Friday, April 30, 2010

three poems by dan rosenberg

So happy to have these poems from Dan Rosenberg.

The Golem

has come to your
The golem
scratches the letters
on his head. He has
the fist of nails.
He scrapes
accidental trenches
in himself.
His gloves
have blood
of their own.
His foot
snaps your azaleas;
a freezing sound.
Pie smells
turn to burnt
smells. There is
The golem
will not kill anyone
for you, will not
tie a rope
between man
and child’s body.
Where are your dead?
Where did you get
these bodies?
The golem
will let them rot.
His head tilts back.
There is no
Adam’s apple,
his face does not
crack in the sun.
You want to give
him a book. You
want to touch
his cheek. Don’t.
The golem is
clay baked
and coughed into.


Eat the Bones of the World

Eat the bones of the world
like an unnatural mouth
in the tricky posture of opening.

The air stains your breathing
with cow manure smell
on a western wind. So stop.

Be no cattle nor cattle hand.
So eat the radiant bones,
the girding of the world.

In the growth of tailored pines.
In the corner cemetery. The road
cut into the bones of the world

so low you drive level
with the dead. You live
downhill from the dead

but they don’t sing to you.
You live downhill from someone
else’s dead and you must

eat the bones of the world
with your last tooth some day.
Some day with both fists

in a pantomime of giddy fire.
Some day you’ll wake up
in the revenant springtime

and eat the unforgiving bones,
morning to marrow, a dog
who licks the whipping hand.


First Date as Foucault

The pendulum puddles under
her earlobe, the violent swing
saying something. No, it’s
saying no in horizontal thrust,
but the pendulum shaves light
off its curves like a stream of flint.
I can’t look away. As a child
bowling I’d stare at the sheen
on the lanes, the reason for gliding,
halogen light peeled into strips.
And my friends, half-choked
on French fries, slicking finger-
grease into the balls’ three holes,
hurling them for the bang
and bruise, battered wood, the pin
explosion. I understand reaction
now, but still I am still. Afraid
this date will not end well.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

another dysfunctional family

Jonathan Demme is still primarily known for his harrowing The Silence of the Lambs. An unlikely but deserving winner of five Academy Awards, the film remains one of our best and unique thrillers. Demme's direction often studies behavior. He came into his own two years ago with the poignant and ambiguous character study of Rachel Getting Married. It was critically praised but the Dogme 95 style and tragic story (its original advertisements and title seem to promise a romantic comedy) left audiences chilled. The film is one of Demme's best in a rich career of many different flavors and risks including documentaries, the offbeat Something Wild, the breakthrough mainstream AIDS drama Philadelphia, and the adaptation of Toni Morrison's Beloved.

Demme returns to much of the same material of Rachel Getting Married with his new off Broadway production of Beth Henley's (Crimes of the Heart) Family Week. The story centers on a suicidal woman Claire (Rosemarie DeWitt, also of Rachel in which she played the title character so brilliantly) who after the death of her son, admits herself to a recovery center in the desert. The title refers to the visiting of her kin, her mother (Kathleen Chalfant), her young daughter (Sami Gayle) and sister Rickey (Quincy Tyler Bernstine). Through the tumultuous therapeutic sessions, some of which seem bogus, others which seem to have some validity, the clan reveal many painful secrets to one another.

I wonder if Henley's writing, at times acidic and funny, despite the tragedy in the material, often gives too much away. Even though they are in different mediums, I can't help but compare Rachel Getting Married to Family Week and their similar pilings on of domestic traumas. The experience of Rachel Getting Married and its unraveling of family drama worked so well in the cinematic format: the closeups, the claustrophobic and dizzying feel of a busy house in preparations. On a sprawling stage, with some interludes of song (mostly appropriately dusty western tunes from the likes of Emmylou Harris) under moody lighting and complete with a vivid desert background, Family Week sometimes feels a bit repetitious. It was particularly difficult to connect with Claire's character, perhaps because she was so forgone (she holds a teddy throughout most of the production). Because of this, the play lacks a center to hold on to. In Rachel, damaged Kym (Anne Hathaway) bitterly drew us into her world. Whereas the family in Rachel (and too in Ordinary People, another extraordinary portrait of a family coping with tragedy) have been dealing with their wounds for a long time, the tragedy in Family Week is very fresh. Because of this the play works best when in its quirks: we learn that Claire eerily sent Rickey flowers from her dead son; in a closing monologue, Claire stunningly opens up in an odd and brilliant meditation of the body.

