The Michigan Daily
Thursday, February 20, 1992
Irish Grennan sheds poe
by Rona Kobell
What is Eamon Grennan's best po-
em? His next one. "The stuff you've
already done is hollowed out," the
Irish-born poet explains from his
Poughkeepsie, New York home.
"The verse could be pretty, but the
little fish is gone. The next thing is
definitely the best, and that's why I
Although Grennan, professor of
Renaissance studies, Irish literature,
and poetry at Vassar College, has
been writing all his life, his career
officially began in .1977 when he
won an American Council of
Learned Societies Grant-in-Aid for
his work in Irish poetry.
Since that time, he has completed
five books of verse, including What
Light There Is, Twelve Poems, and a
new collection called As If It
Matters. Excerpts from his work
have also appeared in various liter-
ary magazines in Europe and the
United States, including the New
Yorker, The Irish Times, and Poetry.
Landscapes, leaves, and light
serve both as metaphors and as ob-
jects of inspiration in much of
Grennan's work. His poems alert an
audience that sudden accidental
changes in nature are mirrored in
A hoard of clouds covering the
sun can be analogous to certain hu-
man tendencies. Daily events, when
incorporated into his creative verse,
allude to more complex emotions. In
"The Breakfast Room," for example,
Grennan describes the underlying
themes in a casual mealtime conver-
"The secret knowing smiles that
lovers save, sitting / to face one an-
other in their quaint conspiracy / of
hope and saying, Pass the milk
in the dark."
Grennan focuses on light and
light-related images to suggest a
"perpetual shift of diversity in al-
teration so that nothing stays still
and nothing is the same each time
you look at it." He explains that uni-
versal images allow the meaning of a
natural object to resonate to intensify
"With light, its interest is in its
being so ordinary. So there, and at
the same time, so ineffable and so
strange," Grennan says. "I like to
lend mystery and radiance to the or-
The references to light in "Mo-
ving" emphasize a woman's decision
to leave a repressive household and
become free in nature. " ... moving
out / into a sea light that seems I to
run on and on, damasked / with
cloud the color of / bridal wrath or
the / empty bedroom."
Unlike other contemporary poets,
Grennan does not engage his audi-
ence in direct commentaries about
politics and social issues. Both his
early Irish poems and his more re-
cent writings focus directly on
earthly objects and emotions rather
than political conflict.
Although he does not directly ad-
dress such issues as the turbulent sit-
uation in Northern Ireland and the
question of religious violence, Gren-
nan does believe that language can
make a political statement of its
own. "A poet's business is language.
If he or she uses language right, then
that's an implicitly political state-
ment about the honesty of keeping
language active," he explains.
As an Irishman who has spent the
latter half of his life in the United
States, Grennan has been influenced
by a broad spectrum of writers from
both continents. Although he claims
His poems alert an
audience that sudden
accidental changes in
nature are mirrored t6
that sometimes American verse and
culture seem geographically closer
to Gaelic life than those of England,
he echoes the sentiments of many
other writers - William Shake-
speare is still the real poetic maestro.
"How could we live without
Shakespeare?" Grennan queries.
"He's part of the language ... Any-
way, it's nice to have something out
there that is beyond anything you
could ever touch."
EAMON GRENNAN will be reading
from his new work, As If It Matters
in Rackham Amphitheatre today at S
p.m. Admission is free.
Harry Mention (Danny Glover) pours some rotgut for his old pals in Anger.
To film with Anger
by Michelle Phillip
To Sleep With Anger (1990)
brought independent filmmaker
Charles Burnett into mainstream
cinema This talented writer-direc-
tor makes it known that there is
definitely more than one African-
American filmmaker with a story
to tell .
He'll tell audiences his own
story in a lecture (which will ac-
company screenings of two of his
films, To Sleep With Anger and
My Brother's Wedding) at the
Michigan Theater tonight.
