Dream Pictures and Real

Source: Marion P. Bartlett, ‘Dream Pictures and Real’, The Motion Picture Story Magazine, March 1912, p. 58

Text:
I sat by the fireside dreaming of days of long ago,
And pictures seemed to form in the midst of the embers’ glow;
But faded e’er I could catch them, the coals to ashes died,
E’en as my hopes had perished and the heart within me sighed.

I left the dying firelight and the lonely, cheerless room,
And wandered down the avenue, seeking to lift, the gloom;
When I heard the sound of music, saw countless lights agleam,
And, suiting an idle fancy, I entered as in a dream.

I entered into darkness, but sudden, before my eyes,
On a curtain of white came pictures, and I stared in mute surprise;
Pictures that moved! In wonderment I quite forgot my pain;
Pictures that lived! And with them I lived my youth again.

The North, the South, the East, the West were all at my command;
The whole world came before me, at touch of an unseen hand.
Ah! the pictures by the fireside may fade and die away,
But those on the magic canvas live anew for me every day.

Comments: This poem appears in an American journal that reproduced film stories for fans. I have not been able to find out more about its author. The anthology Red Velvet Seat: Women’s Writing on the First Fifty Years of Cinema (2006 ed. Antonia Lant with Ingrid Periz) credits the poem to Hattie M. Loble, but it is merely cited at the end of an article by Loble, entitled ‘A Western Woman’s Opinion of Pictures’, in Moving Picture World, June 1912 p. 820.

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust
Copy of Moving Picture World article at Internet Archive

An Image of Leda

Source: Frank O’Hara, ‘An Image of Leda’, from Selected Poems (New York: Borzoi, 2008), p. 15 [orig. pub. 1950]

Text:
The cinema is cruel
like a miracle. We
sit in the darkened
room asking nothing
of the empty white
space but that it remain pure. And
suddenly despite us
it blackens. Not by
the hand that holds
the pen. There is
no message. We our-
selves appear naked
on the river bank
spread-eagled while
the machine wings
nearer. We scream
chatter prance and
wash our hair! Is
it our prayer or
wish that this
occur? Oh what is
this light that
holds us fast? Our
limbs quicken even
to disgrace under
this white eye as
if there were real
pleasure in loving
a shadow and caress-
ing a disguise!

Comments: Frank O’Hara (1926-1966) was an American poet and art curator. He wrote several poems on the themes of film and cinemagoing. ‘An Image of Leda’ alludes to the Greek mythological tale of Leda, who was seduced by Zeus in the form of a swan.

Cinema Exit

Source: Richard Aldington, ‘Cinema Exit’, in Images Old and New (Boston: The Four Seas Company, 1916), p. 43 [orig. pub. as Images, 1910-1915, Poetry Bookshop, 1915)

Text:
After the click and whirr
Of the glimmering pictures,
The dry feeling in the eyes
As the sight follows the electric flickerings,
The banal sentimentality of the films,
The hushed concentration of the people,
The tinkling piano –
Suddenly,
A vast avalanch of greenish yellow light
Pours over the threshold;
White globes darting vertical rays spot the sombre buildings;
The violent gloom of the night
Battles with the radiance;
Swift figures, legs, skirts, white cheeks, hats
Flicker in oblique rays of dark and light.

Millions of human vermin
Swarm sweating
Along the night-arched cavernous roads.

(Happily rapid chemical processes
Will disintegrate them all.)

Comments: Richard Aldington (born Edward Godfree Aldington) (1892-1962) was a British poet, novelist and biographer. As a poet he was associated with the Imagist group. ‘Cinema Exit’ is one of a number of poems Aldington wrote at this time expressing disenchantment with city life.

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust

The Movies

Source: Florence Kiper Frank, ‘The Movies’, in Harriet Monroe and Alice Corbin Henderson (eds.), The New Poetry: An Anthology (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1917)

Text:
She knows a cheap release
From worry and from pain –
The cowboys spur their horses
Over the unending plain.

The tenement rooms are small;
Their walls press on the brain.
Oh, the dip of the galloping horses
On the limitless, wind-swept plain!

Comments: Florence Kiper Frank (1885-1976) was an American poet. ‘The Movies’ is included in Philip French and Ken Wlaschin’s marvellous anthology The Faber Book of Movie Verse (1993), which has a section on the subject of ‘movie houses and moviegoing’. It is reproduced here in tribute to the cultured cinéaste French, who died this week.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Source: Gil Scott-Heron, ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’, from Small Talk at 125th and Lenox (1970), lyrics via http://www.songlyrics.com/heron-gil/the-revolution-will-not-be-televised-lyrics/, adapted to match original version

Text:
You will not be able to stay home brother
you will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out
you will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip
skip out for beer during commercials
Because the revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be televised
the revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
in four parts without commercial interruptions
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Mindale Rivers to eat
hog moss confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary
The revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Wood and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs
The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner
The revolution will not be televised brother
There will be no pictures of you and Willie Mays
pushing that cart down the block on the dead run
or trying to slide that color TV into a stolen ambulance
NBC will not be able to predict the winner at 8:32
or the reports from 29 districts
The revolution will not be televised

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being
run out of Harlem a rail with a brand new process
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy
Wilkins strolling through Watts in a red, black and
green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
for just the right occasion
Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so goddamned relevant and
women will not care if Dick finally screwed
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day
The revolution will not be televised

There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock
news and no pictures of hairy armed women
liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
Francis Scott Keys nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash, Engelbert Humperdinck
The revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be right back after a message
about a white tornado, white lightning, or white people
You will not have to worry about a germ in your
bedroom, the tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl
The revolution will not go better with Coke
The revolution will not fight germs that can cause bad breath
The revolution WILL put you in the driver’s seat
The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
not be televised
The revolution will be no re-run brothers
The revolution will be live

Comments: Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011) was an American poet and soul singer, and a noted influence on rap music. ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ was a phrase regularly used by the Black Power movement of the 1960s, before Scott-Heron produced this poem and song for his first album. The original version (given above) is a poem recited over a conga and bongo beat; the 1971 version released as the B-side of a single has a fuller musical accompaniment and small changes to the lyric. The lyric refers to a number of American television series, including The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show, Search for Tomorrow, The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction and Green Acres.

