In January 2015, during that time many of us here in the mid-continent first heard the term “polar vortex”, I was down in Key West for the Key West Literary Seminar, specifically for a workshop I got into at the last minute with the poet Jane Hirshfield. The weather was warm and sultry, and I was staying in the old town area of a place soaked in the past of literary giants like Hemingway and Elizabeth Bishop. That was my first time at a US literary event and I feel like that was a good prelude to the California adventure that started later that year.
I also got to attend the Literary Seminar part of the event, which meant listening to a wide variety of great writers discuss many things on that year’s theme on panels as well as readings. Jane was great, so well prepared for every discussion and her reading was also top notch. There was another standout, who I didn’t know before, the poet Marie Howe. She and Jane were the ones with the best insights, always prepared and their readings also stood out.
In the workshop with Jane we learned many things. One key one was, ironically, that she felt people workshopped too much, “that they sanded the finish right off their poems” often leaving dull wood. The other was that she felt one of the best poets writing dialogue in poems was Marie Howe. Jane noted that the book What the Living Do was a spectacular example of that, the collection Marie wrote about her brother dying of AIDS.
At one of Marie’s readings I was also struck by a poem full of dialogue, After the Movie. Afterwards I decided to use that poem as a model to try and write a poem using similar moves. The poem I wrote is meant as an homage to that poem and the choices Marie makes. So there is some similarity in the engine of the poem. But different topic, characters, lines etc.
Something then my poem has that hers doesn’t (as far as I know) is intertextuality, which is when one text is influenced by another. This influence can come in many ways such as quotation, allusion or pastiche. Pastiche is the mirroring of another writer’s style to honour the work of that writer. The intertextuality of my poem includes the title which is the exact same title as Marie’s and then the mirroring of style and stylistic moves within the poem. These are known as fundamental elements within post modernism.
I was uncomfortable with just mirroring though, I felt I needed to recognize the source material more than just a note. I tried alternate titles such as “After After The Movie”, or an epigraph of After After the Movie. But that didn’t do it, not nearly enough. The poet Don McKay once gave the advice to a group of us that when you had a problem with a poem it was sometimes a solution to actually highlight the problem to the reader in the poem. When I discussed my problem with Matthew Zapruder he suggested exactly that. Put the problem in the poem.
The solution I came up with was a post modern one, the use of self reflexivity, the poem reveals it knows it’s a work of art, it tells the reader it is a pastiche to Marie Howe’s poem. Also the characters in the poem come close to realizing they are fictional, they realize they are in a scene that closely resembles Marie’s poem’s world and actually do the comparison. In the end then the poem makes use of both Intertextuality and Self Reflexivity.
In the making of the video in the bar scene the characters break the fourth wall by raising their eyebrows to the audience, again a move that recognizes the artwork knows it’s artificial. And for me that was important because the video is of a self reflexive poem, the video then gets to extend that more. I have to say that scene took many takes, a bunch of technical glitches to overcome but I really enjoyed it, which I think you can tell.
Hope you appreciate the video. Here’s where you can see thebook that has the poem.
And this video gallery is being developed with funding from: