Poetry Goes to the Movies

December 5, 2021

If you’re interested in the intersection of poetry and film, drop in on Adam O. Davis and Colin Waters as their new podcast series, “Poetry Goes to the Movies,” examines films made by poets, films about poets, and how some of their favorite films address traditional poetic concerns. Three of the podcasts are now available on the Poetry Goes to the Movies website and all your favorite podcast sources.

poetry at the movies

July 16, 2021

With movie houses opening once again, summer fare has a somewhat surprising addition this year: poetry. The film Summertime” has been getting extensive coverage highlighting its spoken-word performances, among other admirable qualities. The Marvel Comics-based Black Widow” might not seem a likely place to find poetry, but as the Variety review reveals, composer Lorne Balfe “adapted the poetry of such major 19th-century writers as Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy and Mikhail Lermontov for his texts.”

Go see some poetry!

more poetry on film

July 10, 2020

“A Place to Stand” is a film based on a memoir of the same name by poet Jimmy Santiago Baca. Learn more and watch the trailer here. The film is available most places you can rent or download movies, including the free public library streaming system, Kanopy.

poems to watch

June 14, 2020

Lucy English is a UK-based spoken word poet and novelist. For her ambitious project The Book of Hours, she collaborated with an international community of film makers to create “a contemporary re-imagining of a Medieval book of hours.” For each month, four short films use English’s poems in films of morning, afternoon, evening, and night. The films are abstract and quite different from one another. They’re free to watch and you can also go to the Credits page and find links to her collaborators and their other film/poetry work.

Lucy English is also co-creator of the poetry film organization Liberated Words, where there is much more about poetry on film and video.

and another…

April 28, 2020

Here’s another film for your list: “Before Night Falls.” Based on the autobiography of Cuban poet/novelist/playwright Reinaldo Arenas and directed by Julian Schnabel, the film stars Javier Bardem.

for your list

April 27, 2020

Since you may be streaming more films than usual, and since we like to keep tabs on poetry movies and somehow had not previously mentioned it, “Kill Your Darlings” is a 2013 film starring Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg and Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 77%.

The name of the film, by the way, is a phrase attributed to William Faulkner, though it’s credited to him primarily in collections of quotations. In On the Art of Writing (1916), Arthur Quiller-Couch said, “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetuate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it — wholeheartedly — and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”

as the fur flies

December 24, 2019

Perhaps you’ve heard: the movie version of “Cats” is here. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical opened on Broadway in 1982 and is still running, so what could go wrong?

Apparently, more than you’d expect. Rotten Tomatoes, which gives the film 17% on the Tomatometer (as of this writing), says, “Despite its fur-midable cast, this Cats adaptation is a clawful mistake that will leave most viewers begging to be put out of their mew-sery.” Me-ow!

Somewhat hastily released to make scheduled screenings, the film is being reissued with some quick fixes. Here’s Louis Bayard’s commentary in The New York Times.

As the fur flies, it bears repeating that the inspiration for all this drama is a book of rhyming poetry: Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot. If you don’t have a copy on your shelf and the library copy is checked out, you can read it online at Project Gutenberg.

more poetry on film

March 7, 2019

Here’s another entry in the poetry-on-film file: “Secrets,” currently in production, is a short film by Kathryn Roszak based on the poetry of Tomas Tranströmer. The film layers Tranströmer’s words with dance performed by members of Danse Lumière, and a trailer can be viewed here.

On a related note, “Österjöar” is a film by Eva Jonasson Wine and James Michael Wine that also features poetry by Tomas Tranströmer, read in Swedish, and filmed on location in the Stockholm archipelago. A trailer is here and a discussion of the film appears on Moving Poems Magazine.

poetry on film

September 17, 2018

In our continuing interest in the meeting of poetry and film, we note that two poems by Natalie Diaz have been (or are being) committed to film: “Cranes, Mafiosos and a Polaroid Camera” and “American Arithmetic.”

The former, a film by Tash Tung, was commissioned by Motionpoems, with additional funding from the Andy Warhol Foundation for Visuals Arts and donations on Seed & Spark. You can watch the film trailer on Vimeo, find more information on the Seed & Spark page, and see Natalie Diaz reading the poem at Beyond Baroque (at about 4 min.). The film is on the festival circuit and is an official selection for the Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2018.

The latter, also a Motionpoems film, is directed by Mohammed Hammad. There is little information available online, so watch for the film and meanwhile, read “American Arithmetic” on Verse Daily.

film poetry

July 11, 2018

In our continued cataloging of poets and poetry on film, we somehow missed “Broken Tower.” The 2012 film, directed by and starring James Franco, is about poet Hart Crane (1899-1932). While the critics and the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer give it a low score, Entertainment Weekly called it “pensive and heartfelt” and you might want to put it on your late-night list.

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