Television

Source: Roald Dahl, ‘Television’, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1967, orig. pub. 1964)

Text:
The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set –
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we’ve been,
We’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone’s place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they’re hypnotised by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink –
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK — HE ONLY SEES!
‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’
We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
THEY … USED … TO … READ! They’d READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ’round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and –
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There’s Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole –
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks –
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start – oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.

Comments: Roald Dahl (1916-1990) was a British writer of both adult and child fiction. ‘Television’ is a song sung by the Oompa Loompas in his children’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and echoes the distaste expressed in the novel for television, as exemplified by the television-watching and violence-obsessed character Mike Teavee.

East Side Moving Picture Theatre – Sunday

Source: Maxwell Bodenheim, ‘East Side Moving Picture Theatre – Sunday’ in Edward J. O’Brien (ed.), The Masque of Poets: A Collection of New Poems, by Contemporary American Poets (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1918), p. 17

Text:
An old woman rubs her eyes
As though she were stroking children back to life.
A slender Jewish boy whose forehead
Is tall, and like a wind-marked wall,
Restlessly waits while leaping prayers
Clash their light-cymbals within his eyes.
And a little hunchbacked girl
Straightens her back with a slow-pulling smile.
(I am afraid to look at her again.)

Then the blurred, tawdry pictures rush across the scene,
And I hear a swishing intake of breath,
As though some band of shy rigid spirits
Were standing before their last heaven.

Comments: Maxwell Bodenheim (1892-1954) was an American poet and novelist, who enjoyed some success in the 1920s and 30s. He was noted for his Bohemian lifestyle, followed by a descent into vagrancy and his eventual murder. The poem is set in Chicago, where he then lived.

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust

I went to the pictures tomorrow

Source: Quoted in Iona and Peter Opie, The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren (London/Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 1959), p. 25

Text:
I went to the pictures tomorrow
I took a front seat at the back,
I fell from the pit to the gallery
And broke a front bone in my back.
A lady she gave me some chocolate,
I ate it and gave it her back.
I phoned for a taxi and walked it,
And that’s why I never came back.

Kirkcaldy

I went to the pictures next Tuesday
And took a front seat at the back.
I said to the lady behind me,
I cannot see over your hat.
She gave me some well-broken biscuits,
I ate them and gave her them back;
I fell from the pit to the gallery
And broke my front bone at the back.

Enfield

Comments: These are two versions of a popular children’s nonsense rhyme, documented during the 1950s in Kirkaldy (in Scotland) and Enfield (in London) by the folklorists Iona and Peter Opie for their classic compilation The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren. They note that they had found versions of this rhyme at ten schools in the United Kingdom. They suggest that the rhyme could be quite old and may originally have referred to the theatre rather than the cinema. The mention of hats obscuring the view of the audience (even if worn by people behind them) echoes a common complaint of pre-First World War film audiences, which could be further evidence of the rhyme’s long-running popularity among children.

The Pictures

Source: D.J. Enright, ‘The Pictures’, in The Terrible Shears: Scenes from a Twenties Childhood (London: Chatto & Windus, 1973), p. 52

Text:
Threepence on Saturday afternoons,
A bench along the side of the hall –
We looked like Egyptian paintings,
Bue less composed.

Sometimes a film that frightened us
And returned at nights.
Once Noah’s Ark, an early talkie
We took for non-fiction.

Cheapest was the home kino.
Lying in bed, you pressed on your eyes,
Strange happenings ensued.

But the story was hard to follow
And your eyeballs might fall in.
Fatigued, you fell asleep.

Comments: Dennis Joseph Enright (1920-2002) was a British poet, novelist, essayist and academic. The Terrible Shears is a collection of poems about his 1920s childhood, which was spent in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. Noah’s Ark was an American film, directed by Michael Curtiz, and an early talking picture.

Autobiographical Note

Source: Vernon Scannell, ‘Autobiographical Note’, Collected Poems 1950-1993 (London: Faber & Faber, 2010)

Text:
Beeston, the place near Nottingham;
We lived there for three years or so,
Each Saturday at two o’clock
We queued up for the matinee,
All the kids for streets around
With snotty noses; giant caps,
Cut down coats and heavy boots,
The natural enemies of cops
And schoolteachers. Profane and hoarse
We scrambled, yelled and fought until
The Picture Palace opened up
And then, like Hamelin children, forced
Our bony way into the Hall.
That much is easy to recall;
Also the reek of chewing-gum,
Gob-stoppers and liquorice,
But of the flickering myths themselves
Not much remains. The hero was
A milky, wide-brimmed hat, a shape
Astride the arched white stallion.
The villain’s horse and hat were black.
Disbelief did not exist
And launched virtue always won
With quicker gun and harder fist
And all of us applauded it.
Yet I remember moments when
In solitude I’d find myself
Brooding on the sooty man,
The bristling villain, who could move
Imagination in a way
The well-shaved hero never could,
And even warm the nervous heart
With something oddly close to love.

Comments: Vernon Scannell (1922-2007) was a British poet. His impoverished family lived for a time in Beeston, Nottinghamshire in the late 1920s.