poetry

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No Flesh Is Spared in Richard Stanley’s H.P. Lovecraft Adaptation.

Well, almost none. There is one survivor. Warning: Contains spoilers.

Color out of Space, directed by Richard Stanley, script by Richard Stanley and Scarlett Amaris. Starring

Nicholas Cage … Nathan Gardner,

Joely Richardson… Theresa Gardner,

Madeleine Arthur… Lavinia Gardner

Brendan Meyer… Benny Gardner

Julian Meyer… Jack Gardner

Elliot Knight… Ward

Tommy Chong… Ezra

Josh C. Waller… Sheriff Pierce

Q’orianka Kilcher… Mayor Tooma

This is a welcome return to big screen cinema of South African director Richard Stanley. Stanley was responsible for the cult SF cyberpunk flick, Hardware, about a killer war robot going running amok in an apartment block in a future devastated by nuclear war and industrial pollution. It’s a great film, but its striking similarities to a story in 2000AD resulted in him being successfully sued by the comic for plagiarism. Unfortunately, he hasn’t made a major film for the cinema since he was sacked as director during the filming of the ’90s adaptation of The Island of Doctor Moreau. Th film came close to collapse and was eventually completed by John Frankenheimer. A large part of the chaos was due to the bizarre, irresponsible and completely unprofessional behaviour of the two main stars, Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer.

Previous Lovecraft Adaptations

Stanley’s been a fan of Lovecraft ever since he was a child when his mother read him the short stories. There have been many attempts to translate old Howard Phillips’ tales of cosmic horror to the big screen, but few have been successful. The notable exceptions include Brian Yuzna’s Reanimator, From Beyond and Dagon. Reanimator and From Beyond were ’80s pieces of gleeful splatter, based very roughly – and that is very roughly – on the short stories Herbert West – Reanimator and From Beyond the Walls of Sleep. These eschewed the atmosphere of eerie, unnatural terror of the original stories for over the top special effects, with zombies and predatory creatures from other realities running out of control. Dagon came out in the early years of this century. It was a more straightforward adaptation of The Shadow Over Innsmouth, transplanted to Spain. It generally followed the plot of the original short story, though at the climax there was a piece of nudity and gore that certainly wasn’t in Lovecraft.

Plot

Color out of Space is based on the short story of the same name. It takes some liberties, as do most movie adaptations, but tries to preserve the genuinely eerie atmosphere of otherworldly horror of the original, as well as include some of the other quintessential elements of Lovecraft’s horror from his other works. The original short story is told by a surveyor, come to that part of the American backwoods in preparation for the construction of a new reservoir. The land is blasted and blighted, poisoned by meteorite that came down years before. The surveyor recounted what he has been told about this by Ammi Pierce, an old man. The meteorite landed on the farm of Nahum Gardner and his family, slowly poisoning them and twisting their minds and bodies, as it poisons and twists the land around them.

In Stanley’s film, the surveyor is Ward, a Black hydrologist from Lovecraft’s Miskatonic University. He also investigates the meteorite, which in the story is done by three scientists from the university. The movie begins with shots of the deep American forest accompanied by a soliloquy by Ward, which is a direct quote from the story’s beginning. It ends with a similar soliloquy, which is largely the invention of the scriptwriters, but which also contains a quote from the story’s ending about the meteorite coming from unknown realms. Lovecraft was, if not the creator of cosmic horror, then certainly its foremost practitioner. Lovecraftian horror is centred around the horrifying idea that humanity is an insignificant, transient creature in a vast, incomprehensible and utterly uncaring if not actively hostile cosmos. Lovecraft was also something of an enthusiast for the history of New England, and the opening shots of the terrible grandeur of the American wilderness puts him in the tradition of America’s Puritan settlers. These saw themselves as Godly exiles, like the Old Testament Israelites, in a wilderness of supernatural threat.

The film centres on the gradual destruction of Nathan Gardner and his family – his wife, Theresa, daughter Lavinia, and sons Benny and Jack – as their minds and bodies are poisoned and mutated by the strange meteorite and its otherworldly inhabitant, the mysterious Color of the title. Which is a kind of fuchsia. Its rich colour recalls the deep reds Stanley uses to paint the poisoned landscape of Hardware. Credit is due to the director of photography, Steve Annis, as the film and its opening vista of the forest looks beautiful. The film’s eerie, electronic score is composed by Colin Stetson, which also suits the movie’s tone exactly.

