Monday, September 19, 2011

Poetry Monday

There's not a whole lot of poetry in movies and television, except for Shakespeare, of course. So it's notable that e. e. cummings' poem "somewhere i have never traveled,gladly beyond," has played a crucial role in both a film and now a television series.

It was used first in Woody Allen's brilliant Hannah and Her Sisters. Philandering husband Michael Caine buys a book of cummings' poetry for his wife's sister, played by Barbara Hershey. He directs her to a certain poem and Woody Allen has Hershey read the lines in voice-over. He even uses the final line of the poem as a chapter heading.

It's a nice moment in the film, and the poem makes Barbara Hershey overlook Michael Caine's glasses and have an affair with him.

The same poem was used in a similar vein in last week's episode of the first-rate new BBC American show The Hours, about a BBC news hour set in 1956. The character played by Ben Whishaw sends the poem to Romola Garai. He doesn't have the same luck that Michael Caine did. By the way, The Hours took a little while to get going but it's pretty great television, and it is beautiful to look at.

Without further ado, the poem:

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

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