Even though the material is sometimes difficult to connect with, it's definitely not the fault of the four actors. The best, and most refreshing of all is Quincy Tyler Bernstine, who injects most of the play's humor and pathos. Her Rickey is very real, spontaneous, and layered (a child prodigy grown up and now broke). One hopes to see more roles for such a talented actress, her speaking voice is just incredible. I felt sympathy for DeWitt who is saddled with many heavy and emotional monologues. She carries it all so deftly without going overboard. Her tearful glares are unforgettable. Her daughter (Sami Gayle) is appropriately whiny, insecure, and precocious. And her WASPish mother is well played by Chalfant who is desperate for "hydrating soap" throughout the play, as if wanting to wash away the past.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


So happy Aaron shared this poem with me. I love it.


Sixteen and you
meant bad, cousin. Took me
with you, part of a summer

watching you filch tokens
from the till at the arcade,
skinny bottles of Mad Dog

in the pockets of all your friends,
that black Camaro,
the nights still and warm.

I didn't understand
why we had to slip
through the narrow window

in whispers and dew
to rage against the empty streets,
ghost-drag through town

with heads full of metal, smoke
in our eyes. Clatter of milk
crates behind the Safeway

where you hollered sweet
nothings at the sodium light.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

midnight double feature: deadly eyes & the pack

I took the advice from one of my favorite movie blogs, Rupert Pupkin Speaks, and watched two creature features from director Robert Clouse. Clouse is best known for his Enter the Dragon. Watching his schlocky animal against man flicks Deadly Eyes and The Pack, it's interesting to see how Clouse works within different genres. The Deadly Eyes refer to those of rats, who having fed on steroid-injected grains, are wreaking havoc and roaming the undergrounds of snowy Toronto. It's pretty standard stuff, with a group of characters that interact but never quite connect. It begins fittingly with a lecture on rats with a classroom of bored students. One of the girls (Lisa Langlois) has an intense crush on her teacher, the film's hero Paul Harris (a rather stiff Sam Groom). Meanwhile, Department of Health employee Sara Botsford (Kelly Leonard) and field inspector George (an amusing Scatman Crothers) are beginning to question mysterious deaths and activities in the city. All of this wants to be covered up by the mayor's office a la Jaws for the impending opening of a new subway line. It's fairly predictable what's to come out of this scenario.

Despite its pedestrian plot, Clouse pays tribute to the midnight movies before him. In a Blob-like moment and one of the better set pieces, the giant rats descend upon a movie house where unsuspecting teenagers are watching Clouse's Bruce Lee epic Game of Death (where the Bride of Kill Bill got her getup). One wishes Clouse had more fun, campy moments like this but the movie is saddled with some ridiculous plot points such as the budding romance between Groom and Leonard. I can't deny that there is something charming about the film. And as a person living in a city where I've come across rats seemingly the size of those depicted in Deadly Eyes (even though they are merely poor Dachshunds in rat costumes), this movie seems eerily possible.

The Pack
turns man's best friend against man. It insinuates an epidemic of Seal Island vacationers leaving behind dogs. The rabid strays on this island terrorize a man (an appealingly low-key Joe Don Baker... such a great drawl!), his new family, and a ragtag group of bumbling visitors.

This pre-Cujo horror film is much more competent than Deadly Eyes but less charmingly terrible. Again the film is bogged down by time spent on relationships that are difficult to connect with. What's great are the attack scenes and a stripped down realism in its filming of the dogs. It's much easier to relate to wronged dogs than rats. One tense scene involves a woman trapped in a Bug convertible. Clouse did not win any awards for direction but his use of slow-motion works better here than it did in Mel Gibson's Braveheart. The ending too is unexpectedly powerful for such a low budget drive in flick.

elle, 1986

from Jezebel

the waiting head

The Waiting Head

If I really am walking with ordinary habit
past the same rest home on the same local street
and see another waiting head at that upper front window,
just as she would always sit,
watching for anyone from her wooden seat,
then anything can be true. I only know
how each night she wrote in her leather books
that no one came. Surely I remember the hooks
of her fingers curled on mine, though even now
will not admit the times I did avoid this street,
where she lived on and on like a bleached fig
and forgot us anyhow;
visiting the pulp of her kiss, bending to repeat
each favor, trying to comb out her mossy wig
and forcing love to last. Now she is always dead
and the leather books are mine. Today I see the head
move, like some pitted angel, in that high window.
What is the waiting head doing? It looks the same.
Will it lean forward as I turn to go?
I think I hear it call to me below

but no one came no one came

-Anne Sexton

Saturday, April 24, 2010

poems by matthew hittinger

Codex Gigas

My many doppelgangers :
I raise my sword By the Power of
pinch my earlobe Synergy!
Hail my team I am Phoenix!
These clues keys secret identities

The me always receding
Hear me: who gave you permission to
Rearrange me
like Lavoisier’s
Experiment that Muriatic
Acid wash that rearranged
The atoms red rose turned white.
End this. Begin this. Say my
Name. Does its presence make me shape me?

What to do with those who want to say
I have a different name?
Tangled alphabet, illuminate.


