So I picked up this handmade chapbook the other day after a reading at St. Mark’s Poetry Project with the 21st century title, “Cinephrastics,” by Kathleen Ossip. I want to call these succinct poems “Impressions” (”phrastics” are, I believe, descriptors) as they were written after the author, in some cases, forced herself to see films she would not have typically selected. They are not reminiscences nor summaries of the films, but rather, they seem to be oblique commentaries that are keen, rife with awareness of the world they, and we, exist in. For instance,


The price of real estate burns us all.
Replete with symbolic capital,
we conjured a chatelaine, brunette,
her silverplated scissors hinting
at replenishing the irises,
long-bearded and brown and spooky, and
the debate a hip one, phrases like
ice. Came a warm night, we were as gods.
But a sulky night, puke moon, horndog.

One can nearly smell the SUVs and gas grills in the backyards, while Hollywood dresses up the scenes with hipster angst in the form of a lovely, but pseudo-darkened, Gwenneth Paltrow. That’s Luke Wilson, post long, brown beard. The allusions are there, but the impression Ossip delivers is more sophisticated than a film review, more multiple in its read or “rendering” — and conclusion. From mice to men, gods to horndogs, let the silverplated cutting begin …

Let’s try another, since even a mini-review really is about tempting you to the poems with the poems:


Not so far from a Marc Jacobs
perfume ad. However, give me
Tokyo and Elvis C. and I’m
contended. Sex symbol =
Pizza face? Girls get younger and
younger; this, too, a threat. The dark
outside is genderless. Shadows
whisper from the monoliths, shells
open. I would like to be in
bed with some congenial person.

And curtain. All that I remember after seeing the film of the above title was that I had to strain to suspend disbelief the entire glossy, superficial time, “not so far from a Marc Jacobs/perfume ad”, in spite of liking Bill Murray as an actor. Alas, friends have told me that in the online dating world, women need to be at least ten years younger than the men they “are seeking.” I didn’t believe this until I saw an ad for a speed dating night at a restaurant on Long Island — the age ranges differed for men and women coming to the same meet, and guess who had to be at least five years younger? “The dark/outside is genderless.” Indeed, it should be, it even could be, as might the hope for a congenial person. I’d take the authentic Tokyo and Elvis C. over the ad anytime, too.

It’s also fun to read the poems of films I haven’t seen yet. In fact, it makes for an even broader engagement since I don’t have the shadows on a screen to attach the poem with. Ossip’s Cinephrastics stand firm away from the screen, while the titles conjure beyond their origins. I wasn’t going to post more of the work and take the fun out of your experience with Cinephrastics, but I will end with one that supports the preceding claim, while additionally noting how nicely made the chap is, complete with what seem like lovely lithographs printed on thick, textured paper. For more info on Kathleen Ossip’s chap, go to Horseless Press here. I haven’t seen the following film, and the poem itself makes me wonder if this would be Wittgenstein’s style if he had selected the poet hat for himself:


Reality — truth, call it — has a most
interesting texture. It is not slick
nor rough. Not velvet. It neither casts down
nor buoys up, but settles, unnoticed.
We summon reality by being
quiet. We don’t impose something extra
on it–we might call that judgment (signaled
by adjectives). It’s not easy to be
quiet beyond a certain duration.
Thirty seconds is a lifetime of ash.


Now for your cluster of quotes for the day and one more final recommendation:

“Picasso said, ‘You see, the situation is very simple. Anybody that creates a new thing has to make it ugly. The effort of creation is so great, that trying to get away from other things, the contemporary insistence, is so great that the effort to break it gives the appearance of ugliness.’”

–from “A Transatlantic Interview 1946″ in A Primer for the Gradual Understanding of Gertrude Stein (Black Sparrow Press)

Does it mean this, does it mean that, that’s all anybody wants to know. Fuck them, darling. I say what any decent poet would say if you dared ask him to analyse his work: If you see it, dear, then it’s there.

– Freddie Mercury

…[But] they can’t kill music. God knows, they’ve tried. But music always wins. As long as there’s kids coming up that have a passion. All the bean counters in the world can’t kill that. You know? You just can’t. They can try, of course, to feed you the most puerile, benign horse manure, but some kid’s going to come along and demand something more than that.

– John Hiatt


And a couple of poems I found the other day by a young poet, whose work, upon further googling, hits home for me. She should contact me if she happens upon herself here along the way:

Immigrant Song #6

Here’s a candy dish shaped like a rooster.
And here’s the collection of cubic zirconium.
The extended family is four-leafed, curled
up on the Goodwill couch. Avoiding the bottoms
of teacups, gazing at the laminated blackbirds,
the sundials, the red wooden eggs.

Immigrant Song #12

My real language is made up of death-shaped consonants.
I keep them locked in a concrete box in the back of my
roped throat. Forked tongue, mentholated song. Bird
feathers glue-gunned to the edges of my passport.

–Daniela Olszewska (as published in Melancholia’s Tremulous Dreadlocks)

More of her stellar poems recently appeared in La Petite Zine.


2 Responses to “Cinephrastics”

  1. Sam Rasnake Says:
    May 20th, 2007 at 7:08 pm eI like Ossip’s approach. Great notion for a chapbook. Thanks for posting these, Amy.
  2. Jim K. Says:
    May 21st, 2007 at 2:47 am eMy first thought: makes a good drive vehicle to spark the work!
    It’s interesting to see the different thoughts that are stirred
    up in people by a film. The story seems to enter the mind,
    and be diffracted into another story or theme. Takes a few people’s
    impressions (as we see above) to understand the ‘dasein’ of
    each of them better.
    Now there’s an interesting idea: the spun-off impressions of
    a few different poets, to the same film.
    The chapbook is rather interesting if the reader has seen the film, though.
    Two camera angles.

Film Poetry

AMY KING View All →

Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She co-edited with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edits the anthology series, Bettering American Poetry, and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.

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