January 5, 2013

"The Divine Horsemen" by Carrie Lorig

Before I start watching and writing The Divine Horsemen. Before I start watching and writing The Living Gods of Haiti. I let the Internet teach me how to give good headscarf because there is a shot of Maya Deren (from In the Mirror of Maya Deren) in which she does so in a navy and magenta pattern glittering way. My scarf is mid blue and if you took one letter off it, it would be my mid blue scar. It's dark this far north, and my room always feels dark. I want my head to feel bright.

Here I am wearing what you can't really see all that well on my head:

January 4, 2013

"Brief Encounter" by David Lehman

My favorite chick flick is "Brief Encounter," David Lean's black-and-white 1945 tearjerker starring Celia Johnson as a respectable middle-class housewife and Trevor Howard as the married doctor whom she meets in a train station. The first meeting is accidental, the second is deliberate, the start of a love affair, intense though not quite consummated, that is told from Celia Johnson's point of view and in her voice, to the lushly romantic strains of Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto. (And btw, according to the London Telegraph of 25 April 2011, Rocky's Second remains the United Kingdom's favorite piece of classical music, besting anything by Beethoven or Mozart, undoubtedly because of this film.) Railway stations, and the tea rooms in them, which were still ubiquitous in my own time as a grad student in England, are a perfect setting for the lovers' furtive meetings. They are dreary, ordinary, impersonal places, although back then, in even the meanest of them you could get an excellent cup of brewed tea rather than the teabag variety. The love affair is, in effect, an interruption, a delay, and a slight detour in the journey of two lives that will never again intersect. The restraint and dignity of the characters (and the actors who portray them) give the film its terrific resonance. They communicate that something significant is at stake: the movie pushes the idea that in the matter of sexual relationships between consenting adults, there is no free lunch (and if there is, it isn't love). A psychoanalyst would look at the same picture and argue "yes, of course, the amount of repression varies directly with the heat of passion," but what fun is that? My wife singles out the last meeting of the lovers, which gets interrupted by an insipid, yammering woman who has spent the day shopping. I also like what happens when Celia Johnson returns to her amazingly compassionate husband, who intuits what has happened, though she has said nothing. An incidental pleasure is hearing, in the background of one scene, Schubert's "Marche Militaire," which I have never been able to resist.

David Lehman initiated The Best American Poetry series in 1988. He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and an award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His books of poetry include When a Woman Loves a Man, The Daily Mirror, and Valentine Place. He is the editor of The Oxford Book of American Poetry. A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs (Nextbook/Schocken), the most recent of his six nonfiction books, won the Deems Taylor Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) in 2010. He teaches in the graduate writing program of the New School in New York City.

January 3, 2013

"Legally Digressive" by Nicole Callihan

For years, I lied about the fact that I was in a sorority, at least to the other English majors. We’d be smoking a cigarette in the quad, because this was Oklahoma, and in Oklahoma there’s enough land and sky that if you’re going to have a university, you’re going to have to have a giant-ass quad, and someone would say, Where do you live?, and I’d say, Live? like it was a weird question, and then I’d say, Oh, over on Chatauqua. In the big white house.

I didn’t mention it was a HUGE white house and that I lived there with eighty other girls and that we dressed in robes on Sunday nights and did secret rituals, that we had a handshake, that we ate rice with cottage cheese and salsa, that fraternity boys came over to serenade us as we stood on the stairs waiting to be chosen by them so they could drive us somewhere for a hayride and a few sips of snuck-in beer. I just took another drag and kicked at the leaves.

January 2, 2013

"Barbarella" by Nancy McGuire Roche

When I teach Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy (1968) as a feminist film text, my students usually think I have lost my mind.  Later, I often find them posting pictures of Barbarella on Facebook after they “get” the camp and sexually savvy text. And well, after all, Jane Fonda’s Barbarella is just plain fun. Barbarella, however, does more: it pushes a counter-culture narrative and boasts a liberated female astronaut who attracts both males and females in her adventures.  And best of all, she is not only liberated, but also empowered. The film is based on a comic strip character created by Jean-Claude Forest, which appeared in the French V-Magazine in 1962.  In its native France, the female astronaut soon became a pop culture sensation. Two years later when Eric Losfeld published Barbarella as a graphic novel, it immediately sold 200,000 copies, but French censors also ruled that the book could not be publicly displayed.

January 1, 2013

"An Introduction to the Chick Flix series" by Jennifer L. Knox with a poem by Lina ramona Vitkauskas

Say what you will about Facebook, but without it, this little series would have never come into existence. I woke up one morning in October, thinking about the movie Gidget, which I do frequently. For years, I’d been waiting for some young hot-shot poet chick (the ones whose photos I see on Facebook at zillions of readings, announcing their poems' publications in über-hip magazines I've never heard of) to put out a call for an essay series on women in film. I had Gidget on lock and was raring to go.

So I asked Facebook, “Who’s gonna do this thing?” and Delirious Hem editor Shanna Compton said, “You are.” Never having curated an essay series before, I had no idea what I was getting into, which is why most people are stupid enough to try new things. We posted the call for essays and immediately the requests for movies flooded in. It turns out, we all have our own Gidget.

In the call, I said the theme of Chick Flix was wide open for interpretation—not just Meg Ryan vehicles (though she is represented in our series) but also films in which women kick ass, go insane, get laid, seek revenge, and dance with a buzzing vibrator to Parliament’s “Give Up the Funk” (Slums of Beverly Hills, also represented).