elapsed. Darwinism drove men to politics, lovers curled themselves around a European bouquet of love, catastrophes, explosions of hearts; petals on the cobblestones, a tapestry of such magnitude, so appalling, the scope of their spirits, the trickling sound as they slip their way through the gutters, unpredictable, a doctor, a wife, gushing out the lines of pavement into storm water drains, into 1920. Still and far from the certainty of each others’ pockets, a civilization of lovers, survived only by the city.”
It’s a lot of fun and sometimes you can even get some usable lines out of it, if not a whole poem.
Other great mash-up texts might include: religious texts, pamphlets, instruction manuals, menus, bills, and so on.
Lots of seemingly un-poetic texts contain narratives, you just need the tools to find them.
Shaw, B, 1945, Back to Methuselah, Oxford University Press, London, p X.