While Atlanta burned,
Scarlett dreamed of her Ashley
And Rhett gave no damns.
As I posted the other day, I was working hard on a short haiku style poem for Gone With the Wind. As difficult as it was to capture the story of this nearly four hour long film in 17 syllables, I think I did OK. Let me know your thoughts on "1864" in the comments below.
While Atlanta burned,
Scarlett dreamed of her Ashley
And Rhett gave no damns.
Way back when I first conceived of this project, there was one poem where I knew how I wanted to approach it. Today you get a little of the story behind that poem.
Missing a Classic
You might be surprised that someone who claims to be a huge film buff had never seen one of the most iconic and well-known films of all time, but it's true. I made it into my mid-30s before actually sitting down to watch Gone With the Wind from beginning to end. There had certainly been moments of catching a few scenes on TV throughout the years, but to devote nearly 4 hours of my life to watching the film...it just never happened.
Then I was at the local library about a week ago browsing through the Blu-Ray shelf and happened upon the 70th anniversary edition of the film and figured, why not? It was Labor Day weekend and even with three kids in the house, I might be able to throw it in after they were in bed.
It turns out that watching a four hour movie is not easily done in one sitting. In fact, it took me three days to finish the entire thing. I managed to make it to Intermission on the first night, and to Scarlett and Rhett's honeymoon on the second, finally getting to see Rhett's famous exit line in context on night three.
I don't have the time to offer a full review here, especially since it would only be buried in the mountain of reviews that have been written about this film over the past 75 years. What I do have is the workings of a new poem based on the film.
As I noted above, I always knew how I wanted to write a poem based on this film. In a word: haiku. Gone With the Wind is the longest film to ever win the Oscar for Best Picture and I wanted to challenge myself to capture the essence of the story in the shortest form of poetry I'm aware of.
Now I know that I could write a poem that's even shorter than a three line haiku, but I wanted to stick with a recognized structure. That will make this the shortest poem in my series, lining up with the longest film that is part of the project.
So this post is a bit story, and a bit preview of what I will be posting within the week. I have a few rough outlines of what the poem will look like, but it's not quite ready for prime time yet. As soon as it is, you will see it here.
I have to admit, I've been trying to write this post for a while, and just never finding the right words.
For anyone who knows me, the past five months have been crazy with a new addition to my family which is part of the reason why I haven't been posting here regularly. But now that kids are back in school and things are a bit more settled at home, I think it's time to resume.
A Side Quest
You've probably noted that the original plan for my quest here was to write a poem for every Best Picture Oscar winner and it has proven difficult as the inspiration comes and goes. Which is why I have embarked on a side quest (you know every great video game has those) to watch every Oscar nominee from this past year.
As of today, I have seen 48 out of the 62 films nominated for the most recent Academy Awards. That amounts to 77% of the total films and I have seen all films in 10 out of the 24 categories awarded.
Along with this side quest, I also had some new ideas of things to do to bring you dear reader along with me on the journey. One of the ideas I had was to build out some online courses to guide readers through the process of watching all of the films in a given category and discussing them in some manner.
More to come on this as my plans continue to evolve. I think I may start with a short course on watching all of the Best Picture nominees from this past year and determine if there is a desire for people to participate.
If you are interested in participating in this experiment, drop me an email to email@example.com.
Back when I originally started this project, I planned on doing all of the Best Picture winners in order of their release and subsequent Oscar win. This poem deviates from that plan a bit, but only by a few years.
If you want to skip the rambling below, you can check out the new poem "Jericho" right now.
It Happened One Night (Amazon Affiliate link) is largely considered one of Frank Capra's greatest films and was the first film to win all five major Academy Awards. It has been referenced numerous times throughout film and television and has even spawned remakes in countries including Pakistan and India.
My Relationship With the Film
I first encountered this film as a student in English department at SUNY Brockport back over a decade ago. I had decided to take on a Film Studies minor to broaden my horizons a bit and this film showed up in the syllabus for the first class I took as an overview of film history.
I don't think I truly appreciated the film for what it was when I watched it back then. When I look back on it now and place it in the context of the mid-1930s when it was produced, I'm a bit surprised by what Capra was able to get away with. That being said, this was one of the last films of that era that WAS able to get away with those things before the Production Code started being enforced in Hollywood.
