Monday, October 26, 2009
MICHAEL O'KEEFE: SWIMMING FROM UNDER MY FATHER
Speaking of actors who also become poets, Michael O'Keefe (who you might remember as the "caddy" in CADDYSHACK, or for his Oscar nominated role as the eldest son in THE GREAT SANTINI, or the brother-in-law on ROSEANNE, or most recently the state trooper in FROZEN RIVER, or the Oscar worthy performance as the judge in AMERICAN VIOLET) has a book of poems out, his first, called SWIMMING FROM UNDER MY FATHER.
I wrote the preface, and for further full disclosure, he's an old and dear friend, but even if neither of those things were true I could still highly recommend this book.
First of all, it contains a collection of poems that will give you insights into an actor's perspective (mostly the stage version, which Michael started out as and has done a lot of over the years, on and off-Broadway, and having seen many of those performances I can attest to the consistency of his talent in that arena as well) both on and off stage, of a middle aged man dealing with the accumulation of life's triumphs and struggles, of the grown boy still addressing and perhaps finally transcending childhood trauma, of a zen priest's (yep, he's that too) take on the spiritual in the every day, or maybe the word "spiritual" isn't appropriate for Zen, more like the search for peace in reality, and more...
Here's an example of a Zen koan-like poem, not typical of what's mostly in this book (the center of which is a series of emotionally potent and poignant narrative poems about his relationship with his late father, along with several poems more lyrical but equally realistic about "love"—a word he writes has "been bandied about so often/it's the iceberg lettuce of the vocabulary"), but in many ways sums up the attitude that makes this particular group of poems uniquely Michael O'Keefe's:
"Put up your dukes! If your opponent
throws lefts or rights, take the punch.
A knockout won't do. You've got to let him
kill both of you."