At the piano is the song's composer, Hoagy Carmichael. The lyric is by Johnny Mercer born yesterday 101 years ago. Oh, the gent in the naval cap is Humphrey Bogart. The movie is To Have and Have Not script based on Hemingway's novel of that name, not his best alas but you can't have everything. I believe Bacall improvised the famous lines, Yoiu know to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips tiogether and blow. -- DL
*52. Akibiyori (Late Autumn) (11/13/60) (125 min.) [Sound Color] [buy it here]
A girl lives with her mother. Though she has had opportunities to marry, she refused, preferring to stay at home. The widowed mother, however, feels that her daughter is sacrificing herself and attempts to find her a suitable husband. The daughter opposes this until she comes to believe, mistakenly, that her mother is motivated by a desire to remarry. The mother goes back to the apartment and begins her life alone.
First, buy, rent, or check out of your local library Sondheim! The Birthday Concert, a 116-minute DVD issued in 2010 that contains several stunning performances of songs chosen from musicals composed wholly or partly by Stephen Sondheim on a March 2010 night celebrating his 80th birthday at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. Then buy or check out of the library Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes by Stephen Sondheim. It’s a coffeetable-size book without the dismissibility of a coffeetable book. It is fascinating and, to the surprise of no one who ever attended a Sondheim musical, well written. In it he offers this caveat: “Poetry doesn’t need music; lyrics do.”
That’s why I recommend Sondheim! The Birthday Concert. You’ll hear glorious music set to equally glorious lyrics. Together they form, within the milieu of musical theater, poetry. Sondheim, a brilliant wordsmith, is guided by this dictum: “Content dictates form; less is more; God is in the details—all in the service of clarity, without which nothing else matters.”
The compactness, concision, and other lexical mastery of “The Road You Didn’t Take,” a song from Follies, and “Move On,” a song from Sunday in the Park with George, provide a teaching tool of the highest order for any composer, lyricist, poet, or other writer.
Have these lyrics in your hands as you listen to and watch John McMartin, who was in the original Broadway production of Follies, perform that first song, which Sondheim describes as “a classroom example of subtextual writing” in Finishing the Hat. “I should add that the last two lines make me glow with self-satisfaction,” he adds. Why shouldn’t they? Every serious writer knows that feeling when it hits, when diction, syntax, and their interaction match the intent. There is no fat in these lyrics. None. And even without music, they unleash meanings and memories far beyond the spare or spartan. I wonder what Robert Frost, who died in 1963, eight years before Follies made its Broadway debut, would have thought of this song and its tip of a finished hat to his poem “The Road Not Taken”?
In 1951, Keisuke Kinoshita's Carmen Comes Home became the first Japanese film in color. Two years later, Kinugasa's Gate of Hell became an international hit. Ozu did not like the way red turned out on Eastman Kodak film. It wasn't until he was satisfied with the Agfa red looked that he proceeded to make a color film.
Kurosawa waited even longer. In his first color film, Dodesukaden, made in 1970, he was so dissatisfied with the way "reality" looked that he painted most of the sets with loud, garish colors so as to mute the harsh natural colors of his locations. Five years later, Dersu Uzala was made in beautiful 70mm widescreen; and finally in 1980 and 1985 we get the splendid gorgeous colors of Kagemusha and Ran.
And so the rainbow bursts ...
*49. Higanbana (Equinox Flower) (9/7/58) (118 min.) [Sound Color] [buy it here]
A daughter wishes to marry the man of her choice, but her father objects. Her mother understands her feelings, however, as does her friend from Kyoto. Eventually, the father is won over.
*45. Ochazuke no aji (Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice) (10/1/52) (115 min.) [Sound B&W] [buy it here]
The characters sing a lot in this film:
*41. Kaze no naka no mendori (A Hen in the Wind) (9/20/48) (90 min.) [Sound B&W] [buy it here]A destitute woman is awaiting the demobilization of her husband when her child falls ill. She prostitutes herself to pay the hospital. When her husband returns, she tells all. He knocks her down the stairs but later apologizes, suddenly realizing all she has been through.
