Poetry is my first and one true love. However, I do find myself engaging in flings with cinema and binge-worthy shows quite often. But, sometimes, when a line from a beautiful poem shows up in the credits of an amazing film, or a character decides to recite an excerpt, it is like the Gods decided to reward me. I feel even more connected to the poem as well as to the story. To be honest, sometimes I have discovered some great poems in movies! Here is a compilation of some of my favourite poems that appeared in iconic Hollywood dramas.
“Somewhere I Have Never Travelled, Gladly Beyond” by Edward Estlin Cummings Movie: Hannah and Her Sisters
Woody Allen’s Academy Award-Winning Hannah and Her Sisters is a comedy-drama that many relate to even 30+ years after its release. This 1986 classic, which celebrates the intricacies of relationships, love, and festivals, is often called Allen’s best work. For me, one of the most moving scenes in the film is when Barbara Hershey’s character Lee, reads out excerpts from E.E. Cummings’s poem “somewhere I have never travelled, gladly beyond” to Elliot (played by Michael Caine). I fell in love with these lines all over again when I heard them in the movie. Not to sound too dramatic, but I was actually in tears during this scene.
your slightest look easily will unclose me though i have closed myself as fingers, you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens (touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose or if your wish be to close me, i and my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly, as when the heart of this flower imagines the snow carefully everywhere descending
“Kubla Khan” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Movie: Citizen Kane
Released in 1941, Citizen Kane is an iconic American mystery-drama that still remains widely popular among audiences all over the world. This Orson Welles film was nominated in nine different categories for the coveted Academy Awards and is often considered to be the greatest film ever made. It is often praised by critics and fans alike for its cinematography, narrative structure, and music. Personally, I love the storytelling and character sketches in the film. One of the most intriguing theories about this cult film is that Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” had quite an impact on the central character Charles Foster Kane and his overall story. “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan” appears in the newsreel of the film giving over-indulged audiences like me a teasing dose of poetry easter eggs. Xanadu is Kane’s estate in the film. This is how the poem goes:
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure-dome decree: Where Alph, the sacred river, ran Through caverns measureless to man Down to a sunless sea. So twice five miles of fertile ground With walls and towers were girdled round; And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills, Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree; And here were forests ancient as the hills, Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
“Silence” by Thomas Hood
Movie: The Piano
The Piano, set in the mid-19th century, is a 1993 New Zealand blockbuster that explores a mute pianist’s passion for music and how she uses it to express herself. The film won three awards out of eight Oscar nominations and was an international success, and Thomas Hood’s “Silence” appears in the impactful opening and closing credit scenes. The film ends with the lines “There is a silence where hath been no sound, there is a silence where no sound may be.”
There is a silence where hath been no sound, There is a silence where no sound may be, In the cold grave—under the deep deep sea, Or in the wide desert where no life is found, Which hath been mute, and still must sleep profound
“Ample Make This Bed” by Emily Dickinson
Movie: Sophie’s Choice
It would be an understatement to say that Sophie’s Choice is a must-watch film. Trust me, you do not want to miss out on this shattering love triangle between intriguing characters Sophie, Stingo, and Nathan. This movie brought Meryl Streep her first Oscar for Best Actress. The film’s connection to Emily Dickinson and her work makes it even more profound for art enthusiasts and poetry lovers. Dickinson’s “Ample Make This Bed” has a significant role in the storyline. In the end, Sophie and Stingo make love. Thereafter, while Stingo is sleeping, Sophie returns to Nathan. Sophie and Nathan commit suicide. Stingo recites the poem “Ample Make This Bed.”
Ample make this bed. Make this bed with awe; In it wait till judgment break Excellent and fair.
I hope this blog post has given you many films to watch and poems to read this weekend!