My favorite character in The Dark Knight Rises was John Blake, the police officer played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. At almost every stage of his young life, Blake has been let down by institutions supposedly designed to serve, protect, and provide for Gotham City’s downtrodden and impoverished. He’s almost a cartoonish embodiment of many of the institutional critiques present across all five seasons of The Wire (What if one of the boys at the center of season 4 grew up to become McNulty?), only he’s got the good fortune of inhabiting a heroic narrative with a happy ending.
I spent part of yesterday listening to a recent episode of comedian Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, which featured Maron and The State alum Michael Showalter discussing, of all things, semiotics. Showalter, who is currently teaching grad classes in film at NYU’s prestigious Tisch School of The Arts, was discussing his interest in semiotics as an undergrad, and he was running through a general overview of how signs function in film: bad guys in westerns wear black hats, good guys wear white ones, etc.
The conversation ended up being a great warm-up for my afternoon screening of Hanna, a film marketed as what passes for a conventional in its unconventionality, comic-book-meets-pop-art action film in the tradition of Run Lola Run, Kill Bill, and Oldboy. While it’s certainly in conversation with the conventions and aesthetics of action films, Hanna is more interesting to me in the way that it turns a fairly routine story about coming-of-age into a hot mess about the limits of control. The Jarmusch reference is intentional there, as I think Hanna covers terrain mapped about by that director’s most recent film in a more immediately engaging and compelling manner (that being said, I do like The Limits of Control, and Hanna still loses out to Dead Man if you are prone to treating movies like American Gladiators).
(Spoilers Below: the short review is Go See Hanna)
I have a new poetry blog called No New Yorker which has been up and running for a few days. There are some similarities between the work there and the poems I wrote on my old site, The Loss of Hope and Love, but I’m less chained to the cut-up process (and I’m trying to move a bit away from the label “cut-up,” which is pretty loaded and potentially distracting: that being said, I still utilize many “cut-up” techniques).
I’ve also decided to take part in Not Without Poetry, this year’s poem-a-day initiative in celebration of National Poetry Month (which I found out about via We Who Are About To Die). I’ve also decided to write and publish each poem via my smart phone, just to make things more interesting slash annoying slash gimmicky. Check out the site this month and let me know what you think of my poetry-on-the-go.
Don Draper reading Frank O'Hara's Meditations in an Emergency
Note: The following post is a paper I presented at the 2011 Northeastern University English Graduate Student Association Conference. The theme of this year’s conference was “Raw Materials,” and my paper was part of a panel titled “Raw Poetics.”
In a recollection of his friend Frank O’Hara, written for Book Week less than two months after the poet’s sudden death in July of 1966, John Ashbery proposes a solution for individuals who are wary of “a supremely tribal civilization like ours, where even artists feel compelled to band together in marauding packs.” He advises: “Whatever it is, join it; you can examine it later and neutralize it, if necessary, from within” (Selected Prose 81). This talk examines one of the ways that O’Hara attempts to neutralize the conventions of reading poetry that were established by the prevailing marauders of his day. Specifically, O’Hara’s use of proper names — represented in this talk by the poem “To The Film Industry In Crisis” — raise questions about how writers and their readers approach such references in poetry. My discussion will also examine what happens when O’Hara and his work (the poem “Mayakovsky”) become points of reference for the AMC television program Mad Men. This revision of O’Hara’s work seems to evade the ways that O’Hara challenges assumptions about how to read and write poetry.