Kept in the Dark: Poetry, Collaboration, and Collapse in “Pandaemonium” and “Tom and Viv”


by Matthew VanWinkle
Featured art: View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm—The Oxbow by Thomas Cole

In a sheepish prefatory note to the belatedly published “Kubla Khan,” Coleridge recalls a felicitous if ultimately frustrated exception to his usual habits of poetic composition. He writes that “all the images [in “Kubla Khan”] rose up before him as things, with a parallel production of the correspondent expressions, without any sensation or consciousness of effort.” Coleridge identifies his usual artistic challenge, here overcome with miraculous ease, as finding words for images. Those who seek to bring poets, and poetry, to life on film are confronted with the counter-difficulty of finding images for words. Or, more precisely, filmmakers face the daunting task of rendering the wrangling of words visually compelling. (The footage of Coleridge reciting “This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison” to delirious crowds at Wembley Stadium has been lost, regrettably.) So how do filmmakers inject motion and volume to a creative process that is presumably usually so still, so muted?

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Jean Cocteau and “Orpheus”: The Poet as Filmmaker

by Steve Vineberg
Featured Art: Valley with Fir (Shade on the Mountain) by Henri-Edmond Cross

Jean Cocteau recognized no boundaries between forms of art. He was a poet, a novelist, a playwright, and a visual artist, and each of these media also functioned as a bridge that led him into filmmaking—not just conceptually, since movies are a hybrid of all of these other forms, but often literally. He filmed two of his plays, Les parents terribles and The Eagle Has Two Heads, and wrote the screenplay for Jean-Pierre Melville’s adaptation of his novel Les enfants terribles, and his great 1950 movie Orpheus reimagines his 1926 play of the same name. Read More

Keep Me In By Keeping Me Out: Poetry On Screen

by Carrie Oeding
Featured Art: Viennese Café: The Man of Letters by Moriz Jung

In the late Nineties I repeatedly watched Hal Hartley’s Henry Fool (1997), not really certain why. I had first rented it only because Parker Posey was in it, but the cult film stayed with me like the Sylvia Plath poems I fanatically read as a teen in my small county library in rural Minnesota. Both seemed like mostly impenetrable, but meaningful code. Both were transgressive.

The big difference between these obsessions was that I trusted what Plath was doing and didn’t trust Hartley. Or, I didn’t trust my obsession with the film, which follows the lives of two aspiring writers. What I find compelling twenty years later is that I have the same response. Henry Fool is funny, repulsive, wildly off the mark about the process of writing, and wildly provocative; and I now think that it’s something this otherwise explicit film withholds—the book-length, controversial poem which the plot is built on—that continues to fascinate and repel. Read More

A Personal Affair: The Making of a Poetry Film

by Michele Poulos
Featured Art: The Chariot of Apollo by Odilon Redon

In my twenties, I moved around a lot. I spent much of the first half of that decade in New York City where I changed apartments at least once, and sometimes two or three times, each year. At twenty-seven I moved to New Orleans. At twenty-eight I ended up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. At twenty-nine I was back in New Orleans, then at thirty I was in Richmond, Virginia, where I’ve lived, off and on, since 2000. With each relocation, one DVD moved with me every time: Poetry in Motion. Read More