Archives for posts with tag: Film


by John S. O’Connor
Reprinted from (2009)

This year I’m teaching a new class called Literature and Film. Since I’m always thinking of ways to use poetry in the classroom, we started the year by screening Run Lola Run while we read Oedipus the King (the brilliant Robert Fagles translation replete with devastatingly ironic line breaks). In our film noir unit, we read some terrific noir poems from Kevin Young’s Black Maria and some excerpts from Robert Polito’s fine new collection, Holywood and God. (Check out the podcast on Poetry Noir from Poetry off the Shelf.)

Then, while we were examining mise-en-scene (for our purposes, the physical setting of the film) in movies such as Double Indemnity and Chinatown, I asked students to write noir poems of their own. As a first step, I had students work in small groups to make a list of 50 concrete nouns, objects that fill the frame. When they were finished, I asked them to write down 10 “tough guy” lines. With that group-generated word pool, I asked individual students to tell a story that uses no verbs or adjectives that were not on their lists. (They could feel free to add “small words” such as articles and prepositions). For the sake of coherence, I didn’t really care if they broke these arbitrary rules, but for the most part they stayed within the parameters I laid out. Here is an example from Michael:

Candle-lit brooches blinds the darkness

Whiskey perfumes the pearled dame:

Her thin eyebrows, false lashes, painted red lips. Manicured nails

Put pen to pad to pistol

Bourbon shadows suffocate

Every crowded bar
Police fire on the heels of her fur coat

Streetlamps spit halos of light in the boozy night

The Fedora City lights like a knife

A neon scream hits my gut like a brick

Gasping for my life, my lungs find only stale air

I need a drink
The broad beat it outta there quick,

dangling rope

earrings her only trace

A doll on the run,

a run in her stockings–
Camera to crime to cuffs.

Set match to photograph

Smothering the city in Venetian streaks

The blinds are drawn shut

Case closed.

Photo: Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon, based on Dashiell Hammett‘s novel.



Gerald Locklin, author of the Silver Birch Press release Gerald Locklin: New and Selected Poems (1967-2007), is featured in Ekphrastia Gone Wild: Poems Inspired by Art a new collection from Ain’t Got No Press edited by Rick Lupert. 

Ekphrastia Gone Wild, an anthology of ekphrastic poetry — poetry inspired by other works of art (painting, film, literature, photography, and more) — includes work by Nobel Prize winning poet Wislawa Szymborska along with 87 poets from around the world.

Ekphrastia Gone Wild contributors include: A.J. Huffman, Ackroyd Jackson, Adam Kress, Alan Britt, Alan Price, Alan Wickes, Ann Drysdale, April Salzano, Benjamin Taylor Lally, Brendan Constantine, Brooke Dorn, Bruce Taylor, Carolyn A. Martin, Catherine Graham, Consuelo Marshall, Cynthia Gallaher, Dan Fitzgerald, Daniel Y. Harris, David Chorlton, Deborah P. Kolodji, Desmond Kon, Donald Mulcahy, Doris Lueth Stengel, Douglas Richardson, Dusan Colovic, Elizabeth Iannaci, Ellaraine Lockie, Eric Evans, Eric Lawson, Eric Tuazon, F.J. Bergmann, Farida Samerkhanova, Fern G. Z. Carr, Fiona Curran, Florence Weinberger, Gabrielle Mittelbach, Gene Grabiner, Gerald Locklin, Graham Fulton, Helen Bar-Lev, Iris Dan, James Bell, Jan Chronister, Jerry Quickley, Jim Bennett, John Stewart Huffstot, Johnmichael Simon, Kath Abela Wilson, Kathleen M. Krueger, Kenneth Pobo, Kevin Cornwall, Laurel Ann Bogen, Leland James, Letitia Minnick, M.A. Griffiths, M.J. Iuppa, Maggie Westland, Mantz Yorke, Marie Lecrivain, Martin W. Bennett, Mary Buchinger, Mary Harwell Sayler, Maryann Corbett, Michael Virga, Mick Moss, Mira Martin-Parker, Neal Whitman, Noel Sloboda, Paula McKay, Peggy Dobreer, Peggy Trojan, Perie Longo, Peter Branson, Phil Howard, Robert Wynne, Ron. Lavalette, Rosalee Thompson, Salvatore Difalco, Simon Jackson, Simon Peter Eggertsen, Sonja Smolec, Stanley H. Barkan, Steve Ely, Suzanne Lummis, Timothy Charles Anderson, Tracy Davidson and Wislawa Szymborska.

ABOUT THE EDITOR: Rick Lupert is the author of numerous collections of poetry and founder of Ain’t Got No Press. He also edited the Ain’t Got No Press titles A Poet’s Haggadah: Passover Through the Eyes of Poets and The Night Goes on All Night: Noir Inspired Poetry. He created and maintains The Poetry Super Highway, an online publication and resource for poets and writers, and since 1994 has hosted the weekly Cobalt Cafe reading series in Southern California. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, son, three cats, and a frog and works as a Jewish Music teacher for local synagogues and as a freelance graphic designer for print and web for anyone who would like to help pay his mortgage. Contact him at

Ekphrastia Gone Wild: Poems Inspired by Art is available at

Tune in to the Ekphrastia Gone Wild Virtual Publication Party, Sunday, September 15th at 2:00 p.m. (PDT) to hear poets featured in the book read their work on a special Poetry Super Highway Live broadcast right here.


