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Poets At The Movies

By Harriet Staff

Rebecca Morgan Frank

Yes, yes: poets do make appearances in, on, and at the movies. Just like that, according to “But What About The Soul: Poets At The Movies (Part 1)” written by Rebecca Morgan Frank [LARB], we encounter poetry on screen. And yet, like many of us feel, “when poems and movies talk about one another,” she writes, “I feel uncomfortable.”

An airheaded female character reads Bishop by someone’s bedside. A man reads Whitman to his lifelong love at both the beginning and the end of their epic love story. None of this deepens the characters or makes terrible movies better. And must they bring in poor Tennyson at the end of a James Bond movie? Does Hollywood really think it can give itself weight by dropping in the work of poets?

With some exceptions, most obviously Frank O’Hara, poets are generally no better at this conversation. When it comes to many contemporary poets writing about the movies, whether they are offering a portrait of a star or a film, the poems are so often caught in the same nostalgic voice that it is as if we’re reading the same reflective poem on repeat, like hearing my father tell stories about the old Saturday matinees over and over again. Everyone seems to either want to wax on about what movies once were, or they get caught up cataloguing the personal images of memory. Music is too often left by the wayside, as if the poem has taken on the flat surface of the screen, losing its own medium’s texture.

Poetry, the sister art to music, to painting, yes, but film? If these are sisters, it seems they are the sort that could go years without speaking, and no one would mind.

Have you had this experience, too? Read on, at LARB.

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Posted in Poetry News on Friday, June 21st, 2013 by Harriet Staff.