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October 07, 1991 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-10-07

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Monday, October 7, 1991

The Michigan Daily

Page 5

Donald Hall's verse
reminisces poetic

by John Morgan
"Kicking the leaves, October, as
we walk home together / from the
game, in Ann Arbor, / on a day the
color of soot, rain in the air..."
Undoubtedly, this description,
the opening lines of Donald Hall's
poem "Kicking the Leaves," is fa-
miliar to anyone who has witnessed
an Ann Arbor autumn. Hall wrote
the poem after experiencing 18 such
autumns during his time as a profes-
sor of English at the University
from 1957 to 1975. A graduate of
both Harvard and Oxford, Hall has
spent the years since 1975 in New
Hampshire with his wife, Jane Ken-
yon, who is also a poet.
Hall has published many books
of poetry over the years. He also
produces prose in the form of short
stones, essays and plays and he's
published articles in periodicals
such as The New York Times and
Sports Illustrated. The Poet Laureate
of New Hampshire from 1984-89,
Hall's poetry has won the National
Book Critics' Circle Award (among
others), and he was elected to the
American Academy and Institute of
Arts and Letters in 1989.
Hall fondly recalls his years in
Ann Arbor, although he talks of the
negative changes that he saw devel-

that the situation was not unique to
the University.
Hall's current way of life
permits him far more freedom to
write, which was always his pri-
mary interest. Hall loves his home
in New Hampshire, which he de-
scribes as "an old family house" and
an ideal situation for his writing. "I
have twenty-four hours a day to
write," he says. The majority of
Hall's recent work has been poetry,
'For a hundred years I
under the June elm,
under the gaze / of
seven generations, /
they lived briefly...
and men and women /
who sniffed roses in
spring and called
them pretty / as well
call them now, /
walking beside the
barn / on a day that
perishes' 'Old Roses'
although he sees himself beginning
short story work again this winter.
He is currently working on a poem
about the Persian Gulf War, and has
revised a book of essays, Remember-
ing Poets.
A major theme in Hall's work is
that of the aging process. He often
explores the way in which people
develop and change during their life-
times, as in "Cider Five Cents A
Glass": "Because I am sixty, I have /
lost many friends (my mother / who
lived to be eighty- / seven looked at
newspapers / in her last years only /
to read the obituaries)." Hall has
reinforced this theme by writing
poems that affectionately refer to
his grandparents and their lives.
Hall says that his interest in
aging and the elderly arose out of
talks in his youth with the older
members of his family. "I've al-
ways adored old people," he ex-
plains. "I had an automatic leaning
toward them. I had a great-grandfa-
ther who was born in eighteen-fifty-
six. He could remember soldiers
coming home from the Civil War. It
was fascinating."
In conjunction with his focus on
the metamorphosis that aging
brings, Hall frequently exhibits a
strong awareness of the unbreakable
chain that links the present to the
past and future, such as the inter-
twining of generations in families
and the importance of childhood
memories. He finds allegories in na-
ture to convey this theme, as in his
poem "Old Roses": "For a hundred
years / under the June elm, under the
gaze / of seven generations, / they
lived briefly... and men and women /

who sniffed roses in spring and
called them pretty / as well call
them now, / walking beside the barn
/ on a day that perishes."
Hall often combines this sense
of the eternal with strong descrip-
tions derived from childhood. This
can be clearly seen in "Kicking the
Leaves," as he writes of the many
autumns he has known: "One Satur-
day when I was little, before the
war, / my father came home at
noon... and raked beside me / in the
back yard, and tumbled in the leaves
with me, /laughing..."
It is not surprising that memory
should be important to Hall, consi-
dering the many fascinating stories
he has to tell. One of his books of
prose is Remembering Poets, in
which he recalls the many great
poets he was acquainted with, in-
cluding T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas
and Robert Frost. "I grew up as a
poet, for better or worse, among
other poets," Hall writes in his in-
troduction. "I was dazzled by
them," he says. "It took me a while
to see them as human beings."
In the book, he relates several
humorous encounters with Eliot, as
well as far more serious meetings
with an alcoholic and half-suicidal
Thomas. He also writes about Ezra
Pound, whose first words to him
were, "Mr. Hall, you find me in
"The formal resolutions of a
poem begin in the crib," Hall wrote.
He stresses the importance of a
changing perspective, over time, on
any piece. "I'm a very impatient per-
son, except with writing," he ex-
plains. "I've never spent less than
two years on anything. My poems
go through at least fifty drafts....
Wait on the poem or story until you
see a way to make it better."
'I grew up as a poet,
for better or worse,
among other poets... I
was dazzled by
them... It took me a
while to see them as
human beings'
-Donald Hall

Jimmy and Rose (Niall Byrne and Lorraine Pilkington) check out a couple of steroid-abusing nuns in The Sisters
of Muscle Beach. Okay, we're just kidding - it's actually a scene from Neil Jordan's The Miracle.
Miracle camera outshi nes plot