On to Jericho
If you've seen the film, the title of this new poem will probably be a very obvious reference back to the film. It was the biggest recurring element of the film that I could pull out and the one piece that stuck in my head as I was writing the poem.
As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I wanted to take some additional time with the poems moving forward and allowed myself to do that with this poem. I took my usual first pass where I just write from the gut and let the words spill out onto the page. With this poem, I took time to read back through it and re-write things a bit to not only sharpen the poem itself, but add some additional little reference hidden throughout.
I'm also trying a different approach in terms of posting the poems here on the blog like I have with other poems in the project so far. If you've read this far, thank you for indulging my ramblings.
Check out "Jericho" now and happy reading!
Don't worry...there is a poem coming. There are actually two poems coming within the next week.
I know what you're saying, I disappeared for seven months, came back to say I was here again, and then disappeared after one post. But that's not the case, I promise!
One of the things I promised myself when I restarted this project a few weeks back was to spend more time on the poems themselves. I had the entire process a bit backwards before, spending many hours (sometimes up to 10-15) reading source material followed by roughly 2 hours on each film. After I had put all that time in, I allowed myself to finish by ripping off the poems in just a half hour or so.
I say this not to brag, but to hang my head a bit. I was approaching it as a college student who has an assignment due the next day and writes 500 words for the 500 word essay and calls it done, rather than writing the 750 words that were truly necessary to say what needs to be said. I was being lazy. I was writing my poems and hitting publish right away without letting them simmer.
So this is an additional promise that I'm making today, the poems that I write for this project from now on will have more thought behind them. I am striving to create better poetry and to craft insightful pieces that can both stand alongside the masterpieces of film that inspire them, but also stand on their own.
Once this round is done I have two additional sets of films lined up that I want to tackle. One is going to be a Director Series which will go through and view all films by an individual director. The other will be the Foreign Film Series which will take a look at the best films from certain countries or regions. This will surely be a more subjective listing of films, but I want to make sure to include all types. Some other series I am considering are Genre focused or Actor focused.
If you can think of any other lists that I'm neglecting or find lists of great films around the internet, post a comment below.
Last week I posted a poem inspired by Minions. You can read that here if you haven't already (P.S. I finally decided on a title). Today I give you a new poem inspired by Inside Out. If you didn't read my post about our trip to the drive-in, you might want to look over my thoughts of both films before reading the poems.
There are fewer spoilers in this poem than last week's, but if you're intent on seeing the film and don't want to know anything, you probably should wait and see it first before reading any further.
Our essence, the core of our being,
is ever changing.
Sometimes for ill,
other times for good,
but never is it static.
New memories can shape and alter old
just as the old will color the new.
Emotions will change their power,
some pushing to the surface
while others recede away.
Yet all are as important as the others.
For without sadness, joy becomes mundane.
Fear can lead to sadness, disgust can lead to anger.
All are intertwined together,
A complex knot that cannot be undone.
It's what's on the inside that matters most.
Copyright © 2015 Jonathan Ytreberg
Yellow and pill shaped they long for a master.
Someone to keep them and their capers from falling into disaster.
They toil away for eons before landing ashore in a new land of York.
Long before they became despicable, they followed the Overkill in red.
Overkill this is for long have we yearned to understand
what guides these little yellow men(?)
and followed this story in hopes of finding
that long searched for answer.
But...no answers will you find here.
If you can tell me what they say,
more power to you.
Bee do po-ka hana papoi!
God love them anyway.
This was the first film adaptation of a novel (of the same name) to win the Oscar for Best Picture and it would set a precedent for this going forward as almost 75% of all Best Picture winners to date have been based on a book, short story, magazine article or stage production. These range from Shakespearean classics such as Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet (West Side Story) to lesser known short stories like "Night Bus" (It Happened One Night).
One other trend that I want to mention as it will likely come up throughout this project is the subject of war. All Quiet on the Western Front shows the horrors of war as people of the day knew it. World War I (or The Great War) was a fresh memory and the world had not yet seen the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust that was to come a decade later. It is hard to watch this film and not be affected by the story of young Paul as he leaves school to fight for the Fatherland with his friends.
