Our Favorite Poems About Movies


As you may have already heard, today the first Thursday in October, and is thus National Poetry Day. In celebration of this beloved writerly holiday, those of us over here in the film corner of your Flavorwire decided to post some of our favorite poems about our favorite subject: the movies. Join us after the jump for a few of our favorite cinematic poems, as suggested by the indispensible volume Lights, Camera, Poetry! (edited by Jason Shinder); feel free to add your own (or what the hell, make one up) after the jump.

“Main Character” by Jimmy Santiago Baca

I went to see How the West Was Won at the Sunshine Theater. Five years old, deep in a plush seat, light turned off, bright screen lit up with MGM roaring lion- in front of me a drunk Indian rose, cursed the western violins and hurled his uncapped bagged bottle of wine at the rocket roaring to the moon. His dark angry body convulsed with his obscene gestures at the screen, and then ushers escorted him up the aisle, and as he staggered past me, I heard his grieving sobs. Red wine streaked blue sky and take-off smoke, sizzled cowboys’ campfires, dripped down barbwire,

slogged the brave, daring scouts who galloped off to mesa buttes to speak peace with Apaches, and made the prairie lush with wine streams. When the movie was over, I squinted at the bright sunny street outside, looking for the main character.

“Necking at the Drive-In Movie” by Stan Rice

I’m glad their rouge cream is widening in the cokebox and their movie is a liquid camera pupil like ice cream upstream in a dream about vulvas.

I’m glad their rash catalogue is furious with the boygirl voice of the boy with the brown bowl haircut that mangles the place piecemeal with his tiny teeth and his tongue.

I’m glad their shriveled roses dilate like a fascist fantasy of ants in a fire. I’m glad they are a Mexico of parrots melting their crests. I’m glad their sweet ravings cream in the gardens of stone.

“Things to Do in Valley of the Dolls (The Movie)” by David Trinidad

Move to New York. Lose your virginity. Become a star. Send money to your mother.

Call pills “dolls.” Fire the talented newcomer. Have a nervous breakdown. Suffer from an incurable degenerative disease.

Sing the theme song. Do your first nude scene. Wear gowns designed by Travilla. Become addicted to booze and dope.

Scream “Who needs you!” Stagger around in a half-slip and bra. Come to in a sleazy hotel room. Say “I am merely traveling incognito.”

Get drummed out of Hollywood. Come crawling back to Broadway. Pull off Susan Hayward’s wig and try to flush it down the toilet.

End up in a sanitarium. Hiss “It wasn’t a nuthouse!” Get an abortion. Go on a binge.

Detect a lump in your breast. Commit suicide. Make a comeback. Overact.

“The James Bond Movie” by May Swenson

The popcorn is greasy, and I forgot to bring a Kleenex. A pill that’s a bomb inside the stomach of a man inside The Embassy blows up. Eruc- tations of flame, luxur- ious cauliflowers gigan- ticize into motion. The entire 29-ft. screen is orange, is crackling flesh and brick bursting, blackening, smithereened. I unwrap a Dentyne and, while jouncing my teeth in rubber tongue-smart- ing clove, try with the 2-inch-wide paper to blot butter off my fingers. A bubble- bath, room-sized, in which 14 girls, delectable and sexless, twist- topped Creamy Freezes (their blond, red, brown, pinkish, lav- endar or silver wiglets all screw- ed that high, and varnished), scrub-tickle a lone male, whose chest has just the right amount and distribu- tion of not too curly hair. He’s nervously pretending to defend his modesty. His crotch, below the waterline, is also below the frame—but unsubmerged all 28 slick foamy boobs. Their makeup fails to let the girls look naked. Caterpillar lashes, black and thick, lush lips glossed pink like the gum I pop and chew. Contacts on the eyes that are mostly blue, they’re nose-perfect replicas of each other. I’ve got most of the grease off and on to this little square of paper. I’m folding it now, making creases with my nails.

“Final Farewell” by Tom Clark

Great moment in Blade Runner where Roy Batty is expiring, and talks about how everything he’s seen will die with him — ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, sea-beams glittering before the Tannhauser Gates.

Memory is like molten gold burning its way through the skin it stops there. There is no transfer. Nothing I have seen will be remembered beyond me. That merciful cleaning of the windows of creation will be an excellent thing my interests notwithstanding.

But then again I’ve never been near Orion, or the Tannhauser gates,

I’ve only been here.

