James Franco Is Bad at Poetry

Note:  This is a poem from the Inauguration, which I know was a few weeks back.  It just took me a long time to process this and I really didn’t want to read this whole poem again.

My brain is broken.  James Franco has broken my heart and brain.  I love poetry.  Therefore, I now hate James Franco.  He has called himself a poet, somehow joined many graduate programs in creative writing, and he is demeaning poetry consistently.  This is what happens when you give a spoiled child the means and praise he’s received.  He thinks he is a good poet.  He is so, so wrong.

As a person who writes poetry, I find him offensive. There are real poets, full-time poets out there who write incredibly beautiful, meaningful poetry that is art and not simply narcissistic rambling. In some ways, he may help bring people to poetry, but if he uses his notoriety to write sub-par, high school-level prose-poems, he isn’t doing the field any favors. People already scoff at poetry; he’s giving them more reason to do so. This is the poetic equivalent to painting a circle on a canvas and charging $100,000 for high art.

If James Franco represents poetry, then poetry is dead.

Randomly, even if verbally, pointing to things in a room doesn’t make your poem illustrative.  It just means you looked around a room.  Poetry is more than a listing of thoughts, or the action of hitting “Enter” on your keyboard.  Poetry is supposed to be art, and this does not qualify.  This is a the live-journal of James Franco pushed onto thin, tall pages.

Art is not an annotated bibliography and vice versa.  James Franco seems to think that he is smart, talented, and unique enough to justify his thoughts alone as art.  Just because you write it and you think you are great doesn’t mean you’ve made something good.  It barely means you’ve made anything at all.

From Kate: “This isn’t even pragmatic or pretty prose.  This is what would happen if poetry had an abortion.”

We must pay special attention to the poem’s end; not just because he gives himself an Oscar for a black-face portrayal of Obama’s “core goodness,” but also because he tells us that “[He’d] let the writer put in all the political crap.”  By saying this, it is as if Franco might actually be aware that he’s not a real writer.  Sure, he’s discussing a fake future movie that someone would write about Obama and then actually cast a white stoner…  But, he doesn’t seem to get that he is “writing” at the moment.  He took the time to google Asheville, but he didn’t take the time to google the president.  Here are some of the last lines about this movie: “I’d let the writer put in all the political crap, / And the specific things that he was up against, / All that stuff on CNN and the Huffington Post, / And I’d say the lines that were written, just like Obama / Reads his lines, but what would really put the role over / Would be the goodness at its core. / That’s what will be remembered. / Yes, his race, no one will forget. But the soul too. / I’d win the Academy Award if I just captured that.”

The vagueness of these lines enrages me.  Poetry is not vague.  He sounds like a person with no knowledge who has randomly decided to pontificate about President Obama.  “All that stuff on CNN and the Huffington Post…”  What stuff?  Which issue?  Are you speaking of his race, his policies, his debate performance, war, economics, anything?  Also, he says that he would “… say the lines that were written, / just like Obama…” almost as an afterthought, as if we, the readers, are supposed to assume that Franco is such a gifted actor, he could easily say lines “just like” the president.

Key Features of Narcissism and Overall Badness:

  • The poem features a striking lack of imagery.
  • The poem lacks rhythm, meter, and music.
  • The poem consists of the thoughts of an easily distracted, wannabe-educated, possibly high hipster with a grandiose self-image.
  • The poem seems to have to remind itself that its purpose is to honor the 2013 Inauguration of President Barack Obama.
  • It’s basically an encyclopedia entry (think wikipedia in a book).  He just explains to us what is significant about Ashville.  He seems to think that every detail of his life and the things that he knows are interesting.  He is wrong.  “Asheville is the place where the Black Mountain College once stood / And helped birth Rauschenberg, Twombly and Johns, / Cage and Cunningham.”
  • He talks about Obama knowing him from the Spiderman movies: “He [Obama] knew me from Spider-Man.”  I’m sure Mr. President was trying to polite; it’s not like he’s your biggest fan.  Get over yourself.
  • Celebrity name dropping without reason.  We’re all excited for you that you got to meet President Obama, Katie Holmes, Tom Cruise, and Claire Danes.
  • The poem ends with James Franco winning an Oscar.  That means that when James Franco thinks about other people, he quickly finds a way to think about himself.
  • The whole poem is about James Franco thinking about how James Franco is like or related to President Obama.  If I were to write a poem about a tree and I kept comparing that to my acting career, I would be a douche bag.  My point is that James Franco is ruining poetry and he’s a douche.

*********************************************************************************

Obama in Asheville

Asheville, North Carolina, is the birthplace of Thomas
Wolfe and the sometime residence of F. Scott Fitzgerald
When he visited Zelda at her institution;
He stayed at the Grove Park Inn, a grand stone edifice.

On the phone once, Cormac McCarthy lamented
The two added wings and the spa, and marveled
At the original structure, They pulled the stones
From the mountains and brought them down on mules.

Soon after his fortieth birthday, Fitzgerald attempted suicide
Here, but couldn’t shoot his own head, drunk, I guess.
Later, after he was actually dead, from alcohol,
Zelda perished in a fire at her institution, one of nine.

*

Asheville is the place where the Black Mountain College once stood
And helped birth Rauschenberg, Twombly and Johns,
Cage and Cunningham; now I think it’s a Young Men’s Christian Association.
On the wall of the Grove Park, they have pictures of the famous guests;

I’m not up there, but Obama is. I was asked to write something
For the inauguration of his second term, but what could I write?
I was in Asheville, studying writing, but not the political sort;
I write confessions and characters, and that sort of thing.

I wrote my friend Frank about what I could do, but he was unresponsive.
I went to class and then the little burrito place where they know me,
And finally at night I got Frank’s email on my phone and pulled over
On the side of Warren Wilson Road, past the school barn with the WWC —

That I couldn’t see in the dark — right before the school entrance;
A little spot where there’s a path that leads to a lake called Snake Lake.
First I called my class at UCLA, and told them to watch Apocalypse Now,
And that it used Heart of Darkness as a model, and that we’d watch

Eleanor Coppola’s Hearts of Darkness, the making-of, the following week.
Then I read Frank’s note. He said he was sleeping twenty hours a day,
With no symptoms except that he desired sleep
And just a little more sleep. He’s in his seventies.

Then he said that my poem was a difficult task.
How to write about a man written about endlessly;
A man whom everyone has some sort of experience of;
How to write so that it’s not just for the converted.

*

I met Obama once, in D.C., the Correspondents’ Dinner.
I was the guest of Vanity Fair, guided through D.C. by the wife
Of Christopher Hitchens, when he was alive. We went to Hitch’s place,
He had books from floor to ceiling, and said he had read

To Borges, when he was blind, Old Icelandic Eddas—
Then we waited in a private room with the likes of Tom Cruise,
And Katie Holmes, and Claire Danes. When Obama entered
The crowd converged. Finally, I got to shake his hand,

He knew me from Spider-Man. I asked him for advice,
I was scheduled to give the commencement speech at UCLA
And there were some undergraduate knockers against me;
He had been denied the usual honorary degree by Arizona State

Because he hadn’t accomplished enough, so I wondered
How he dealt with detractors. He smiled his smile and said,
“Humor.” Well he’s damn right, and I wonder how much
That stand-up comedian is laughing in the face

Of this big country. Because he is one man and we are many,
And a great servant of the people—he’s a president, not a king—
And doesn’t need to face what King Charles once faced.
(Frank suggested I examine Marvell’s semi-inauguration poem for Cromwell:)

That thence the Royal actor borne
The tragic scaffold might adorn:
     While round the armèd bands
     Did clap their bloody hands.

That most famous stanza, and then:

But bow’d his comely head
Down, as upon a bed.

And he was beheaded, good-bye Charles.

*

If I were to act in the film about Obama,
All I would need to get down, aside from the outer stuff—
And I know that’s important—is his essential kindness,
I’d let the writer put in all the political crap,

And the specific things that he was up against,
All that stuff on CNN and the Huffington Post,
And I’d say the lines that were written, just like Obama
Reads his lines, but what would really put the role over

Would be the goodness at its core.
That’s what will be remembered.
Yes, his race, no one will forget. But the soul too.
I’d win the Academy Award if I just captured that.

On Graduation

Maybe this is you.

This is probably what your college is doing now.

 

Maybe this is your current situation.

 

You probably feel a little like this.

 

We hope it feels like this.

Lessons in Being Illogical, or How to Make a Worthless and Stupid Argument

Although I now live about 500 miles from my hometown, I try to keep up on somewhat-local news there. I follow the local paper on Twitter as part of this effort. On my bus ride today, I ran across a tweet of a letter to the editor, and it read as follows:

If gas prices keep going up the way they are, and are supposed to hit a projected $5 by summer, how are people going to afford to even leave their house?

I have a cabin on Secord Lake, by Gladwin, and my parents are already talking about selling their boat. Hauling the boat back and forth from our house to the cabin will be way too costly, and leaving it at the cabin and paying for the gas on the water will be insane.

I don’t think the government realizes how much gas prices affect the middle and lower class people of this country. Something needs to be done about it very soon.

In the past two years at Secord Lake, the houses/cabins for sale have been rising drastically. It is very sad to go up there and see all these places for sale when in reality it is mostly due to the high gas prices and people not being able to afford it.

Doesn’t the government want us to spend money and get the economy going again? Well, lower the gas prices and let us live a little.

I will try to avoid the politics of this by focusing on the stupidity of this argument. Essentially, this dude is saying that the government should lower gas prices so he can take his parents’ boat up to his cabin on a lake in the middle of Michigan. Pursuing a career in academia makes me a hawk for poorly presented arguments (I deal with crappy arguments in student papers and try to get them to think in more sophisticated ways than you see presented above. Sadly, no one did this for our friend up there.), and thus, I give you flaws on two levels: logic and audience.

