Friday, May 29, 2009

Larkin, Williams, et al

Haha, so my idea about making this a more regular thing clearly didn't pan out. I have made a number of private posts, but the last public one was on May 9th, so I'm not doing so great thus far. I have a rant coming on Rip: A Remix Manifesto, but I want to watch that again before I finish and post it. I discuss an anarchist Tintin book pretty extensively in the piece, so maybe I'll read that again too...

Anyways, I'm just posting now because I was struck by something I discovered while trying to read a Philip Larkin poem online. I remember liking him when I studied his works in grade 12, and just now I was reading a Guardian article on Carol Ann Duffy and how her poem, "Prayer" (which I thought was alright upon my first read of it, but not particularly moving), was voted the second most well liked poem among Brits. The first was Larkin's "The Whitsun Weddings," which I haven't read yet, but seeing his name made me want to look for a poem I remembered reading and instantly falling in love with years ago. After a little bit of searching for vaguely remembered quotes online, I found it was called "Morning At Last: There in the Snow," and that it is not available online (presumably because Larkin only died in 1985).

What I was surprised to find out was that the poem never published during Larkin's life, but only made known by the Collected Works that I worked from in high school. An article I read on compared it to a poem that was salvaged in 2002 from a discovered notebook that contained the last works Larkin ever wrote. The poem reads as follows:

We met at the end of the party
When all the drinks were dead
And all the glasses dirty:
'Have this that's left', you said.
We walked through the last of summer,
When shadows reached long and blue
Across days that were growing shorter:
You said: 'There's autumn too'.
Always for you what's finished
Is nothing, and what survives
Cancels the failed, the famished,
As if we had fresh lives
From that night on, and just living
Could make me unaware
Of June, and the guests arriving,
And I not there.

The article describes some biographical reasons for why the poems were likely left unpublished (interesting stuff, read the article at, but what got me more was the description of Larkin's style:

The poem is Larkin's handiwork, unquestionably. The rhyme scheme—alternating off-rhymes and pure rhymes—is a brilliantly conceived formal expression of the poem's conflict: Each stanza plays disappointment ("finished"/"famished") against reassurance ("survives"/"lives"). This tension culminates in the final line, which, by delivering a full rhyme but coming up one metrical stress short, seems to give both failure and fulfillment the last word. Members of the Society declared the poem "moving" and "fascinating." A Guardian reporter ate his colleague's words, calling it a "poem of high quality ... imbued with Larkinesque sadness."

I haven't even gotten to William Carlos Williams' Spring & All, which I posted about months ago, and its assertions about traditional writing having plagiarism as a primary motivation behind it, but reading Larkin again made me recall my musing on the subject from the day I read about it on Silliman's blog. Admittedly I haven't been through Williams' actual piece on the subject, but I still side more in the favour of traditional writing. I just like more traditionally organized writers like Larkin (or Koyczan, to use my earlier example) more than more experimental ones like Atwood (to use my high school point of comparison), though I definitely do value the more experimental for different reasons. I suppose it's the aesthetic appeal of the more traditionally constructed, more musical, more obviously technically proficient works that gets me...

Or maybe I'm misunderstanding what Williams' means by "traditional"...

Only one way to find out

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Some random thoughts and film reviews

I think I'm going to make a policy of dedicating one hour a day in the afternoon (either when I get back from LSAT classes or just general afternoons) to writing for this blog, because the complete lack of updates since I finished school is getting a little ridiculous. Today I leave for Scotland and the whiskey trail my dad and I are doing, which I can't believe is actually happening now, today, for real. I get back on the 18th, and starting on the 19th I will begin being more serious about this thing, because I'm tired of not writing. Also, judging by how poorly I expressed myself in this first paragraph, I need to keep up the regular practice in order to retain any semblance of verbal proficiency.

