Sunday, November 17, 2013

ModPo 2013 #69 Emerging From Memory and Fragmentation: On Magee's "Pledge" and "My Angie Dickinson"

Image from

Angie Dickinson Google Image search results

Read an excerpt from Michael Magee's "Pledge" here.
Read an excerpt from Michael Magee's "My Angie Dickinson" here.

It was a pleasure to read "Pledge" and the different ways it could be written using homophonic translation. I agree that so much of what we memorize gets taken for granted. Yes, it is committed to memory but no, not really understood. "Pledge" is a call to return to the original text and see it side by side with the scrambled homophonic text to renew what it really stands for.

We saw the term "indivisible" in "In A Restless World Like This Is" by Charles Bernstein used in a different context but also referencing the pledge of allegiance. The pledge of allegiance is a piece of text that has not been changed over centuries and has become both a fundamental text and a text robbed of meaning from repetition.

I appreciate the exercise. I also looked up the equivalent of the pledge of allegiance for the Philippines and I realized that it changed over time. I don't know who changed it and why it needed to be changed at all if it is an essential or fundamental text. Or are we on to something, knowing that language is a living organism? In the future, will there even be a need to memorize anything?

I think (whether memorizing is a good thing or not) that we need to examine the texts that we are socialized to memorize. It is worth doing for the sake of cultivating a thinking (rather than a programmed) mind.

"My Angie Dickinson" was partly hilarious and partly bewildering. The ingredients: 1) Emily Dickinson's prosody and form (the dashes, the capitalizations, the turns), 2) Angie Dickinson's pop culture content (and thus "hooker," "pornography" and "dialogue" enter the text), 3) Google search - the means of getting the content.

From the work we get surprises like "Orbmaster: creates orbs" and "from fireballs to PB&J." Emily Dickinson transformed into pop culture!

From the video discussion, I saw that this work was an "attempt, with the conceptual mode, to reawaken that surprise and shock, which we've forgotten, when we look at Dickinson's work." While we can read "My Angie Dickinson" on its own, it is a referential text, pointing towards the work of Emily Dickinson. It is an attempt, once more (!) to make something new. It is, at once, a new and derived work as well as an homage to Emily Dickinson.

Coming from a Filipino, 2013 perspective: I am in the middle of a very potent and confused soup. Emily Dickinson (the original) and "My Emily Dickinson" (Howe) and "My Angie Dickinson" (Magee) are all cultural markers in a colonial path. I have a very Western, somehow secondhand, upbringing and education. I am still making sense of how this all plays a part of my continuing education and the way I encounter language. I live in a fragmented world and navigating all these Dickinsons makes me look find my own fragmented self.

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