Monthly Archives: August 2013

Robert Creeley, American poet (1926-2005)

To the One in the Gray Coat

To the one in the gray coat,
sitting as though he were
asleep, were beyond these
involving actions, I will
address myself. Ole!

He will become conscious,
so, of the south. I have
called to mind for him,
have suggested by language,
a world of inner warmth,

a south of the spirit in
which he will be the one
who is not asleep, who
dozes in the completeness
of things which are warm,

in the sun, in the sun’s
completeness. And the coat
as remnant, to be left on
the bench. And he will
know this and will leave it.

Then, going, he will have
passed me, in chill air,
the disciple, to say more
of, to go on with these
signs of inadequate love.

from: The Charm: Early and Uncollected Poems (1968)

Walls

Walls are
relief in lifting
themselves. Let

you also
lift yourself,
selves, shelves.

from: The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley, 1945-1975

Robert Creeley Autobiography

Sometime in the 1990s a friend of mine gave me a tiny book (4 inches x 2 ¾ inches) entitled Robert Creeley Autobiography (pub. 1990). On the cover was a photo of Mr. Creeley ostensibly taken by fellow poet, Allen Ginsburg.

RobertCreeleyAutobiography

I finally read this autobiography recently, and in today’s world I guess it would be called a memoir. Densely written, Robert Creeley meanders in the telling of his life story yet it is worth the reading.  Of significance I learned he had two traumatic things happen to him before the age of five: first he lost his left eye in a freak accident while riding in a car at age two, and secondly, his father died when Robert was four years old.  In a matter of fact somewhat stoic manner, the poet discusses how these two events shaped his life from then on. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Mr. Creeley eventually went on to live not only in other parts of New England in upstate New York, he also spent time in India, Burma, New Mexico, France, Spain and Finland. He studied at Harvard and later worked for a number of years as a professor at State University of New York, Buffalo and for a time at Brown University.

As a poet Robert Creeley is linked to a group of avant garde poets from the 1950s known as the Black Mountain poets.  This term stems from Black Mountain College, a progressive school of arts education and academia located in North Carolina that was instrumental in producing some of the more significant avant garde artists that flourished in the 1960s.  Creeley later befriended some of the beat writers and is sometimes affliated with this group of writers also.

              

Short Stories

Recently, having made a decision to read some books of short stories rather than novels, I stumbled upon, at a local public library, a book listed as “new” entitled Everything Begins & Ends at the Kentucky Club. From this book’s blurb I saw that the setting for the stories is the border between the U.S. and Mexico at the cities of El Paso and Juarez. The Kentucky Club is a bar just over the border in Juarez, Mexico. The author is someone named Benjamin Alire Saenz, a name that I didn’t recognize.

I just finished the book and its stories. While at some points I did cry, the stories aren’t overly sad. Each story’s main character is male and many of them gay. This is not to say the women in these stories are ignored; some of the women portrayed are perhaps more memorable than the men. Family relationships are strongly depicted as are love relationships. While homosexual relationships are an overarching theme, the stories are in no way sensational or lurid. Instead it is the love that the characters are seeking or running from or unable to acknowledge that predominates.

While looking for other books by this author, Benjamin Alire Saenz, it turns out that he won a major literary honor (the PEN/Faulkner award for fiction) this year for this book of stories. For some reason I thought the person writing these stories was a young new writer, and it turns out Mr. Saenz is middle-aged and heads up a creative writing department at the University of Texas at El Paso. Kudos to him for this award and for this moving book of short stories!

http://www.elpasotimes.com/news/ci_22823132/el-paso-author-benjamin-alire-saenz-honored-his-border-stories

What’s Been Left Out?! (television version…)

Film viewers beware! I watch movies on television (network and cable) a lot. I also do watch newer films, either on DVD (normally rented either from Redbox or the nearby public library) or via the “On Demand” service that is offered on cable.

Watching a televised version of a movie normally I’m not familiar enough with an older film to know if a scene or segment’s been edited out for TV. Not so with the movie “Thelma and Louise.” Now seeing this for the second time on television (and my third viewing overall since it was released 22 years ago now), I am disappointed that a scene from this movie is missing from the televised version.

Yes, gone, at least from the two televised versions I’ve seen now in the past 6-7 years. It’s the scene where deep into the movie Louise and Thelma are driving through the desert at night and the Marianne Faithful song “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan” is playing in the background. I was so moved by this scene when I first saw this movie in 1991 that within two weeks I went out and bought the Marianne Faithful album “Broken English” where the song “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan” appears. It is a song that made me want to go to Paris before I die (and finally in 2003 I was able to do this).

Ok, I realize this particular scene in “Thelma and Louise” must’ve been edited as it’s not considered pivotal to the plot. That’s a shame really as this song and scene lend poignancy to the movie, reflecting the dark turn (literally) that the lives of these two characters had taken. For anyone who remembers this song and this scene, here is a YouTube rendition (thank you Luis Luce for posting):

http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20110529/life-features/-Get-a-life-and-they-did.368033

http://fandangogroovers.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/desert-island-cd/

American-ness

Lately I’ve seen a couple of times the trailer for the forthcoming David O. Russell directed movie “American Hustle” (due to be released in December 2013). The film appears to take place in the 1970s and the trailer’s Led Zepplin song accompaniment lends an enticing energy to the film’s purported story.

Believing “American Hustle” is a movie I hope to see, I began to wonder about other movies with “American” in the title (& a 1950s film that didn’t put the term “American” in its title yet the book the film is based on has this term). In what context is this term used and when is it flattering and when is it not? (calling to mind both the rose known as “American Beauty” and the disparaging phrase the “ugly American”). How and when the term “American” appears in a movie title, is it in any way a sign of the times and era in the context in which it is used?

The first film I thought of is “American Heart,” a movie from the early 1990s starring Jeff Bridges and Edward Furlong. Here an ex-con, newly released from prison and living in Seattle, struggles to make a life for himself and his teenage son who he barely remembers.

Another is “American Gangster” starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe circa 2007.

How about a 180 degree turn and the fairly lighthearted “The American President” (1995) made and released when former President Clinton was in office with actors Michael Douglas and Annette Benning?

And then spinning again, there is “American Gigolo” the 1980 drama with Richard Gere.

For sex comedy and silliness there is “American Pie” (1999) and its subsequent sequels.

While not a complete list, here are some additional movies with “American” in the title – for the most part the term is used as an adjective. In some instances there are movie titles where the term is a noun.

“American Beauty” (1999) – Directed by Sam Mendes. Numerous nominations and awards including oscars for best picture, best director and best actor.

“American Psycho” (1999) – Based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis. An early starring role for actor Christian Bale.

“American Graffiti” (1973) – Directed by George Lucas. Considered now something of a modern classic, this features a cast of actors who later became very well known. This film is believed to “capture the innocence of America before the Kennedy assassination and the Vietnam War”, depicting a typical night in the life of group of recent California high school graduates before their lives begin to change.

“An American Werewolf in London” (1980) Directed by John Landis. Darkly humorous movie that became a cult classic.

“The Quiet American” (based on the novel by Graham Greene) — This movie was made twice: In 1958 starring Audie Murphy and Michael Redgrave; More recently in 2002 starring Brendan Fraser and Michael Caine.

“An American in Paris” (1952) – Featuring the songs of George and Ira Gershwin, this musical is about the life and romances of an ex-GI (actor Gene Kelly) who remains in Paris after the war to study painting.

“American Splendor” (2003) – A movie that weaves both fact and fiction concerning the life and times of real life comic book writer, Cleveland, OH resident, Harvey Pekar. Actors Paul Giametti and Hope Davis star; the movie includes also narration by the real life Harvy Pekar.

“An American Tragedy” (1931) ; “A Place in the Sun” (1951) – These two films are based on the 1925 novel An American Tragedy by American writer, Thedore Dreiser (1871-1945). The story is based on a real life 1906 event.
Made 20 years apart, the 1951 version “A Place in the Sun” starring Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor and Shelley Winters, is the more well known. I’m not sure the reason why the book’s title is not used for this rendition — perhaps it is due to film title copyright concerns at that time. If not, perhaps the original book title An American Tragedy was considered too pessimistic for a time in America, the 1950s, when the country was booming with post-war optimism. Maybe upon deeper examination the ironic “A Place in the Sun” movie title lends the story poignancy. I wonder what Mr. Dreiser’s thoughts would’ve been on this.


Painting known as “American Progress” or “Spirit of the Frontier” by John Gast (1872)

 

“American Gothic,” a painting by Grant Wood (1930)

The Owl and the Pussycat

I

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea

In a beautiful pea-green boat,

They took some honey, and plenty of money,

Wrapped up in a five-pound note.

The Owl looked up to the stars above,

And sang to a small guitar,

“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,

What a beautiful Pussy you are,

You are,

You are!

What a beautiful Pussy you are!”
 

II

Pussy said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl!

How charmingly sweet you sing!

O let us be married! too long we have tarried:

But what shall we do for a ring?”

They sailed away, for a year and a day,

To the land where the Bong-Tree grows

And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood

With a ring at the end of his nose,

His nose,

His nose,

With a ring at the end of his nose.
 

III

“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling

Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.”

So they took it away, and were married next day

By the Turkey who lives on the hill.

They dined on mince, and slices of quince,

Which they ate with a runcible spoon;

And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,

They danced by the light of the moon,

The moon,

The moon,

They danced by the light of the moon.
 

–Edward Lear (English illustrator & poet, 1812-1888)