Sunday, July 10, 2011

David Lynch and Cinematic Poetry

Back when I used to edit poetry often, there was a stock line I often used with writers, as I tried to help whip work into shape: Stop writing like a prose novelist and start speaking through a language of imagery. It's an old truth, basically. If you approach poetry as if you're trying to write a short story, the result will more than likely always be prosaic and wordy. To further illustrate this concept, I would often say something else like Novels are like Martin Scorcese films, and poetry closely resembles the work of David Lynch.

A lot of people do not necessarily understand Lynch, and that's because they are approaching his movies the same way they would a Scorcese or Ron Howard production: expecting a linear narrative to neatly tie things together. One often sees the same with novels, unless you're reading something deliberately post modern or avant garde.

Still, Lynch is fundamentally a poet working in a cinematic medium. Much of contemporary free verse -- even the non-experimental stuff, speaks through a series of images and metaphors. It's the "show, don't tell" aspect on steroids. A contemporary poem stretches down the page on how it lays out it's images within a sequence. Lynch practically does the same in movies. Consider this very short film he did as part of the Lumeire project:

The meaning of the clip is not readily put together the same way Scorcese or Howard would lay something out. Many experience this same sense of confusion through reading poetry, too, especially with work that tends to be more surreal than naturalistic, like, say Garcia Lorca or Pablo Neruda. But then again, Lorca or Neruda are not Hemingway, and nor should the reading experience be expected to be the same, either.

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