Other Tales of Alien Visitors Warping and Mutating People and Environment

Color out of Space comes after a number of other SF tales based on the similar idea of an extraterrestrial object or invader that twists and mutates the environment and its human victims. This includes the TV series, The Expanse, in which humanity is confronted by the threat of a protomolecule sent into the solar system by unknown aliens. Then there was the film Annihilation, about a group of women soldiers sent into the zone of mutated beauty and terrible danger created by an unknown object that has crashed to Earth and now threatens to overwhelm it. It also recalls John Carpenter’s cult horror movie, The Thing, in the twisting mutations and fusing of animal and human bodies. In the original story, Gardner and his family are reduced to emaciated, ashen creatures. It could be a straightforward description of radiation poisoning, and it indeed that is how some of the mutated animal victims of the Color are described in the film. But the film’s mutation and amalgamation of the Color’s victims is much more like that of Carpenter’s Thing as it infects its victims. The scene in which Gardner discovers the fused mass of his alpacas out in the barn recalls the scene in Carpenter’s earlier flick where the members of an American Antarctic base discover their infected dogs in the kennel. In another moment of terror, the Color blasts Theresa as she clutches Jack, fusing them together. It’s a piece of body horror like the split-faced corpse in Carpenter’s The Thing, the merged mother and daughter in Yuzna’s Society, and the fused humans in The Thing’s 2012 prequel. But it’s made Lovecraftian by the whimpering and gibbering noises the fused couple make, noises that appear in much Lovecraftian fiction.

Elements from Other Lovecraft Fiction

In the film, Nathan Gardner is a painter, who has taken his family back to live on his father’s farm. This is a trope from other Lovecraft short stories, in which the hero goes back to his ancestral home, such as the narrator of The Rats in the Walls. The other characters are also updated to give a modern, or postmodern twist. Gardner’s wife, Theresa, is a high-powered financial advisor, speaking to her clients from the farm over the internet. The daughter, Lavinia, is a practicing witch of the Wiccan variety. She is entirely benign, however, casting spells to save her mother from cancer, and get her away from the family. In Lovecraft, magic and its practitioners are an active threat, using their occult powers to summon the ancient and immeasurably evil gods they worship, the Great Old Ones. This is a positive twist for the New Age/ Goth generations.

There’s a similar, positive view of the local squatter. In Lovecraft, the squatters are barely human White trash heading slowly back down the evolutionary ladder through poverty and inbreeding. The film’s squatter, Ezra, is a tech-savvy former electrician using solar power to live off-grid. But there’s another touch here which recalls another of Lovecraft’s classic stories. Investigating what may have become of Ezra, Ward and Pierce discover him motionless, possessed by the Color. However, he is speaking to them about the Color and the threat it presents from a tape recorder. This is similar to the voices of the disembodied human brains preserved in jars by the Fungi from Yuggoth, speaking through electronic apparatus in Lovecraft’s The Whisperer in Darkness. Visiting Ezra earlier in the film, Ward finds him listening intently to the aliens from the meteorite that now have taken up residence under the Earth. This also seems to be a touch taken from Lovecraft’s fiction, which means mysterious noises and cracking sounds from under the ground. Near the climax Ward catches a glimpse through an enraptured Lavinia of the alien, malign beauty of the Color’s homeworld, This follows the logic of the story, but also seems to hark back to the alien vistas glimpsed by the narrator in The Music of Erich Zann. And of course it wouldn’t be a Lovecraft movie without the appearance of the abhorred Necronomicon. It is not, however, the Olaus Wormius edition, but a modern paperback, used by Lavinia as she desperately invokes the supernatural for protection.

Fairy Tale and Ghost Story Elements

Other elements in the movie seem to come from other literary sources. The Color takes up residence in the farm’s well, from which it speaks to the younger son, Jack. Later, Benny, the elder son tries to climb down it in an attempt to rescue their dog, Sam, during which he is also blasted by the Color. When Ward asks Gardner what has happened to them all, he is simply told that they’re all present, except Benny, who lives in the well now. This episode is similar to the creepy atmosphere of children’s fairy tales, the ghost stories of M.R. James and Walter de la Mare’s poems, which feature ghostly entities tied to specific locales.