Born in Mississippi, Burnett
grew up in Los Angeles. He stud-
ied electronics in college. Through
his involvement in creative writ-
ing, he became interested in film-
making and went on to UCLA.
"Back in the Sixties, filmmak-
ing was a different experience
sort of on the fringe... for those
who wanted to make socially con-
scious messages," Burnett says.
He says he feels that filmmaking
today has taken on a new mindset.
"...Filmmaking has become the
corporate experience. They are not
interested in the uniqueness of any
ethnic group ... they marginalize
everything there is no difference
between what I make as a film or
what anyone else makes as film ...
everything is watered down. It be-
comes a variation on the same
thing," Burnett continues.
In the face of commercialism,
Burnett struggles very hard to tell
stories that are about peoples'
lives and sharing, two elements
which he feels are often ignored.
My Brother's Wedding, is an-
other film that reflects Burnett's
cinematic values. Ironically, Wed-
ding was made eight years ago,
but Burnett was never able to find
a distributor for it. He hopes that
Anger's success will enable him
to recut and distribute the eight-
year old film.
With only five mainstream
Black directors on the national
scene, the filmmaking process is
not evenly distributed to those
who want to do films that don't
conform to Hollywood cinematic
While Burnett admits that
Black directors such as Spike Lee
and John Singleton are doing well,
"...there needs to be room for
other people who want to do other
kinds of film. There are more sto-
ries, not limited to those five or six
out there.... We need to broaden
the experience or the same story
gets told again.
As a filmmaker Burnett is in-
terested in cultivating a certain
culture for his audiences. He fo-
cuses on the oral traditions and
folk literature of the Black com-
munity. To Sleep With Anger
draws on the power of storytelling
and mythmaking. The film deals
with the hidden inner turmoil of a
Los Angeles family that is brought
to the surfaceswhen an old friend
from the past, Harry Mention
(Danny Glover), comes to visit.
Burnett hopes to make audi-
ences aware of the lack of continu-
ity within the Black community,
which he feels is a source of con-
tention. Burnett wants audiences,
both Black and white, to know
that "it's not all about guns. "
In the age of commercialism,
economics stands in the way of
many talented African-American
filmmakers. While most of Bur-
nett's work has achieved critical
success, films such as Killer of
Sheep (1977), Bless Their Little
Hearts, and The Horse (1973) are
still unfamiliar to most filmgoers.
Tonight's program provides a un-
ique opportunity to get to know
some of Burnett's best work.
CHARLES BURNETT will give a
lecture tonight at the Michigan
Theater between screenings of My
Brother's Wedding(7:IS p.m.) and
To Sleep With Anger (9:40).
Tickets are $Sfor one feature, $7
please, but meaning / Nothing has
ever pleased me more / than how
your naked shoulders and the small
of your back l / lay on my spread
hands; your earlobe, tongue, wide
eyes I entering half frightened mine
Bogus academy gets its act together
by Aaron Hamburger and
Michael John Wilson
It's that time of year again. The Os-
car nominations have just been an-
nounced and it's time for the annual
rip session against the Academy's
most heinous choices. Unfortunately
for us complainers, this year's nomi-
nations generally reflect Hollywood's
best work from last year. But we can't
resist offering a few gripes:
Best Picture: A solid, varied se-
lection of interesting movies with no
superficial fluffy box-office hits like
Ghost (unless you count Beauty and
the Beast) in the running. It's too bad,
but not exactly surprising, that chal-
lenging films like Thelma andLouise,
Black Robe and Boyz n the Hood were
overlooked, but all the moviesnomi-
nated have some merit - a rare oc-
currence in Oscar history. The race
promises to be one of the most unpre-
dictable in years.
Actor: Once again, the Academy
has done good. Some may disagree
with the nod for Robin Williams's
portrayal of Robin Williams in The
Fisher King, but other actors like
have been nominated for basically
playing themselves before. And
what's more, Williams is funnier than
all of them. But we shouldn't forget
(as the academy did) River Phoenix
from My Own Private Idaho and the
great Al Pacino, who has given two of
his best performances in past years
(Godfather III, Frankie & Johnny).
