Friday, November 21, 2003

In college I took an American Documentary class. I was drawn immediately to the filmmaking style of Robert Drew. Drew had been a photographer/editor for Life magazine; I had probably seen some of his work in the magazine at my aunt’s house. We spent a lot of time that semester on three of Drew’s early films that defined what would become known as Cinema Verite, or American Direct Cinema: "Primary,” considered the first American Cinema Verite film, “Crisis” and “Faces of November.” These films resonated with me as they were not only the kind of "truthful" filmmaking I hoped at the time to emulate, but the subject was one that had woven itself in images throughout my life: the Kennedys.

Though I was only 5 when JFK was assassinated, the Kennedys represented all the potential of the American Family to me, and all the ways that my own family was lacking. I'm not talking about their money, or political aspirations, or the lives they led built around public service. When one member had a goal, they all worked toward it. When one member got into trouble, they all rallied around. When tragedy struck them again and again, they went to each other for comfort, and they found it there. I could see something in the photographs of them together, something true; they loved each other, they were a family, the way my family was not.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Maybe I am a true poet.
In last Thursday's WSJ, John Gross, in his review of the new R.F. Foster bio of Yeats , points out that "it was one of W. B. Yeats's deepest beliefs that a true poet always writes out of his personal life, but only after his experience has been transmuted into a myth." He quotes Yeats himself: "He [sic] is never the bundle of accident and inchoherence that sits down to breakfast; he [sic] has been reborn as an idea, something intended, complete."

In my "History" fotolog I may have been reborn into something "intended, complete, " while in real life I continue to struggle with myself as a "bundle of incoherence. " Several people (those perceptive enough to understand that what I am doing there is not just "stories") have commented that I seem to have worked out all my issues, (whatever issues they assume have emerged from my childhood) and have a sort of detachment from my past; that I can see my past almost objectively.

I know that this is not true, but wonder how it is, then, that I can produce these pieces of writing that give that impression. I can't reconcile the phrase "detachment" with my past. I still feel my heart jump for joy whenever we make a trip to Host, PA (where I was born and grew up till age 14), and I see the familiar geography, the trees, the stream, the fields and my home. My past is so a part of who I am, the idea of being detached from it scares me, as though I would lose a part of myself.

I've just realized, while writing this, that it isn't detachment but insight that allows me to to see things from different angles and perspectives, that guides me toward a cubist rendition of myself. Insight is what gives experience the qualities of a myth, and insight makes a person into an idea, something intended, complete.

I'll try to remember that when I sit down to breakfast tomorrow morning.

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