Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Sunday 27 February 2011



File:Lady from Shanghai trailer hayworth2.JPG

Rita Hayworth in Lady from Shanghai, 1947: screenshot from film trailer

We dwell in our plush gumstuck viewing thrones.
Buck's still caught on that log when the house lights come
Up. Shocked by the return of a real life
We were doing very well without, thank you,
We recognize that image was a white lie,

With no more substance than a dream,
No more lasting than the gift by which we breathe,
No more lasting, that is, than itself.
And as in waking from the dream too soon
One forgets its truths, we turn back into lumps,

Resigned to our several lump personae
Washed up amid alien popcorn boxes,
Moving out past velvety chains into
Cool silks of the night, Rita Hayworth lost,
Stars widening their vast indifferent gaze.

File:Lady from Shanghai trailer hayworth1.JPG

Rita Hayworth in Lady from Shanghai, 1947: screenshot from film trailer

In Your Dreams


Children in front of movie theatre, Alpine, Texas
: photo by Russell Lee, May 1939

Shoveling snow away from the movie entrance, Chilicothe, Ohio: photo by Arthur Rothstein, February 1940

Movie theatre, Elkins, West Virginia: photo by John Vachon, June 1939

Children looking at movie poster in front of theatre
, Saturday, Steele, Missouri: photo by Russell Lee, August 1938

Saturday afternoon movie crowd, North Platte, Nebraska
: photo by John Vachon, October 1938

Flags of the confederacy displayed at movie house on Lincoln's birthday, Winchester, Virginia: photo by Arthur Rothstein, February 1940

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

Children at a movie house on Saturday, Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania: photo by Jack Delano, January 1941

Movie theatre, Elkins, West Virginia: photo by John Vachon, June 1939

Movie theatre, Moore Haven, Florida
: photo by Marion Post Wolcott, January, 1939

Mexican man in front of movie theatre, San Antonio, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, March 1939

Photos from Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress

Cooper and Bogart: The Hero (Manny Farber)


Gary Cooper in The Virginian
(1929): film poster

The older-fashioned hero is a long-bodied, long-armed man whose air is one of troubled silence, and who grew up in the bleaker parts of the country to be shy, honest and not given to excesses. He doesn't seek success, but because he is a physical genius he reaches the hero class and performs there as a good honest man would. He is probably the most likable person to see winning so many rewards, especially when his person is that of Gary Cooper (who had as much to do with shaping this movie personality as anyone else), Jimmy Stewart or Henry Fonda. His career, which the earliest pioneer first hacked out and which Hemingway revived by opening new worlds for him to conquer, is apt to be an untroubled one of physical superiority; but the faint tinge of tragedy latent in his personality sometimes leads at the end of the picture to the fact that he or his wife will die or that he must leave her in some far-off desert oasis, singing in a cabaret, to prove that the twain of East and West cannot meet for very long. Though he seems made for lonely nights out on the range, the picture of his love life is always one of wholesome, perfect physical compatibility, and he is a conscientious, non-professional lover. He is seldom bothered about money, since he works outside the civilized world of business, and his few excursions into that world are in the roles of philanthropist or savior ("Mr. Deeds," "Mr. Smith").

File:For Whom The Bell Tolls trailer.jpg

Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper in
For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943): screenshot from film trailer

The hero played by Mr. Bogart, which grew out of the gangster film and Dashiell Hammett detective novels, looks as though he had been knocked around daily and had spent his week-ends drinking himself unconscious in the back rooms of saloons. His favorite grimace is a hateful pulling back of the lips from his clenched teeth, and when his lips are together he seems to be holding back a mouthful of blood. The people he acts badly toward and spends his movie life exposing as fools are mainly underworld characters like gangsters, cabaret owners and dance-hall girls (and the mayor whom he puts into office every year). Everything he does carries conflicting quantities of hatred and love, as though he felt you had just stepped on his face but hadn't meant it. His love life is one in which the girl isn't even a junior partner in the concern, his feeling about life is that it is a dog kennel, and he believes completely in the power of the money which he steals or works everyone else's fingers to the bone to earn. He is the soured half of the American dream, which believes that if you are good, honest and persevering, you will win the kewpie doll.