The Miracle
dir. Neil Jordan
by Gabriel Feldberg

The two young teenagers in Neil Jordan's most recent
film, The Miracle, suggest what might have happened
if James Joyce had written Harriet the Spy. To combat
their summertime adolescent ennui, Jimmy and Rose
(Niall Byrne and Lorraine Pilkington) stroll up and
down the boardwalk in the Irish resort town of Bray,
inventing outlandish life stories for all the people they
pass and jotting them down in a notebook. Given that
they find their home town so dull, Jimmy and Rose
come upon quite a few bizarre and intriguing
personalities who make for good writing material:
there's a gigantic nun who jogs by in a bathing suit, as
well as a contortionist who can balance herself on one
finger and hit a target with an arrow shot by her toes.
But most engaging of all is the mysterious, stylish
Renee (Beverly D'Angelo, the only Griswold who
cared whether or not Aunt Edna got a proper burial).
Renee's past seizes Jimmy's imagination, but he can't
say exactly why he is so drawn to her. Although she's
old enough to be his mother, Jimmy falls in love with
Renee, and he spends much of the movie trying to learn
why everyone, including his father (The Dead's Donal
McCann), insists that he can't have her.
Director Jordan (Mona Lisa) has said that he
wanted to create a film that was intentionally
fantastic, and with the help of super-cinematographer
Philippe Rousselot (Diva, Henry & June, The
Bear), Jordan's Miracle does have a strangely unreal
quality. From the very first shot, in which Renee turns
in slow motion to gaze out at us from behind sun-
glasses and a parasol, Rousselot bathes the outdoor se-
quences in a dreamy yellow light. During the day he

makes the Irish coast look wispy and golden, and at
night he lights up the boardwalk in beautifully lumi-
nous whites.
Shot against the striking reds and oranges of carni-
val tents, Jimmy and Rose appear to be ambling
through a dream sequence. In fact, Bray is so extraordi-
narily colorful that the film's actual dream sequences
(shot mostly in dull grays) are comparatively pedes-
trian. The preternatural color scheme combines with
the town's assortment of eccentric characters to make
it feel like a place in which a miracle could really hap-
pen; Bray is one of those towns where a stray elephant
can wander into a church unnoticed.
Because the setting is so miraculous, it's all the
more disappointing when the core of the The Miracle
proves to be so mundane. The ambiguous affair between
Jimmy and Renee turns out to be what Rose calls "the
oldest story in the book." The scenes between Byrne
and D'Angelo are frustratingly redundant: the two of
them keep screaming their lines like actors in a high
school production of Macbeth, and there's only so
much attempted date rape you can take.
Perhaps the film would be easier to tolerate if
Renee responded to Jimmy's boorish advances with just
a touch of maturity and strength. Instead, she's just an-
other weak woman we can chalk onto the running list
of badly written movie characters. Jimmy isn't spine-
less; he's just annoying as hell. Every other line he
speaks seems to be "Why?" Listening to him talk gets
to be like babysitting for a pestering and precocidlus
five-year old, making you wish Jordan would just put
him to bed and bring Rose back on the screen.
Rose's character, after all, may well be the freshest
part of the film. It's probable that the miracle of the
title refers to what happens between Renee and Jimmy,
but that's really too bad, since the coup Rose pulls off
after seducing an animalistic lion tamer is an awful lot
more fun.
THE MIRACLE is playing at the Michigan Theater.

oping in the University during his
last years as a professor. "I loved
teaching," he says. "I was grateful
to the University for what it al-
lowed me to do. The school became
more open and diverse, but less in-
terested in teaching students and
more [interested] in reputation... I
was irritated about what the Uni-
versity was doing." Hall says he
was relieved to depart, and fearful
that his negative feelings might af-
fect his writing. He found, however,
that he was "not bitter," as he felt

In "This Poem," Hall writes:
"This poem is why / I lie down at -
night / to sleep; it is why / I defe-
cate, read, / and eat sandwiches; / it is
why I get up in the morning; / it is
why I breathe." As a result of this
devotion, Hall is hailed as one of
America's foremost poets.
DONALD HALL will be reading to-
day at 4 p.m. in Rackham Am-
phitheatre. Admission is free.

'Diverse bands bring noise, unity

Anthrax/Public Enemy
Primus/Young Black Teenagers
October 3, 1991
Heavy metal B-boys and hip hop
headbangers converged on Clubland
to see the show that many said
would never happen. The Gathering
of the Tribes tour, featuring
Anthrax, Primus, -Young Black
Teenagers and (despite widespread
rumors to the contrary) Public
Enemy, stormed into Detroit for a
night that more than lived up to all
the hype.
The oddly-monikered Young
Black Teenagers (made up of Adult
White Males) opened the show
with a 15-minute set of reggae-
tinged dancehall hip hop that got
the crowd pumping their fists and
ready for Primus.
Primus, Southern California's
latest funk/thrash/cartoon hero po-
wer-trio, blazed through a tight set
that inspired the night's first wave
of stage-divers. The band features

Les Claypool, arguably one of the
best bass players alive. His frenzied,
staccato basslines, along with Larry
Lalonde's innovative guitar work,
distinguishes Primus from other
bands in the SoCal music scene.
Bodies piled high in the pit while
the band ran through sonic rendi-

tions of "Tommy The Cat,"
"Johnny Was A Race Car Driver"
and even a cover of Ministry's
Elevating up out of the stage on a
riser, Chuck D. and Flavor Flav of
Public Enemy were greeted with a
See NOISE, Page 8

As religious leaders,
We support the struggle
of the lesbian and gay community
for equal access to housing.

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