Friday, December 22, 2006


I got a lot of response, mostly in e-mails, to an early post about how, when I can’t sleep, I make lists in my head, sometimes alphabet lists—like the illustration I gave of works of art I love, limited to single word titles.

The other night I did a two-word one, just titles, here’s the annotated version:

A BLESSING—one of my favorite poems, by James Wright
BLACK ORPHEUS—beautiful 1959 Brazilian film, and soundtrack
COOL WORLD—the early ‘60s film by Shirley Clark, based on Warren Miller’s novel
DESOLATION ANGELS—one of my favorite Kerouac books
ENTRE NOUS—great book of poems by Tim Dlugos
FAT CITY—the depressing boxing flick, but with some amazing performances
GIANT STEPS—the John Coltrane album, his sweetest
HOWARDS END—the movie, every performance in it perfect
I REMEMBER—Joe Brainard’s classic, original-serial-prose-poem-memoir
JAILHOUSE ROCK—not as good, but second best Elvis movie to
LONG LIFE—an Eva Hesse “sculpture”—one of my favorite artists
MAGPIE RISING—by Merrill Gilfillan, one of my all-time favorite non-fiction books
NAKED WALL—terrific poem by Terence Winch, partly about Ted Berrigan, both great Irish-American poets
OPEN CITY—the Roberto Rossellini movie with Anna Magnani
PEACE PIECE—Bill Evans’ finest composition and recording, for my taste
QUO VADIS?—the 1951 film, memorable to me as my first date movie, at 8-years-old, it cost twenty-five cents each for me and my second-grade classmate, Lois (a lifelong memory confirmed by a copy of a letter my mother sent to one of my brothers in the service, letting him know she tried to discourage me by saying I had to get the money myself, but I did, doing chores for my grandmother, my mother emphasized in her letter that I was “big for eight”!)
ROB ROY—Liam Neeson, Jessica Lange, and Tim Roth kick acting ass in this fine flick, with one of the most mature and realistic romances of any film
ST. ROACH—a terrific poem by Muriel Rukeyser, check it out, you’ll be glad you did
TRISTAM SHANDY—the 1760 proto-“postmodern” novel by Laurence Sterne
UP FRONT—Great collection of cartoons and prose by Bill Mauldin, the creator of “Joe and Willie” two war-weary GIs during WWII. These cartoons and Mauldin’s unpretentious prose, all done while the war was still raging, is better than any other book or movie as far as that war goes. I remembered the cartoons from when I was a toddler and little boy, during and just after that war, but it was poet Ted Greenwald who turned me on to the out-of-print book, back in the 1970s, now one of the most precious volumes in my personal library.
VIVA ZAPATA!—Not Brando’s best, but a sincere effort to make this legend more real than anyone else before had attempted. Anthony Quinn is great in it too (and the script was written by John Steinbeck!).
WHITE MULE—the first volume of William Carlos Williams’ fine novel trilogy about his wife
XX—Ezra Pound’s 20th Canto, I know it’s a bit of a cheat, but “X” always forces me to bend the rules slightly (as in the last alphabetical list), at least it’s an easily identifiable Canto, especially for students, relatively short and clear, yet containing most of the innovations and typical stylistic flourishes of Pound’s particular genius
YOUNG POETS—a short poem, or “anti-poem,” by Nicanor Parra, I took to heart when I was a “young poet”
ZIGFIELD FOLLIES—kind of an anthology movie, of WWII Hollywood stars, with some great ones, like Astaire and Kelly


-K- said...

I rarely have trouble sleeping and I never make lists but if I did I guess I would add "Flaming Star" over "King Creole" or "Jailhouse Rock". I just checked and I can get "F.S." from Netflix. (I wonder if I will.) Now I'll check to see if I can listen to "Peace Piece" on Napster.

Anonymous said...

BLACK ORPHEUS - how nice that you list this film, which I love. (and ROB ROY).
suzanne b.g.

RJ said...

Oh, man. Now I might have to do one of my own. Particularly since I NEVER sleep ..