PopeMobile :

as in the vehicle in which the Pope
rides as in the day the Pope came to town

he rode down Fifth in his PopeMobile four
helicopters formed not a cross a check

mark in the sky as if to say here here
sits the Pope in his mobile while one blue

and white NYPD the fifth if you
are keeping count runs the course of Fifth up

and back cantilevering over Sheep's
Meadow where T-shirts bearing this new Pope's

face glitter in red and gold and papal
flags flutter yellow in the April sun


One Day HoMo

appeared the beige plaster
flaked off the wall where the gray

marker amended the black spray
paint Mo there for months

a pre-teen’s tag the Ho added
overnight greeting or threat

or the games of the adolescent
my bedroom window view

-Matthew Hittinger

Friday, April 23, 2010

the perpetuation of sorrow

The Perpetuation of Sorrow

When we fragment forests
we create an excellent habitat for the cowbird

whose females shove the eggs out from songbird nests

and substitute their own
for those full-time mothers to hatch.

A spiral for which I am sorry.
I couldn't help myself.

-Kimiko Hahn

From the beautiful new book Toxic Flora.

Also read William Stevens's New York Times article "The Forest Primeval Isn't What It Used to Be"

Thursday, April 22, 2010

203 east 4th

A poem from my friend Becca. I love this one. Go seek her chapbook Greener (or order We co-edit Clementine together and are hoping for a new issue soon.

203 East 4th

I write you from a dense island.
Ships skirt the pratfall shore then grow
distant -- I grow inventive, pray radio
sleeps in the coconut's core. Can
waves refuse what they carry, manage
without baggage? I've lost how to row.
Flat palms vise the hot air, sostenuto.
The same sun that drowns rises, dripping.
Shells protrude like tusks or oars;
I string colors together, rope starlet
necklaces of auger, cuttlebone. Sweat
salts my eyes to tears -- that, and the hours
spent alone. You might forget
me completely. I write you from regret.

-Alicia Rebecca Myers

Monday, April 19, 2010

eyes of laura mars: photoshoot

structural damage

Structural Damage

Sunday and I sit at my parents’ window
watching the mormons walk home from church
As the ward empties itself onto our sun-sick street
I think I see our ceiling flaking onto the carpet
Bits of sheetrock snow peel apart and drift through the air,
my own winter holiday, always, what would the mormons think
The paint unstrips from the beams,
still behind are boughs of dry wood,
white wall battering the floor
What if this house pulls apart like a loose thread
what now as the wood beams break

-Rio Cortez

Rio Cortez is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, where she was the recipient of the Lucy Grealy Prize in Poetry. She has plans to attend the MFA program at New York University in the fall. Her work has been published in Dark Phrases, Through the Looking Glass & Catharsis Literary Magazine. Rio hates plane crashes and cuts in subway service, she loves and lives in Queens, NY.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

secret lives: 3 films by neil jordan

Many of Irish filmmaker Neil Jordan's films take on characters with secret lives. He has a way of helping an audience sympathize with antiheroes. Because he has taken on so many different eras, topics and locations for his films, he's often forgotten as a great director. Perhaps too because he seems to have a gift more so with economy, actors and storytelling rather than possessing a unique visual style.

His highly original and haunting The Crying Game is Jordan at his best. A band within the IRA abducts a British soldier (a remarkable Forrest Whitaker) named Jody in Belfast. Things go awry when one of the IRA members, Fergus (Stephen Rea), botches the killing of Jody. Feeling a sort of kinship with Jody, Fergus abandons the IRA, moves to London under a new identity and begins a romantic affair with Jody's girlfriend Dil (Jaye Davidson). When two of the IRA members return with an assassination plot for Fergus to carry out, Fergus is forced to reveal his identity and past wrongdoings to Dil.

Despite the subject matter and brilliant (if a bit cynical) marketing by Miramax, the film became a success with American audiences. "The twist" is hardly the point of the picture. Instead, the film has its own oddball heart: a daring, sympathetic view of a terrorist and an unusual, ambivalent romance. The moody score and soundtrack by Anne Dudley, and the brilliant use of the title song (Boy George's soulful rendition is in the closing credits) add to the film's claustrophobic (many locations are repeated--construction site, Dil's bedroom, bar, beauty parlor) and noirish atmosphere (Jordan seems most inspired by Nicholas Ray's In a Lonely Place here). The visuals are straightforward though gorgeously shot as in the remote, woodsy locale in the long, and important first-half. The performances are quite good. A very internal and grounded Stephen Rea (who has oft-collaborated with Jordan) harnesses the film's wildness and the unforgettable Jaye Davidson, in his debut, gives graceful support as the vulnerable Dil. The always wonderful Miranda Richardson (immortalized in the femme fatale poster shot) appears as a villain. Looking back, it's amazing that the film was recognized with seven Academy Award nominations and a well-deserved win for Jordan's script. The low budget film scored a Best Picture nod against much blander competition (Unforgiven, Howards End, Scent of a Woman and A Few Good Men). Shelved for years and passed over by studios who didn't want to gamble on the subject matter, The Crying Game can be credited for the roots of Miramax's 1990s reign of independent cinema and still it remains one of the finest films of the decade. ****

