Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Stanzas about Louise Brooks

Did you know that Vachel Lindsay wrote poems about Mary Pickford? Or that Hart Crane wrote poems about Charlie Chaplin? Or that Frank O'Hara wrote a poem inspired by Louise Brooks? 

The tradition of writing poems about silent film - and especially about silent film stars, goes all the way back to the silent film era. Lindsay was among the first, and is certainly the most famous practitioner. Anthony Slide's book, The Picture Dancing on a Screen: Poetry of the Cinema (Vestel Press, 1988) collects a number of early examples by both well known and little know writers from the first half of the 20th century. Another expansive anthology is The Faber Book of Movie Verse (Faber & Faber, 1995). This latter collection contains a selection devoted to the silent era.  One book I've come across on the subject is Laurence Goldstein's The American Poet at the Movies: A Critical History (University of Michigan Press, 1995).  

A blog which continues the tradition is Silent Stanzas. It bills itself as "poetry, photos and anecdotes about silent film." It's well worth checking out. And, its where I found this poem about Louise Brooks.

Scrubbie's Sonnet

Her liquid gaze could melt the coldest heart,
Her perfect face framed ‘round by ebony;
Since early on her dancing was an art –
Lithe hands and limbs in quaking ecstasy.
Not one to walk on eggshells, biting wit
And knife-blade tongue would often trouble make;
But unrelenting, in the face of it
She’d stand, too proud to let it see her break.
From featured player to forgotten star,
To author/critic, razor-edged and quick:
A sharpened, honey-coated scimitar,
A heady blend of sex and arsenic.
With such a life – complex beyond compare –
How strange her strongest legacy’s her hair.

1 comment:

  1. nice poem - anyhow, i wonder how george marshall came up with the nickname "scrubbie". i like it.

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