Meddling With Medleys

I’ve blogged before that I’m a fan of covers and medleys are like the ultimate cover song. I do appreciate when artists produce their own medleys but more often than not it is the domain of the fan.

 

When Lakyn Heperi appeared on the Australian version of The Voice in 2012 I was already aware of him because of his YouTube presence. I liked many of his covers but it was his mash ups of “Crazy” and “I Need a Dollar” and “California Gurls” and “Isn’t She Lovely” that I would find myself singing to my kids at night. The latter made me consider the meaning of medleys (always the English teacher) as the arrangement twists the connotations of the originals.

 

Dan Henig, who I blogged about in that earlier post, does a wicked mash up of songs from 2013 – I love that guy’s voice. Another cool medley is from Megan Davies who pairs up with Jaclyn Davies (who I assume is her sister) with an acoustic rendition of a number of Macklemore songs.

 

If quirky combinations are your thing, then Adam Hoek is your man. Here he combines “Free Falling” with Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud”.

 

As a poet, I often think about the power of words and music. As such, two years ago I took a Maroon 5 classic and blended it with some of my own verse to twist the meaning and create something new. For some reason it is stored off of my normal YouTube channel but it’s something I’m really happy with. I hope you like it too.

 

 

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New Poetic Forms

I’m writing a new book and challenging myself in the process. I don’t want to give everything away but it will contain 52 different poetic forms. When I started thinking about this I realised that I probably only knew 15 or so types of poems and generally only write around 5 of those on a regular basis.

So I’ve been doing some research.

I’ve found ‘new’ forms to play with. Kyrielle, hay(na) ku, haibun, and a whole heap more. I’ve also used some of these in my classroom as the nuances of each let me direct the students’ focus. One of these was a nonet; a nine line poem with nine syllables in the first line, eight in the next and declining by one syllable per line as the poem progresses.

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I wrote this one in front of them:

This poem should have nine syllables

in the first line and the next one

should have eight and then seven.

The fourth line should have six

syllables; then five.

Four on the next

and then it’s

three, two,

one.

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I also Googled a good example for them 😉

Pop Sonnet: Get Low

On the last day of term I was desperate not to fall into the trap of video watching so I set my classes varying tasks based on their abilities. For one class I asked them to read some ‘Shakespearean’ sonnets which I later revealed were actually pop songs rewritten in this form. They had a bit of fun trying to guess which songs they were and then I asked them to copy the premise and write their own. I had a go too but I didn’t share mine with the class – in fact, I only just remembered that I hadn’t finished so the last two lines were written about ten minutes ago.

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Here’s mine:

Numericals that are multiples of three.

I find that wench physically attractive

and I desire her to assault me

– to get low is mine only objective.

Toward the loophole, toward the wall;

until there is perspiration on my manhood;

until the neighboring wenches crawl;

to the mother lovers, contraception be good.

Yay, the woman be beautiful and clean

but love or love not? That is the question.

She’ll be divine, for my mind has foreseen

her undergarments in my possession.

But the tavern owner has warned the guard,

to get low will be gruelling for this bard.

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-based on “Get Low” by Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz

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It’s not great but it was a bit of a laugh.

Here’s how the professionals do it:

popsonnet

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If you want to read more, head on over to http://popsonnet.tumblr.com/ and/or http://popsonnets.tumblr.com/

T.S. Eliot dares disturb the universe

I love T.S. Eliot!

I’m not saying I understand his work. I’m not saying I recognise even half of the allusions and intertextual links he drops in his poems.

But, I love his stuff.

For me, the poetry of T.S. Eliot is like listening to music from a foreign country. You don’t necessarily know the lyrics but you might recognise some of the words. More importantly, you hear the emotion in the tone of the singer’s voice and in the chords played, and the rhythm controls your reaction. Eliot’s verse is the same – the meter and the imagery is enough to elicit an emotional response whether you fully understand the words or not.

A play should give you something to think about. When I see a play and understand it the first time, then I know it can’t be much good. – T.S. Eliot

One of the maxims of Literature is that meaning is not written but read. I get meaning from Eliot. It might not be aligned to his intentions when writing but I garner meaning from his poetry.

Take “The Waste Land”. It opens with descriptive verse that creates an atmosphere of desolation and decay. While some people will try and pin this down as being representative of the deterioration of English society/cultural values/Eliot’s marriage using WWI or Eliot’s nervous breakdown as evidence, these influences are superfluous to a dominant reading that speaks solely of concern for a ‘broken’ world.

