David Berman, a poet of negligible academic value who nonetheless remains popular among the aging hipsters now clawing their way into positions of authority within the rotting carapace of the academy, has a line, “All my favorite singers couldn’t sing.” Voice, then, is a function of confidence, not talent. Poetry, then, is a function of faith, not intellect. The singer who believes against all countermanding evidence in his own truth, and who projects it most ferociously into the echo chamber of public discourse, tasseled in seeming unconcern for its critical reception, is heard for longer and listened to more fully than the smoothest nightingale. House limps. McNulty drinks. Whitman sheaths his penis in the anuses of boys. Christ bleeds. Tony Soprano feels. Obama is black. Palin is female. I am a sexually frustrated megalomaniac. Aragorn, son of Arathorn, is so burdened by honor he rides horses through Rohan while tumorous Gondor metastasizes into political cannibalism. The othering power of perceived defect is the bedrock upon which empire heteronormativity erects its omnipotent steeple. This is the paradox of the West, and the mystery warms the core of our every art form, personal relationship, and social endeavor. The song of singers who aren’t meant to sing is the only music or literature that matters, or will ever.
The King’s Speech hits every note in this symphony so effortlessly that even the most cynical elitist will find it at least periodically rousing, for cynicism itself is aaa critical stutter. Hate Hitler? The most talented singer of German of all? Then it’s hard not to root for his stammering Limey foil. Especially when everyone around Colin Firth is becoming a douchebag right when England needs a hero. I didn’t watch the Academy Awards. It’s everything horrible about poetry multiplied by money, fame, and the most corrupting influence of all, an actual audience—so I don’t know who or what movies won for what things, but after watching The King’s Speech, I bet it won for best adapted screenplay, direction, and picture. I also bet Colin Firth won best lead actor. Geoffrey Rush probably didn’t beat out Christian Bale’s virtuosic crackhead in The Fighter, but that’s not to say Rush doesn’t still soar in The King’s, racking up what must be a world record for tender, knowing twinkles-in-the-eye per scene. As Hannah found in January1, the lessons re: finding one’s voice that effloresce across the consciousness after even cursorily reflecting upon Speech are so large and obvious that for a poet to illustrate them would be counter-poetically tedious and self-serving. But fuck it. We must stop trying to sound so much like each other. A good poem should make half of us hate you and half of us adore you, not all of us like you. Light dies without an anchoring darkness to break through. Voice is an iceberg of which technique is but tip; courage the voluminous, submerged most. Your nations need you. In a form unrecognizable now as then, the spirit of Hitler, of Voldemort, of Black Swan, of AWP is always calling the weak, increasing its flock, hissing across the world like wind between buildings. Who but a poet will reach inside, wrest the ember of their own weakness out with bare hands, let it burn through their fingers, and hammer it into a sword in the forge of creative writing workshops? Who will give neutral onlookers cause to open their mouths and whisper to no one, “Sweet, fancy Moses…” Who will give their voice to the voiceless.
The Mechanic is a great movie about assassins. One word in the preceding sentence is untrue. I don’t remember much of it, and the more I try to think about it, the more I forget. In that way, The Mechanic is nothing like love. The more you think about it, the more you remember it. And the more you try not to think about it, the more you remember it. And soon the memories swallow you. They swallow thought, they swallow sound, and their images become larger than the apparatus of analysis can bear. They become your spiritual porn. That’s when you act, and run back to them, and slide into home on your knees. They give you your you had me at hello, and you give them your you complete me. Memory ends, and moment explodes. Until then the beautiful dreams will continue to pass through you while you sleep, dispersing to the bleat of your alarm clock, coloring the rest of your morning an aching neon, propelling your path of self-destruction through the night, gluing your soul to the past. The bigger the hole gets, the more you need the images to fill it, the more elaborate they grow—they branch, they fructify—and thus become the more impossible to attain, missiles impossible to aim, creating even larger ripples of letdown when you fail to realize them, creating a larger hole, producing ever more beautiful and ever more false fantasies. But to others—and here empathy works its cruel miracle—those images will seem not only real, but necessary, as if having cascaded from the highest precipices of meaning. So you look into their eyes and observe how happy they are, clutching the life-preserver the cycles of your misery has flung them. And briefly you are heartened by their smiles—those physical facts—or the tears in their eyes. They will go home to their husbands or wives or computers and resume their grueling uncinematic routines, but a little lighter in the chest for believing there is a transcendent possibility somewhere out there—while you drown in withoutness, praying for the courage to get up, for the courage to act in the name of love instead of merely play chemistry set with its rhetoric, knowing this inaction has always been the furnace of your allure, the fuel of imagination. No word in the preceding sentence is untrue.
“I’m putting a price on your head so big that when you look in the mirror, your reflection is going want to shoot you in the face!” Thus the villain in The Mechanic shouts over the phone to Jason Statham. Read it again. Marilyn Monroe wasn’t in this movie because she’s dead, but she said, “If you can make a girl laugh, you can make her do anything.” Dashing English poet and possible ancestor of Jason Statham, Robert Browning, said, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.” Jesus Christ, Divine Assassin of Sin, opens his sermon on the mount, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Either Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin, both of whom I consider to be the Ben Foster of the Founding Fathers, once said something whose exact words I can’t remember, but the gist of it was, “Our parents were farmers so that we might become statesmen, and we are statesmen so that our children might become philosophers and artists.” Adolph Hitler, failed artist, amateur philosopher, and the reigning image of evil in the modern mind, Kamph’ed, “A man does not die for something which he himself does not believe in.” So much truth is out there, swirling around The Mechanic. So little was in it. Werner Stipetić, too poetic to be anything but a beautiful failure as a filmmaker, changed his surname to Herzog, German for duke, in order to protect himself from what he called the unyieleding evil of the universe. “There is a dormant brother inside of you, and I awaken him, I make him speak, and you are not alone anymore,” Herzog said in a recent interview. Some of the violence is creative, and gleefully echoes Con Air, which Simon West also directed, but the rest of The Mechanic is nihilistic, pointless, and sloppy. Life is a wedding dress stuffed into a thimble.