*42. Banshun (Late Spring) (9/1949) (108 min.) [Sound B&W) [buy it here]A young woman, somewhat past the usual marriage age, lives with her father in Kamakura. She is happy with him, and when she hears of one of his friends remarrying, she disapproves. The father, however, feels that he is keeping her from marriage. She refuses several offers. Then her aunt tells her that her father is thinking of remarrying. She is disturbed, but believing that this is what he wants, she agrees to get married herself. Father and daughter go on a final trip together to Kyoto. When they return, she is married. The father, who had no intention of remarrying, is left alone.
Ozu begins the film with four extraordinarily beautiful pillow shots:
The leisurely music begins in Cut 2; birds chirping.
*36. Hitori musuko (The Only Son) (9/15/36) (87 min.) [Sound B&W] [buy it here]
*37. Shukujo wa nani o wasureta ka (What Did the Lady Forget?) (3/3/37) (73 min.) [Sound B&W] [buy it here]
*38. Todake no kyodai (The Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family) (3/1/41) (105 min.) [Sound B&W] [buy it here]
*39. Chichi ariki (There Was a Father) (4/1/42) (94 min.) [Sound B&W] [buy it here]
*40. Nagaya shinshiroku (Record of a Tenement Gentleman) (5/20/47) (72 min.) [Sound B&W] [buy it here]
34. Kagamijishi (6/29/36) (24 min.) [Sound/Silent B&W clip of 17:36 here]
*36. Hitori musuko (The Only Son) (9/15/36) (83 min.) [Sound B&W] [buy it here]
*29. Dekigokoro (Passing Fancy) (9/17/33) (101 min.) [Silent B&W] [buy it here]
*30. Haha wo kowazuya (A Mother Should Be Loved) (5/11/34) (93 min.) [Silent B&W] [buy it here]
*31. Ukikusa monogatari (A Story of Floating Weeds) (11/23/34) (86 min.) [Silent B&W] [buy it here]
*33. Tôkyô no yado (An Inn in Tokyo) (11/21/35) (82 min.) [Silent B&W] [buy it here]
*29. Dekigokoro (Passing Fancy) (9/17/33) (101 min.) [Silent B&W] [buy it here]
A subtle and beautiful film about a boy and his father who live together in a tenement, the father working, the boy going to school. The father is attracted to a younger woman, and though nothing comes of it, the boy is worried and disappointed. Offered a new job in a distant town, the father goes off only to leave when halfway there to return to his son.
*30. Haha wo kowazuya (A Mother Should Be Loved) (5/11/34) (73 min.) [Silent B&W] [buy it here]
A family film about the relations between two half-brothers who have different mothers; good character delineation, somewhat spoiled by melodrama.
"I think that Ozu is the greatest director ever to work in the history of cinema, and if I had to choose his competitor it would be Mizoguchi and if I lived on a desert island I would just take all their films with me and that would be fine. That's cinema as far as I'm concerned.
And I think he's making great films from almost the start of his career. I don't think we find a steady ascent towards perfection and then a falling off like we do find in some directors. I don't think we find that zigzag up and down that we find in many great directors like John Ford. I think this guy had the hottest hand of anybody. I can't imagine a film of Ozu that I would actively call 'bad'" (Ozu scholar David Bordwell, interview from The Only Son  DVD).
How often have you heard someone refer to a film as being "poetic"? Googling "poetic film" took me here. These posts were made over a period of 14 months (8/09 to 10/10) and mention about 50 films. Not one Ozu film was proposed.
Michael Radford's brilliant Il Postino was mentioned several times; an obvious choice because the movie is about an actual poet (Neruda). So were such "dreamy" films as Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre, Tarkovsky's The Mirror (just about all of Tarkovsky's films feature the poetry of his father, Arseny), Benigni's Life is Beautiful and Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. All these so-called art films do in fact have either a dreamy, poetic quality about them or attempt to pretty much literally transform written poem to visual image (see most Tarkovsky, esp. Andrei Rublev)...
In these seven posts I will attempt to emphasize the particulars underlying my own personal assertion that the films of Yasujiro Ozu (1903-1963) are Poetry in Moving Images -- works of art eternal in their splendor which inspire one to decipher meaning, probe form, and observe the cosmic humor and tragedy on display.
Of course, there is nothing else remotely like Ozu in the history of cinema (though many now copy him) -- this uniqueness alone requires close investigation.
