Wednesday 29 May 2019

Book Review: Picturehouse Poems

Last Updated: 14 September 2021

Picturehouse Poems cover

The variety of subjects is dazzling, from movie stars to bit players, from B-movies to Bollywood, from Clark Gable to Jean Cocteau. More than a hundred poets riff on their movie memories: Langston Hughes and John Updike on the theatres of their youth, Jack Kerouac and Robert Lowell on Harpo Marx, Sharon Olds on Marilyn Monroe, Louise Erdrich on John Wayne, May Swenson on the James Bond films, Terrance Hayes on early Black cinema, Maxine Kumin on Casablanca, and Richard Wilbur on The Prisoner of Zenda. 

Orson Welles, Leni Riefenstahl, and Ingmar Bergman share the spotlight with Shirley Temple, King Kong, and Carmen Miranda; Bonnie and Clyde and Ridley Scott with Roshomon, Hitchcock, and Bresson. In Picturehouse Poems, one of our oldest art forms pays loving homage to one of our newest - the thrilling art of cinema.

This gorgeous book was a lovely read to dip into, and the perfect way to broaden my reading horizons a little.

Full credit must go to Everyman's Library because this is a stunning edition. Hardback, clothbound, and made with high-quality paper, this pocket-sized anthology is definitely one to treasure.

Delving into the poems, the anthology features an eclectic mix of well-known, much-loved writers like Jack Kerouac, right through to names I had never heard before. It's a well-crafted, beautifully presented little volume that is packed full of engaging poetry - all inspired by the movies.

From tongue-in-cheek poems about famous stars of the big screen right through to nostalgic laments of a time long gone by, there really is a poem for everyone in this book.

Similarly, the editor has not shied away from potentially controversial topics such as race, which is a dominant theme throughout the collection. Indeed, one of my personal favourite poems in the anthology is Early Cinema by Elizabeth Alexander - a poem that is inherently about race. It's an important topic, but growing up and living in today's world, it can be easy to forget just how much things have changed in such a relatively short period of time.

Back to the movies, and another of my favourites is Survey: Frankenstein Under the Front Porch Light by Albert Goldbarth. Harkening back to the golden era of the film industry, this poem paints a time long gone in bright and vivid light. It compares this bygone era's special effects with the computer wizardry we see in today's blockbusters, weaving a tale of a forgotten art form.

A third poem that particularly stands out to me also references Frankenstein - Old Frankenstein by Bruce F. Kawin. This poem considers what happens after the final pages of Mary Shelley's classic novel, how the monster and his maker must learn to live with their new reality. It's a sad, poignant, and bittersweet read.

This is a beautifully crafted anthology with some real gems - a must for the home of every film fanatic and literature lover alike!

Rating: 3 stars

Picturehouse Poems is available to buy now.

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Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

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