“The 8 O’Clock Movie” by Tino Villanueva

Boston, 1973—Years had passed and I assumed a Different life when one night, while resting from Books on Marlborough Street (where things like This can happen), there came into my room images

In black and white with a flow of light that Would not die. It all came back to me in different Terms: characters were born again, met up with Each other in adult life, drifted across the

Screen to discover cattle and oil, traveled miles On horseback in dust and heat, characters whose Names emerged as if they mattered in a history Book. Some were swept up by power and prejudice

Toward neighbors different from themselves, Because that is what the picture is about, with Class distinctions moving the plot along. A few Could distinguish right from wrong; those who

Could not you condemned from the beginning when You noticed them at all. Still others married or Backed off from the ranch with poignant flair, Like James Dean, who in the middle of grazing land

Unearthed the treasures of oil, buried his soul in Money, and went incoherent with alcohol. When the 40s Came, two young men were drafted, the one called Angel Dying at war. It’s a generational tale, so everybody

Aged once more and said what they had to say along the Way according to the script. And then the end: the Hamburger joint brought into existence to the beat of “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” Juana and her child the

Color of dark amber, foreshadowing the Mexican-looking Couple and their daughter, all in muteness, wanting To be served. I climbed out of bed and in my head Was a roaring of light – words spoken and unspoken

Had brought the obliterated back. Not again (I said, From my second-floor room)…let this not be happening Three-and-a-half hours had flicked by. As the sound Trailed off into nothing, memory would not dissolve.

“The Blue Angel” by Allen Ginsberg

Marlene Dietrich is singing a lament for mechanical love. She leans against a mortarboard tree on a plateau by the seashore.

She’s a life-sized toy, the doll of eternity; her hair is shaped like an abstract hat made out of white steel.

Her face is powdered, whitewashed and immobile like a robot. Jutting out of her temple, by an eye, is a little white key.

She gazes through dull blue pupils set in the whites of her eyes. She closes them, and the key turns by itself.

She opens her eyes, and they’re blank like a statue’s in a museum. Her machine begins to move, the key turns again, her eyes change, she sings.

—you’d think I would have thought a plan to end the inner grind, but not till I have found a man to occupy my mind.

“Chaplinesque” by Hart Crane

We make our meek adjustments, Contented with such random consolations As the wind deposits In slithered and too ample pockets.

For we can still love the world, who find A famished kitten on the step, and know Recesses for it from the fury of the street, Or warm torn elbow coverts.

We will sidestep, and to the final smirk Dally the doom of that inevitable thumb That slowly chafes its puckered index toward us, Facing the dull squint with what innocence And what surprise!

And yet these fine collapses are not lies More than the pirouettes of any pliant cane; Our obsequies are, in a way, no enterprise. We can evade you, and all else but the heart: What blame to us if the heart live on.

The game enforces smirks; but we have seen The moon in lonely alleys make A grail of laughter of an empty ash can, And through all sound of gaiety and quest Have heard a kitten in the wilderness.

“Love and Marilyn Monroe (after Spillane)” by Delmore Schwartz

Let us be aware of the true dark gods Acknowledging the cache of the crotch The primitive pure and powerful pink and grey private sensitivities Wincing, marvellous in their sweetness, whence rises the future.

Therefore let us praise Miss Marilyn Monroe. She has a noble attitude marked by pride and candor She takes a noble pride in the female nature and torso She articulates her pride with directness and exuberance She is honest in her delight in womanhood and manhood. She is not a great lady, she is more than a lady, She continues the tradition of Dolly Madison and Clara Bow When she says, “any woman who claims she does not like to be grabbed is a liar!” Whether true or false, this colossal remark states a dazzling intention…

It might be the birth of a new Venus among us It atones at the very least for such as Carrie Nation For Miss Monroe will never be a blue nose, and perhaps we may hope That there will be fewer blue noses because she has flourished– Long may she flourish in self-delight and the joy of womanhood. A nation haunted by Puritanism owes her homage and gratitude.

Let us praise, to say it again, her spiritual pride And admire one who delights in what she has and is (Who says also: “A woman is like a motor car: She needs a good body.” And: “I sun bathe in the nude, because I want to be blonde all over.”)

This is spiritual piety and physical ebullience This is vivid glory, spiritual and physical, Of Miss Marilyn Monroe.

“The Death of Marilyn Monroe” by Sharon Olds

The ambulance men touched her cold body, lifted it, heavy as iron, onto the stretcher, tried to close the mouth, closed the eyes, tied the arms to the sides, moved a caught strand of hair, as if it mattered, saw the shape of her breasts, flattened by gravity, under the sheet carried her, as if it were she, down the steps.

These men were never the same. They went out afterwards, as they always did, for a drink or two, but they could not meet each other’s eyes.

Their lives took a turn–one had nightmares, strange pains, impotence, depression. One did not like his work, his wife looked different, his kids. Even death seemed different to him–a place where she would be waiting,

and one found himself standing at night in the doorway to a room of sleep, listening to a woman breathing, just an ordinary woman breathing.

“Harpo Marx” by Robert Lowell

Harpo Marx, your hands white-feathered the harp— the only words you ever spoke were sound. The movie’s not always the sick man of the arts, yours touched the stars; Harpo, your motion picture is still life unchanging, not nature dead. I saw you first two years before you died, a black-and-white fall, near Fifth in Central Park; old blond hair too blonder, old eyes too young. Movie trucks and five police trucks wheel to wheel like covered wagons. The crowd as much or little. I wish I had knelt… I age to your wincing smile, like Dante’s movie, the great glistening wheel of life— the genius happy…a generic actor.

