This past weekend , I fell in love with Jean Cocteau.
I've always been infatuated with him, frankly. His film Orpheus (1949) is one of my all-time favorites; Beauty and the Beast, too, is a wondrous achievement. I had the opportunity to go back and take a look see at the other two films in the Orphic Trilogy (The Blood of a Poet (1930) and The Testament of Orpheus (1959)) and they are truly amazing and should be of great interest to poets as well as film buffs. The dvd versions I took out of the library had some first-class extras; in the case of The Blood of a Poet, the biographical documentary Autobiography of an Unknown, directed by Edgardo Cozarinsky, accompanying the main feature was every bit as entertaining, putting Cocteau's life and career in perspective with heavy doses of the lyric surrealism that infuses all his work. I actually enjoyed it more, it has a polished feel as a documentary that somehow Blood does not have as a film. In many ways, The Blood of a Poet is an early rehearsal for Orpheus; I would actually recommend watching the later first, though it comes "second" in the trilogy. This is not to detract from Blood: it is excellent.
Similarly, The Testament of Orpheus is something of an anomaly as a film. It might stand alone without Orpheus yet it is greatly enhanced by it. It is Cocteau's farewell to film and he gathers together his previous motifs, characters and even actors who played various roles to make his final artistic statement in the medium. There is much humor here; Cocteau himself becomes the main character in the film, a sort of time traveling Orpheus, stuck in modern times. It is nearly as good as Orpheus and a beautiful chronicle of the poet's journey. Another interesting extra is Villa Santo Sospir, which is a 16mm color film shot by Cocteau at the summer home of a friend. It has the feel of a combination home movie and travelogue and focuses almost entirely on the house, which Cocteau painted inside and out with his unique artistic creations, making it a work of art in and of itself. It must be seen to be believed. Here's a brief glimpse to get the flavor:
Sticking with the theme of the artist, a clip of the always provocative, incredibly original Harlan Ellison is making the rounds about the need for a writer to be paid for her/his work. Check it out:
There is, of course, no small irony that the circulation of this clip, an excerpt of the film Dreams With Sharp Teeth, is, perhaps, violating the very principle he so passionately (& profanely, bless him) espouses. So, that being said, the above is being passed along in the interest of the greater good, if there be such a thing.
And, yes, Lilliput being the micropress mag that it is, can only pay in the bane of the poet's existence, contributor copies. Sigh. The layers are thick.
Let the beatings begin.
Before getting to the Lilliput samples, one final bit of news. Longhouse Publishers of Vermont has issued a number of Cid Corman related items, including a new selected poems, The Next One Thousand Years, which I can't wait to see. Bob Arnold of Longhouse has sent along two of his delightful slip card productions of works by Cid: a Rumi translation ("What can I do - friends?) and a work entitled New Proverbs. Here are two from the master, resonating as his work always does:
yields as much.
Don't ask more of yourself
than the mirror does.
Continuing with the theme of the artist's plight and segueing from Wayne Hogan's beautiful cover above, here is the man himself, this time wielding the written word to speak, as always, directly to the point. From #97:
How To Be An Artist
Save all your
string. Save all your
empty paper cups.
Save all your missing socks.
Save all your wasted
words. Save all your Indianhead
nickels. Yes, especially
your Indianhead nickels.
Regarding This Poem
The idea was to put
together as one compelling
composite all those parts you
said you particularly liked from
poems of mine you rejected over
the years but on second thought
would the conglomeration work as a
whole and besides you have a ten
line limit but don't think
that I haven't noticed
after long work
and a dove
cut a pale sky.
A second dove
nowhere in sight,
the world is still
too dark. We must
(shaken like a rattle):
shoehorn, stubby pencil,
Till next Thursday,
PS Don't miss Alicia Ostriker's devastating poetic observation of the American psyche, Fix, on today's The Writer's Almanac.