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Paterson (2016)


J.A.A. Purves
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Writing poetry is not the same as reciting it. I have written hundreds of poems I couldn't tell you the words to if you held a gun to my head. 

Poetry is catharsis for some of us, just a way to let the steam of life out in one flawed imperfect attempt at at least making some beauty out of it. Sometimes we never return to that poem again, and the words fade like smoke into the air.

Course if you make a book of poems and recite them over and over for fans, I suppose you'd come to remember the words a bit. I'd kinda hate doing that myself. Maybe that's why I'm not a -poet- but just a guy who writes poetry sometimes. 

"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

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12 hours ago, Justin Hanvey said:

Writing poetry is not the same as reciting it. I have written hundreds of poems I couldn't tell you the words to if you held a gun to my head. 

Poetry is catharsis for some of us, just a way to let the steam of life out in one flawed imperfect attempt at at least making some beauty out of it. Sometimes we never return to that poem again, and the words fade like smoke into the air.

Course if you make a book of poems and recite them over and over for fans, I suppose you'd come to remember the words a bit. I'd kinda hate doing that myself. Maybe that's why I'm not a -poet- but just a guy who writes poetry sometimes. 

Fair enough, that's just not how my brain works. Perhaps because I'm not a prolific spur-of-the-moment poet in the way you describe. I write occasionally and with intense concentration, and sometimes I'll get stuck halfway and put the poem aside and when I come back to it months later my subconscious has been working on it and I can finish it easily enough.

I still maintain that Paterson, who writes his poems longhand in a notebook, and is seen mulling over his work and revising it, would be able to write it again from memory. I know I would, and I'd expect anyone to at least try if it means that much to you. Heck, I think I could make a fairly good stab at it, just from having seen and heard them written down in the film.

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I don't find the wife too MPDG, but anyone who feels the need to offhandedly inform their spouse that they (the speaker) have a very distinct aesthetic is pretty intolerable.

Liked the movie. Didn't love it. I actually don't think Paterson's relationship is healthy (none of the relationships in the movie are healthy, except with the dog, and that's gotten vexed by the end). The film is pretty down on marriage, all things considered, so it seems to me that Paterson's low-key dysfunctional relationship is par for the course. And it is dysfunctional; the wife isn't just someone who is enthusiastic about a lot of things. She's someone who can't seem to settle on any one thing (baking! No, inventing recipes! No, being a country music star!) without really being good at any of it. Paterson hardly seems to enjoy being with her--he eats lunch and then stays out late at his favorite bar (the only place, note, where he really seems to manage more than a wry smile). This movie is a lot of things, but a celebration of marriage it isn't.

I did love the look of the movie. It's beautiful, and some of the poetry sequences are put together so nicely that I was almost able to ignore the poetry itself, which is middling at best. I could watch Adam Driver walk around empathizing with people all day, and some of the best sequences are precisely that: him just staring and listening to the people around him. Those are also the moments where the movie comes closest to replicating the power of the Williams poem. Williams may be most associated with stuff like "This is Just to Say" and "The Red Wheelbarrow," but PATERSON--the epic poem--is another thing entirely: a collection of observations and stories and clippings (including, iirc, a letter from Alan Ginsberg) that attempts to take in the scope of Paterson, NJ's history (it's intended as a rebuke to poets like Eliot, who fled away from America and tried to build an American poetry out of the scraps of European culture). PATERSON--the poem--includes violent murders and dry history right alongside any sort of Red Wheelbarrowism, and the scenes where Paterson, the character, listens to people offhandedly discussing anarchists actually does replicate a bit of what Williams seems to be getting at. 

I'm curious about the choice of a Japanese poet at the end; in PATERSON (the poem) there's actually a reference to Li Bai, the Chinese poet who drowned in a lake attempting to embrace the moon (legendarily; it makes a little more sense when you remember that Li Bai is one of the great Chinese poets of solitary drinking. Li Bai is, of course, the Rihaku of Pound's Cathay--a Chinese poet with a Japanese name, coming to Pound through the mediation of Ernest Fenollosa and various Japanese scholars). So the influence of Eastern poetry on Modernism would be something that could play intertextually here, but I'm not exactly sure how.

Also interested in the idea of the movie as a contemplation of process. It's very mechanically structured so that the days of the week follow a particular pattern, only occasionally broken by flashes of mild excitement. Bus routes are themselves repetitive. The wife decorates in black and white circles. And the movie ends with Paterson beginning again at the work he has been doing all week. Lives of quite desperation, indeed, but also the idea that the thing itself is a thing worth doing, no matter if it ends up coming to nothing (the wife's endless hobbies, and the fact that she's never good at them or finished decorating her house, might play in there as well). There's something to be said there.

Edited by NBooth
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For the record, I never thought Darren had delivered a "sick burn" against the film. But I *was* intrigued by his less-than-glowing assessment of the *character*. Most of the vibes I have picked up about this film so far have emphasized how supposedly wonderful the protagonists are. I was grateful to see something a little less celebratory.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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