I have a pretty massive DVD collection (2000+). When I buy DVDs, I have only one criterion: is this a film that I will want to watch more than once? When I re-watch an Ozu film, I feel like an old friend has dropped by. We'll talk about the same old stuff and enjoy each other's company and that's the plot!
A typical Ozu film has very little going on, plot-wise. But because the story is presented to us with such unassuming realism; familiar characterization, meticulous set design; rock-solid steady and invisible camera; and the acting so completely void of artifice, the end result is something startlingly transcendental. (It is said that Ozu treated his actors badly ... he made them do so many takes, some thought it cruel -- but it was his way of beating out the "performer" in the actor and obtaining something very "real").
If you've already seen some or all of Ozu's surviving films, I hope you'll enjoy re-watching them, perhaps grokking anew with some of my more unusual bullet-points in mind. If you are new to Ozu, I hope my writing makes you interested in seeing these masterpieces. Imagine how gratified I will feel if you become an Ozu-nut, like myself.
Yasujiro Ozu was born in Tokyo on December 12, 1903. His father was a fertilizer salesman. He and his brothers -- as was the custom in middle-class families at the time -- were sent to the countryside to be educated. Ozu was a rebellious, undisciplined student. He matriculated no further than middle school, preferring his twin passions of watching American films and drinking. He rarely saw his father between 1913 and 1923, but forged a potent relationship with his loving mother -- Ozu never married and lived with her until her death in 1962 at the age of 87. Ozu himself died just a year later -- the day before his 60th birthday, December 11, 1963. Carved on his tombstone is a single Japanese character -- mu -- the Zen nothingness that is everything.
Ozu's uncle got him his first job in the film industry as an assistant cameraman, which basically involved schlepping heavy cameras from place to place. He worked his way up to become an assistant director to the both now and then obscure Tadamoto Okubo, who "specialized in a kind of comedy which was called 'nonsense-mono' -- a running series of gags held together by a slight story line, a succession of chuckles intended to make the time pass" ["Ozu" by Donald Richie, p. 200] (must reading for any serious fan).
Ozu was quite satisfied with the position. He could drink to his heart's content (he was a heavy drinker, all his life) and had none of the responsibilities and worries that he quickly realized were the domain of the director.
Nevertheless, his friends urged him on and an incident (a waiter at the studio cafeteria insulted him) provoked him to overcome the inertia of his non-ambition. Besides, he had always loved film (almost all American -- at his job interview, he admitted to having seen only three Japanese films!) and probably felt the confidence to strike out on his own.
Ozu directed 54 films between 1927 and 1962.
Of the surviving completed films, I will discuss four in the first two posts; five in the third; four in the fourth and fifth; and three in each of the final two posts (the six color films) ...
*8. Gakusei romansu: Wakaki hi (Days of Youth) (4/13/29) (103 min.) [Silent B&W] [buy it here]
*22. Tokyo no gassho (Tokyo Chorus) (8/15/31) (91 min.) [Silent B&W] [buy it here]
*24. Umarete wa mita keredo (I Was Born, But...) (6/3/32) (100 min.) [Silent B&W] [buy it here]
*28. Hijosen no onna (Dragnet Girl) (4/27/33) (100 min.) [Silent B&W] [buy it here]
Join Best American Poetry Series Editor David Lehman and an exciting group of poets and filmmakers as they introduce and discuss short films inspired by poems in this year's BAP! At this one-time event you will be able to:
Buy BAP 2011 and have it signed by David Lehman and contributing poets.
Print your own Motionpoems keepsake broadside on a Minnesota Center for the Book Arts letterpress.
See films inspired by BAP 2011 contributors:
Two Screenings: Tuesday, Oct. 25th at 6pm & 8 pm
Target Performance Hall
1011 Washington ave S.
Reception to follow each screening.
This event is free, and sure to be a scrumptious evening of synesthesia! Or should that be Cinesthesia?
Go here for further details.
My favourite film is Lenny, a movie directed by Luke Bassoon and starring Natalie Portal (right) as Madonna, a teenaged girl who is a hit-man (or hit-girl) and she employs an illiterate guy called Lenny to look after her while she moves around New York from hotel to hotel looking for a good place to live and to shoot people from the window. It ends with a corrupt policeman called something or other exploding because Lenny gave him a gift from Madonna, which was a bummer.
