Poetry 4 Free Update

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Today I wrote my 50th poem in my Poetry 4 Free project. It’s been great fun so far; despite the heavy mocking from my coworkers and the obvious & unspoken doubtfulness from certain folks I know, it has fulfilled, at least in part, all of the goals I had in mind when I started this back in April.

I’m definitely less afraid to write. I have become much better at taking a topic and starting to write on it immediately. I think the poems I produce in 5 – 10 minutes could be deemed fair for that time frame. I’ve gotten into a few ruts though, and have been trying to change up my methods in order to keep things fresh. I don’t want to be a poem factory, so the repetition is a bad from which I am attempting to draw some good.

I received open-​armed permission from the wonderful folks at the Cleveland Public Library to set up every Friday in the Eastman Reading Garden, and post-​facto benediction from the lady who manages Star Plaza for Playhouse Square Development. I didn’t realize it wasn’t a public park.

Lots of people give the side-​eye, fewer stop for a poem, and, it seems, a large majority of the folks that do stop are interested in telling a story about the dude with the hand-​painted sign and a typewriter. The first was a post on Captured Cleveland. Dan Moulthrop from Civic Commons stopped by for a poem and tweeted about it. A fellow writing for Edible Cleveland wanted to put a blurb about me in an article on Walnut Wednesdays. A collage artist asked to use my poem & photo in one of her works. My friend David Jurca even stopped by and took some video one day. Another day, another fellow did so.

I’ve had several folks ask for poems as gifts, and a few return to tell me how much the poem was appreciated. I’ve had sad and poignant requests from estranged husbands, sweet requests from loving wives, silly requests and challenging ones. I’ve written about everything from mortality to anal bleaching. I once accepted a silver dime as a tip, and I still feel vaguely guilty about that.

I’m having a blast, even on days when I get skunked. But I’m also starting to sense that the current status quo isn’t as fulfilling as it once was. I may need fresh ground to cover (I plan on setting up shop in Lincoln Park during the Arts in August events), or I may just be feeling too at ease with the paradigm. I’m open to suggestions about how to shuffle the project in different ways, and I’m very interested in further ways that I can make it less about me. One thing I need to do is write poetry outside of this project. I’ve been very prolific for me, but the practice has resulted in little actual poetry game time. Another change to be conscious of.

You can follow this project on Twitter @Poetry4Free; find out where I’ll be and stop by for a poem. I hope you will.


Wednesday, 11 July 2012

A part of this viewing list: Criterion Collection Spine #267: Akira Kurosawa’s Kagemusha.


This is a very thought-​provoking film. The story could have easily been turned into farce but for the unbearable tension that Shingen’s double is forced to shoulder in maintaining the pretense that he actually is the ruler, while the real Shingen molders at the bottom of a lake. The lengths that “his” retainers go to uphold the illusion of “his” rule becomes a clear testament to the necessity of stable governance, but also suggests that it is misguided to put that trust in a specific person, rather than the position itself.

Shingen is such a strong ruler that that the mere rumor of his death brings a gleam into the eye of his antagonists, and the dashing of that rumor puts their tails back between their legs. His wisdom is such that his last orders preserve his realm for 3 years after his death, before his impulsive and disowned son Katsuyori provides the puddding-​proof that line-​of-​descent preservation of a country often pays a horrible price. Though the majority of the film keeps us with the ruling classes, the fact that Shingen’s double is a petty thief saved from crucifixion always keeps the poor common Japanese peasantry “in the room”. The rampant slaughter at the end of the film is therefore much more poignant, and a worse nightmare than anything the thief-​turned-​Shingen has dreamed for the last three years of his life.

Though this thief, is, ostensibly, the kagemusha, the true shadow warrior is the dead Shingen, who was farsighted and clever enough to know how his legacy would crumble after his death if his preparations and orders were not followed. A man that comes along once in a century, but realms are meant to last longer than a single ruler.

Incidentally, this movie got me itching to play that old 8 bit Nintendo turn-​based strategy and resource-​management game Shingen The Ruler.

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold

A part of this viewing listCriterion Collection Spine #452: Martin Ritt’s The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.

If only all spy movies were along these lines. Expertly acted, with a tight plot and tighter script, the intricacies inexorably unwind throughout the movie. Layers within layers with layers of plotting, no gizmos, no flashbang fight sequences, just long-​term, exceptional planning and gutsy hard work. Richard Burton steals the show as the eponymous spy, Alec Leamas, and the intensity with which he engages in the character he plays carries the film through the few scenes that aren’t quite up to snuff with the rest of the film.

