A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Poem of the Day: William Carlos Williams

The Yachts 

contend in a sea which the land partly encloses 
shielding them from the too-heavy blows 
of an ungoverned ocean which when it chooses 

totures the biggest hulls, the best man knows 
to pit against its beatings, and sinks them pitilessly. 
Mothlike in mists, scintillant in the minute 

brilliance of cloudless days, with broad bellying sails 
they glide to the wind tossing green water 
from their sharp prows while over them the crew crawls 

ant-like, solicitously grooming them, releasing, 
making fast as they turn, lean far over and having 
caught the wind again, side by side, head for the mark. 

In a well guarded arena of open water surrounded by 
lesser and greater craft which, sycophant, lumbering 
and flittering follow them, they appear youthful, rare 

as the light of a happy eye, live with the grace 
of all that in the mind is fleckless, free and 
naturally to be desired. Now the sea which holds them 

 is moody, lapping their glossy sides, as if feeling 
for some slightest flaw but fails completely.
Today no race. Then the wind comes again. The yachts

move, jockeying for a start, the signal is set and they 
are off. Now the waves strike at them but they are too 
well made, they slip through, though they take in canvas. 

Arms with hands graspoing seek to clutch at the prows. 
Bodies thrown recklessly in the way are cut aside. 
It is a sea of faces about them in agony, in despair 

until the horror of the race dawns staggering the mind, 
the whole sea become an entanglement of watery bodies 
lost to the world bearing what they cannot hold. Broken, 

beaten, desolate, reaching from the dead to be taken up 
they cry out, failing, failing! their cries rising 
in waves still as the skillful yachts pass over.
--William Carlos Williams

Back in their day, it seemed that Eliot and Frost were likely to be the poets most honored by posterity. But now I think the honors are more likely to go to Stevens and Williams. Eliot's ragged malaise and Frost's folksy irony have dated; Stevens's celebrations of the imagination and Williams's hard-edged directness haven't. "The Yachts" may be a metaphorical depiction of the class struggle, but it has transcended that reading to become what it primarily is: a magisterial use of sight and sound that liberates the imagination instead of restricting it politically, socially or ideologically.