Stevenson is not the
By SUNIL IYENGAR
When the Institute of Humanities invited Anne Stevenson to teach at the
University this year, it may not have had its facts straight. By some accounts,
Stevenson explains, she has been described as a romantic novelist, something
which she definitely isn't.
"I think they're getting me confused with another Anne Stevenson who, I
think, died in the '70s," she suggests. "I remember opening the paper one day
and seeing my obituary."
This Anne Stevenson, who will read from her work tonight at Rackham
Amphitheatre, is primarily a poet. And as her readers and several critics attest,
she is a vigorous one.
Born in Cambridge, England, Stevenson split her childhood between
Massachusetts and Connecticut before attending high school in Ann Arbor.
Upon graduation, she enrolled at the U-M Music School, where she studied
But this pursuit was short-lived. "After a while I wanted to study history,
philosophy and languages," Stevenson says. "I ended up majoring in French-
I think." But Stevenson's initial education left her "very conscious of music
*nhd the rhythms of poetry."
After receiving a B.A. from the University in 1954, Stevenson spent five
years in England. She then moved to New York, Mississippi, and Georgia
before returning to Ann Arbor to study poetry under Donald Hall, to whom she
says she "owe[s] a great debt ... He encouraged me to take my writing
seriously." Since then, Stevenson has worked in England while producing a
steady stream of poetry books.
Living in England and the U.S. has shown Stevenson some differences
between writers who work in those countries. "I think it's a fault of both
countries that writers cling together. They tend to belong to cliques or coteries.
though maybe that's more true of England. Here there's a more general
tmosphere," she observes, adding, "Perhaps in England they're too critical.
Here, they're not critical enough."
Moving around has given her a sense of independence. Moving "throws
you back on yourself," she says. "You begin to root yourself in ideas." This
detachment, she says, is a "universal" effect ofmoving and, more importantly,
is "the poet's strength: to lose the sense of desire, worldliness."
In this respect;Stevenson says, the poet is like the scientist. Both "need to
understand a way out of the continual turbulence, and recycling of the world
of things." In the introduction to "Four and A Half Dancing Men," Stevenson
quotes evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould, "a mentor" whose work she finds
But Stevenson admits that science, like art, is vulnerable in at least one
aspect: "They are only models," she says. "In order to make sense of life, you
have to write about it, make a model of it. The human mind sets things into
patterns ... The arrogance is to assume that any one pattern is right."
An expansive intellect refreshed by a
noncommittal air breathes through much of
An expansive intellect refreshed by a noncommittal air breathes through
Such of Stevenson's verse. Her language reflects the bare polish of elemental
associations rather than densely allusive ones. In the poem "Making Poetry,"
from her collection "The Fiction-Makers" (1985),
Stevenson defines her art as "a wordlife running from mind to mind/
through the washed rooms of the simple senses." This starkness of diction
makes for arresting imagery, as seen in her metaphysical poem "Call Them
Poppies," from "The Other House" (1990): "Imagine a reconciliation between
/ dumb eyes and their tears. / Full pools watch it all without blinking. /
Ploughed dust, brick rubble and blood / accumulate on the lashes."
Stevenson cites Herbert, Blake, Yeats and Stevens as her major influences.
*e also lauds Elizabeth Bishop's writings for its exploration of "the sense of
other, the world beyond humans. She, too, was fascinated by natural phenom-
ena," observes Stevenson, whose brief correspondence with Bishop resulted
in a biography of that poet in 1966.
Four years ago, Stevenson completed "Bitter Fame," the biography of
another significant poet, Sylvia Plath. "Her poems have always challenged
me," Stevenson says. In her poem "Letter to Sylvia," Stevenson addresses
Plath's skill as a poet: "In England, still, your poet's spring / arrives,
unraveling everything. / A yellowhammer in the gorse /creates each minute's
universe; / A blackbird singing from a thorn / Is all the joy of being reborn."
ese lines, which echo Blake's "Auguries of Innocence," give a sense of
Math's persistent popularity in England.
Stevenson notes that "In America, however, [Plath] has been absorbed by
the whole feminist movement." But Stevenson herself steers clear of factions
or dogmas where her own art is concerned. "Politics has very little to do with
poetry," she says. "That includes the politics of gender, feminism, and so on."