Neither earned a nomination.
Actress: Bette Midler? Why does
she get to be nominated for her fall
box office flop whileMichelle Pfeiffer
(Frankie & Johnny) gets ignored for
hers? Also, the Academy bypassed
one of the best actresses working to-
day: Judy Davis (Barton Fink, Im-
promptu). Still, you have to give Os-
car some credit for mentioning Dern.
Supporting Actor /Actress: Not
a bad bunch, but Robert Duvall (Ram-
bling Rose) and Samuel L. Jackson
(Jungle Fever) deserved a mention.
Director: These are all fine direc-
tors but Barbra Streisand (The Prince
of Tides) is a glaring omission - a
snub, in fact. But it is nice to see
Ridley Scott and John Singletonnomi-
nated for their work.
Adapted / Original Screenplay:
In giving Europa, Europa a best
adapted screenplay nomination, the
Academy sends a pointed message to
the German film board for failing to
make the movie eligible for best for-
eign film. Of course, the whole sys-
tem, which allows only one entry per
country, sucks. Truly deserving films
like Europa and Daddy Nostalgia are
overlooked year after year.
. Predictions? Oh, how about Si-
lence, Hopkins, Foster, Palance,
Ruehl, Demme, Silence and Thelma.
Or maybe not.
THE NOMIN EE
Best Picture: Beauty and _the Beast, Bugsy, JFK , The rine f
Tides, The Silence of the: Lambs
Actor: Warren Beatty, Bugsy Robert DeNirc, Cape r eAthoy
'Hopkins, Lambs Nick NoleTides; Robin Wlliams, The Ft er kin
Actress: Geena Davis, Thelma & LXou* :E; aura DerTn, Rambin
Rose; Jodie Foster, Lambs; Bette VMidlier, Fort e Bys Sasaw
Sarandon, Thelma & Louise
Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones, JFK Hartey K~eI Bg
Ben Kingsley,>Bugsy; Michael Lerner, Barton FiAJ a ekPal w j,~t
Supporting Actress: Diane Ladd, Ramblinig Jfoae; Juette Lems
Cape Fear Kate Nelligan, Tides; Mercedes Ruehl, Fisher Kf:g
Jessica Tandy, Fried Green Tomatoes. .....
Director: John Singleton, Boyz n the Hood4 1arry i. 1Irf , Bu ps
Oliver Stone, JFK; Jonathan Demmne, Lams Ridl y Scott, Thsftrns
Original Screenplay: John Singleton,. Boyz; James Tobac k Buwrga
Richard LaGravenese, Fisher King; Lawurence an~td lMeg darn, .
Grand Canyon; Callie Khouri, Thelma &Lus
Adapted Screenplay: Agniesvka H of land, Europa, EuropaFr.
Flagg and Carol Sovieski, Fried Green Tomratoes; PatP1r i
Becky Johnston, Tides; Ted Tally, L amb
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i __ ..
The section that you
know and love broke
early for Spring. Don't
worry, we'll be back
with a special theater
issue on Thursday,
My roommate just left for Rio.
15 members of his host family
will meet him at airport! I'moff
to the Amazon tomorrow.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
just boarded the ship. Can't
believe we will spend 10 days
crossing the Atlantic hearing
him lecture on South Africa
and talkinginformally at din-
ner and on deck.
WINTiE R J AZ Z S ERIE S
North Campus Commons
r Featuring Jazz Ensembles 30
from the jazz Studies r Feb. 6
Program, Ed Sarath
Fo mr ifomtin n' 7
The Division of International Programs Abroad offers academic programs in
Australia, Czechoslovakia, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy,
Poland, and Spain
for a semester, a year, or a summer of study abroad.
for more information, please contact
Syracuse University Division of International-Programs Abroad
119 Euclid Avenue, Syracuse, NY 132444170- 1-800235-3472
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