Thursday, January 14, 2010

Intertextuality, Effluctress, and Only the Only


“Musings” for January 7, 2010 (All “Musings” columns are originally published Outlook newspaper in Newton, NC)

“Intertextuality,” according that ubiquitous source, Wikipedia, “is the shaping of texts' meanings by other texts. It can refer to an author’s borrowing and transformation of a prior text or to a reader’s referencing of one text in reading another.”

There is nothing new about intertextuality. I mean Shakespeare did it . . . a lot. Today’s rap artists do it . . . a lot (sometimes they call it “sampling”). Even my favorite bumper sticker, “I Support the Right to Arm Bears” (instead of “Bear Arms”) does it. But recently it has popped up quite surprisingly and nicely in regards to a poem of my own. Since my new book, Paternity, (available at of poems about fatherhood, when it came time to solicit blurbs for the back of the book, I sought out poets I knew had already written about parenting. One of those was the renowned NC poet, Tony Abbott. I was very pleasantly surprised when he sent back not only a flattering blurb but a poem of his own that uses one of my poems as a taking off point.

So, I’m printing both poems here as illustration of intertextuality.

The Word for What Only 4-Year Olds Can See
by Scott Owens

Today my daughter made up a word,
effluctress, to explain why I couldn’t see
the rainbow bird outside the window.
Effluctress, she says, are things
that can only be seen by 4-year olds,
soda trees, people with wings,
trains that turn into trucks and drive away.

Not the first word she has made up,
for sure, but the first to contradict
what the world tells her can’t be,
dragons and dinosaurs, blueberry towns,
her grandma sitting beside her.

by Tony Abbott

Four-year-olds, darling, yes I agree,
completely—it’s only the only
I have a problem with. Poets,

sweetheart , and lovers, lovers
especially, can see all sorts of things.
So give us a break, my dear,

because we love what you can see
and you’d love what we can see,
too. The other day I was walking

home from church, and all of a
sudden, I said out loud.: “Even
the streets are holy.” That’s right,

out loud, and I looked down
and there in the cracks between
the sections of the sidewalk

I could see I was right. God was
there, in the pieces of the sidewalk.
He told me so. He did, my love,

not in so many words, but you
know how effluctress works.
things don’t just come in words.

and then, in the trees over the street
--there was Mary, the mother of God,
in her blue dress with gold embroidered

hem and sleeves. She had very dark
hair and smiled at me as if to say,
“It’s all right, don’t worry.” She stayed

with me for days, kind of floating
along in the trees all over town
just smiling and saying to me

“Don’t worry. Let it be.” I know,
that’s not original, but I couldn’t
resist it. And if she’s not

effluctress I don’t know what is.
I love your rainbow bird outside
the window very much, but this

--this is Mary, the mother of God,
in her blue dress and gold embroidered
hem and sleeves. I’m sure of that.

I know I’m not four anymore
but I sure want to be effluctress
and I just wanted to know—well

How am I doing?

1 comment:

  1. oh that is a fantastic poem by tony and what a compliment to you and Sawyer :) little muse