Monday, November 3, 2014

All Movies Love the Moon - Prose Poems on Silent Film - Gregory Robinson (Rose Metal Press)

Today's book of poetry:
All Movies Love the Moon - Prose Poems on Silent Film.  Gregory Robinson.  Rose Metal Press.  Brookline, MA.  2014.

Reading All Movies Love the Moon is a bombastic pleasure.  Gregory Robinson is here to translate the light between the projector and the screen.  No small trick.

Silent movies provide a launching board for his beautiful madness but I suspect Robinson could add glee to any subject he wanted to play with.

There are forgotten stills from movies, the text cards from silent films, all sorts of amusing distractions and associations to play havoc.  It works so well.

These loosely connected prose poems are about film and they're not.  What they definitely are - is riotously entertaining, engaging and even sometimes illuminating.

The Birth of a Nation (1915)

This is for you. The ushers in Civil War garb, for you. The rows of red velvet cushions,
crafted for girdled backs and porcelain bottoms, for you. The Birth--a new history formed
because you did not like the first one--for you.

A plea. We do not fear censorship, and we demand, as a right, the liberty to show the dark
side of wrong, so we might illuminate the bright side of virtue.

We demand it with our hands.

In the quarters of the Majestic, the best boy first saw light under his sheets and found it
was his own:  thin beams streaming from his palms like light shooting through a pinhole.
All over the studio lot, workers woke to the same stigmata, the gaffers, the cutters, the key
scenics, and the set designers, waking, wondering, keeping their arms outstretched as if
they held fire and wiggling their glowing fingertips as though ready to ascend.

The beams grew stronger by salary and status.  The cinematographer:  a policeman's
flashlight.  The director of photography:  the light on a freighter's mast.

Just off the lot, still under the storm of luminance, D.W. left a dream to find his palms gone
supernova.  He reached for his wife in the adjacent bed and cut her in half, along with the
wall behind her and the foundation of a neighboring house.

This is the product of those hands, all for you.  This palace built for no other purpose, this birth,
a world rewritten with lightning, the bright side of virtue slashing the old world to streamers.


Robinson is one of those freaky jugglers who can get comedy, drama, the history of cinema and the history of the world, all into the air at once.  Although it is also abundantly clear he might be a bit of a liar as well.  A magnificent and eloquent liar.  Often times the truth is far less interesting and Robinson seems to take comfort in that.

Today's book of poetry did a straw-poll in the office this morning.  Hands down, this is the book that has made us laugh most in recent memory.

The Mystery of the Leaping Fish (1916)

The mystery is what they see wide-eyed in the post-dart instant when their world is
overshot, when the prospect of a nymph is replaced by searing yellow light and a clamping
of lungs.

In those blurred snapshots, almost unrecognizable:  Fairbanks in a fish floatie, pretending
he's Sherlock Holmes.  Splash!  Browning undressing a flapper with his eyes.  Plunk!  Griffith
sunning himself.  Pop!  In some ridiculous outfit, absurd even to a fish.  Swish!  Then the cold,
the blue, the slick slide of water and scale.

The mystery is if we would realize if we did the same;  broke through, experienced some
other world in shards.  The mystery is where the fish go that we cannot.


I have loved movies since I was a kid.  Really loved them.  Worked as an usher in both of my home town movie theaters.  Worked as a projectionist when I was first in university studying English and Cultural Studies.  When I finally went back to university a few years ago I did a degree in English and Film.  I love movies.

Anyone who has ever loved a movie will love this book.

The real kicker is that an argument could be made that most of the poems have nothing to do with film but instead use celluloid to launch the fevered reason of Gregory Robinson.  Either way, win/win.

Secrets of a Soul (1926)

Nine out of 10 men do not want to get jacked up on coke then sleep with their moms.  One
out of 10 does, and that is why there are movies.

Psychoanalysis has nothing to do with coke or mom-banging.  Sorry,  It might be more fun if
it did.  Forgotten to most is the all-out wonder of a boy who sees a path and believes it never-
before discovered.  Imagine Sigmund saying Come with me, I have unlocked the secret of dreams.

