We Saw the Light
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“In the postwar America of the fifties and sixties, poets, artists, and filmmakers forged a powerful new counterculture based in friendships, love affairs, intellectual debates, and artistic collaborations. As the author says, ‘What a scene!’ For the first time a critic of great insight has viewed the total dynamics of this artistic world, focusing especially on the cross-pollination between underground filmmakers and poets. The result is explosive and revelatory, as Kane bobs and weaves through films and poems, politics and sexuality, enmities and passions from Anger to Brakhage, Ginsberg to Ashbery, providing not only a sense of history but breathtaking readings of the ways films and poems interbred and crashed against the repressions of American society, turning the fifties into the sixties and beyond. Few books combine such scholarly detail and insight with such passion and humor.”—Tom Gunning, author, The Films of Fritz Lang: Allegories of Cinema and Modernity
“In the 1950s and 1960s, filmmakers often thought of themselves as poets and frequently invoked the other medium as a model for their own projects. Since then, there has been very little acknowledgment of this kinship, but Daniel Kane's beautifully written book rediscovers it with tremendous erudition and generous attention to the history of both poetics and avant-garde film. With its brilliant structuring metaphor of imaginary conversations between poets and filmmakers, We Saw the Light virtually creates an important field for scholarship.”—David E. James, author, The Most Typical Avant-Garde: History and Geography of Minor Cinemas in Los Angeles
“Daniel Kane's We Saw the Light is an original, smart, funny, and profound book. It is in one sense an archaeological dig, uncovering a root work of relations between filmmakers and poets in the post–World War II era; it is also a series of dazzling illuminations exposing fresh historical collaborations. Radical aesthetics combine with social politics, where ‘masculinity,’ ‘sanity,’ ‘sexuality,’ and ‘poetics’ are not monolithic signifiers but become part of Kane’s mobile ‘conversations’ between poetry and cinema, prompting new ways of seeing and knowing the world and self. Anyone interested in tracking the Beat or New York School of poets in their passion for cinema will want to read this book; anyone wanting to understand filmmakers who sought out their poetic doubles, and the ensuing interstitial fireworks, must read this book: it is like seeing the light for the first time.”—Susan McCabe, author, Cinematic Modernism: Modern Poetry and Film
By the mid-1960s, New American poets and Underground filmmakers had established a vibrant community. Allen Ginsberg, John Ashbery, Robert Duncan, Robert Creeley, and Frank O’Hara joined Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage, Robert Frank, Alfred Leslie, and Andy Warhol to hang out, make films, read poems, fight censorship, end racism, and shut down the Vietnam War. Their personal, political, and artistic collaborations led them to rethink the moving picture and the lyric, resulting in an extraordinary profusion of poetry/film hybrids.
Drawing on unpublished correspondences and personal interviews with key figures in the innovative poetry and film communities, Daniel Kane’s stunningly erudite and accessible work not only provides a fresh look at avant-garde poetry and film but also encourages readers to rethink the artistic scenes of the 1960s and today. We Saw the Light will reframe the very way we talk about how film influences poetry and force us to think anew about the radical ways in which art is created and in turn influences subsequent work.
Why Film and Poetry?
One: Some Early Conversations
Two:The Conversation between Kenneth Anger and Robert Duncan
Three: The Conversation between Stan Brakhage and Robert Creeley
Four: The Conversation between Frank O’Hara and Alfred Leslie
Five: The Conversations between Allen Ginsberg, Charlie Chaplin, and Robert Frank
Six: The Conversations between Andy Warhol, Gerard Malanga, Allen Ginsberg, John Ashbery, and Frank O’Hara
Seven: The Conversation between John Ashbery and Rudy Burckhardt
Conclusion: Lisa Jarnot and Jennifer Reeves in Conversation