I don’t like movies much because they too often disappoint me. I can like them for about an hour or so, but usually when you get into the last half hour it's pretty obvious what's going to happen. And it usually does. I saw Cowboys & Aliens a little while ago. It was a little tricky because it was an illegal cam-copy streaming from the internet and the daylight scenes took place in darkness and the night scenes, of which there were many, I have no idea what was happening. Also sometimes somebody got up out of their seat in front of the camera to go to the toilet or somewhere. But it didn’t make much difference, because the film is rubbish, even by the movie industry's low standards.
But some movies I can watch over and over again, especially if they star Bugs Bunny or that other great actor, Laurence Oblivion. I watched him in Hamlet the other day. It's really good; you wouldn’t think a cartoon rabbit could pull off that kind of thing, but he did.
[N.B. Some of the above may contain errors.]
I love music. At the moment while I'm writing this I'm listening to a new record by a band called Cymbals Eat Guitars. It's not great but it's okay. My other new record this week is by I Break Horses, which I like much more. I also like their name, because it mentions horses, although I think they stole the name from the title of a song by someone else, which is acceptable because artistic theft shows initiative. If you listen to a record by Kanye West, half the time you're listening to someone else. But it's good. At least he steals good stuff.
(Oh, my legal team just told me that what Kanye West does isn’t theft, it's sampling, and he gets permission to use those things. Yeah, okay.)
Because I'm about a hundred years old a lot of people are surprised I'm so up-to-date with new music, especially seeing as how I live in a developing country where most kids only know Westlife and Lady Gaga but not much else. They think I would still be listening to The Everly Brothers or The Beatles, if they'd ever heard of them. (Some of them have heard of The Beatles: I remember one boy telling a class during a presentation how John Lennon quit the band when he got shot.) Well, I do listen to that old stuff sometimes, because it's great – one day last week I had a complete day of Otis Redding, which was amazing – but I like to try and keep up, even if it's an impossible task. You only have to look and see how much music is out there, and how many new records are released every week, to see how impossible it is. Even the guys at the cutting edge are often behind the times.
I'm trying to remember what I intended to write about today before I found myself thinking about films and music….
It was no easy matter to give the histories of men and women in terms familiar to the apprehension of a very young mind. For young ladies too, it has been the intention chiefly to write; because boys being generally permitted the use of their fathers' libraries at a much earlier age than girls are, they frequently have the best scenes of Shakespeare by heart, before their sisters are permitted to look into this manly book; and, therefore, instead of recommending these Tales to the perusal of young gentlemen who can read them so much better in the originals, their kind assistance is rather requested in explaining to their sisters such parts as are hardest for them to understand: and when they have helped them to get over the difficulties, then perhaps they will read to them (carefully selecting what is proper for a young sister's ear) some passage which has pleased them in one of these stories, in the very words of the scene from which it is taken….
Yeah, I was going to write about the good old days, when boys would (or even could) read to their sisters, selecting only what was proper for their ears. But then I realized it was probably a bad idea: a minefield, to put it mildly. And anyway, I have no idea what I was going to say.
But what I would like to say is it's been an honour writing here, and I hope some of you have enjoyed some of it. I would also like to leave with a song, from a record I've been playing a lot over the last few months. This is The Rural Alberta Advantage, and a song from their album Departing. (right click to open).
Tattoos, unlike smoking, remain pretty cool. They’re also here to stay (and in keeping with the loose Persian connections, please allow the pun). I thought of introducing a brief collage of poetry tattooed on strangers and friends. Of course I suspected something like this had been done before, but I had no idea of the quality nor the extent of such projects.
Before briefly exploring some Persian connections and implications of this topic, I want to thank writer Facebook friends for introducing me to a couple of great publications: Editors Kim Addonizio and Cheryl Dumesnil have created an anthology of fantastic writers that capture the art of tattooing in various ways in Dorothy Parker's Elbow: Tattoos on Writers, Writers on Tattoos. Also of interest is Eva Talmadge and Justin Taylor’s The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos for Bookworms Worldwide, a great coffee table book featuring great photographs of literary excerpts tattooed on various body parts.