I’m a huge fan of street photographer Garry Winogrand (1928-1984) and the above shot of Hollywood and Vine from  1969 is one of my favorites. John Szarkowski, Director of Photography at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, called Winogrand “the central photographer of his generation.” “Hollywood and Vine” is part of the permanent collection at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Find a larger version of the photograph here.

Why do I love this photo? For one thing, it’s packed with information — every inch seems to contain secrets waiting to be unlocked. The three women surrounded by beams of light seem mythological — the three graces strolling Hollywood Boulevard. The man in the wheel chair appears to wait for something — a cure, a friend, a few bucks, a blessing from the three graces? The woman in the hat waiting for the bus seems to have stood there since the beginning of time — the eternal waiter. The little boy on the bench stares through his round glasses at the man in the wheel chair, and the two of them become like ends of a scale, a balancing act — the boy looking to the future, while the man looks to the past. There is this and so much more — and it’s all reflected in the store windows.

You can borrow copies of Garry Winogrand’s books, including The Man in the Crowd, from libraries in most major cities. Do yourself a favor, check one out! I’d recommend Amazon, but most of Winogrand’s books are out of print and are selling for astronomical prices ($439.99!) — as noted here. One of the Amazon reviewers remarked: “It takes you forever to get through this book as you sit and look at each picture for a long, long time.” High praise indeed!



Excerpt from You Don’t Own Me, a novel by Vickie Lester

Billie sat from morning to early evening in an editing bay at USC putting together a three minute 16mm film… She liked working with her hands. She liked the process: putting on the thin white disposable cotton gloves so her fingers wouldn’t mark the footage, breaking down the raw film reels on a Bell & Howell splicer and hanging it on neat strips on a rack over a bin at her workstation. She liked running the strips back and forth on the illuminated bed until she found where to trim and where to splice. She liked the physicality of it, the finality of it, positioning the film sprockets down exactly on the pins, swiping the blade across the film, sanding down the edges of the cut, applying the glue, dropping the plate to make the weld. Repetitive, detailed, and from bits a pieces of celluloid she could make a cohesive narrative…Three minutes of film, it was short, but it was whole, it made sense, and she was in control…control, she really liked being in control.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vickie Lester’s people came from Moscow and a London slum called Whitechapel. When the British portion of the family arrived in New York they headed out to Seattle by train, way before the plane was invented. Finding only rain, and more rain, mud, and wooden planks for sidewalks (a segment of which appeared to be an orange crate from sunny California) they immediately booked tickets south…Or so the story goes. And thus, Lester’s father’s grandparents came to LA. Her friends and family continue to toil in the industry, and she tells her tales of beguiling Hollywood under the name Vickie Lester.  Visit Vickie Lester at her website, BEGUILING HOLLYWOOD, where she features rare photos and insider stories about tinsel town.

NOTE:  “On a Silver Platter,” a 2,000-word excerpt from Vickie Lester’s novel You Don’t Own Me, will appear in the Silver Birch Press upcoming publication Silver: An Eclectic Anthology of Poetry & Prose, scheduled for release on November 15, 2012.


Andy Warhol created his now-famous portrait of Elizabeth Taylor in 1963, but it wasn’t until 14 years later that Liz received a copy. The courteous actress was quick to thank Warhol for the signed edition. When Taylor passed away in 2011 at age 79, The Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh installed at its entrance two of the many versions that Warhol created.


Silver Liz [Ferus Type], 1963
silkscreen ink, acrylic, and spray paint on linen
40 x 40 in. (101.6 x 101.6 cm.)
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.1998.1.55


This Grey Goose Frame Shop window display featuring Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still reminded me of Patricia Neal, who starred in the 1951 movie. Today marks the two-year anniversary of Patricia Neal’s passing. I shot the photo through my passenger window while at a stoplight on LaBrea Avenue.

During a phone interview shortly before her death, Neal recalled working on the film and her admiration for director Robert Wise, even though he chided her for laughing during her rehearsals when saying the famous line: “Klaatu barada nikto.” Neal assured Wise she would deliver the line with solemnity during her performance — and managed to pull it off (though she burst out laughing as soon as the director called “cut”). What a great actress! What a great movie!


Today marks two years since the passing of Patricia Neal, an Oscar-winning actress I was fortunate to interview  about some of her Hollywood leading men (including Gary Cooper and Ronald Reagan). The phone interview occurred just a few months before Neal’s death from lung cancer, but she was warm, witty, and wonderful — and I had no idea she was ill at the time. I feel honored to have been the last person to interview this amazing artist, a true original who will live forever in her brilliant work.

I thought of Patricia Neal yesterday when I drove past the Grey Goose Frame Shop on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles, where the windows included a display featuring images and figures from The Day the Earth Stood Still, the 1951 film in which Neal starred early in her career.  We had a good laugh over her dialogue in the movie (“Klaatu barada nikto”), which she told me she had trouble saying with a straight face. We will always miss you, Patricia!