Oh yes, and there’s also a reference to Stanley’s own classic film, Hardware. When they enter Benny’s room, glimpsed on his wall is the phrase ‘No flesh shall be spared’. This is a quote from Mark’s Gospel, which was used as the opening text and slogan in the earlier movie.

The film is notable for its relatively slow start, taking care to introduce the characters and build up atmosphere. This is in stark contrast to the frenzied action in other, recent SF flicks, such as the J.J. Abram’s Star Trek reboots and Michael Bay’s Transformers. The Color first begins having its malign effects by driving the family slowly mad. Theresa accidentally cuts off the ends of her fingers slicing vegetables in the kitchen as she falls into a trance. Later on, Lavinia starts cutting herself as she performs her desperate ritual calling for protection. And Jack and later Gardner sit enraptured looking at the television, vacant except for snow behind which is just the hint of something. That seems to go back to Spielberg’s movie, Poltergeist, but it’s also somewhat like the hallucinatory scenes when the robot attacks the hero from behind a television, which shows fractal graphics, in Hardware.

Finally, the Color destroys the farm and its environs completely, blasting it and its human victims to ash. The film ends with Ward contemplating the new reservoir, hoping the waters will bury it all very deep. But even then, he will not drink its water.

Lovecraft and Racism

I really enjoyed the movie. I think it does an excellent job of preserving the tone and some of the characteristic motifs of Lovecraft’s work, while updating them for a modern audience. Despite his immense popularity, Lovecraft is a controversial figure because of his racism. There were objections last year or so to him being given an award at the Hugo’s by the very ostentatiously, sanctimoniously anti-racist. And a games company announced that they were going to release a series of games based on his Cthulhu mythos, but not drawing on any of his characters or stories because of this racism. Now the character of an artist does not necessarily invalidate their work, in the same way that the second best bed Shakespeare bequeathed to his wife doesn’t make Hamlet any the less a towering piece of English literature. But while Lovecraft was racist, he also had black friends and writing partners. His wife was Jewish, and at the end of his life he bitterly regretted his earlier racism. Also, when Lovecraft was writing in from the 1920s to the 1940s, American and western society in general was much more racist. This was the era of segregation and Jim Crow. It may be that Lovecraft actually wasn’t any more racist than any others. He was just more open about it. And it hasn’t stopped one of the internet movie companies producing Lovecraft Country, about a Black hero and his family during segregation encountering eldritch horrors from beyond.

I don’t know if Stanley’s adaptation will be to everyone’s taste, though the film does credit the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society among the organisations and individuals who have rendered their assistance. If you’re interested, I recommend that you give it a look. I wanted to see it at the cinema, but this has been impossible due to the lockdown. It is, however, out on DVD released by Studio Canal. Stanley has also said that if this is a success, he intends to make an adaptation of Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror. I hope the film is, despite present circumstances, and we can look forward to that piece of classic horror coming to our screens. But this might be too much to expect, given the current crisis and the difficulties of filming while social distancing.

Point Ponde

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/10/2020 - 1:06pm in

Tags 

Women, poetry, poem

Image via Pikrepo

We set out to prove the bank boys wrong,
to prove the nihilists wrong,
to prove the preachers wrong,
to prove our mothers wrong,
to prove our brain gremlins wrong.
We took with us only our saturated dreamcatchers
and the slugs from our gardens
and a sack full of clanging sounds
and the smell of wet, rusted metal.

I could sing of our adventures until my throat turns to dust
and my eyes are but mythstones on the mantlepiece of my lover.
But here I will tell you of the night we followed the fruit bats
on a clitoral gust up to Point Ponde
and met the angels.

They hid but we knew they were there
because the babies in our wombs became restless,
and our pendants began levitating away from our chests,
and the barking dogs in our minds
went silent.

The blue ones came out first.
They kissed our foreheads
and filled the father-shaped holes in our hearts
and rocked us to sleep cradled in whale hide wings.

The brown ones had patchwork burlap wings
and left shimmering snail trails behind them.
They taught us how to speak with the soil gods
through a half-buried conch shell
to make things grow.

The green ones were shy til we brought them mollusks from the sea
which they added to their living costumes.
They gave us tree tea which cracked open our heads
and showed us we don’t need a man to be happy.
Their wings were translucent like dragonflies.

Gold angels are inscrutable old rascals
with long white mustaches and wings of runed parchment.
They induced us to labor with intimate touching
and we gave birth not with pain
but with ecstacy.