Eliot asserts that “April is the cruellest month” and employs a motif of lifeless imagery through phrases such as “dried tubers”, “dull roots” and “dead land”. Automatically, readers are invited to adopt a critical viewpoint as each line is couched in negativity. The use of enjambment in this section also forces the reader to continue through the text without rest, suggesting that there is no relief for the people affected by this environment.

In his notes, Eliot attributes his opening lines to Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales but I’ve never read it so I don’t recognise the allusion. I still resonate with the imagery on an emotional level but, aside from using what Google tells me, I lack the intertextual knowledge to juxtapose these lines with Chaucer’s ‘sweet’ rains. So what? The allusion simply adds to the meaning made, it doesn’t construct the meaning on its own.

The same can be said of the references to the Bible, Wagner, Baudelaire, Huxley, Webster, Milton, Middleton, Alighieri, Shakespeare, Ovid, Spenser, Marvell, Weston… the list goes on. Beyond these literary allusions there are also nods to historical events, places and pop culture. If you get caught up in all of this you’d probably walk away feeling pretty dumb. So don’t. Reader response theory exists for a reason.

For the uninitiated, here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

“Reader-response criticism is a school of literary theory that focuses on the reader (or “audience”) and their experience of a literary work, in contrast to other schools and theories that focus attention primarily on the author or the content and form of the work.”

That’s the beauty of Lit theory. If you can’t interpret a text one way, you can always adopt another lens and use that to decipher it.

As for why I love Eliot… he knows his stuff. Sure, he probably knows too much stuff but there’s no denying his ability. His work is the poetic equivalent of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” or Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android”. These songs, like Eliot’s verse, are a pastiche of genres and influences, and it is this demonstrated mastery across styles and forms that makes them enjoyable.

TEDx and the City

I had an opportunity today I never expected. When I first applied for a license to run a TEDx event, I never would have guessed that I would get to sit in a room and collaborate with the driving force of TEDxPerth and organisers of other TEDx events in WA.

For those who don’t know, TEDx is an offshoot of TED. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design is a global set of conferences run under the slogan “Ideas Worth Spreading” and TEDx was created in the spirit of TED’s mission, allowing independent organisers to create a TED-like event in their own community.

I stumbled on TEDx by accident. A colleague, Jason D’argent, and I had long been fans of TED but we weren’t fully aware of TEDx – we had seen the label on some TED videos but, beyond that, it was a mystery. A bit of research showed that almost anyone can apply for a license to run a TEDx event and we decided that providing students with a voice in a recognised, respected format would certainly be a worthwhile activity. With that in mind, I filled out the application form for a TEDx license and crossed my fingers – ultimately we had decided that we would run an event anyway, we were just hoping to be allowed to use the TED branding to give it more credibility. It didn’t matter, the license was granted. That was 2012; our first of three TEDxYouth@CBC events – we hope to make it four this year.

Interestingly, 2012 was also the first large-scale TEDx event in Perth. Somehow the development and progress of TEDxYouth@CBC has followed that of TEDxPerth but obviously on a much smaller scale. I have attended each of the Perth conferences and it gets bigger and better each year. Through my attendance I had learned a few names and liased with some of the crew that make that event happen. I even managed to borrow their round, red rug for our event. Those limited interactions were nothing like today. Today, I attended a regional workshop where we talked through some of the roadblocks we face as TEDx organisers.

Aside from Jason and I, there were representatives from TEDxPerth, people from Bunbury’s standard and youth focussed TEDx events and organisers from a future TEDx event at one of Australia’s biggest prisons. Regardless of our experience, every person in the room today left energised and enthusiastic about their own events and with ideas on how to grow their conferences and ensure their quality.

So, in the spirit of sharing, I thought I would provide links to my top 3 TED and TEDx talks – you’ll notice there’s a bit of a theme.

TED

  1. Sarah Kay, “If I Should Have a Daughter…” – a combination of spoken word poetry and personal history; a talk that inspired two standing ovations.
  2. Rives, “A Story of Mixed Emoticons” – a typographical fairy tale that’s short and bittersweet.
  3. Rita Pierson, “Every Kid Needs a Champion” – a rousing call to educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level.

TEDx

  1. Chloe Almenara and Paris Westren, “Understanding Rape” – this is my favourite of all the talks I’ve seen as organiser of TEDxYouth@CBC because its content is hard-hitting while it’s style is unique.
  2. Akala, “Hip Hop and Shakespeare?” – as the title suggests, Akala explores the connections between Shakespeare and Hip-Hop but he is discusses the wider cultural debate around language and it’s power.
  3. Tom Thum, “Beatbox Brilliance” – also known as “The Orchestra in my Mouth”; an awesome display of vocal talent blended with musical history.

Happy viewing!