And now, "What Good is War?"
What Good is War?
Good for killing young men
those primed to enter society,
pumped full of knowledge,
eager to make a difference,
then plunged head first in a ditch
to stare blankly across the open plain
past the wired at men just like them,
only speaking in a different tongue.
Good for creating rubble by the ton
as the bombs fall in towns
long emptied of their inhabitants
yet filled with men sent
only to kill and create more
rubble in a mirror town
across the line.
Good for filling the bellies
of survivors, for when one man
falls, his brothers that live
share the spoils of his absence.
Good for creating quick inheritance,
for the man with only one leg
no longer needs two boots, but his
comrade on the line can use them well...
until he too become separated from leg...or life.
Good for training men to march
in lines neat and organized,
the better to be forgotten when
charging helter skelter over
"no man's land."
Good for brewing despair overnight,
causing fresh young minds to
turn to madness and run blindly
toward death rather than stay
still and hope for salvation.
Good for warping time, making
every day seem as a year,
every night as a century.
Good for learning to kill or be killed.
Good for forgetting home and family.
Good for settling disputes of men
who never picked up a gun or
set foot on the field of battle.
Good for dying.
Copyright © 2015 Jonathan Ytreberg
So why do I bring this up now?
Well, I decided to add another wrinkle to my project. For any films on the list that were inspired by or based on a book or story, I am going to try and read the story prior to watching the movie.
Why add this complexity?
Well, part of the idea behind doing this project was to put myself in the world of people seeing these films at the time they were first released. Part of that would be knowing of the books or stories and perhaps seeking them out around the time of seeing the film.
I firmly believe in reading the book before seeing the film whenever possible. In 99.9% of cases, the book is always better. It's so much easier to provide backstory and explanations through a 300 page novel, than in a two hour film. Inevitably, things get left of when you make a movie based on a book.
Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of excellent film adaptations of books, from Gone With the Wind to The Lord of the Rings, it seems like we have wanted to see our books come to life in more than just our imaginations for as long as cinema has existed.
Now, all this being said, it may cause some minor delays between poems as I try to crash through some rather lengthy novels (yes I'm looking at you Gone With the Wind and All the King's Men) but I'm going to do my best to cover every angle of these stories, regardless of the format they came in.
I'm glad you're here to spend some time with me at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in 1929. It's time for us to celebrate the best that the motion picture industry has to offer by handing out the first ever awards for achievement in film.
1927 brought us an excellent film about love and war called Wings starring Clara Bow, Charles "Buddy" Rogers and Richard Arlen. It tells the story of two young pilots joining the army to fight against the Germans in Europe during the Great War, their love of flying, adventure and the beautiful girl back home.
I hope you enjoyed the first of many Film Poems. Sign up the email list below to make sure you receive the latest Film Poems when they are released along with the latest blog posts. You can also leave comments below with your thoughts on the poem or the film in question.
The short version is that a Film Poem is a poem about a film.
I know, we all learned long ago in elementary school that you're not allowed to use the word to define itself. That's not what I'm trying to do here. To be honest, I'm putting it that way because I don't really know yet what a Film Poem is. It was something that came to my mind that would be fun to do but I hadn't connected the dots yet on HOW I would do it.
Along with having no idea what the exact topics will be for these poems, I don't really know the format. If you've been to my Outermountain Writing page (and I hope you have) you'll know that my poems vary in subject and length quite a bit. Some are only a few lines long while others go on for several stanzas. One of the things I am hoping will come out of this project is the ability to expand my poetry muscles to the point where my poems can sometimes be even longer than they have been in the past. It's not going to be a requirement, but I know that I won't grow as fully as I want to with this project unless I push myself.
Lastly, I will be posting the actual poems to this blog page as well as putting up a separate page with the full list of poems as they are created along with the films they relate to. I will also likely post non-poem content on this blog periodically when the muse strikes me to write something about films, poems or writing in general.
Thank you for stopping by and I hope you enjoy Film Poems!
Jonathan Ytreberg is a writer and poet with a lifelong love of films. This project is aimed at combining those loves and creating something that lasts at the same time.