“To Harpo Marx” by Jack Kerouac

O Harpo! When did you seem like an angel the last time? and played the gray harp of gold?

When did you steal the silverware and bug-spray the guests?

When did your brother find rain in you sunny courtyard?

When did you chase your last blonde across the Millionaires’ lawn with a bait hook on a line protruding from your bicycle?

Or when last you powderpuffed your white flour face with fishbarrel cover?

Harpo! Who was that Lion I saw you with?

How did you treat the midget and Konk the Giant?

Harpo, in your recent nightclub appearance in New Orleans were you old? were you still chiding with your horn in the cane at your golden belt?

Did you still emerge from your pockets another Harpo, or screw on new wrists?

Was your vow of silence an Indian Harp?

“Poem (Lana Turner Has Collapsed)” by Frank O’Hara

Lana Turner has collapsed! I was trotting along and suddenly it started raining and snowing and you said it was hailing but hailing hits you on the head hard so it was really snowing and raining and I was in such a hurry to meet you but the traffic was acting exactly like the sky and suddenly I see a headline LANA TURNER HAS COLLAPSED! there is no snow in Hollywood there is no rain in California I have been to lots of parties and acted perfectly disgraceful but I never actually collapsed oh Lana Turner we love you get up

“To the Film Industry in Crisis” by Frank O’Hara

Not you, lean quarterlies and swarthy periodicals with your studious incursions toward the pomposity of ants, nor you, experimental theatre in which Emotive Fruition is wedding Poetic Insight perpetually, nor you, promenading Grand Opera, obvious as an ear (though you are close to my heart), but you, Motion Picture Industry, it’s you I love!

In times of crisis, we must all decide again and again whom we love. And give credit where it’s due: not to my starched nurse, who taught me how to be bad and not bad rather than good (and has lately availed herself of this information), not to the Catholic Church which is at best an oversolemn introduction to cosmic entertainment, not to the American Legion, which hates everybody, but to you, glorious Silver Screen, tragic Technicolor, amorous Cinemascope, stretching Vistavision and startling Stereophonic Sound, with all your heavenly dimensions and reverberations and iconoclasms! To

Richard Bartelhmess as the “tol’able boy” barefoot and in pants, Jeanette MacDonald of the flaming hair and lips and long, long neck, Sue Carroll as she sits for eternity on the damaged fender of a car and smiles, Ginger Rogers with her pageboy bob like a sausage on her shuffling shoulders, peach-melba-voiced Fred Astaire of the feet, Eric von Stroheim, the seducer of mountain climbers’ gasping spouses, the Tarzans, each and every one of you (I cannot bring myself to prefer Johnny Weissmuller to Lex Barker, I cannot!), Mae West in a furry sled, her bordello radiance and bland remarks, Rudolph Valentino of the moon, its crushing passions and moonlike, too, the gentle Norma Shearer, Miriam Hopkins dropping her champagne glass off Joel McCrea’s yacht and crying into the dappled sea, Clark Gable rescuing Gene Tierney from Russia and Allan Jones rescuing Kitty Carlisle from Harpo Marx, Cornel Wilde coughing blood on the piano keys while Merle Oberon berates, Marilyn Monroe in her little spike heels reeling through Niagara Falls,

Joseph Cotten puzzling and Orson Welles puzzled and Dolores del Rio eating orchids for lunch and breaking mirrors, Gloria Swanson reclining, and Jean Harlow reclining and wiggling, and Alice Faye reclining and wiggling and singing, Myrna Loy being calm and wise, William Powell in his stunning urbanity, Elizabeth Taylor blossoming, yes, to you

and to all you others, the great, the near-great, the featured, the extras who pass quickly and return in dreams saying your one or two lines, my love! Long may you illumine spaces with your marvelous appearances, delays and enunciations, and may the money of the world glitteringly cover you as you rest after a long day under the klieg lights with your faces in packs for our edification, the way the clouds come often at night but the heavens operate on the star system. It is a divine precedent you perpetuate! Roll on, wheels of celluloid, as the great earth rolls on!

“Film Noir” by Nicholas Christopher

The girl on the rooftop stares out over the city and grips a cold revolver. Laundry flaps around her in the hot night. Each streetlight haloes a sinister act. People are trapped in their beds, dreaming of the A-bomb and hatching get-rich-quick schemes. Pickpockets and grifters prowl the streets. Hit-men stalk informers and crooked cops hide in churches. Are there no more picket fences and tea parties in America? Does no one have a birthday anymore? Even the ballgames are fixed, and the quiz shows. Airplanes full of widows circle the skyline. Young couples elope in stolen cars. All the prostitutes were wronged terribly in childhood. They wear polka dot skirts, black gloves, and trenchcoats. Men strut around in boxy suits, fedoras, and palm-tree ties. They jam into nightclubs or brawl in hotel rooms while saxophone music drowns out their cries. The girl in the shadows drops the revolver and pushes through the laundry to the edge of the roof. Her eyes are glassy, her hair blows wild. She looks down at her lover sprawled on the sidewalk and she screams. A crowd gathers in a pool of neon. It starts to rain.