Yes, You Do Do Folklore

I’ve written a poem. I don’t usually write poems because frankly, they scare me. But in order to illustrate how we’re all guilty of indulging in a bit of folklore, by way of Gerald Warshaver’s three “levels” of folklore[1], I thought a poem would be appropriate (and more fun*). Now, while this project isn’t an academic study, from time to time I will be dropping in references and putting the conversation around folklore into a wider context. Plus I rather like Warshaver’s theory, not least because it thoroughly supports what I’ll be doing next year.

For those unfamiliar with the three “levels” of folklore, here is how Bob Trubshaw describes them in his very accessible and entertaining book Explore Folklore [2]:

Level 1 may be termed ‘customary practice’, that is customs where the participants do not consider themselves to be ‘doing’ folklore. Examples include funerals, weddings, stag nights, hen nights [and] Tupperware/lingerie/Anne Summers parties… In other words it is not ‘self-conscious’ folklore.

Level 2 is what most people would think of as folklore – whether it is morris dancing, mummers’ plays, folk singing, fairy stories or folkcrafts. This level includes the collecting, analysis and revival of folklore.

Level 3 is where folklore is self-consciously incorporated into entirely modern activities. Examples abound, including various video games, Dungeons and Dragons, Terry Pratchett novels, films as disparate as The Wicker Man or Shrek, and a host of ‘invented’ folk customs from Penzance Mayday celebrations to numerous National Trust ‘activity’ days.

pp. 3-4

Anyhow, theory posited, back to the poetry. As those forced to read my previous poems will confirm, while (hopefully) I don’t reach the giddy heights of Paul Neil Milne Johnstone of Redbridge[3], there is still a touch of the Vogon* about them. I’m not clever enough (or rather I didn’t think of it before drafting) to have written it in ballad, saga or epic form as in the folklore tradition, instead I went off half-cocked and then changed style halfway through. And yes, it also contains a misattribution for the purpose of my beleaguered rhyming scheme. But enough with the apologies and on with the poem, because, even if you think you don’t do folklore, you do:

I Don’t Do Folklore

So occasionally I say White Rabbits 
But that’s just memory, or bad habits 
But I don’t do Folklore

I may throw spilt salt over one shoulder 
Or bake a cake on the day I grow older 
But I don’t do Folklore

And I might cross my fingers 
To stay a jinx that lingers 
But I don’t do Folklore

And it’d be rude not to say hi 
To Mister and Mistress Magpie 
But I don’t do Folklore

And I may wear black on sad occasions 
Or send snowy cards to distant relations 
But I don’t do Folklore 

And inside my brolly’s always furled tight 
Until I’m outdoors and the rain is in sight 
But, I don’t do Folklore

And sat on grass I’d be daft to pass over 
The chance to find a four leaf clover 
But I don’t do Folklore

And fighting for the bride’s bouquet 
Is just what one does on that happy day 
But I don’t do Folklore

And so I know all the words to Let It Go 
But that’s just osmosis, not a nod to Perrault 
No, I don’t do Folklore

No, I don’t look for shapes
When my teabag splits
Or touch some old wood
When a rough patch hits
Or rub raw honey
Into big pustular zits

No, I don’t avoid ladders
Propped up in the street
Or wear lucky pants
To give me some heat
Or run from black cats
Whom I happen I meet

No, I don’t give a toss
When a mirror shatters
Or worry on Fridays
When thirteen matters
Or think my hot ears
Equals bad faith chatters

No, I don’t do Folklore

Yes, I don’t do Folklore

~ September 2019

Are there any bits of folklore you also don’t do? Leave your thoughts below.


[1] Warshaver, G.E. (1991). On Postmodern Folklore. Western Folklore, 50(3), p.219
[2] Trubshaw, B. (2002). Explore Folklore. Loughborough: Heart of Albion Press
[3] Adams, D. (1979). The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. London: Pan Books

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2 Comments

  1. David
    21 September 2019
    Reply

    Everything comes in three pickup a penny and a pound will follow I dont do folklore

    • 21 September 2019
      Reply

      See a penny, pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck!

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