Each week I will be writing about Cinema’s use of poetry. Last week I wrote about a blockbuster, in poem and film. This week it’s Charlie Kaufman’s (writer of Being John Malkovitch) difficult, angsty, psychological horror film “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” and a cool, young, and defiant Canadian poet, Eva HD’s poem “Bonedog”.

Charlie Kaufman’s is quirky and cool and asks questions about reality and life. It’s a film adaptation of a debut novel by Canadian author Ian Reid. I started with complete immersion, then – really? somewhat confused and irritatedand finally – ‘I really think this is a work of art’. All that said, it’s an acquired taste. The film’s themes are art, poetry, life, death and loneliness. Poetry is beautifully woven through the plot and the script. The film is a typical disrupted narrative ‘indie’ film. The poetry is likewise in a broken and yet simple structure, in modernist, almost ‘beat’ tradition. Meant to sound ‘throwaway’; its apparent simplicity is full of raw unfettered emotion, yet also dislocated and numb. It shows theinability to express deeper emotions bottled up in every day life.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things stars Jessie Buckley (as the unnamed young woman) and Jesse Plemons as Jake, her boyfriend. The film starts with the two of them driving to meet his parents. Jake wants to deepen the relationship, she clearly doesn’t. He tries hard to engage her, reciting a poem he loved as a child, Wordsworth’s Ode: Imitations of Immortality. It’s an interesting choice because it sets out the conversation within the film. The Ode is a dialogue between Wordsworth and Coleridge about death, memories of childhood, and the existence of the soul, and ultimately reality itself. Just as Coleridge replied to Wordsworth with arguably a better poem, Jessie Buckley reluctantly replies to Jake with one of her own creations. Here comes the Eva H.D poem Bonedog. It made me cry. It might not be your thing, but for me this poem is wrought with skill, connection to audience and delicacy. I thought, the girl in the car is not just wanting to end her relationship here, there is something darker that Jessie might want to end. That line “Coming home is/ just awful.” says a lot to me. It’s the place in the film I realised the narrative centres around a suicide note. Or does it? It’s not a spoiler, it’s a set up. You must come to your own conclusion. This is a link to the poem in the film. https://youtu.be/JjdhgyLxkJo

The film then takes the young couple back to meet Jake’s parents where we suffer from a number of narrative inconsistences which both disrupt, unnerve, irritate and drive the viewer to question how we construct ourselves from childhood to old age. Do we just make up our lives using bits of art and songs to give sense to the weight of the expectationsupon us, our random and scripted lives? Or can we take anything from our experiences in order to cope with loneliness and dislocation of the world, are we the art? In the poem Bonedog, a person comes home to emptiness and doesn’t know how to fill their life up, their life is made of them, the weather around them and ultimately their bones. The poem is casual, with almost throw way short lines and I enjoy the use of her word “anyway”. 

Anyway… the film’s quite angsty and dislocated… and so is the poem. If you like that sort of thing, as I do, then you might like both. Eva H.D is in my opinion a poetry goddess. Her collection “Rotten Perfect Mouth” (Mansfield Press 2015) isamazing and my favourite poem from it is called “Teenage Stuff Forever” – which pokes a wry eye at our big feelings and our imperfections, yearnings for connection and lovewhatever age we are.

Jessica Mookherjee is the author of Tigress, Nine Arches Press 2019.

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