I also want to mention too that my Queens College Early Americanist colleague Sian Roberts advises researching into “moko,” which,” she says, “is deeply integrated into Maori and Polynesian culture (fun fact: ‘tattoo’ originated as a Polynesian word.)”
In thinking about this topic in relation to things Persian (my commitment for my week of blogging), I also got to know those already in my life by various poetry on their skin. I didn’t know, prior to this entry, that my friend Jason Tougaw, a Comp. Rhetoric specialist (also at Queens College) has a Cocteau drawing of Orpheus, which explains in part why he seems to embody a kind of poetry. Stefanie Simons, who I got to know at Pen America, has tattooed part of an Aracelis Girmay poem on her body (yet another significant reason Stefanie is such a cool young writer). Getting more serious with things—and hopefully I can put a few pics up of what I’m seeing—Claire Van Winkle, poet and translator (and new MFA student at Queens) has this on her arm from Jorie Graham “The longing is to be pure. What you get is to be changed. ~JG” Always, or usually, the arms of these writers carry the words of writers, as if literally connecting to some key influence.
By way of transition to the Persian, Tara Mokhtari, an Iranian-Australian poet and critic who I recently met during her visit to NYC, has the following lines in Perisan on her arm from the modern Iranian poet Sohrab Sepehri (about whom I hope to blog soon). She offers the following loose translation: "Live large, and alone, and modest, and unyielding.” Most people, she notes, get a little disappointed when she explains the “alone” part. Writers, however, would surely understand.
I offer these tattooed lines as a greater transition to the well-known early trendsetting images of Iranian artist Shirin Neshat, who radically politicized the female body with words from poetry as well as other sources. Like Neshat’s work, Mokhtari’s words both attract and subvert attention, as the latter explained how men during her trip to NYC hit on her by using the foreign lines as an entry into the conversation (making the message of valuing aloneness all the more significant).
Those unfamiliar with Neshat's postmodern treatment of the feminine post-Islamic Revolution—especially following her visit to her country of origin in the 1990’s—might find it worthwhile to check out her Women of Allah series. She co-opts a kind of communal or group definition of the Persian woman in the context of the Islamic Republic of Iran, reproducing a seeming empowerment with guns, for example, though also rendering the women with little individuality (re-imposing the mystique of the veil, so to speak).
There are far too many things to say and theorize upon as one considers the implications of these seminal images. In a pithy blog entry, it’s perhaps best to let the art speak for and against itself, so I’ll refrain from what will only become a reductive analysis. One overriding question that Neshat’s work continues to brilliantly bring to the surface relates to appropriation and issues of Orientalism.
Obviously the Persian script on female bodies (the artist used her own body in much of this work), like Tara’s tattoo, means something different to Iranians than to those, say, in the English speaking world. The latter can’t help but find another layer in their resistance to understanding, and I read that some have mistakenly assumed they must be lines of the Qu’ran. What does it mean to know, or to not know, that often this amazing calligraphy are the words of the first modern feminist poet Forugh Farrokhzad?
A prodigious amount of tension derives from the dichotomous reception of eastern vs. western audience. Insofar as Robert Frost famously claimed “Poetry is what gets lost in translation,” he was pulling a fast one, and his elusive irony gets aptly demonstrated here. The meta-statement itself is poetry, an epigram of sorts, meaning in locating the dislocation Frost paradoxically finds poetry. In her own way, through the resistance of translation and the resulting loss of meaning, Neshat too makes poetry in the English speaking world by allowing the loss.
Of course there is a lot more going on in Neshat’s earlier work here (not to mention her more current projects with video and film). To a certain extent interjecting the images in the framework of poetry tattoos might seem like forcing a comparison. However, when considering these indelible impressions as well as a kind of permanence through the use of impermanent artistic media, they remain another kind of tattoo pictured on the artist.
When you watch the film version of Guys and Dolls, you sometimes get the feeling that Nathan Detroit and Adelaide (Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine) are in one movie, a hoot, while Sky Masterson and Sister Sarah of the Salvation Army (Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons) occupy an alternative universe, much more serious and deep and dramatic.