This rationale may have something to do with another of Stevenson's
poetic concepts. "[In poetry] you need a prevailing skepticism about anything
being absolutely true," she says. This statementmirrors Robert Frost's maxim,
"Poetry is the only way we have of saying one thing and meaning another."
So how is poet Anne Stevenson enjoying her most recent return to Ann
rbor? "It rivals Paris for coffee bars," she laughs. "Ann Arbor has grown into
a sophisticated European city... Years ago I would've said it was provincial."
But Stevenson praises Ann Arbor for its ethnic variety. "There's a good
mixture in society today," she says. "That's an occasion for rejoicing." She
questions the consequences of a multicultural society, though. "Students have
lost their sense of central culture ... They tend to be fragmented in their
interests," she says. "But maybe that's not altogether a bad thing."
Anne Stevenson reads from her work today at Rackham Amphitheatre at 4
"Dazed and Confused" fortunately does not sell out, but it certainly doesn't tell us anything that we didn't already know.
MUovie c meS across a little 'COIfUSed'
By JON ALTSHUL
Two years ago, Richard Linklater attempted to
define that nebulous 18-30 age group in his bril-
liant, if over-hyped visual montage, "Slacker."
The film was an ambitious, utterly fresh concept
that managed to chronicle a generation slightly
Dazed and Confused
Written and directed by Richard Linklater; with
Jason London and Wiley Wiggins.
older than our own with accuracy and a strangely
ambiguous panache. Douglas Coupland wrote its
kitsch literary counterpart "Generation X," and
suddenly everyone wanted in. Nirvana and Pearl
Jam broke the charts, hemp became the political
cause du jour and a whole wave of needless road
trips found their way into American pop culture
tradition. Soon, however, exploited catch-phrases
like "Seattle Sound" entered our vernacular, and
everyone had to take a step back.
What were we being defined as? The answer
was ineffable - our generation was as much a
cultural anomaly as any, and no one had a defini-
tive answer as to exactly what we'd become.
In attempting to plug into the earlier success of
"Slacker," Linklater's second film, aptly titled
"Dazed and Confused," tells us nothing that we
didn't know before. In fact, it tells us so little that
it ultimately fails to transcend the stigma of an
early '80s hormone flick.
Set in 1976 middle America, the film loosely
follows the trials and tribulations of Randy "Pink"
Floyd (Jason London), an amicable varsity quar-
terback forced to choose between doing drugs and
staying on the football team. Some dilemma. The
picture is set during the last day of Pink's junior
year and records the 18 hour period from dis-
missal to the impromptu kegger that the kids
throw in the woods.
Meanwhile, across town, ninth-grader-to-be
Mitch Kramer (Wiley Wiggins) fears for his life.
All incoming freshman get hazed, and the upper-
classmen target Mitch as the catch-of-the-day.
After Mitch gets pummeled by a horde of test-
osterone-crazed seniors, Pink invites him to cruise
the strip and suck on roach clips that evening.
Both Wiggins and London do what they can with
the fairly banal script, but by the end, their perfor-
mances are in vain.
Nevertheless, the hazing theme is an intrigu-
ing one. The older students violently cling onto
the traditions of their elders, without a true sense.
of "tradition" being apparent. Instead, the beat-
ings they give the younger students are deliber-
ately malicious, utterly bereft of any moral con-
Peripheral characters abound as well-there's
the aspiring ACLU lawyer who has an epiphany
every five minutes, the young girl who falls for the
scrawny intellect, the duber who loves to toke and
the 30-year-old pedophiliac who carouses with
high school girls. Each sub-plot, however, seems
to get lost in the chaos surrounding it sono one can
really empathize too strongly with any of them.
Still, no critic can knock "Dazed and
Confused's" wonderful authenticity. Amidst the
decadent clothing, the groovy tunes and the cre-
ative bongs emerges a period film which deftly
manages to speak for more than just its own
generation. An almost palpable sense of belong-
ing to the film sweeps through anyone who at
anytime was a teenager.
