Saturday, January 25, 2014

Thanks For the Memory ... Part 1

It's been ages since I've updated this blog, and for a good reason: I started graduate school in August and creative thoughts have been limited. Actually, all thoughts have been limited. A few weeks ago, I happened across a poetry project from my junior year in high school. To put everything in perspective, this was around 2002 (puttin' my age out there for all the interwebz to see!). I've had a lifelong fascination with classic movies, but I didn't start studying them in-depth until I was a freshman in high school -- circa 2000, thanks to an obsession Singin' in the Rain that started an actual avalanche of love. By 2002, my passion was in full-swing. Thus, I seized every opportunity I could to write about old movies. This is where the poetry project comes in.

Our assignment was to choose ten poets and write reflections and artwork comparisons for five poems by these poets. Somehow, my English teacher had the genius idea to let us use lyricists in addition to actual poets. Me being me, I incorporated Al Dubin, Ira Gershwin, AND Cole Porter. I also managed to incorporate Bonnie Parker (of Bonnie & Clyde fame ... she wrote poetry and in my book that makes her a poet, ok?) and featured a delightful biography of her complete with autopsy photo.

This book is a veritable goldmine of what was running through my brain at sixteen years old. It's nothing but 145 pages of far-fetched old movie (and television) references. For your amusement, let me take you back twelve years and show you the highlights of several comparisons and actual statements that will hopefully have you laughing your head off. (Or, you'll just be thinking, "She was the weirdest 16 year-old ever!" Either reaction is acceptable.) I've broken it down into two sections because, after all, this project was 145 pages.

Al Dubin: Rhapsodist of the 1930s 
"The photo I selected is a color poster/collage from the 1933 film 42nd Street. The picture is a picture of various chorines (Ruby Keller as Peggy Sawyer, Ginger Rogers as Ann "Anytime Annie" Lowell, Una Merkel as Lorraine Flemming, etc.) taking direction from director, Julian Marsh." (I literally wrote all of that just so I could mention all of their names.)

I also wrote, "While having a boyfriend is nice, I personally don't believe that I need one -- sort of like Mary Richards on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'." WHAT????

Robert Frost: Pioneer of Rhythm and Meter

I used this photo as an artwork comparison for the Robert Frost poem "Stars." Here is the actual entry (**spoiler alert!!!!**):

"This photo is a picture of C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemon) and Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) from the film The Apartment. While you may wonder how anyone could possible relate this film to a Robert Frost poem, it is actually a perfect example. The second stanza in the poem talks about our "faltering few steps" on the white snow. This suggests the old saying that "no one is perfect." In The Apartment, Baxter discovers that Fran is not the innocent elevator operator her perceived her to be when he discovers she is having an affair with his boss who happens to be using Baxter's apartment for his extramarital fling. To top all of that off, Baxter has actually developed a crush on the girl. In essence, the pedestal Baxter has put Fran on has 'toppled.' As I compare these, I find that they both exhibit the same tone. When I look at the picture, I see unavoidable but overlookable imperfection. At the end of the poem, Frost talks about Minerva, the goddess of war, being able to look at people with neither love nor hate. This is partially true for the end of The Apartment as well. By the end of the film (as shown here), Baxter is able to overlook any uncertainties he's had about Ms. Kubelik. He is able to look at her only with love. He tells her he's "absolutely crazy" about her, to which she responds, 'Shut up and deal.'"

Ira Gershwin: The Other Half
Reflection on the song "But Not For Me" (and I quote): "One thing I find truly ironic about this song is I have it on CD with Judy Garland singing it. Most people relate her life to the song 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow,' but I think this one relates to her, too, considering she was married five times and three out of five of her husbands were gay." WHAT WAS MY KNOWLEDGE BASE FOR THIS?!?! 

Sorry, Judy.

Edgar Allan Poe: The Master of Suspense Pre-Hitchcock 

Reflection for "Annabel Lee": "I remember reading this poem in 7th grade and thinking Edgar Allan Poe had to be the strangest man ever to live on this earth (besides, possibly, Howard Hughes, Hugh Heffner, and Marlon Brando)."

Reflection for "The Raven": This is yet another one of Edgar Allan Poe's freakishly scary poems, and I must say that I wonder if this poem ever inspired Alfred Hitchcock. I don't say this just because The Birds illustrates the fact that one day nature can just up and smite us, but because of the film Psycho. There are a lot of scary relations to birds in that movie, such as the fact that Marion's last name is Crane, there are pictures of birds all around the Bates Motel, and Norman definitely compares people to birds in a line where he says, 'They cluck their thick tongues.'"

Edna St. Vincent Millay: Pushing the Envelope

The poem "Grown Up":
Was it for this I uttered prayers,
And sobbed and cursed and kicked the stairs,
That now, domestic as a plate,
I should retire at half-past eight?

Reflection on the poem "Grown Up":
"This poem reminds me of an episode of 'The Honeymooners'." Alice Kramden approved.

And finally (for this installment anyway), there's this pièce de résistance, I give you the artwork comparison of the poem "Portrait by a Neighbor" to the one and only Miss Joan Crawford. (Crawford fans, beware that I based literally 99% of this passage on Mommie Dearest because I was sixteen and didn't know any better.)

"The photo included here is a picture of actress Joan Crawford. In Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem 'Portrait by a Neighbor,' we hear the story of a rather eccentric woman. She prefers tanning over housework, stays out late, gardens in the middle of the night for no apparent reason, and seems to be off in her own little world. If you have ever seen the movie Mommie Dearest or know about Joan Crawford, it isn't hard to compare this woman described by Millay to the photo of Crawford. She was a 'party girl' and often indulged in what Hollywood had to offer. She drank, smoked, and was a real 'dame.' She adopted children, supposedly for show to her public (though I truly think that Joan Crawford really did have a desire to be a good and caring mother) and supposedly caused great trauma for them, having little quirks that she implemented into their upbringing. I think the gardening in the middle of the night ordeal is really what led me to choose her photo for comparison, however. One evening, Joan Crawford definitely went outside and randomly took an axe to her rosebush, and that singular incident's absurdity reminded me of the woman in the poem weeding her lettuce with a spoon at night. The artwork makes mew ant to go watch Mildred Pierce, as that is the movie that won Joan Crawford her Oscar."

I hope that you enjoyed this insanity as much as I did, and that you will join me for part deux as this is TO BE CONTINUED ...

(Side note: Shout-out to my junior English teacher, Mr. Ashworth, for slamming the entire 11th grade into the dark hole that was this project! I had my first mental breakdown working on this, but it was well worth it for all of the nuggets of gold I will continue to unearth.)

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