Sinatra and Brando were rivals. Brando, who did not have the better voice, got the best songs. Frank Loesser did write a serenade for Frankie boy to sing to Adelaide, but the lad must have eaten his heart out to hear Brando's thin nasal rendition of "Luck Be a Lady Tonight."
Brando on Sinatra in heaven: "That guy is going to give God an earful for making him go bald."
Sinatra on Brando, whom he called "Mumbles": "I hear they're making a movie of the Bible. They wanted Mumbles to play God but he held out for a better part."
Audience participation portion: do you like the way Brando dances in the Cuba scene? Do you miss the songs dropped from the stage version -- such as "A Bushel and a Peck," "I've Never Been in Love Before," and "Marry the Man Today"? What do you think of "Your eyes are the eyes of a woman in love"? What's the best song in the show? Why do I think "G & D" is the consummate Broadway musical? Do you agree? -- DL
Many a time I have gone to the movies and felt that the song over the closing credits is the best thing about the film. Sinatra's "New York, New York" trumps everything that comes before it in "Summer of Sam," as does the same singer's "Its Nice to Go Traveling" at the end of "Executive Decision" and Vaughn Monroe's "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" at the end of "Die Hard." I thought of this phenomenon tonight watching the end of "Eight Men Out" (1988) about the Black Sox scandal of 1919. When the closing credits come on, you hear a fanstastic cover of "After You've Gone" by Leigh Harris. She gives us three refrains from the immortal song, lyrics by Henry Creamer, music by J. Turner Layton -- but only after she delivers the verse. You usually don't hear the verse. Lyrically it's OK and musically it leaves us, at its end, exactly where we need to be. After you've gone and left me crying, / After you've gone there's no denying, / You'll feel blue, you'll feel sad / You'll miss the bestest pal you ever had. / There'll come a time, now don't forget it, / there'll come a time when you'll reget it, / someday when you grow lonely, / your heart will break like mine, you'll want me only, / after you've gone, after you've gone away." What a pleasure just to write it out. You should hear Judy Garland do it in Carnegie Hall 1961. You should hear Al Jolson do it. But don't overlook Ms. Leigh Harris, a new name to me, but a hell of a singer. -- DL
Here's a tip for moviegoers who plan on seeing "The Trip," Michael Winterbottom's mock-documentary about two English comedians, TV and radio mostly, who take a trip to the far misty north, land of the lake poets, of Coleridge and Wordsworth, and vie for who can be more obnoxious as they tour the nouveau chic boutique gourmet restaurants that have sprung up in remore parts of Humber and Yorkshire, once famous for its diet of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.
You will learn at least two things about England. The first is that English comics set store by how accurate an impression they can give of Michael Caine's speech pattern. The fellows, Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden, do Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Hugh Grant, Anthony Hopkins, Ruchard Burton, and Liam Neeson. But Caine is the litmus test, the ne plus ultra for competitive comic impersonation. The guys are not as convincing when they try to sound like Al Pacino and Woody Allen, though Allen's lines are hilarious and brilliant however delivered.
It made me wonder what the equivalent would be for an American actor (male): Bogart in "Casablanca"? Jimmy Cagney ("You dirty rat")? Brando in "On the Waterfront" or "The Godfather"? Clint Eastwood ("Make my day")? JFK?
The second thing you will learn from the movie is that for a true Brit (who, "in spite of all temptations / to belong to other nations," remains a bloody proud Englishman), nothing -- not duck confit, pigeon, rabbit, lamb, clams cooked in their own juices, and not, certainly not, thirteen ways of serving scallops -- can compete with a traditional English breakfast of eggs, bacon, blood pudding, grilled tomatoes, baked beans, toast, tea, the whole works. The boys have such a meal at a country pub and it is the one they most lustily enjoy.
