Thanks to Hiram Poetry Review Editor Willard Greenwood for this rather nonchalent mention in the Spring 2017 Editor’s Note: “. . . with the release of Paterson, a fine film by Ohio native Jim Jarmusch, poetry is as cool as ever.” Released at the end of 2016, I hadn’t heard boo about this film, so set out to find it.
The film is about a former Marine – named Paterson (played by Adam Driver) – who lives a quiet, static life, driving a bus in Paterson, NJ, and writing poetry in his “secret notebook.” Lines of poetry Paterson thinks and then writes appear in his handwriting across the screen intermittently throughout the movie; the poems themselves were written by poet Ron Padgett. There are references to one of Paterson’s favorite poets, William Carlos Williams, with Driver delivering a delightful on-screen reading of “This is Just To Say.”
Well received by critics, The New Yorker‘s Richard Brody wrote: “Paterson is the man of all endurance. He does his dull job without complaining and finds charm and enlightenment in the conversations of passengers and pleasure in repeated viewing of the cityscape of his route. His poetry is imbued with the modest substance of his life.”
Some have described the movie as showing the creative process of poetry writing, but I’d say it more accurately reveals the kind of life poets live, with the process of writing poetry often inseparable from the day-to-day, moment-to-moment. And that is the beauty of what Jarmusch has created. He has absolutely nailed it in Paterson.
This past week, Maria Mazziotti Gillan’s book of poetry, Paterson Light and Shadow, arrived in the mail. With photographs by Mark Hillinghouse, this beautifully packaged hardcover explores Paterson, NJ, “this once great industrial city, envisioned by Alexander Hamilton as the birthplace of manufacturing in a new nation, a city now home to countless immigrants who still struggle to build lives and survive.” Fans of the film, fans of Williams and his own epic poem Paterson will appreciate the creative contributions of Gillan and HIllinghouse to this mystical yet wholly down to earth place.