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Poetry Crush (Clean Slate) Autumn Writing Playlist

14 Sep


Fuck that summer. Let’s forget it even happened. Here is a Poetry Crush (clean slate) autumn writing playlist.

Gwendolyn Brooks – Beverly Hills, Chicago
Lana Del Rey – Ride
Foxygen – How Can You Really
The Strokes – One Way Trigger
ELEL – 40 Watt
Sun Kil Moon – I Know It’s Pathetic But That Was the Greatest Night of My Life
Maps – To the Sky
The Strokes – Chances
Lorde – Team
Zola Jesus – Dangerous Days
Cibo Matto – MFN 
Karen O – Ooo
Lana Del Rey – Fucked My Way Up To The Top
The National – Hard To Find
Gwendolyn Brooks – Kitchenette


I’m always struck by the restraint in this poem by Gwendolyn Brooks. Instead of using divisive language about racial and economic injustice, which is easy to do and which most of us do… with messages that will only reach people who think exactly the way we do and box out people who don’t…. Brooks uses supreme clarity, restraint and craft to speak more powerfully and in ways that will never leave you.  She can reach any person of any lack or abundance of privilege in any time period walking down any street in the world.

Beverly Hills, Chicago

The dry brown coughing beneath their feet,
(Only a while, for the handyman is on his way)
These people walk their golden gardens.
We say ourselves fortunate to be driving by today.

That we may look at them, in their gardens where
The summer ripeness rots. But not raggedly.
Even the leaves fall down in lovelier patterns here.
And the refuse, the refuse is a neat brilliancy.

When they flow sweetly into their houses
With softness and slowness touched by that everlasting gold,
We know what they go to. To tea. But that does not mean
They will throw some little black dots into some water and add sugar and the juice of the
cheapest lemons that are sold,

While downstairs that woman’s vague phonograph bleats, “Knock me a kiss.”
And the living all to be made again in the sweatingest physical manner
Tomorrow….Not that anybody is saying that these people have no trouble.
Merely that it is trouble with a gold-flecked beautiful banner.

Nobody is saying that these people do not ultimately cease to be. And
Sometimes their passings are even more painful than ours.
It is just that so often they live till their hair is white.
They make excellent corpses, among the expensive flowers….

Nobody is furious. Nobody hates these people.
At least, nobody driving by in this car.
It is only natural, however, that it should occur to us
How much more fortunate they are than we are.

It is only natural that we should look and look
At their wood and brick and stone
And think, while a breath of pine blows,
How different these are from our own.

We do not want them to have less.
But it is only natural that we should think we have not enough.
We drive on, we drive on.
When we speak to each other our voices are a little gruff.


The lyrics to this Sun Kil Moon song remind me of my long-ago teenage Hungarian summer boyfriend. Marcel, Marcel, where are you now?

I know it’s pathetic but that was the greatest night

It was backstage in Moscow late one night
We shared a cigarette, a kiss goodbye
Her name was Cayenne, so young and soft
Her hands trembled badly, her eyes trailed off
To bottles and objects around the room
My backup guitar, a tray of food

We didn’t have very much to say
She said that she’d come from some other place
A town called Troyskirt, maybe Troysworth
I was pretty distracted packing my stuff
But I did make a point to ask her to stay
But she said she had friends that she had to go see

Later that summer I picked up my mail
She sent me a letter with a touching detail
“I used up my minutes calling hotels
To find you that night but to no avail”
“I know it’s pathetic,” she continued to write,
“But that was the greatest night of my life.”

Alice Guy-Blanche

16 Feb

A little girl named Trixie gets an idea and sneaks out of her bed– She goes outside with some string to tie the leaves back onto the trees.  Earlier that day, her mother told her that the doctor said her sister who was sick in bed with consumption, wouldn’t live to see “the last leaves fall from the trees.”  So Trixie tries to keep the leaves from falling off the trees with string to save her sister.  This is the plot of Falling Leaves – a 1912 film created by Alice Guy Blanche – the first female director – pretty poetic stuff for a 1912 film.  In fact, she was one of the first directors, male or female,  to use film in a narrative form.  She made over 300 films in her career and made great contributions to the language and syntax of narrative film.

Here’s an excerpt of my favorite scene from Falling Leaves.   Orson Welles must have been thinking of this scene when he filmed the Rosebud scene through the window.

Charlie Chaplin

2 Jan

Poetry & comedy collide in the bread roll ballet scene in Charlie Chaplin’s Gold Rush (1925)

Magnolia Frogstorm

29 Oct

My cat & I are riding out this full moon/high tide/tropical hurricane/snowstorm/floodsurge/clusterfuck in my ground floor brooklyn apartment which is one block from the mandatory evacuation zone.  It’s hard not to think of a film I re-watched this week.  An old favorite that I hadn’t seen in years — Magnolia.

The reason I am thinking of Magnolia is because I have 2 skylights in my ceiling and in the 2 months I’ve lived here, there have been 2 local tornadoes and now this storm and each time,  when the rain/hail & whatnot hit the skylights, it’s a different sound than rain.  It’s the thump of the Magnolia frog storm.