File:Humphrey Bogart in The Petrified Forest film trailer.jpg

Humphrey Bogart in The Petrified Forest
(1936): cropped screenshot from film trailer

Manny Farber: The Hero (excerpt), from The New Republic, 18 October 1943, in Farber on Film: The Complete Film Writings of Manny Farber, 2009

Frank O'Hara: Written in the Sand at Water Island and Remembered (Little Elegy for James Dean)


James Byron Dean (8 February 1931-30 September 1955): studio publicity still, c. 1955

James Dean
made in USA
eager to be everything
stopped short

Do we know what
excellence is? it's
all in this world
not to be executed

File:James Dean in East of Eden trailer 2.jpg

James Dean as Cal in East of Eden, 1955: cropped screenshot in trailer for the film: photo by Sir James, 9 March 2010

Frank O'Hara: Written in the Sand at Water Island and Remembered, 9 October 1955, from Four Little Elegies in Collected Poems, 1971

Saturday 26 February 2011

Frank O'Hara: To the Film Industry in Crisis


Gloria Swanson in The Great Moment (1921), film poster

Not you, lean quarterlies and swarthy periodicals

with your studious incursions toward the pomposity of ants,

nor you, experimental theatre in which Emotive Fruition

is wedding Poetic Insight perpetually, nor you,

promenading Grand Opera, obvious as an ear (though you

are close to my heart), but you, Motion Picture Industry,

it’s you I love!

In times of crisis, we must all decide again and again whom we love.

And give credit where it’s due: not to my starched nurse, who taught me

how to be bad and not bad rather than good (and has lately availed

herself of this information), not to the Catholic Church

which is at best an oversolemn introduction to cosmic entertainment,

not to the American Legion, which hates everybody, but to you,

glorious Silver Screen, tragic Technicolor, amorous Cinemascope,

stretching Vistavision and startling Stereophonic Sound, with all

your heavenly dimensions and reverberations and iconoclasms! To

Richard Bartelhmess as the "tol'able boy" barefoot and in pants,

Jeanette MacDonald of the flaming hair and lips and long, long neck,

Sue Carroll as she sits for eternity on the damaged fender of a car

and smiles, Ginger Rogers with her pageboy bob like a sausage

on her shuffling shoulders, peach-melba-voiced Fred Astaire of the feet,

Eric von Stroheim, the seducer of mountain climbers' gasping spouses,

the Tarzans, each and every one of you (I cannot bring myself to prefer

Johnny Weissmuller to Lex Barker, I cannot!), Mae West in a furry sled,

her bordello radiance and bland remarks, Rudolph Valentino of the moon,

its crushing passions and moonlike, too, the gentle Norma Shearer,

Miriam Hopkins dropping her champagne glass off Joel McCrea's yacht

and crying into the dappled sea, Clark Gable rescuing Gene Tierney

from Russia and Allan Jones rescuing Kitty Carlisle from Harpo Marx,

Cornel Wilde coughing blood on the piano keys while Merle Oberon berates,

Marilyn Monroe in her little spike heels reeling through Niagara Falls,

Joseph Cotten puzzling and Orson Welles puzzled and Dolores del Rio

eating orchids for lunch and breaking mirrors, Gloria Swanson reclining,

and Jean Harlow reclining and wiggling, and Alice Faye reclining

and wiggling and singing, Myrna Loy being calm and wise, William Powell

in his stunning urbanity, Elizabeth Taylor blossoming, yes, to you

and to all you others, the great, the near-great, the featured, the extras

who pass quickly and return in dreams saying your one or two lines,

my love!

Long may you illumine spaces with your marvelous appearances, delays

and enunciations, and may the money of the world glitteringly cover you

as you rest after a long day under the klieg lights with your faces

in packs for our edification, the way the clouds come often at night

but the heavens operate on the star system. It is a divine precedent

you perpetuate! Roll on, wheels of celluloid, as the great earth rolls on!