The most important and most challenging test for Burton’s acting is the way in which he must simultaneously hide and convey Leamas’s growing love for a commie librarian and maintain the ruse of disgruntled spy in order to attract his commie enemies. As the film plays out, the rampant suspicions of the East Germans slowly disintegrate this façade until the house of cards seemingly collapses, mixaphorically speaking. The ensuing escape sequence fairly seethes with the desperation of a cornered animal, and the confrontation at the Berlin Wall frankly admits to a belief that cynical amorality trumps authentic emotion. For Leamas, however, coming in from the cold is less about retirement, and more about the thawing of emotion that takes place within his own soul.

Boudu Saved From Drowning

Sunday, 8 July 2012

A part of this viewing listCriterion Collection Spine #305: Jean Renoir’s Boudu Saved From Drowning.

I have relatively large, completely personal issues with old French comedy. À nous la liberté is pretty much the only old French comedy I’ve ever really liked. I think it boils down to a feeling that comedies of this stripe are constantly winking at the viewer, nudge nudging. Say NO MORE! The laugh track serves the purpose more subtly in these modern times, but in Boudu we get characters who laugh at their own jokes. Tres gauche. Not my style.

Boudu the bum is basically the French version of Chaplin’s. A bit more too, as he’s a pretty generic holy fool and megaphone through which Renoir mocks the bourgeoisie. And, due to its notorious difficultly, the satire falls flat for me here and becomes, as aforementioned, mere mockery. The bourgeois mentality is bluntly served up in dialogue that’s basically shit no one ever says. Perhaps the subtitling loses some nuance, but judging by the deliberate, blunt trauma chaos that Boudu inflicts upon all and sundry with whom he comes into contact, Renoir wasn’t that concerned with subtlety in the first place.

Basically no one comes off well; even at the end of the film when Renoir could have redeemed, and very much should have redeemed Boudu, (at least by having his dog return to him), all that occurs is a stumbling exit, which, though appropriate for a bum, doesn’t provide much closure in any other regard.

Kitten Killer

Sunday morning:
brake lights flash, hold, then
flicker, cars
flank, accelerate 
down Scranton Avenue around
a wet ball of
lint, twitching in
a puddled gutter, erratically
jerk in grey and
white, wet by the curb. I pull
over, and get to the
kitten just before
the children.

"Stay away!" I say. "You don't want to
see this." This being,
the hot breathing
body, the head blood diluting in
a dirty puddle, the tiny hind paw
digging furiously at
air. I touch its head, half-
flattened, and feel the shattered
shell of skull
slide inside and
up my arm and
into an ache in
my teeth.

I turn the shuddered bones
slightly, this skein of spirit in
my hands, knit
then raveled, take its
head in hand
press nose and
mouth into the half
inch of red water swirling
about ebon ears and silver fur. Press
firmly. A new gush of blood, the 
tiny claws find purchase along
the inside of my
I am here for it,

to the last,
to the frightful moment of
passage, even in this tiny
kitten the fury of life
hopes, even as I
take it.

Sid and Nancy

Sunday, 1 July 2012

A part of this viewing listCriterion Collection Spine #20: Alex Cox’s Sid and Nancy.

I’m not a fan of this biopic about Sid Vicious, Nancy Spungen and their tragic, drug-​fueled, destructive relationship. The series of elliptical, tangential vignettes of key moments in their life together does well to simulate the rare surfacing lucidity of drug addicts, and Gary Oldman’s acting is superb, but I think the film fails in its promise by glamorizing their lives to the point of hagiography. If there’s anything in the punk ethos condoning hero-​worship, I think I missed it.

If the film had been made 15 or 20 years after the death of Sid Vicious, I could ostensibly see this choice being made for nostalgic reasons, but dude was only 7 years in the ground when it was made. That basically means that they started work on the film before Sid Vicious was even cold; and that means that in essence, this is a Hollywood production meant to capitalize on punk subculture.

What follows from that is mere supposition on my part, but I suspect that if this movie had been made without studio backing it would have been a truer story, and wouldn’t have lost money at the box office, because it would have been on the art house circuit instead. Criterion has assured that’s where its final resting place will be.