First, logic. Since when does the government magically control gas prices? This letter makes it appear as if some entity called the U.S. Government can wave a wand and lower gas prices, rather than taking into account the complicated environmental and geopolitical factors that affect the price of gas (e.g. threats to the Suez Canal, dealing with Iran, general fear about unrest in the middle east that drives oil speculation through the roof, etc. etc.). I was talking with my boyfriend about this, and I think he put it most eloquently: “The U.S. Government doesn’t control the world.” Furthermore, because I assume this is the kind of guy who whines about how the Democrats have ballooned the government in the past four years (I will save my disagreement for another time), this assumes that the government is so big, so powerful, that it can (and should!) control other countries’ behavior(s) and control the economy on this particular issue. Just not your behavior or economic issues you decide are not regulable.

My second gripe here is audience. This guy obviously self-identifies as “middle class” and lumps himself in with “lower class” folks within the bounds of his argument. I hate to point this out, but this guy has two homes. He has a regular house and a cabin that is obviously some distance away, since the crux of his gripe is that he has to pay too much for gas to get there. Additionally, he has a boat. Or at least his parents do. Really? If you’re going to make an argument about the dire situation of gas prices, I really don’t think it serves you well to base your complaint on the fact that you may need (want?) to sell your boat because it’s too expensive to use it and you can’t go to your second home as often as you’d ideally like. If he had, perhaps, expressed concern about people being able to afford gasoline for their cars to just get to work, then I think we’d be maybe on to something–except for the fact that gas prices were this high at the end of George Bush’s term in office, as well, and really has little to do with drilling, as we’ve increased domestic oil production in the last four years so much so that we export more gas than we import.

I suppose asking people to be logical when considering political issues could be too much, but considering the audience you’re playing to should be a pretty basic step in political discussions. This is why Mitt Romney sounds, as Rachel Maddow has put it, a bit like Thurston Howell when he forgets he’s talking to people who don’t make ass loads of money every year and don’t, for example, own NASCAR teams. Even Gingrich and Santorum are better at considering audience than Mitt.

I guess I’m just saying try not to sound like Thurston Howell III when you’re trying to complain about the price of gas, ’cause it makes you sound like a douchebag.

Never fear, Lovey, we'll not sell our boat!

25 Clues You Aren’t In College Anymore

Congratulations, recent graduate. It’s been either six months or a matter of days since you entered the real world.How’s that treating you? If it’s not seeming like finishing school is all its cracked up to be, never fear.

If you’re feeling reminiscent and often wind up confused–am I still in school? I don’t know… I can’t remember…–here are a few clues you aren’t a co-ed anymore.

1. Large groups of people standing outside the front door of your apartment building cause you to be slightly suspicious and/or uncomfortable.

2. Screaming drunk people on Tuesday nights kind of piss you off. You have to get up at 7am and work tomorrow.

3. When you find out a lot of 18-22 year olds live in an apartment building you’re looking at, your response is a unenthused, “Oh…”

4. Girls with skirts short enough that their asses hang out actually are whores. Like, the real kind that have sex for money.

5. You look at a house with a lot of plastic dishware on the lawn and don’t think, “That must’ve been some rager.” Instead, you think, “Why doesn’t this jerkoff pick up his trash?”

6. Backpacks suddenly seem… lame.

7. You are now familiar with hangovers. Too familiar. Honeymoon period over.

8. Bad decisions made while intoxicated seem to have much more gravitas.

9. At some point, what used to be forgivable dramatic fuck ups on the part of others are now painted as rude and unnecessary. And likely unprofessional.

10. Kids complaining about their professors/grad student teaching assistants/exams/papers/[insert necessary evils of undergrad here] seem whiny and stupid to you.

11. Rather than writing that shitty freshman seminar paper, you’re grading it. And hating every minute of reading that verbal vomit you know was written between shots of Goldschlager last Saturday night.

12. Suddenly, not everyone around you is wearing the same two colors on Saturday afternoons.

13. You actually have to pay for a gym membership.

14. Suddenly, eating pizza three nights a week sounds awful.

15. You go to coffee shops to drink coffee, not cruise Facebook while pretending you’re doing homework.

16. Your Facebook tagged photos are no longer you making that face you make when you’re drunk. They’re you with your fiancée on vacation or at the office Christmas party (and you’re not drunk enough).

17. Friday is no longer part of the weekend.

18. You go to Happy Hours regularly, but you’re almost always home by midnight.

19. Sweatpants are no longer acceptable to wear anywhere but the gym.

20. Waking up at 10am is actually sleeping in, not “waking up early.”

21. There is no longer any such thing as “winter break.” There are, in fact, no scheduled breaks at all.

22. You have more than just a 30 pack of Busch light in your fridge.

23. Sometimes, on weekends, you cruise websites for home goods.

24. High school students not only seem to be younger than you, but they’re downright babies. (You started high school almost ten years ago.)

25. It’s possible, nay likely, that a dog/cat/fish has replaced your college roommate.