Guest poem submitted by Vikram Doctor, one last hurrah for the 'poems in movies' theme:
(Poem #1180) Not Waving But Drowning
Nobody heard him, the dead man, But still he lay moaning: I was much further out than you thought And not waving but drowning. Poor chap, he always loved larking And now he's dead It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way, They said. Oh, no no no, it was too cold always (Still the dead one lay moaning) I was much too far out all my life And not waving but drowning.
I was surprised to find Minstrels hadn't run this since it's now quite a well known poem and one that often crops up on websites where people have collected their favourite poems. But there's only one other Stevie Smith poem here and perhaps her rather quirky talent deserves more. She can sometimes be almost tiresomely whimsical, but quite often, as with this poem, this whimsy cuts through to reveal a bone chilling despair. I thought this could go in the series of poems in films because I'm pretty sure its used in 'Stevie' the biopic of her made in 1978 which stars Glenda Jackson. The film is OK, it started life as a play and one gets the feeling it must have worked better that way. It's too talky and everything is too much like a stage set. But Jackson's performance is good, both sprightly and sad, as one imagines Stevie must have been. And she plays off very well with the other good performance from Mona Washbourne as Stevie's 'Lion aunt' with whom she spent her life. The interaction between the two is really warm and affectionate and the best part of the film. In the course of it several poems of Stevie's are quoted, and this I'm sure is one of them. 'The Faber Book of Movie Verse' edited by Philip French and Ken Waschin list several other films based on the lives of poets, though they say that in general "real-life poets have been romanticized in a dotty, sometimes unintentionally comic fashion." For example they give: - the Brownings in 'The Barretts of Wimpole Street' - Shelley & Byron in a prelude to James Whale's "The Bride of Frankenstein' (egging Mary Shelley on to top her earlier work) - Ronald Colman as Villon in 'If I Were King' - Shelley, Byron and co. again having orgies in Ken Russell's 'Gothic' - Byron alone in 'The Bad Lord Byron' (this sounds so cheesy I really want to see it now!) and 'Lady Caroline Lamb' - Rip Torn as Walt Whitman in 'Beautiful Dreamers' - Swift, Pope and Addison in 'Orlando' - Oscar Wilde in several films - Edgar Allan Poe in D. W. Griffith's poem of the same name - Verlaine and Rimbaud (played by Leonardo DiCaprio!) in 'Total Eclipse'. (After he achieved teen love god status in Titanic this film became unexpectedly popular since it has Leo in the nude!) - Shakespeare in several films - Ezra Pound in 'The Cage' - T. S. Eliot in 'Tom and Viv' Vikram.