I've started listening to podcasts more regularly again, especially Poetry Off the Shelf, This American Life, and the /Filmcast. Poetry Off The Shelf just needs to update more, it's an outstanding podcast that I wish I could listen to more and which I look forward to every month. The Poetry Foundation is doing great work, and it's nice to have them in the increasingly present absence (ha) of an educational institution in my life. This American Life had a great show the other day that featured a guy with a really funny story about marriage and getting hit by a car (wish I remembered his name), the musical stylings of Joss Whedon (the low point of the show, surprisingly enough), and a story from Dan Savage about the death of his mother and religion. The latter was one of the most amazing and poignant stories I've ever heard, and I instantly told Mirah about it since she absolutely loves Dan Savage; Savage described his loss of faith and his devout mother's reactions, her support of him, and then her eventual demise. She sounds like the kind of mother you only hear about, the kind who really is as much of a best friend as a mother without any required concessions. It's no wonder that she produced someone as well loved and inteligent as Dan Savage.

The /Filmcast I was really just waiting to both have some time and also see the movies they've been reviewing, and the Crank 2 and Wolverine episodes proved to be well worth the wait. I need to be seeing more movies more regularly, I've been slacking off of late, and I want to start writing about all of them in a general way, reviews, reactions, thoughts, ramblings, etc., just something to get down my thoughts on paper if only to force myself to have them more. Speaking of which, some quick thoughts on the movies I've seen since I got home:

Star Trek: I'll get my complaint(s) out of the way right off the bat, and just say that a few times in the film I felt it treated the audience like idiots by making the subtext and narrative complexities just a little too obvious for us. The visual metaphor during the birth sequence that aligned Kirk with a sace ship, for instance, or the explanation of the alternate reality route the franchise is now taking. For the latter I understand that they need to make this clear, I just felt that the story did this on its own, particularly the scene with Kirk and old Spock, but I might need to see the movie again to be sure. Besides those minor nit pickings, however, I thought the movie was absolutely fantastic, J.J. Abrams has done a great job of updating and streamlining the franchise for general audiences while being respectful of its history and fans. I know that he really already has "made it," but if nothing else I think this film wil ensure that Abrams earns a position as one of the "big names" currently working in Hollywood. He's great at what he does, which is make exciting and intelligent films with heart, and he deserves the widespread respect and attention that this will inevitably earn him. Now if only Joss Whedon could have a similar blockbuster experience...

Crank High Voltage: I read the first movie as a "balls out" parody of action films and video games, and this second one tried to do exactly that same thing. In attempting to do so, however, it became a bit of a self-parody, succumbing to its own conceit and ending up as just another crazy action movie franchise. That said, the movie was awesome and incredibly entertaining. Someone on the /Filmcast review called it a modern exploitation film in the purest sense, and I like that analogy. The movie just takes advantage of every minority, character, actor, gender, taboo, and expectation we have, and I loved every second of it. There is a character who has full body Tourette's syndrome for the sole purpose of having the audience laugh at him because of his disease. This movie is not politically correct, and it revels in that nature. I actually think it didn't go far enough at times, for example: why oh why did they not have Jason Statham fire the shotgun that he shoved up that fat guy's ass? I can't really imagine why a movie like Crank 2 would shy away from the expectations we had of seeing the explosive disembowelment? It's not as though they saved our virgin eyes anywhere else in the film... It perplexes me a bit, but not enough to make me have any reaction to the film besides glowing admiration.

Oh, and on the note of exploitation films I should probably also mention the absolute supreme glory that is Toronto's Trash Palace. It's this tiny little "theatre" run by a few guys who print t-shirts and posters, among other various business ventures, and every Friday they show various 16mm shorts, exploitation films, etc. Last night I watched Horror House, a horror movie from 1968/9 staring Frankie Avalon as one of a group of young adults in swining London, exploring and being murdered at a haunted house on the outskirts of the city. The plot didn't really make sense, and I don't have the time now to really get into its convolutedness, but suffice to say I will be back at the Trash Palace again and again in the future. It really is a twisted version of what I always wanted The Film Society to be in my wildest dreams. I plan to frequent this place often come the fall, and hopefully find some way to get to know the guys running the show, maybe even get involved if possible. Who knows...

Alright, that's all I have time for, time to get off to Scotland!

PS: What the FUCK happened with Wolverine?! Who actually went and saw that thing, how did it earn all that money? I did not see that coming, not for a second... Wow