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  • Russell Jaffe

A poet reviews Jim Jarmusch's 'Paterson'

-That's what I am.

-A movie about poetry's place, which is everywhere.

-The person, Paterson, is the place, Paterson, is the legacy of poetry: Paterson.

-For the viewers: Do you think Paterson’s poetry is bad or good? Go to blue or red text based on your answer:

-People offer each other the routine (familiar, structural), the unexpected (surprise, catalysts for response action), and in between those two things, warnings.

-Other great films about poetry (name other great films about poetry).

-Is his poetry bad because life is better poetry? It's about the internal process of poetry (and art's) function of function itself? That the poetry being good or bad, or "true," or "both universal and personal" all being by-products of the fact that the poetry is about how one finds oneself? Both Paterson and his partner use art to live day-to-day.

-Is his good poetry kept from the world to represent a relationship between poetry as therapy/by-product of learning and a publishing world, a marketplace, something competitive? Is he an unsung gem as-yet-discovered? So American Dream!

-Is publishing or sharing it to be lost in the world like everything feels lost under what feels like a blanket of decaying commercial culture over people?

-Like the scene where we see kids on a playground basically in a cage?

-Carleen was like, about his partner, "is she a manic pixie?" I don't want her to be. I don't want her to be just "the muse." Id rather she be the real artist producing but in a sequestered dream state, whereas he is in a kind of post-human job routine where his art is how he survives, especially though her art. That's his lunch. He eats art to survive. He eats art objects in the world and that's where he finds himself made and living. But she might the muse, he might be the burgeoning fuckboy breaking the horizon.

-This movie is once again a good opportunity to talk about something that for a long time felt like the sky, surrounding us and just there for so many moviegoers, but is becoming more and more apparently recognized as sky-painted cave walls: Whiteness as the mainstream normalized lens. The main character is a white writer reading canonized white literature. Arguing if it’s good or bad literature is a fun argument, but it isn’t the point; the point is that this type of character engages and actualizes a system of writing that is presented as the norm and is based around a culture and education system of white (mostly men) writers. Here were go again.

-It’s just that being able to swallow the “struggling writer lives and loves through the action of writing” is getting harder and harder to do when it’s more and more (bludgeoning) apparent that the lens through which we see this performance is a white one, and so are the characters and narrative. This review wouldn’t be worth doing if it wasn’t mentioned (again, ad infinitum). So buckle up for that (very straightforward, flat) ride.

-This is also like the sky because before it’s easy to imagine our primitive ancestors wondering about the mythology and magic hanging over them, but we learn, we adapt, we build on our knowledge. It’s an argument that also flows into the next point:

-…the WAY we look at writing is also a lens of normalization for this system of encountering it. By golly. Most movies about writers are about fiction writers. And they’re drawn along the lines of writing as a linear economy: the writer writes, works their way up, and becomes a best seller; their work is recognized by a combination of populist approval and publishing house trust/”bankability” as good. So we measure good in a few ways. Let’s give this movie credit for being about writing the way most of us know it: Process, diary, processING of reality, notebook, scrawl, work in progress; incomplete and ongoing as we are. So it was a big risk by virtue of the fact that it hardly ever shows up in movies to be about the way poetry itself functions in the world (let alone the white, working-class world of our central character Paterson’s Paterson, NJ).

-Is the purpose of poetry to document the minutia of life or to provide the caulk between the scenes of it?

-Like pouring out your cup as it gets refilled? Like a fountain?

-The response to dogs in the theater was unprecedented. Laughter at everything the English bulldog did. I spend what must be cumulative hours of my life explaining to students about the differences between evaluation and assessment, and then on top of that the measures of evaluation--would you say a movie is bad because the theater had sticky seats or someone texted the whole time? Those measures are off for evaluating a film. Maybe evaluating a theater going experience...

-This is just to say: Is the dog an art object like poetry is that helps us provide (necessary) buffers for our (abstract) responses to an (unclear) narrative that is the world? The dog's manifold forms, potential for drama (Paterson is warned his dog might get stolen) and complex relationship to our lives (you'll see what I mean by this when Paterson leaves out his journal and later tells the dog "I don't like you" says something about poetry ITSELF being like a bus stop for reflection and reaction.

-I’m writing this during the movie. I used to get cynical about people writing during poetry readings--isn't that sad? It's a sign of not having grown up. People should be so lucky to be struck! By something!

-I had to go out to the bathroom at this point and was thinking about this while I peed. Do you ever long for intermissions? Poetry--

-Paterson himself is always "ok." Poetry is always just ok, even at its best? That poetry itself can only achieve a hovering, vast state of OK, like the sky, the clouds and forms that drift through it--OK?

-Looking for patterns w intent or abstractly responding to patterns as a way to process (or escape) them?

-Carleen points out that twins are everywhere in this. Is this a reference to that relationship between poetry as internal process and poetry as external marketplace? Between the private and the public? Between the world and the writing of the world?

-There’s a conversation where kids talk about dressing up for Halloween as shadows.

-The shadow of reality is worth casting over the poetry just like the light of the poetry gets cast across reality—vice versa. Or both, or neither.

-We had a ridiculously gigantic soda as we watched. Was the film prepared for this learning?

-"Poetry in translation is like taking a shower with a raincoat on." I thought of so many people I wanted to watch and hear react to this

-I liked it when you could get Abbott and Costello DVDs at Walgreens

-Is the blank page the realm of infinite possibilities? Or the tome of a fuckboy's life/the birth of a fuckboy? Maybe you'll fix your shit?

-Uselessness is usefulness, or, a treatise on life: a point, or: the use of life.

-Do you remember when if you liked something, you bought the DVD? Buying it meant committing to the appreciation of the memory.


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