A second film with the identical title, "The Trip" (1969), features Peter Fonda in his acid-trip phase. It's well-worth watching. I saw it when it came out, the summer after my junior year at Columbia. I'd like to see it again. It has Bruce Dern and Susan Strasberg and Jack Nicholson, and the poster for the pic highlights the letters l, s, and d and boasts of being shot in "psychedelic color." I vaguely recall a mad scene in a laundromat. And there was an extraordinary effort to depict the highs and lows of an acid trip, from rank sentimentality to ecstatic exuberance to fetal-position fear. I saw it in Manchester, England. And Manchester is, as the new "Trip" confirms, the urban epitome of the north of England. -- DL
strong pentitentiary drama with good supporting cast directed by Jules Dassin I recommend it heartily on a night when TCM is finding liberty behind bars, a breakout, a pin-up girl that all the boys can love, or a dream of revenge. Just finished watching "Caged" set in a woman's prison, where Eleanor Parker gets her hair clipped and and goes from being a sweet innocent accessory in a gas station holdup to a tough broad smoking cigarettes between two muscular gents in the back of a sleek sedan, and now Burt Lancaster is getting out of solitary and coming up against Hume Cronyn playing a sadistic prison guard who listens to Wagner while beating up a prisoner. The thematic conflict in both cases is between stern disciplinarians and decent but weak or overmatched wardens who think the inmates should be treated like human beings not animals.
During a conversation with Samantha the other day, it was suggested that my next post simply be about things that make me happy. Below, you will a find a harum-scarum list of some of the things that happen to make this crazy cat smile. This one is for you, Sam.
Samantha Zighelboim holds an MFA from Columbia University. Her poems, translations, and book reviews have appeared in Maggy, Thumbnail, TheThe Poetry Blog BOMB, Rattapallax, and The People’s Poetry Project. Recently, she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize on behalf of Thumbnail. She received an honorable mention for the 2010 Bennett Poetry Prize at Columbia University, sponsored by the Academy of American Poets. Currently she’s working on her first collection of poems, and lives in New York City with her cat, Buddha.
THAT OLD WOOLLY BLOODLETTING by Macgregor Card
In youth you tend to look rather frequently into a mirror,
not at all necessarily from vanity. You say to yourself,
“What an interesting face; I wonder what he’ll be up to?”
—J. M. Barrie, “Courage”
Here is how pussycat /
I will show you to carry /
your unframed Cortez /
the conqueror portrait /
out of your nursery and into the forest
you’ll kneel in to sleep
the cock of the walk
through falling of dead
you cannot yearn to ally
your friends with influence of law
Learn your Greek
You’re a hero to open your book to learn
Jupiter failed as a nation
Though made by the giants
Australian is English!
I’d fold the universe
shut with tears
choking my prize
four crosses of shirts and trousers
in my fist
and a poor fellow’s sword on my floor
Come from somewhere for a purpose
Go to somewhere for none
The angry burst into the room
The mad burst into the wall
as a victory poem
let it not be said
in the song that is so true
no ship moves up the one star night
without a plan to execute
in perpetuity, no no no no no no no
No, my boy, no no no no no no no no no no no
No no no, my boy, no no no no no no no no no no no
The ship is a natural ship
as the wand is a natural wand
as the Englishman is hearing the frogs
uplifted as the queerest antique stag
Don’t play with banker’s straw, my boy
but talk the penny down
from its smoldering cloud
into your cup
you are that human shape
of public statuary
not to be
that town crier
in a meat locker
(armies travel on their stomachs)
is a finite distance from your bed
Carry your portrait
close to the vest
leave your liqueur
set down by the fire
pick up the receiver
remember your Greek
and strum your important guitar.
You are doing what I tell you to do.
What more do you want us to do.
We will eat and then we will guard.
I want you to obey me willfully.
I do this to make us work.
The giants made me for this purpose.
We will guard and then we will sleep.
That is the action.
There’ll be enough trouble.
I’m a hero to open your book.
We will work on the same shift.
i. I'm on a train headed towards New England with Jeff in my hands. Jeff is on the cover of Esquire in Elvis pose with mic. He's staring at me with those, those tough yet warm eyes. I'm thinking Robert Mitchum with a warm smile. Whenever I start to shake, lose it, I go back to Jeff.
II. Jeff knows how to laugh, smirk. I don't know Jeff, but I'd like to think, at the very least, that Jeff is my safe place. Watching his interviews one immediately becomes cognizant of the fact that he's a thoughtful man, a surgeon with a tough facade, a soft interior. Do I know Jeff? No, I don't know Jeff, but I'm pretty sure he's confident with his masculinity. Jeff's maculinity ain't about machismo, no. Rather, his masculinity is all about assuredness and subtlety coupled with some frenetic energy. Jeff is a curious man: Actor, painter, sculptor, musician, photographer, zen master, et al. Jeff is sure; his laugh says it all, man.
