Filmmaker: Norbert Lempert

Gerald Stern: Still Burning

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A very well-done documentary portrait from, directed, produced and edited by Norbert Lempert. Here’s the description at the Poetry Foundation website:

Produced by Norbert Lempert of REMproductions in association with the Poetry Foundation. Gerald Stern is as much the poet warrior now as when he stunned the poetry world thirty years ago with his book Lucky Life. In that book he first staked out a place for himself and readers that he has continued to make, a place that in his words is “overlooked or ignored or disdained, a place no one else wanted.” This short documentary film, illustrated with materials from Stern’s own archive, features some of Stern’s best known poems. It also includes commentary by poets Ross Gay, Edward Hirsch, Anne Marie Macari, Heather McHugh, and Thomas Lux, each with a unique perspective on Stern as artist and friend.

I thought this would be a good pick for the U.S. Independence Day holiday, especially given the way Stern, Hirsch and Macardi discuss the climate for poetry in the U.S. starting around 2:30 in Part 1. There’s also this from Stern in Part 2, beginning at 2:58:

We remember the famous words: After the Holocaust, after Shoah, there can be no poetry. And the alternative is: After the Shoah, there can be ONLY poetry. “How about no parades, no cannons, no atom bombs? How about no concentration camps, the way the United States runs concentration camps now?” is another way of thinking about it.

I also like Hirsch’s description of Stern in Part 3, starting at 0:38:

He’s really a poet of the egotistical sublime. The I stands in for the natural world, and for the whole world. And he’s experiencing everything himself.

For more on Gerald Stern, and to read samples of his work, see the Poetry Foundation’s page, which includes 32 poems in text form and 12 audio files.