James Franco and Frank Bidart, Off the Shelf


The Poetry Foundation and the Chicago Humanities Festival present James Franco and Frank Bidart, Off the Shelf. Poetry Foundation president Robert Polito moderates a discussion with Frank Bidart and James Franco on film and poetry, focusing on James Franco’s short film Herbert White, which is based on Frank Bidart’s poem of the same title.

Award-winning poet Frank Bidart published one of his most famous poems, “Herbert White,” in 1973. The speaker of the poem is a psychopathic child-murderer and necrophiliac. James Franco adapted the poem for the screen, releasing the short film Herbert White in 2010. Franco’s own collection of poetry, Directing Herbert White, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press. Early copies of Directing Herbert White will be available for purchase exclusively at this event courtesy of Graywolf Press and Unabridged Bookstore.

Polito, the moderator of the post-film discussion, is steeped in knowledge of both subjects and has a special interest in film noir. After the conversation, Bidart and Franco will read from their work and sign copies of their books.

Frank Bidart grew up in California and entertained thoughts of becoming an actor or director when he was young. Instead he discovered literature at the University of California–Riverside, proceeded to study at Harvard, and is now the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Wellesley College. Bidart’s book Desire was nominated for the triple crown of awards—the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. A National Book Award finalist, Bidart’s most recent book, Metaphysical Dog (2013), is also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

James Franco is an American actor, director, screenwriter, producer, teacher and author who received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his role in 127 Hours. Franco has taught classes in filmmaking, production, and screenwriting at New York University, the University of Southern California, and his alma mater, the University of California, Los Angeles. He is currently a PhD candidate in English at Yale University.

Robert Polito’s knowledge of midcentury American culture, especially the crime novel and film noir, has led to such projects as Farber on Film: The Complete Film Writings of Manny Farber (2009), The Selected Poems of Kenneth Fearing (2004), Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1930s and 1940s (1997), and Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1950s (1997); as well as editions of Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain for Everyman’s Library. His most recent poetry collection is Hollywood & God (2009). Polito earned his PhD from Harvard and served as director of creative writing at the New School for two decades. He became the second president of the Poetry Foundation in July 2013.

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Wednesday, February 19th, 8:00 PM
Thorne Auditorium, Northwestern University School of Law
375 East Chicago Avenue
Tickets $10–$15 at chicagohumanities.org or 312.494.9509. Book and ticket packages are also available from $25–$30.
Tickets are now on sale to CHF members. Tickets go on sale to the public at noon on Thursday, January 30.