Gloria Swanson in Sadie Thompson (1928), lobby card

Rudolph Valentino in
The Sheik (1926), film poster

Rudolph Valentino in
Son of the Sheik (1926), film poster

Rudolph Valentino in Son of the Sheik (1926), film poster

Frank O'Hara: To the Film Industry in Crisis, 15 November 1955, from Meditations in an Emergency, 1957 (ms. draft has "mother" for "starched nurse", line 9)

Robert Duncan: Salvages: An Evening Piece



A plate in light upon a table is not a plate of hunger. Coins on the table have their own innocent glimmer. Everything about coins we obliterate in use and urgency. How lovely the silver dull disk glimmer is. Shells without remorse. The rubd antique nickle dated 1939 Liberty portrait relief of Jefferson and, beyond, darkend with use, a grimy patina beautiful 1929 buffalo head nickle.


Bottles. An aluminum tea pot with wicker handle. A remnant length of Italian shawl worn by my grandmother in the 80s, this too, increasing as beauty in dimness. The reds, ochres, blacks and once perhaps almost white natural cotton yellowd. The wearing, the long use, the discoloring. It would be becoming to beauty in words worn out. As a poetry to be discolord.

File:Mercury dime.jpg

It is not the age it is the wearing, it is the reversion of the thing from its values. One nickle, then two dimes brighter, a newness, fresh-minted (yet, when I look -- in god we trust -- it is 1944, the god is Mercury with winged helmet; the other, a bust of Deus Roosevelt roman style with sagging chin and stuck-up defiant nondescript head -- this is 1947 -- in god we trust). Then two nickles, the grimy ones. One shiny fifty cent piece above. (Beyond) a fourth nickle showing Monticello E Pluribus Unum.

File:War Nickle.jpg

This mere ninety cents is more, is all piece by piece in art, as they are here, pieces of glimmer as rare as the mysterious chalice with faces and figures on the casting from the greek house and rider.

File:House key.jpg

Notes on use and values.

.....Then the litter. The gleams of silver and nickle seen as coins of light in the litter. A key, another gleam, an ancient evocation, a coin-silver spoon, a chipt cheap cup-shaped cup with a grey glaze without the imperfections of beauty beautiful because it is a cup. A large brown glass bottle of vitamins that look like beans. Papers. A letter from a friend, a program in my own script black and definite (defiant) arranged over the white paper. Matches. An envelope.


In the late hour left after the history of the day, taken with a will before bedtime -- how transformd the world is! The silence almost reaches us in which an original, all that has been left behind, tosst about, of us remains.

Beautiful litter with thy gleam and glimmers, thy wastes and remains! The tide of our purpose has gone back into itself, into its own counsels. And it is the beauty of where we have been living that is the beauty of the hour.

This post dedicated to Aram Saroyan

Salvages: An Evening Piece
: Robert Duncan, 1950 (from A Book of Resemblances, 1950

Indian Head nickel (obverse): designed by James Earle Fraser, 1913: image by Einar Einarsson Kvaran, 2005
Buffalo Head nickel (reverse): designed and by James Earle Fraser, 1913: image by Einar Einarsson Kvaran, 2005
Composite image of 1936 Winged Liberty Head (Mercury) dime, designed by Adolph A. Weinman, 1915 (obverse image based on portrait of Wallace Stevens's wife Elsie Kachel Stevens): original obverse image by Bobby 131313, 2006; composite image by Cholmes75, 2006
WW II period US Liberty Head nickel (Monticello/reverse side), designed and engraved by Felix Schlag,1938: image by Cholmes75, 2006
House key: photo by Linuxerist, 2006
Spoon: photo by Ari Abitbol, 2008
Street Item: Garbage, Berkeley: photo by Dorothea Lange, 1945 (Dorothea Lange Collection, Oakland Museum of California)

Friday 25 February 2011

James Boswell: Samuel Johnson's Cat Hodge



Statue of Samuel Johnson's cat Hodge in the courtyard outside Johnson's house, 17 Gough Square, London: photo by Michael K. Westlake, 2006 (via Dr. Johnson's Rambler)

Nor would it be just, under this head, to omit the fondness which he showed for animals which he had taken under his protection. I never shall forget the indulgence with which he treated Hodge, his cat: for whom he himself used to go out and buy oysters, lest the servants having that trouble should take a dislike to the poor creature. I am, unluckily, one of those who have an antipathy to a cat, so that I am uneasy when in the room with one; and I own, I frequently suffered a good deal from the presence of this same Hodge. I recollect him one day scrambling up Dr. Johnson's breast, apparently with much satisfaction, while my friend smiling and half-whistling, rubbed down his back, and pulled him by the tail; and when I observed he was a fine cat, saying, 'Why yes, Sir, but I have had cats whom I liked better than this;' and then as if perceiving Hodge to be out of countenance, adding, 'but he is a very fine cat, a very fine cat indeed.'