Magnolia is a story about the ways & degrees in which we hurt, forgive and judge each other and it is executed with a robust cast whose lives intermingle not unlike Robert Altman’s Short Cuts which co-mingles Raymond Carver’s short stories– & culminates with not frogs but an earthquake that is experienced by the vast cast.  (Also in common with these 2 films – Juliana Moore.  Here she is in Short Cuts.  Here she is in Magnolia.)  That and Tom Cruise as Frank T. J. Makey are some of my favorite moments in the past couple decades of film.

The conscience of the film is John C. Reilly who plays good cop Jim Kurring — (also memorable filmmaking – this first date scene ) Reilly’s character is a good cop who is foolish in his job (he loses his gun)  but good in that he earnestly tries to be a good person:


 …alot of people think this is just a job that you go to…..take a lunch hour, the jobs over, something like that. But…it’s a 24 hour deal…no two ways about it….and what most people don’t see: Just How Hard It Is To Do The Right Thing. (beat) People think if I make a judgment call that it’s a judgment on them…but that’s not what I do and that’s not what should be done…I have to take everything and play it as it lays. Sometimes people need a little help. Sometimes people need to be forgiven and sometimes they need to go to jail. And that’s a very tricky thing on my part…making that call…the law is the law and heck if I’m gonna break it…but you can forgive someone….? Well, that’s the tough part….What Do We Forgive? Tough part of the job…..tough part of walking down the street…


Francois Truffaut

21 Sep

This movie makes me happy.  Just thinking about the fact that it exists makes me happy.  Besides the gift of marvelous laughing fits — you can really see where Wes Anderson and Robert Altman get their best moves.

Jean-Luc Godard

18 Sep

Can’t get this prologue to Godard’s Contempt out of my mind:

Spoken credits – love it!  The boom mic as the actor and camera team (in profile) approach the viewer –love it! But it’s the way in which it transitions, without missing a beat–  the turn of the camera onto the viewer with these lines is unexpected and thrilling – “The cinema,” said Andre Bazin, “substitutes for our gaze– a world more in harmony with our desires.”   Leading to the intimate bedroom scene with use of colored filters:   “I love you totally, tenderly, tragically.”  It’s a fascinating progression.

2 Augusts

10 Jul

In mid July, my mind is of 2 Augusts:   August Strindberg & Auguste Rodin

AUGUST STRINDBERG (self portrait!)

The below passage is from my underlined copy from college- (a message from me then to me now?)  I was very passionate about Strindberg in college– made a pilgrimage to his dingy apartment in Stockholm, Sweden to see where all the magic happened.  I got the feeling no one cared too much about him (no one except Igmar Bergman &  me) – I was the only one there.


MME. X: Our acquaintance has been so queer. When I saw you for the first time I was afraid of you, so afraid that I didn’t dare let you out of my sight; no matter when or where, I always found myself near you–I didn’t dare have you for an enemy so I became your friend. But there was always discord when you came to our house, Because I saw that my husband couldn’t endure you, and the whole thing seemed as awry to me as an ill-fitting gown–and I did all I could to make him friendly toward you, but with no success until you became engaged. Then came a violent friendship between you, so that it looked all at once as though you both dared show your real feelings only when you were secure–and then–how was it later? I didn’t get jealous–strange to say! And I remember at the christening, when you acted as godmother, I made him kiss you–he did so, and you became so confused–as it were; I didn’t notice it then–didn’t think about it later, either–have never thought about it until–now! [Rises suddenly] Why are you silent? You haven’t said a word this whole time, but you have let me go on talking! You have sat there, and your eyes have reeled out at me all these thoughts which lay like raw silk in its cocoon–thoughts–suspicious thoughts, perhaps. Why did you break your engagement? Why do you never come to our house any more? Why won’t you come to see us tonight? [Mlle. Y appears as if about to speak] You needn’t speak–I understand it all! It was because–and because–yes! Yes, now all the accounts balance. That’s it. I won’t sit at the same table with you. That’s the reason I had to embroider tulips–which I hate–on his slippers, because you are fond of tulips; that’s why we go to Lake Mälarn in the summer, because you don’t like salt water; that’s why my boy is named Eskil–because it’s your father’s name; that’s why I wear your clothes, read your authors, eat your favorite dishes, drink your drinks–that’s why–oh–my God–it’s terrible. Everything. Everything came from you to me. Your soul crept into mine, like a worm into an apple, ate and ate, bored and bored, until nothing was left but the rind and a little black dust within. I wanted to get away from you, but I couldn’t; you lay like a snake and charmed me with your black eyes; I felt that when I lifted my wings they only dragged me down; I lay in the water with bound feet, and the stronger I strove to keep up the deeper I worked myself down–until I sank to the bottom, where you lay like a giant crab to clutch me in your claws–and there I am lying now.

AUGUSTE RODIN (& I only mean his work when he was under the influence of Camille Claudel)  Rodin says — Sculpture is the art of the hole and the lump. I am attempting to apply this to writing.