The children were raised in napeling cribs
and rocked to sleep by the songwinds of the angels.
We told each other our deepest secrets,
and it turned out we all had the same ones.

We set out to prove the bank boys wrong,
to prove the nihilists wrong,
to prove the preachers wrong,
to prove our mothers wrong,
to prove our brain gremlins wrong.
We descended from Pointe Ponde
with glowing hearts and strong children,
and bowie blossoms in our hair,
and an unbreakable, eternal sisterhood,
and our heads held high.

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Thanks for reading! The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitter, throwing some money into my tip jar on Patreon or Paypal, purchasing some of my sweet merchandise, buying my books Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone and Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge.

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Live Event: Voices from the Wings: Poetry, Performance and Translation on and off the page

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 13/10/2020 - 4:57pm in

Tags 

Literature, poetry

TORCH Goes Digital! presents a series of weekly live events Big Tent - Live Events! Translation Week Part of the Humanities Cultural Programme, one of the founding stones for the future Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities. This event presents a conversation between academic, translator and writer Karen Leeder and poet, performer and novelist Ulrike Almut Sandig who have been collaborating for the last eight years. Karen and Ulrike were due to appear together with Sandig’s poetry band LANDSCHAFT (with Grigory Semenchuk) at the Big Tent! in May 2020.

Ulrike Sandig is that rare thing: a writer who is as much at home on the stage as the page. She began as a guerrilla poet, pasting poems to lampposts, and today often collaborates with sound artists, musicians and filmmakers to take her poetry to the audiences that poetry doesn’t usually reach. Translation is a vital part of all this, not only at the most fundamental level of turning a feeling, image, or an idea into a poem on the page, but also carrying over that impetus into performance, the screen, a classical orchestra or an electronic hip hop band. She also works at translating older texts for contemporary times as with her Grimm cycle (published in English in 2018) which reanimates the dark side of the Household Tales of the Brothers Grimm for our own age. A further level comes with translation into English, which itself has become part of new collaborations - for example, in the animated poetry films by Beate Kunath & Eléonore Roedel that have taken their work to new audiences all over the world through the medium of English.

In this event, Karen and Ulrike will perform recent work, and discuss the creative transformations poetry can undergo, with emples from Ulrike’s work for page, stage, film and gig, along with their own creative process and the way poetry, that voice from the wings, can become part of an inclusive political project.

Biographies:

Professor Karen J. Leeder
Karen Leeder started her academic life researching the samizdat poetry, art and music scene that existed in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. She has continued her interest in the GDR and has published widely on modern German culture, especially of the post-1945 and contemporary periods. She is a prize-winning translator of contemporary German literature and has been awarded residences in UK and Berlin. Most recently she won the John Frederick Nims Memorial Prize for her translation of Durs Grünbein. Her translation of Ulrike Almut Sandig’s Thick of it (Seagull Books, 2018) won an English PEN award and an American PEN/Heim award, and was runner up for the Schlegel-Tieck Prize (2019). Grimm appeared in a special limited edition with Hurst Street Books in 2018. Their new collaboration, due in Summer 2020, I am a field full of rapeseed give cover to deer and shine like thirteen oil paintings laid one on top of the other is ‘hotly anticipated’ by the New York Times. She was TORCH Knowledge Exchange Fellow with the Southbank Centre, London (2014-2015) and keeps up work especially with MPT, Poet in the City, and The Poetry Society on her project Mediating Modern Poetry: http://www.mmp.mml.ox.ac.uk/.

Ulrike Almut Sandig (Poet)
Born in rural Großenhain in former East Germany in 1979, Ulrike Almut Sandig started life as a kind of guerrilla poet, pasting poems onto lamp posts on the streets of Leipzig with friends and handing them out on flyers and free postcards. Two books of stories and four volumes of her poetry have been published to date, including, most recently, Ich bin ein Feld voller Raps verstecke die Rehe und leuchte wie dreizehn Ölgemälde übereinandergelegt. Her first novel will appear this Autumn. Performance is a key part of Sandig’s work. She frequently collaborates with filmmakers, sound artists and musicians and her first CD with her poetry band LANDSCHAFT (with Grigory Semenchuk) appeared in 2018. Sandig has often appeared in the UK including at The Edinburgh Festival, Hay Festival, and StAnza and won many prizes, including the Leonce and Lena Prize (2009), the Literary Prize of the Federation of German Industries (2017), the Wilhelm Lehmann Prize (2018) and the Horst-Bingel Prize (2018). She lives in Berlin with her family.