This reminds me of the ludicrous account which he gave Mr. Langton, of the despicable state of a young Gentleman of good family. 'Sir, when I heard of him last, he was running about town shooting cats.' And then in a sort of kindly reverie, he bethought himself of his own favourite cat, and said, 'But Hodge shan't be shot; no, no, Hodge shall not be shot.'


Hodge keeping watch: photo by Michael K. Westlake, 2006 (via Dr. Johnson's Rambler)

James Boswell: Life of Johnson, entry for 23 March 1783 (Johnson aetat 74)

Ezra Pound's Hodge-Podge (Robert Duncan to H.D.)


The Feast of St. Nicholas: Jan Steen, 1663-1665 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)

The very obstruction, the contention within the spirit of Pound seems to me an act of the mystery Poetry, the act shows forth under its own orders. Cantos like 90 or 91 in the Rock Drills

Light compenetrans of the spirits

Where an Aphrodite that is creptallive light, a cluster of refractions appears I take it as heritage unmixed.

And in Thrones these are the gists:

"The Temple (hieron) is not for sale"

Getting the feel of it, his soul. . .
where the rime shows the mind has been brought into melody -- and

"Food is the root.
......Feed the people."

How odd that a man shld start about from an M.A., all his life an instructor, or professor manqué (as Dante was an ambassador manqué), and come into the genius of Poetry, into the Core of the Making. It did occur to me that I would believe too readily that the divine might keep company with publicans and whores, but find it hard to believe the divine could keep company with professors and Pharisees.

The professor shows up more and more. He wants to fraternize with his students and tries slang in his discourse: "grand-dad" -- "gramp," "bumbd off," fussed about hair-cuts," "that louse G burnt the Palatine

...........and messed up the music
to speak clearly

..ἀπληστία, insatiate κακουργία
....... this is not a mere stunt to lay fines is found in hodge-podge.

There is in the Cantos themselves, in the poetics of Pound, a music, a hodge-podge. May there be a hint of magic in this stew. Before the word was in cookery, the O.E.D. tells us: it may have had to do with the shaking of things together in a pot of other than culinary purposes. (I went to look it [up] in the O.E.D. bec[au]se I suspected a fairy or sprite in Hodge; the nearest was Hodge-poker who was a devil or hob-goblin.)

I think I see now what I am after here. We follow the melody usually as poets, discovering what rimes, along an organization of feeling that is counterpart of the musician's melodic sense. But there is an urgency (is the [κακουργία?] not only a pun here but an etymology) in the genius of our time to break up the mode itself, dissolving there discords [in] the old scale and trying to set once disparate elements into a new harmonia. Pound's recalcitrant off-notes then -- if we think of this greater scale of all things toward which we are set to work -- is [sic] not only a personal insistence but also a demonstration of the genius.

You askd in your last letter your "Why do you write?" but the question you then noted was rhetorical. But why, the what is happening in Pound's work, is as much the difficulty as the ease it presents.

The parrot cage: Jan Steen, 1663-1665 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)

Robert Duncan to H.D., excerpt from private letter, 1 October 1960, in A Great Admiration: H.D./Robert Duncan: Correspondence 1950-1961, 1992; Pound passage in inset quotation from Canto XCVI, in Thrones de los Cantares XCVI-CIX

Thursday 24 February 2011

Ezra Pound: A Paradise Lost (Notes for Canto CXX)


Rock formation sculpted by wind erosion, Altiplano, Bolivia:
photo by Thomas Wilken, 2005

I have tried to write Paradise

Do not move
...Let the wind speak
.........that is paradise.

Let the Gods forgive what I
.........have made
Let those I love try to forgive
.........what I have made.

Lightning and lava flows over Eyjafjallajokull: photos by Olivier Vandeginste, Sunday 18 April 2010

Ezra Pound: Notes for Canto CXX, c. 1960

Emily Jane Brontë: Remembrance


Samotnia Shelter, Karpacz, Karkonosze, Poland: photo by Klapi, 2006

Cold in the earth—and the deep snow piled above thee,
Far, far removed, cold in the dreary grave!
Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee,
Sever'd at last by Time's all-severing wave?

