I first heard of this collection a few years ago when Garrison Keillor recommended it in an email from his excellent bookstore in St. Paul, Common Good Books. As a fan of both movies and poetry, I thought it sounded like an excellent concept. In the interim, I read Jordan’s M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A, and that only increased my sense of anticipation. And from the beautiful cover to the Table of Contents that reads like poetry itself to the final poem, this one was very much worth the wait.

The frame of this collection consists of poems written in response to movies that are Jordan’s favorites. Based on the notes at the back of the book, he seems to favor films with optimistic tone – ones that reward those who struggle and punishes “those who resist tempering.”

What moves this collection from the very good to the truly exceptional are the genre defying collection of poems in the middle that, together, serve as kind of a biography of Oscar Micheaux. The highlight of these neatly linked poems is, “Starting now, focused, I see through a lens.”

Other favorites include (and this collection will send you scurrying to your NetFlix search feature), “Rififi,” with its pointed insights about men and “The Cabinets of Dr. Caligari.” It starts this way:

Streets anesthetized in neon lights,

I walk through them in sleep,

deep in sleep, as an excuse

for acts I might only dream

of committing while wide awake.

“Ikiru” is also wonderful and wise:

A man must be willing to look like a child,

who has yet to believe in death,

to attain his desires.

“The Red Balloon” made me ‘see’ a familiar film in a new way. And “Oldboy” provides a perfect ending:

We live some memories,

and some memories are planted. There’s

only so much space for the truth

and the fabrications to spread out

in one’s mind. . .

(Note the perfect line breaks between lines 3 & 4 and 4 & 5.)

More from “Oldboy” –

                              don’t believe

there’s some joy in forgetting.

There’s no joy in the struggle to forget. . .

You remember when you were the man

who fit these clothes, but you’ve forgotten this

world.

Now to find his other two collections, Quantum Lyrics and Rise and to wait for what comes next.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/search/?q=A.+Van+Jordan

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