29 April 2012

Dreaming James Franco and Hart Crane

Last night, I managed to finally hunt down and rent a copy of Broken Tower, James Franco's art house, biopic picture about the poet Hart Crane.  I didn't have any expectations for the film to be good or bad, but I was excited to see the figure of Hart Crane get some screen time.  When was the last film about a modern queer American poet made?  (Not involving Franco.)

Hart Crane has been looming large in my consciousness the semester.  Reading Federico Garcia Lorca's Poet in New York, got me wondering if Crane and Lorca had ever met.  I found one account of that meeting involving whiskey and a room full of sailors.  I also found Philip Levine's poem "On the Meeting of Garcia Lorca and Hart Crane."  While his poem has it's merits, like heterosexual writers will, he veers away from the queer vitality of that meeting entirely.  The poem negates any chance of desire or tenderness between the poets themselves or the drunk sailors, "Let’s not be frivolous, let’s/ not pretend the two poets gave/each other wisdom or love or/ even a good time."  Why does Lorca and Crane having a good time have to be considered frivolous?

Levine's concern for the poem is imagining his relative in the room with them.  It's Levine's poem and his prerogative and a good poem for what it does.  But in the hands of a queer author, this same material could do more.

But back to my semester with Crane.  I wrote a draft of an elegy to him.  I revisited his poems.  I saw Broken Tower.  While the film wasn't entirely to my liking, I enjoyed a good portion of it.  Hearing Franco read Crane's work aloud was heartening.  It followed me into bed and worked its way into my dreams.  Not in the way you are thinking...

Instead, lines from Crane's poetry narrated my dreams.  They hovered over my head.  They broke apart and formed new combinations in the somnambulant air.  I have been wondering about how to reconcile certain aspects of my thesis and thanks to Franco and Crane, I think I may have an idea of how to shape it.  Crane's words acted as a numinous spirit, guiding me.  

As often happens, I have to do some of my writing while asleep or watching television or walking or  reading for hours on end.  The work of writing happens all the time, not just when I put the pen to the page.  

15 April 2012

Interview! Interview! This time I am interviewed!

Book lovers, please stop by poet and all around nice guy Eduardo C. Corral's blog LorcaLoca to see an interview about my chapbook Slow Depth.  It's strange to be on the other side of the interview table!


11 April 2012

How Contemporary Are You?

This week, I was reading the poems of the the poet Nazim Hikmet and was thoroughly surprised by his use of modern words where I wasn't expecting to find them.  Granted, my familiarity with modern poetry of the Middle East is limited, but when a reader compares the poems of Hikmet to that of Mahmoud Darwish, Hikmet comes off as very modern.  (This is not to say I like one or the other better!)

Hikmet writes about tank treads across unplowed fields "9-10P.M. Poems" and compares the sun's rays to nitric acid "Letters from Chankiri Prison."  It got me thinking.

I started to remember the poems of the writer Kenneth Fearing, whose "Aphrodite Metropolis" series anticipated using American pop culture in poetry by about 30 years.  Fearing's poems use words like "Pow!"  They encapsulate the 1930s and 1940s and this is their charm. Also their hindrance.  It is hard for a poem to remain "fresh" and timeless if a poem includes references to brand names from Chicago, 1938.

It also calls to mind a book of poems collected from Ancient Greece.  One or two of the poems made reference to plays in circulation at the time of the writer.  Unfortunately, none of those plays survived to the modern day.  The translator (with the best of intentions I am sure) substituted the titles of the original plays with comparable modern versions that an American reader would be familiar with.  For example, play X became "Gone With the Wind."  While I got the gist of the poem, the modern plays totally spoiled it for me.

So this is my writing dilemma of the week: Is it possible to include Facebook in a poem or Twitter in a novel and have it not feel entirely dated ten, fifteen, or fifty years in the future?  I realize there is no way to adequately answer this question, but I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions.

Follow up: What  "modern" or "contemporary" references have you found in your own reading that seem entirely dated now? 


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