Sunday, June 12, 2011

What I Meant to Tell You

Recently, I served as a juror for a film festival and had a chance to see What I Meant to Tell You: an American Poet’s State of the Union.

I have briefly mentioned this film before, but it deserves a entry of its own.
I had maybe 20-25 films to watch and wasn’t overly excited about seeing a documentary about a poet. Really? Another poet?  More obscure references, opaque musings with and without rhymes. Almost had me wishing for another surfer film.

Ah, poetry.

Life and Times of a Jar of Peanut Butter
by Mad Cat Lady(with thanks to
Small children stick a knife in me
Then lick it and put it back
I am sometimes used immorally
Or lasciviously consumed by the fat

I want to like poetry. I do.
I like to play with the bad poetry generator the pangloss website. Supply the first line and the computer will finish the poem. 
I gave it: Stopping at the mall on a sunny day.
And the computer thoughtfully filled in:
There's never a fight on Monday night at the Brass Dragon Saloon;
Yet it's Scratch and Save day at the Bay;
who then tried to feel my swollen balloons
Did I mention that the film was directed by the poet’s son? Sigh!
The DVD package promised that I would soon be watching conversations between the poet and a TV actor. Yippee. A poetry documentary featuring a TV actor – a guy who played “Mr. Big” in Sex and the City - talking to a poet. Yawn.

Now that I have really built this thing up for you, please do watch the trailer. But first, let me tell you that I now love this feisty old poet and his talented son, the director, and have even developed a brand new crush on “Mr. Big.” That is to say, Chris Noth.

The poet is Peter Dufault and he is an amazing poet who has been writing poetry for over sixty years.  Dufault’s poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, Harpers, The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly and many other journals throughout the world. 

He has spent much of his life writing about the threats to our environment and Constitution. Yeah, he’s a tree-huger. He also was an air force bomber pilot during World War II. He writes that we need, “...from what Abe Lincoln called the better angels of our nature, to realign with our collective reverence for the Supreme Law of the Land, and for the Land itself.”

The director, Ethan Dufault, explains that poets are "the custodians of our collective capacity to imagine and re-imagine our place in the world, both personally and politically."

Much of the film is an ongoing poignant conversation between father and son and their on-camera sharing is neither sentimental nor commonplace. It’s a beautiful thing. See it with your father. 

For more information about the film, go to:

I leave you with a poem by Peter Dufault


Kestrel too?  Dwindling now?
That small falcon somehow
quarried out of a rainbow
in its saffron and ash-blue
blazons--and nary a one
seen yet, and the year half-gone?

Watching two of them once
tumbling among canyons
and crags of summer cloud,
I felt top-lofty, proud
to be in the same world with them.
But I suppose, even then,
it had been moot how much
longer they could live with us.

(From “To Be In The Same World”  Worple Press  2007)

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1 comment:

  1. I just missed your column, but definitely want to point people toward THE POWER OF TWO ( which is a truly triumphant story in the face of cystic fibrosis and lung failure. "Happy" doesn't say nearly enough. You should see this film.