What you want you cannot have and that makes you want it more.  And what you want is not
what you think.  Dreams, Sigmund said, are not stories at all, even the ones where you talk to chipmunks who tell you to kill.  Not stories at all, but hieroglyphs, some ancient self communicating to you in modernist verse.  You do not have to understand it.  You just have to say it.  Again and
again you say it because that is what your wants want, for you to acknowledge that you are
one giant factory of the absurd.

The secret of your soul is that you are a mess trying to pull it all together, boxing multitudes
into a single home.  Sigmund dreamed himself an explorer of this Borgesian structure,
where he could follow winding halls and spiral steps leading nowhere, and claim the last
undiscovered territory as his own.

"for you to acknowledge that you are one giant factory of the absurd"

Ya, we here at Today's book of poetry couldn't get enough of Gregory Robinson or his excellent All Movies Love the Moon.

Gregory Robinson

Gregory Robinson lives in Boulder City, Nevada with his wife Joan and his dog BinBin. He is currently Chair of the Humanities Department at Nevada State College. When he is not writing, he is hiking around the desert, doing iaido, or (of course) watching movies. Visit his website here.

“What an intriguing amalgam of genres Gregory Robinson has created in his All Movies Love the Moon. Part silent film history, part poetic romp, this fine collection recalls the work of the great Uruguayan poet/historian Eduardo Galeano, author of Memory of Fire. Rich rewards await as you step into the dark rooms of these poems that flicker by ever so beautifully at 16 frames per second.”
—David Shumate, author of Kimonos in the Closet

“All Movies Love the Moon, with its salute to Georges Méliès, is somewhat like the visionary himself: mischievous, innovative, enigmatic, witty, and captivating. Robinson’s book is a beautiful hybridization of film history and poetic journey. Roaming through the celluloid cemetery of silent films, Robinson becomes a Dr. Frankenstein as he reconstitutes pre-existing material into new forms: he is both alchemist and ‘cinematic recycler.’ This book has the noteworthy skill of persuading the reader to revisit it immediately, while concurrently enticing the reader to (re)see the films it so lovingly pays tribute to. Pour a glass of wine, settle in, and be transported.”
—Simone Muench, author of Wolf Centos

“In the eighteenth century Laurence Sterne broke all the rules of novel-writing that hadn’t yet been written with Tristram Shandy. In 2013 Gregory Robinson’s All Movies Love the Moon travels back in time to the dawn of cinema, when silent movies were as surreal, playful, dislocating, and dumbfounding as the twentieth century itself. In deadpan prose poems Robinson tracks the gradual emergence of narrative out of the dream logic of pure images, and the more sudden birth of pop culture as we know it, until we see Theda Bara and Sylvester Stallone silently side by side at last. The poetry in film, the film in poetry: the book is a delirious romp through the grammar of their entanglement. Or as Robinson puts it, ‘Any great detective will tell you the trick is not walking into movies but finding the way out again.’”
—Joshua Corey, author of Beautiful Soul: An American Elegy

“Gregory Robinson’s All Movies Love the Moon brings silent film, that drowned and nearly forgotten continent, back to life and into our time. From the hand-colored fantasy of Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon to Hitchcock’s chilling thrillerThe Lodger, each of these prose poems is a movie—one filled with the sheer joy we take in watching as the projector’s light illuminates the darkness.”
—Jesse Lee Kercheval, author of Cinema Muto and My Life as a Silent Movie

“All Movies Love the Moon is as much the autobiography of a cinéaste as a history of silent film and the linguistic windows through which it makes meaning. Interspersed with real and invented intertitles to guide us through his poetic underworld, Gregory Robinson's prose poems conduct a cinematic séance in which an array of personal and celluloid spirits parade before the reader. Inquiry gives way to elegy both historical and personal, and the book's great trick is ‘to bend trust without breaking it, to lead by the hand rather than by the wrist’ as Robinson guides us gradually into the imaginative space between words on a screen. Robinson sees the irony in nostalgia for those days before film was given voice, but if we are not tempted by his ‘Vertov Kino app, which makes the iPhone weigh 40 pounds and replaces the battery with a wooden crank,’ then, reader, we are the cranks.”
—Amaranth Borsuk, author of Handiwork

All Movies Love the Moon - trailer


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