In Telluride: Summer Movie Series
Summer is usually thought of as a languid season, but at the Wilkinson Library it is stimulating. That’s due not only to the many enriching programs the Wilkinson offers – both downtown and at the Farmer’s Market each Friday – but because of a certain film series that is going on now. Programmed by the Telluride Film Festival, it is a survey of the films by the German director Werner Herzog. Why Herzog here and now? As TFF’s Erika Gordon points out, Herzog is a great friend of the Festival, having journeyed here numerous times with his films, including, in recent years, Into the Abyss (2011) and, in 2009, Encounters at the End of the World. It also probably doesn’t hurt that the new theatre at the Hanley Pavilion bears his name.
But even if Herzog knew no one in Western Colorado (and more importantly, none of us knew him) he would still be a brilliant, provocative filmmaker whose work is well worth seeing. As the critic Roger Ebert wrote, Herzog “has never created a single film that is compromised, shameful, made for pragmatic reasons or uninteresting. Even his failures are spectacular.”
The second installation in the summer long Herzog series is this coming Monday, July 1. Titled The Enigma of Kaspar Houser – Every Man for Himself and God Against All, the 1975 film is widely considered to be the director’s “breakthrough” production. It is based on a true story from the 19th century, in which a strange child shows up in the middle of a village square, frightening citizens with his odd behavior. The only clue to the boy’s identity was a paper he carried with him, bearing the name Kasper Hauser. The boy is taken in by the townspeople and taught to speak; it emerges that he is not only extremely intelligent, he may even be prophetic. To say any more would be to give it away, except to note two things: that a murder will be involved, and that, perhaps paradoxically, Richard Eder of the New York Times calls the film “mostly gentle, meditative and poignant.” It is from the beginning of Herzog’s career, and marks the start of the director’s obsession with the individual and his or her quest: who we are, and why we are here. For a more recent example, there is Herzog’s 2005 documentary Grizzly Man, in which the director immortalized grizzly bear enthusiast, and mauling victim, Timothy Treadwell, in part by using Treadwell’s own video camera and narration to tell the story. As the director noted online, “facts sometimes have a strange and bizarre power that makes their inherent truth unbelievable.” The same could be said of Kasper, made 30 years before Grizzly Man. Even then, Herzog’s work, like this series, was full of promise. The Enigma of Kasper Houser screens at 5:30 p.m. There will be a pre-show reception at 5 p.m. As always at the Wilkinson, food and film are free to all.
Mark Fischer Poetry Award Winners
I say “winners” because the judge of this year’s award, Wayne Lee, deemed the quality of the best entries in the Mark Fischer Poetry Award contest to be extremely close. The Award is given each year to a local poet whose work best embodies the accomplished wit and wordplay of much-missed Telluride local attorney and raconteur Fischer. Over the next several weeks, as space allows, this column will spotlight each of this year’s four finalists for the prize. Up first is Kyle Harvey’s “Hyacinth,” which took first place (by a hair, as Wayne Lee might tell you). Harvey is a musician – you can hear the musicality in the way he uses language – who lives in Fruita and edits Fruita Pulp, an online cultural and literary magazine. Said judge Lee of Hyacinth, “This is the kind of poem Mark Fischer would have loved! It shows great originality, brilliant command of language, complex and erudite meaning, imaginative and sustained use of metaphor and tremendous musicality. It takes the Greek myth of Hyacinth and transforms it into an elegy that is at once a dirge and a praise poem for the regenerative power of spring.” Hyacinth, recall, was a beautiful youth and the lover of the god Apollo. Upon his death, Apollo made a flower, the hyacinth, from his beloved’s spilled blood; Apollo’s tears stained the petals in a mark of his grief. Lee called this “Hyacinth” the “mature, polished work of a highly skilled and imaginative writer.”
The soil is soiled by the blood of a child,
the soil is soiled
the soil is soiled by blood,
a flower blooms, reborn in the musty breaths
of layered gray, in the musty breaths
of mountain caves, in the musty breaths
from the west near Thrace.
In the comfort of angels a child has starved,
in the comfort of angels
in the comfort of angels a child,
the last of his soprano muffled by a rush,
a clash of altos in the winds of green,
roots held down by first and second priests,
in the rush of wind a child has starved.
The child is laid upon a bed
of ash and willow, dirt and leaves,
under a blanket, the black leather of night.
To mourn at the end and in the shortness of days,
to mourn in the weary corners of grief,
to mourn in darkness, hour after hour
in the black tar mastic,
cold whore moan
of lonely nights,
we mourn, we mourn, we mourn.
When the hot sick panic begins to boil,
when the hot sick panic
when the hot sick panic begins,
nothing but emphatic Holy static
nothing but Holy static
nothing but Holy
The days grow longer, the weight shifts,
the hell of night begins to lift,
spring’s firstborn spills from blue,
bulbs upturned at the end of their stems.
The Holy static slowly fades away,
the Holy static slowly
the Holy static slowly fades,
piles of cold dry bones near the mouths of caves
brought back to life by the will of the wind,
brought back to life by the will of his breath,
to the west in vanished layers,
layers and layers and layers of gray. Still
every year we mourn in darkness,
every year we mourn the blood of a child
starved in the comfort of angels, every year
we mourn for Hyacinth
in the tight black leather of night.