If You Could Write One Great Poem,
What Would You Want It To Be About?
By Robert Pinsky
(Asked of four student poets at the Illinois Schools
for the Deaf and Visually Impaired)
Fire: because it is quick, and can destroy.
Music: place where anger has its place.
Romantic Love -- the cold or stupid ask why.
Sign: that it is a language, full of grace,
That it is visible, invisible, dark and clear,
That it is loud and noiseless and is contained
Inside a body and explodes in air
Out of a body to conquer from the mind.
From Poet's Choice by Edward Hirsch in The Washington Post Book World, in which, to my sorrow, Hirsch announces that this will be his next-to-last Poet's Choice column. The column will be taken over by Robert Pinsky, whose poetry I like very much...but I like the poetry of Rita Dove very much as well, and though I read her columns when she wrote Poet's Choice before Hirsch took it over, she was not as interesting an interpreter of the poems of others. Still, Pinsky founded the Favorite Poem Project while he was poet laureate of the United States, and he's certainly no traditionalist, nor a snob about verse. It will be interesting to see which poets he picks to talk about, and whether, like Hirsch, he devotes some columns to poetic forms and language rather than specific writers.
Today started quietly, with a neighbor boy visiting my sons to play and me doing work around the house. Then my parents took the kids to the Wizards game tonight, leaving apaulled and myself free to see The Aviator. (I will never understand the MPAA rating system -- why is Life of Brian rated R, but The Aviator PG13? I am so glad we did not take the children to this one!) We both thought it was superb -- beautifully filmed, very well acted, and we were surprised after it ended to discover how long it had been -- we were under the impression that it was only a two-hour movie and it felt like a two-hour movie, with excellent pacing and very little that I could imagine being cut; the early scenes with Kate Beckinsdale's Ava Gardner weren't very impressive after Cate Blanchett's astonishing Katharine Hepburn but Scorsese had to do something to convince us that she cared enough for Hughes to be there for him later, when he started to come apart, so I suppose they needed to be included.
I am one of those people who wasn't all that impressed with DiCaprio in Titanic and couldn't believe how famous it made him -- he now claims he didn't want that, but nobody gets on that many magazine covers without himself and his publicist and manager making it happen -- so I held that against him for several years, but seeing Total Eclipse reminded me of just how good he can be, and in The Aviator he takes a lot of similar risks. I love how unafraid he is to be really despicable in scenes when he could try for empathy; he has a lot of sympathetic moments but he doesn't ever soft-pedal the really rotten stuff. I had read that The Aviator didn't deal with Hughes in his insane last years, so I didn't expect his earlier OCD and related issues to be portrayed so graphically; the lunatic edge is very striking. It's funny, because there's no one I came away from this film really liking; Hughes is very messed up, but the accusations he levels against all the phony people around him strike home (the actresses all act with him, the politicians are all sleazy, the people who work for him all suck up). It's not a pretty picture and yet, like a plane wreck, you can't look away.
When we got home, we set up the telescope to look at Comet Machholz, which we couldn't see last night due to rainy weather. We couldn't make it out with the naked eye in our very light-polluted suburb, but it was clear with binoculars, a fuzzy spot just to the right of the Pleiades (north, I think?) Not as spectacular as Hale-Bopp but still neat! I wish I knew enough to take a photo, but I suspect we have the wrong lenses for our cameras and telescope both.
The peacocks at the Baltimore Zoo wander free, like this one resting in a corner of the farmyard exhibit.