This latest and I think most ambitious of Daniel Cantagallo’s remix-style cinepoems is accompanied by a thoughtful essay on Medium, “Don’t Touch the Poet | Joel Oppenheimer’s New York“. It begins:
Joel Oppenheimer knew cities…actually one in particular…New York City…and to be more specific “New York City below 14th Street”, in that once bohemian enclave of the 60s and 70s where he could do what he did best: be there when it happens and write it down.
Despite his relative obscurity today, Oppenheimer was a legendary figure of the West Village art scene, a Black Mountain College attendee, a regular columnist for the Village Voice, the first director of St. Mark’s Poetry Project on the Lower East Side, and yet still, he never quite received the recognition he felt he deserved in his time, let alone ours.
I came across the off-the-cuff, propulsive energy of Oppenheimer’s “Cities, This City” on UbuWeb from a 1976 reading at St. Mark’s Church. His elegiac affection and tough-talking ambivalence about urban life spoke to my feelings about New York after too many years sprinting a marathon on its hamster wheels with over 8 million other hamsters.
This is Drive, a remix by Daniel Cantagallo of Robert Creeley’s poem I Know a Man. The poet’s reading is a bit stilted, pausing for the enjambed line breaks (not reproduced by the text on screen here) that were so central to his style, but somehow it makes a perfect fit with the music (“Red Tide” by loscil) and the full-tilt footage. Quoting Cantagallo’s description:
There’s always been something deeply existential about driving…the open road, the possibilty of escape from identity…and of course the threat of death by accident.
In Robert Creeley’s most famous poem, “I Know A Man”, the speaker contemplates what we can do against the darkness and chaos of modern life.
In this cheeky and moody remix, I use a recording of Robert Creeley reading his poem juxtaposed with a 1951 government public information series on automobile safety and the dangers of driving at night.
Driving on the Highway can be watched in all its glory on the Internet Archive. The National Archives description:
TRAINING FILM: On techniques on driving on highway. Sixty percent of all accidents happen at night because of poor visability and fatigue. Reduce speed, use headlights and avoid using interior lights at night.
The late, great Etheridge Knight recites his poem in this “archival remix” by Daniel Cantagallo, whose work I stumbled across on Vimeo the other night. Here’s the informative description:
It is hard to make a poem in prison, but Etheridge Knight fashioned many, and grateful he did. Born in Corinth, Mississippi, Knight was a Korean War vet who became a drug addict. Eventually put away for armed robbery, he renounced anger and committed his life to poetry while behind bars. His first volume of “Poems from Prison”, cemented his status in the Black Arts movement, and coincided with his release in 1968.
Reading is from Etheridge Knight and footage from 1966 CBS Report, “Men In Cages.”
The link goes to a lecture on Knight by Terrance Hayes.
I was fortunate enough to attend a reading by Etheridge Knight many years ago in the intimate setting of Penn State’s Rare Books Room, which had an impressive collection of books and chapbooks from the Black Arts Movement. Knight’s reading and commentary was a crash course in the dirty dozens and the African American oral poems known as toasts, and dovetailed with my then-intense interest in the blues. Which is a long-winded way of saying I had a lot of aha moments that afternoon.