Thursday, December 06, 2018

thievery and influence

 [sort of part deux of this earlier discussion...]

There's been a bit more discussion on the interwebs regarding appropriation and plagiarism and it reminded me of an exercize we once did in one of my MFA classes where we were tasked with writing parody poems of the authors we were studying that term--in this case, Sexton, Oliver, and Olds.  I don't know what may have happened to the former two, I imagine I did them but then never migrated them into any sort of saving (e-mail or jump drive pre-dropbox) they probably perished when various laptops and pc's did in the last decade.  But one survived, my Olds parody-


The wrist holds impossible cruelties.
Dead pets nest in the curve of an ear,
while every heartbreak has a spot just
below the throat. Even at eleven,
car wrecks twisted the cage of my ribs.
Milk skinned and amber tongued,
I dreamt of my mother’s rubied ovaries,
their accurateness: me and my sister,
our mouths pink and flawless as a ballerina
in a box. Surely, we rested like a dragonfly
at the tip of her spine, or a knot in the rope
of her dreams. Even now, a grandmother
summers in my sternum, while another swims
the blood stream, the heart’s gates and locks.
My ankles still turn at the slightest imbalance.

I remember my Sexton poem was good and wished I kept it, the Oliver was uninspiring no doubt, nature epiphany poems definitely not my bag, but the Olds was not a terrible poem.  In retrospect, it seems kind of boring and straightforward when I like my poems trickier, but all of it is there--the emphasis on memory and body--on trauma--on familial history and the lyric "I".  Not really based on any one poem or collection, but all of them.  Any of them.  I'm sure there are re-curring images in Olds' work--ovaries, ballerinas in boxes, dragonflies. (though admittedly the best line about dead pets was all me) . Besides the ovaries, which would probably be too clinical a word to appear naturally in my work on the regualr,  my poems had similar things in them, so likely no one would have spotted this as an Olds' parody among so many other poems it fit in the midst of.  There is a lot of Olds in there, but there is probably also a lot of me.  I don't think it was initially part of the whole collection, and was otherwise unpublished when I realized how well it fit in the first section of the fever almanac in the final drafts. In hindsight, I totally should have included a note or mentioned it in the acks, but somehow I just didn't think to.  (I don't actually usually have a lot of notes & epigraphs as a habit.  I think girl show has a nod to the lovely Simone Muench and her Orange Girl chap I was obsessed with in 2007.  But that's probably the only time I've done it.)

Obviously, all this is a bit different than the gross co-opting experiences that aren't yours and paraphrasing people's poems, but then it also got me thinking about the materiality of the work of others and how it can influence us--consciously or unconsciously..  A friend sent me a poem asking for my opinion recently and when I replied favorably, he said something to the effect that it had come so easily, he worried he was inadvertently recycling something. (as far as we know, he was not.)  I too have sometimes come up with lines so weirdly easy, similes and metaphors so clean that I have to google them to make sure.  (and, as I mentioned in my last post, sometimes I am recalling my own forgotten   Today, I was working one of the zodiac poems, which featured gardenias somehow glowing like moons and I changed it slightly since it seemed too Plath-like.

And, of course, there is honey machine, which purposely takes the material of Plath and reworks it. the strangeness of feeling another poets words in your mouth has weirded me out the couple times I've actually read those aloud. Obviously, the fact that they are Plath centos is in the title, and they are unmistakeably hers, but I do hope they are still something of me in the collaging, in the rhythm of the pieces as prose that's more me than her.  Sort of like the distortion of a picture of girl, but not the girl herself.

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