#Rhizo14: Steal This Poem

As I work my way into the first week of a P2PU course around open learning and Rhizomatic Learning, I’ve been thinking again about who owns what in the digital landscape. This connects to the theme of “cheating as learning” in the first week and about the ways in which Terry Elliott and I have been remixing our words this week. I have another idea related to my classroom to write about another day.

Yesterday, during a writing time with students, I started this poem, trying to get at the heart of what it means to be a writer releasing a work into the wilds of the Internet. It became a nod towards Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book and the open culture of remixing and making meaning on your own terms. I tried to “perform” it in a the rhythm of a slam poem, with short rhymes and lines, and a quick pace.

I’d love to think of some cool way to represent the poem digitally beyond the podcast but my brain is empty right now. How about you? Wanna take my words and remix them? Wanna steal my poem? The invitation is there to do what you want with my words, including ignoring me.

Take a listen (you can download the file from Soundcloud, too):


Steal This Poem

Take these words
Steal this poem
NO — go on now —
make it your own
Break it / Fix it
Rip it apart / Remix it

Defy my intent
until all meaning is spent
and then use your tools and tricks
to rebuild it

Cheat my meaning in ways
that make sense to YOU –

Tinker against type
don’t believe my hype
I’m a painter not a poet
using words as ink as I write

I refuse to shackle this work
to paper or screen
or that nebulous world in-between
in hopes that maybe later YOU’LL appear;
watching my words tumble down the spine of my lies —
made up only to be broken / spoken / a token of truth

No, you’re no cheater
you’re a seeker
a keeper of stories in this literary landscape
just like me

So, go on:
Steal this poem
Give it a home
I’m already off writing something else
and I’ve left these words all alone
waiting here for YOU

Peace (in the poem),

  1. Next week in our (hopefully) Deleuzian module ‘Becoming an Educationalist’ we plan to look at poetry and prose – for the joy of it – and also to model critical analysis and discussion. NOW know which poem to offer for study – and to offer the stealing of the poem as another model of critical engagement! Cheers!

  2. wow, loved what you did here Kevin – and such an awesomely creative response. I note that you conclude that remixing isn’t actually ‘cheating’ (‘No, you’re no cheater/ you’re a seeker / a keeper of stories…’) – and I’m inclined to agree.
    I’ve seen a few thought provoking responses / critiques to the use of the term ‘cheating’ in relation to rhizomatic learning (e.g. Jenny Mackness’ posts). It’s something I’m still struggling with coming to a position on too, but I think ultimately it depends on context, expectations, and intent; it’s subjective. If you’re giving me permission to ‘steal’ your words, does it *actually* qualify as stealing? And are you just giving me permission to remix them into something new, or to actually take them and attribute them as my own? In many ways, use of the word ‘stealing’ in this context is as problematic as use of the word ‘cheating’ in learning. As Jenny points out in her post http://jennymackness.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/rhizomatic-learning-definitions-and-cheating/ Dave refers to ‘cheating’ more as finding your own path, rather than as plagiarism or stealing other people’s work – the same as the way I think you’re using the word ‘stealing’ here (which, actually makes it all the more clever!).

    Anyway, I love these types of poems and it’s a beautiful execution. And I guess trying to dissect your intent and meaning behind it is a form of remix – ripping it apart & examining it. Almost feel inspired enough to write a response in poetry too…hmm, let me think about that…

    • Thank you for all the kind words, and I love your thinking and ways to look at what I was trying to do (disclosure: I’m still trying to figure out what I was trying to do). I hope you tangle up my words and share them back with me.

  3. Well – used the poem in my class with some 24 students – and another class of 12 discussed it elsewhere. We were with your poem for about 75 minutes – all 24 students and 2 tutors – how many person hours is that? It was a lively, buzzy and engaged session. I doubt there will be much stealing – but boy did they get it! A most sophisticated engagements with different and complex notions of education (that we and #rhizo14 cover)- and so much more vivid and real than reading a more standard academic text on the topic. You’ve made a difference! I bet you always do 😀

      • The remixing of a poem is a welcomed event between those who understand the power of voice to rise among the collective consciousness.

  4. in true making mashing rhizo-branching-off (or maybe just because my mind and keyboarding fingers keep hopping around), this, Jenny’s post and the fascinating mesostomatic generator are now being mixed like sausage (but OK to watch this process) for an overdue Poets & Writers Picnic blog post…time move on, quickly now, before my mind jumps to food…too late…

  5. Hi Kevin – used your poem again this year! Some great responses – and some did steal your poem – and will hopefully post their versions here.

  6. Hi Kevin, I stole your poem (hope you don’t mind) and was encouraged to post it here… 😊 it’s not particularly long but I hope you like the effort.

    I’ll take these words and make them my own

    I’ll steal this poem and give it a home

    You left it here neglected and all alone

    So I plan to break it / fix it / rip it apart and remix it

    Let my pen bleed over the page until I’m happy with what I have remade

    I’m the seeker

    The keeper of stories just as you say. I’ll doubt you’ll mind if one of your works were to go astray.

    You had abandoned it here anyway, and whilst your off breathing life into new things

    I’ll be here, like a fox rummaging through your bins

    Have you never heard the phrase one mans trash is another mans treasure?

    I’m remixing this for the sole purpose of other people’s pleasure

    I’m not a painter nor a poet but I’ll happily take the credit as you now don’t own it

    You goaded me to do this and now it’s been done, I have stolen your words and in my own way have spun

  7. Hi Kevin – was trawling back through student blogs – and found this one. In this class – a so-called ‘skills session – we first analysed Blake’s London – and then we moved on to yours…
    In this blog Chloe writes about her response to Blake – and then to your work – and then she does steal your poem – beautifully:
    I’m still referring to your work – not least when talking about creative approaches to assessment – and using your poem as a creative way of investigating cheating/plagiarism… Peace in the poem!

    • I was just thinking about this poem the other day (how strange is that?) during an online discussion about the ethics of remix and of riffing off someone else’s work. I am going to go back to that poem and maybe steal it again to show what I was talking about when I tried to explain the value and honor remix can do to the original author. Our discussion threaded around permissions — and this poem was my attempt at the time to say, I give you and anyone permission to hack my poem in whatever way you see fit. Thanks for pulling me back to the post.

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