List Wednesday – Five movies about writers…

Okay, it’s that time of year when curling up with a good movie and a fire in the woodstove sounds infinitely preferable to piling on your coat, snow boots, hat, mittens and muffler. Here are five movies that will help you wile away the hours and maybe make you feel like getting out your pencil and notebook:

  1. Bright Star: romantic, beautiful, and hopelessly sad tale about John Keats and Fanny Brawne.
  2. Miss Potter: seriously, if you haven’t seen this, go rent it and get back to me. You wouldn’t think that a movie about Beatrix Potter could be so compelling and charming.
  3. Finding Forrester: a movie about the power of good writing to lift us out of dismal circumstances. This movie is a real winner.
  4. The Hours: not as good as the novel but still disturbing and gratifying. Plus if you’re a Virginia Woolf fan, you just have to revel in the fact that this film got made in the first place.
  5. Howl: I was actually surprised at how much I liked this film. I had thought it would be hipster twaddle and I was actually won over by the both the style of film-making and James Franco’s portrayal of Allen Ginsberg.

Some extras just in case you need a few more: Dead Poet’s Society (come on, how could I leave it out?), Il Postino, Possession, Sylvia, The World According to Garp (a classic), and Misery (not for the faint of heart). Why are there so many movies about cops and Wall Street dudes and so few about writers? Please feel free to add movies that I missed in the comments.

And for those of you who think I’ve forgotten today’s draft, here are your two lines:

After I pass the fifth shattered rabbit
on the roadside and think of my mother

Onward.

List Wednesday – Five Creepy Halloween Poems

By next Wednesday, Halloween will have come and gone. Always one of my favorite holidays, it conjures up newly frosty nights filled with the scrape of bare tree branches, swirling leaves, and a newly graveyard grey landscape. In college, I used to love to wander the local graveyard which was filled with very old gravestones, ornately carved and bearing melancholy sentiments. The long twilight of this time of year reminds us that it’s time to gather for stories and poetry to bind us all together. So, here you go. Five scary poems for your Halloween or Samhain  pleasure.

  1. The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe – this one is kind of a “gimme.” Sure the content is pretty spooky, the depressed narrator, the creepy giant bird, but it’s really the incantatory quality of the rhythm and rhyme scheme that fuels this romp through the macabre.
  2. Empire of Dreams by Charles Simic. It’s the combination of the nameless black dog and the fact that the speaker carries a mask with him of which he is terrified that makes this plainspoken poem so odd.
  3. The Emperor of Ice Cream by Wallace Stevens. It’s the frighteningly cold feet that protrude from the sheet that get me every time. Or perhaps it’s the sly way that Stevens asserts that death awaits all of us with a reference to ice cream which really gives me the chills.
  4. Patsy Sees a Ghost by Lola Haskins. Haskins simple language and everyday details make this encounter with the ghost of drowned girl a truly haunting experience.
  5. All Hallows by Louise Gluck.
Even now this landscape is assembling.
The hills darken. The oxen
sleep in their blue yoke,
the fields having been
picked clean, the sheaves
bound evenly and piled at the roadside
among cinquefoil, as the toothed moon rises:
This is the barrenness
of harvest or pestilence.
And the wife leaning out the window
with her hand extended, as in payment,
and the seeds
distinct, gold, calling
Come here

Come here, little one
And the soul creeps out of the tree.

List Wednesday – 5 bits of butterfly wisdom from someone else’s pen

This morning I found butterfly on the outside stairs – a slow, cold butterfly with a very damaged wing. I coaxed it onto a leaf and brought it indoors where, as it warmed up, it became quite agitated trying to fly. In the end, I put it back outside, in the sun on its leaf, hoping it would find its original way, instead of the way I was trying to force upon it.

There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.
Richard Buckminster Fuller

It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop.
Vita Sackville-West

The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.
Rabindranath Tagore

And the case of butterflies so rich it looks
As if all summer settled there and died.

Philip Larkin, “Autumn”

(And before any lepidopterists come unglued, that is not the butterfly that I saw this morning but the closest I could find.)