Poem Sampler

Poetry Goes to the Movies

To celebrate the Oscars, a collection of poems about the big screen.

by The Editors
Poetry Goes to the Movies
Glen Scarborough

In the last 100 years, perhaps no other artistic medium has provided more fodder for poetry than the cinema. Movies have become central to the poetic imagination, whether the poet celebrates the movies or reacts against celluloid saturation. 

Movies have influenced many poets. In his poem “A Step Away from Them,” O’Hara builds on Ezra Pound’s Eisensteinian methods (“In a Station of the Metro”) by portraying an otherwise quotidian experience—his lunch hour—using cinematic techniques, rushing headlong through a series of jump cuts that make it an exhilarating scene. It is as if the eye of the poet has become the camera lens, and composition is merely an act of editing.

Poets have engaged with movies in a variety of ways: by re-creating the experience of being in a movie theater, as May Swenson does in “The James Bond Movie,” or by appropriating dialogue from Gone with the Wind like Vanessa Place, or by merging memory and identity around the experience of watching a film, as Virgil Suárez  does in his poem “Isla.” Film has undeniably reshaped the poetic imagination, and it has further opened poetry to further capture the diverse aspects of modern life.

In celebration of Oscar season, here are a few poems that demonstrate the rich relationship between poetry and film.


Celebrating Film

“Ave Maria” by Frank O'Hara

“A Step Away from Them” by Frank O'Hara

Scary Movie” by Kim Addonizio

A New Reality is Better than a New Movie! by Amiri Baraka

Video Blues by Mary Jo Salter

I Wish I Want I Need by Gail Mazur

Isla by Virgil Suarez

The Cinema Experience

“Early Cinema” by Elizabeth Alexander

“The James Bond Movie” by May Swenson

“Edward Hopper's New York Movie by Joseph Stanton

“Please Refrain from Talking During the Movie” by Robert Polito

Heroic Simile” by Robert Hass

Cinema Technique

“St. Agnes' Eve” by Kenneth Fearing

“The Last Movie” by Rachel Hadas

“Miss Scarlett” by Vanessa Place

“Walking the Dunes” by Brenda Hillman

“Charlie Chaplin Impersonates a Poet” by Cornelius Eady

“Silent Film” by Kurt Brown

“Movie” by Eileen Myles


“Everything's a Fake” by Fanny Howe

“Poem Ending with a Sentence by Heath Ledger” by Frank Bidart

“Sean Penn Anti-Ode” by Dean Young

“Hollywood & God” by Robert Polito


Originally Published: March 4, 2010


On March 5, 2010 at 12:53am MT wrote:
No Ashbery?

On February 28, 2014 at 8:51pm Shad Schroeder wrote:
Don't forget Richard Wilber's The Prisoner of Zenda.

On March 1, 2014 at 8:11am Vicky E wrote:
Love the list, and can use some of these in an upcoming film class I'll be teaching. Here's a great one to add, by Louise Erdrich: "Dear John Wayne."


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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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