III. I remember Jeff in Against All Odds. Remember Jeff in Against All Odds? Rachel Ward, James Woods? That bastard grabbed hold of me back in 1984. Jeff knew how to love, how to make love. Yeah, he wasn't fucking Rachel Ward, he was loving her Take heed, boys.Jeff transcends sex. Do I know Jeff? No, but his laugh keeps me afloat.
iv. Remember Jeff in Tron (1982) and Starman (1984)? Yeah, he is good. A few weeks ago, I was watching a short documentary on Jeff on American Masters (Jeff Bridges: The Dude Abides, PBS) in which Karen Allen says the following in regards to Jeff's preparation for his role in Starman: "He actually watched birds and babies, he told me." He probably did, and that's why we believe him. Tron? I remember thinking, I'm Kevin Flynn, I am Clu, I am the user. Yes, I was Jeff for a few hours of the day, everyday. Imagine that, an 11-year-old Jeff.
v. I could mention "The Dude," but I won't. Everything that needs to be said about The Big Lebowski has been said by better men than I, so we'll leave that one alone. Remember Jeff in Crazy Heart? I do, but what I really remember about that role is the speech it inspired him to make on that dais upon receiving his Oscar for Best Actor. He didn't start by kowtowing to the agents, the press, no. Instead, he held that statue up to the sky and thanked mom and dad. He thanked them for the ride, the experience, and isn't that what it's all about? Whether you're an actor, painter, poet, novelist, accountant, farmer, it's about family. I think so, and apparently so does Jeff.
vi. Does this small case study smell of stalker? Idolatry? Most likely, but I'm just going to continue to embrace Jeff until the day I stop shaking, and who knows when that will be.
Macregor Card is the author of Duties of an English Foreign Secretary published by Fence Books, 2009. Mr. Card is a wonderful man and brilliant poet/translator/editor who happens to know his Chaka Khan. Many thanks to Macgregor for allowing me to use "That Old Woolly Bloodletting".
Songs of the day: "Now You're Dead" Fear
The Krays "Invincible"
1. In February, I met with P. Scott Cunningham and Pete Borrebach for lunch at a noodle house. I couldn't find the place at first because it was lodged in the lobby of a motel on Biscayne Boulevard that, in years past, was known more for hookers and guns and rock (and I don't mean 'and roll'). But this neighborhood has now reinvented itself --as is also the city of Miami's custom-- into a hamlet of galleries, eateries, and indie mom and pop shops. There are things to do here besides driving by with locked car doors. Scott and Pete were working on their own newborn - O, Miami, the city's first poetry festival.
I ate basil and tofu and listened to their schemes: they were going to try to place if only one poem into the hands of my hometown's 2.5 million citizens, regardless of whether they liked poetry or not. Scott and Pete were most interested in the latter, the possible converts, and they knew how to set the trap. They'd woo the city with a relentless courtship. O, Miami would wrap buses with couplets, fly in W.S. Merwin, the sitting U.S. poet laureate, invite Chilean poet Raúl Zurita, hip hop legend Kool Moe Dee, actor-now-writer James Franco, and many more to speak and read, host collaborative art shows and a literary death match, surreptitously sew poetry tags into shirts at thrift stores, drop poems from the sky, rent a Ferrari. They had a lot of wild ideas. Had they locked it all down yet? No. When would the festival launch? In about 6 weeks and running the whole month of April. I smiled and slurped my dripping and delicious noodles. I thought a) These guys are crazy. b) God, I hope they do it. All of it.
Okay, I can't take credit for finding this - thanks to Don Share for posting it first. From the 1958 teenybopper drama, High School Confidential! Recognize the guy playing the piano? Jackie Coogan (Uncle Fester). And the hep cat smoking at the table with the square chick is John Drew Barrymore - John Barrymore's son and Drew Barrymore's father.
(Oh, and the reason I can't be a beatnik? I don't own a pointy bra, Daddy-O.)
I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark
from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman
THE RULE OF THUMB
Ringfinger was nervous
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.