Now, when alone, do my thoughts no longer hover
Over the mountains, on that northern shore,
Resting their wings where heath and fern-leaves cover
Thy noble heart for ever, ever more?

Cold in the earth—and fifteen wild Decembers
From those brown hills have melted into spring:
Faithful, indeed, is the spirit that remembers
After such years of change and suffering!

German soldiers killed at Stalingrad: photo by USSR Ministry of Information, February 1943 (via Contemporary Military Historian)

Emily Jane Brontë (1818-1848): from Remembrance

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Natural History


Black Leopard, Brookfield Zoo, Chicago
: poster by Carken for Federal Art Project, 1936 (Works Projects Administration Poster Collection, Library of Congress)

Polar Bear, Brookfield Zoo, Chicago: poster by Carken for Federal Art Project, 1936 (Works Projects Administration Poster Collection, Library of Congress)

Hippopotamus, Brookfield Zoo, Chicago
: poster by Mildred Waltrip for Federal Art Project, 1936 (Works Projects Administration Poster Collection, Library of Congress)

Panda, Brookfield Zoo, Chicago: poster by Frank W. Long for Federal Art Project, 1936 (Works Projects Administration Poster Collection, Library of Congress)

Hippopotamus, Philadelphia Zoo
: poster by Louise Welish for Federal Art Project, 1936/1937 (Works Projects Administration Poster Collection, Library of Congress)

Elephant, Philadelphia Zoo
: poster by Hugh Stevenson for Federal Art Project, 1936/1937 (Works Projects Administration Poster Collection, Library of Congress)

Penguins, Philadelphia Zoo: poster by Louise Welish for Federal Art Project, 1936/1937 (Works Projects Administration Poster Collection, Library of Congress)

Herons, Philadelphia Zoo
: poster by Louise Welish for Federal Art Project, 1936/1937 (Works Projects Administration Poster Collection, Library of Congress)

Edward Lear: Cold are the crabs


Macrocercus aracanga [now Ara macao] (Red and Yellow Maccaw)

Cold are the crabs that crawl on yonder hills,
Colder the cucumbers that grow beneath,
And colder still the brazen chops that wreathe
The tedious gloom of philosophic pills!
For when the tardy film of nectar fills
The simple bowls of demons and of men,
There lurks the feeble mouse, the homely hen,
And there the porcupine with all her quills.
Yet much remains -- to weave a solemn strain
That lingering sadly -- slowly dies away,
Daily departing with departing day
A pea-green gamut on a distant plain
When wily walrusses in congresses meet --
Such such is life --

Plyctolophus leadbetteri (Leadbetter's Cockatoo)

Macrocinthus hyacinthus (Hyacinthine Maccaw)

Psittacula kuhlii (Kuhl's Parrakeet)

Trichoglossus rubritorquis (Scarlet-collared Parrakeet)

Palaeornis rosaceus (Roseate Parrakeet)

Palaeornis novae-hollandiae (New Holland Parrakeet)

Platycercus pileatus (Red-capped Parrakeet)

Platycercus pileatus (Red-capped Parrakeet)

Platycercus barnardi (Barnard's Parrakeet)

Platycercus baueri (Bauer's Parrakeet)

Psittacara patagonica (Patagonian Parrakeet-Maccaw)

Platycercus tabuensis (Tabuan Parrakeet)

Edward Lear (1818-1888): Illustrations of the Family of Ptsittacidae, or Parrots, 1830 (images via uw digital collections)


Edward Lear self-portrait
, illustrating a real incident in which he had encountered a stranger who claimed that "Edward Lear" was merely a pseudonym; Lear (on the right) is showing the stranger (left) the inside of his hat, with his name in the lining
: Edward Lear (1812-1888), n.d., from Edward Lear's Nonsense Omnibus, 1943

Edward Lear: Cold are the crabs, n.d., Houghton Library ms. [perhaps unfinished -- ?]; opening line parodies Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812-1818), Canto II, xii, 3: 'Cold as the crags upon his native coast'; text from The Complete Verse and Other Nonsense, 2001