The Brave One is a lesser feature for Jordan and star Jodie Foster. Foster plays radio deejay, Erica Bain, who delivers a whispery broadcast (think Delilah for the NPR set) of New York City inspirations. Unfortunately it's introduced, without much irony, over the opening credits. Out walking their dog, Erica and her fiance are brutally attacked in Central Park. Her fiance is killed by the attackers, leaving Erica severely depressed and emotionally paralyzed. When she stumbles into another violent incident, Erica is left to take matters in her own hands.

Like its banal source of inspiration, Death Wish, The Brave One sluggishly moves from one revenge killing to the next. Jordan's flair for examining social issues is buried in a shoddy script. An unnecessary detective hunt subplot is created with a barrage of quippy, CSI-esque banter. Terrance Howard, usually fine, does his best with this material. Foster is magnetic as always but her character is sketched thin. If the film is about the misperception of city life and it's difficulty to contain, Mary Steenburgen makes an interesting presence as Erica's icy boss who reluctantly pushes the revenge serial killings as fodder for ratings. Unfortunately she is underused. The connection between lead detective and Erica and also the coincidences of random violence seem heavily contrived. That the revenge killer is a woman isn't enough for much significance. It doesn't even touch the urban hell of Scorsese's Taxi Driver, in which Foster made such an indelible impression. What made Death Wish a social document was not the film itself but both the audience reaction to it and its placement in an era of violent backlash against the rising urban crime of the 1970s. Nowadays, anything with a marketable star and a gun is bound to make money. As Hollywood product, The Brave One doesn't get close enough to its characters in order to have something interesting to say. **

Also out for blood in a seedy underground are Anne Rice's vampires in Jordan's 1994 Interview with the Vampire. In early 90s San Francisco, 200 year old vampire Louis (a stoic and particularly poor Brad Pitt) recounts his life story to a reporter (Christian Slater). He tells of the origins of his transformation and his firey relationship with Lestat (Tom Cruise), his "maker." Louis lives off the blood of animals, Lestat, much more menacingly, off humans. In an attempt to keep their relationship alive, Lestat lures in a young Claudia (Kirsten Dunst, charismatic at such a age). Once Louis and Claudia think they have escaped Lestat, trouble emerges when they encounter a coven of vampires in the undergrounds of Paris.

Not a great film, but campy, glossy fun. Jordan adapts Rice's material as best as one could imagine one doing so. Cruise, who Rice complained wasn't right for the part but championed once she saw the picture, is at his hammy best in such a broad, villainous role. Perhaps more today than in 1994, the sensual and possessive Lestat is well-suited to Cruise's currently ambiguous and difficult persona. When Cruise isn't chewing scenery, the movie lags, particularly in the nonsensical final act. The goth, lavish sets and special effects are great backgrounds for such a ridiculous affair. And Jordan's use of "Sympathy for the Devil" (performed by Guns N'Roses) is particularly inspired. ***

Besides secretive characters, is there another link between Jordan's pictures with characters in ambivalent relationships? In these three films, and most obviously in his bleak adaptation of Graham Greene's The End of the Affair, passion is stunted by a character's reluctance and/or by societal issues. In The Crying Game, the interracial affair between Fergus and Dil dances between straight and gay. In Interview with the Vampire, Lestat is likely gay, seemingly infatuated with Louis, and headstrong on possessing him and preserving a lecherous relationship. In The Brave One, Foster's Erica seems close to starting an interracial affair with Howard's Detective. The more conventional love stories, between Louis and his departed wife, Erica and her fiance and Jody and Dil, are all thwarted early on in their stories by death. His characters are deeply wounded. As a focal point in his pictures, the frustration that brews from these stunted relationships causes a lot of dramatic tension in Jordan's work and one of the reasons why, hit or miss, he is such an interesting filmmaker.

Thursday, April 15, 2010



Kindness glides about my house.
Dame Kindness, she is so nice!
The blue and red jewels of her rings smoke
In the windows, the mirrors
Are filling with smiles.

What is so real as the cry of a child?
A rabbit's cry may be wilder
But it has no soul.
Sugar can cure everything, so Kindness says.
Sugar is a necessary fluid,

Its crystals a little poultice.
O kindness, kindness
Sweetly picking up pieces!
My Japanese silks, desperate butterflies,
May be pinned any minute, anesthetized.

And here you come, with a cup of tea
Wreathed in steam.
The blood jet is poetry,
There is no stopping it.
You hand me two children, two roses.

-Sylvia Plath

70s ladies