The picture unabashedly glorifies marijuana,
an interesting device that allows the characters to
revel in their licentiousness. As the tunes get more
danceable and the hemp ashes cinder into another
chamber of bong water, one begins to appreciate
the raw nakedness that the film exudes. We do not
care so much that the humor isn't particularly
funny or that the story line isn't at all coherent.
Linklater manages to juxtapose the supposed
meaninglessness of the '70s against the transience
of adolescence. "If these are the best years of my
life," Pink comments, "remind me to kill myself."
Indeed, Pink hates feeling like he's trapped in a
purgatory both half-way between boyhood and
manhood and half-way between the colorfulness
of the '60s and the opulence of the '80s.
"Dazed and Confused" could have been better.
It could have had a point or a climactic conclusion.
But it also could have sold out. Ambivalently, it
DAZED AND CONFUSED is playing at
Black and white brutality featured in 'Killing'
By MICHAEL THOMPSON
Picture this. A clever guy hires a
bunch of people to pull off a robbery.
Some of the guys know each other
Directed by Stanley Kubrick; written
by Stanley Kubrick and Jim
Thompson; with Sterling Hayden and
and some don't. Due to lack of trust
and some bad luck, things go really
bad. But wait, the movie's in black
and white and it was made in 1954.
That's right, before there was "Reser-
voir Dogs," there was "The Killing."
The film is about a robbery at a
race track. The main character, an ex-
con, organizes people who work at
the track and people who don't. He
also arranges a couple of "distrac-
tions." He struggles and leaves al-
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most nothing to chance. Almost. The
story is tight and fast paced; you're
into it before you know it.
The movie is pure Film Noir -
black and white, very bad people and
a world too complex and dirty for
anyone to "win" anything. Jim Th-
ompson, the man who gave us "After
Dark, My Sweet," co-wrote this with
Kubrick and the result is acid on the
brain. This cast of born losers is pa-
thetic from start to finish. The ma-
chine gun paced dialogue is like David
Mamet without the four letter words.
The actors all manage to create
sympathy for their thieving charac-
ters. These are just a group of people
who have lived behind somebody else
for too long. They want to get ahead
and get the hell out. But they want it
too much and they pay for it. Their
pathetic sense of self is almost heart-
breaking because some of them seem
driven to this crime. Kubrick's gal-
lery of characters spans from crook to
troubled married man to cop. They all
have horrible lives. The world Kubrick
and Thompson create is gritty and
depressing. The robbery is the only
way out of this hell.,
Kubrick made this picture long
before revitalizing "Singing in the
Rain" and "The Blue Danube." His
genius, however, is still very appar-
ent in this early work. He constructs
That's right, before
there was "Reservoir
Dogs," there was "The
the narrative in overlapping images
so every part of the robbery can be
seen. By giving his audience so many
different perspectives, Kubrick re-
emphasizes the intelligence of the plan
and how critical mistakes can, and
will, be. Even with the overlapping
narrative, the robbery blasts across
the screen with the same intensity of
a horse race. You watch how they rob
while wondering how they can possi-
bly pull it off.
Similar to "Reservoir Dogs," "The
Killing" highlights the clever idea of
a young directorand struggles to show
the other side of people, whether it be
bright or dark. Kubrick loves to climb
inside characters who seem distant,
decadent orj ust plain indifferent.The
film is a testament to criminals and
the complex morality surrounding
Fortunately, the rumor is out that
Kubrick is (finally) at work on an-
other film. So Scorsese might be put
on the back burner again. But for right
now check out "The Killing." Black
and white brutality is rarely this good.
THE KILLING is playing at the
Are you going to check out Octubafest? No, not Octoberfest, Octubafest.
Professor Fritz Kaenzig and his tuba and euphonium students will be
performing two shows at the School ofMusic Recital Hall on North Campus
this Thursday at 8 p.m. and Friday at 6p.m. The concert will feature "Dark
Towers" and "Wind and Wuthering" by Daniel McCarthy, as well as a few
Halloween pieces to celebrate the season. Best of all, both shows are
Nose a Uttle Brown?'
Do you find yourself constantly kissing ass? Does your life revolve
around making other people happy? Well, fret no more. Dr. Douglas Ruben
"WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO
WITH YOUR BA IN ENGLISH?"
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 27, 7:30 pm
MICHIGAN UNION, KUENZEL ROOM