Unextractable Insights of Literature and the Arts

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/10/2020 - 3:03am in

“There appears to be no room within ethics for humanistic thinking or artistic expression as such, and this represents a massive and practically catastrophic contraction of ethics.”


[detail of cut paper illustration by Eiko Ojala]

In an interview at 3:16AM, philosopher Alice Crary (New School) discusses how conceptions of objectivity function in typical treatments of ethics to constrain what philosophers can learn from some other humanities disciplines, literature, and the arts.

She says:

A great deal of my work has been devoted to investigating the grip on the contemporary philosophical imagination of conceptions of objectivity—of the sorts operative in these conversations about moral realism—that take the expulsion of everything subjective as their hallmarks. I have repeatedly argued that restrictions these conceptions impose on what kinds of things count as objective are not justified by the ultimately weak considerations adduced in the conceptions’ favor. I have tried to show not only that we should reject the restrictions but also that doing so is urgent because necessary for getting morally and politically salient aspects of our lives into view…

 I attack the view—which I describe as narrowly rational—that it is in theory possible to grasp any real connection of thought from an abstract, ethically neutral vantage point. I do so to show that there are ethically decisive considerations that this view leaves us unequipped to recognize, and I take an interest in work in the different humanities, as well as in literature and the other arts, because such work affords resources for uncovering things inaccessible to an abstract gaze.

Humanistic and artistic productions characteristically lead us to consider aspects of the world from particular, ethically charged perspectives. Anyone operating in a narrowly rational logical space effectively imposes severe constraints on how such productions can contribute to understanding. To be sure, moral philosophers routinely make use of material from, say, poems, novels, historical narratives and films. But, insofar as they respect narrowly rational constraints, they are obliged to regard whatever they cull from these works as available to thought independently of any evaluative perspectives the works invite us to adopt. They cannot help but take any insights with which they credit the works to be extractable in the sense of being there independently of aesthetic qualities in virtue of which the works inculcate these perspectives. The upshot is that there appears to be no room within ethics for humanistic thinking or artistic expression as such, and this represents a massive and practically catastrophic contraction of ethics. Within my ethical writings, alongside showing that this contraction is philosophically unjustifiable, I bring out how it is morally disastrous—among other things, by identifying harms to human beings and animals that it leaves us incapable of registering.

You can read the whole interview here. Discussion welcome.

The post Unextractable Insights of Literature and the Arts appeared first on Daily Nous.

These people didn’t know my father

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 03/10/2020 - 6:07am in

Tags 

poetry


it’s possible all women make up a secret organization working under the guise of an oppressed class

the women coerced into prostitution they’re the suicide bombers of our terrorist organization
sacrificing themselves for the life of all women and the murder of all
men
a nice romantic image is coming together here
I think I’m one of these women
one of the ones engaged in the struggle against all men for all women

but I know it’s not true
AIDS exists but the struggle doesn’t

An Outbreak of Matt Hancock

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 24/09/2020 - 6:29pm in

Tags 

poem, poetry, writing

turned off my phone and radio
got rid of my tv
ran barbed wire around the house
yet still i am not free

matt hancocks in the sitting room
matt hancocks in the loo
matt hancocks in the kitchen drawer
i don’t know what to do              

there’s six of them beneath the stairs
in the fridge another ten
my house is getting overwhelmed
by underwhelming men

i think i may have lost my mind
i see them every place
just yesterday i stroked the cat
she had matt hancock’s face

filled gaps in all the skirting boards
laid poison in the hall
set traps involving bits of cheese
but nothing works at all

matt hancocks haunt my dreams at night
wake up screaming yet again
my mind is getting overwhelmed
by underwhelming men

(shadow fold)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 15/09/2020 - 9:00am in

Tags 

poetry

startled out
        there was something,
I don’t know,
echt modernist about it
              imagining your walk
to the field of weeds
like
nimbling

The post (shadow fold) appeared first on Meanjin.

Gatherings

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/09/2020 - 9:00pm in

Tags 

poem, poetry, writing

All gatherings
of six or more

shall henceforth be
against the law

with NO exceptions
to these rules

(apart, that is,
from work and schools).

If we don’t act NOW,
the future’s bleak.

This takes effect
some time next week.

How to Keep Your Soul Intact

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 26/08/2020 - 1:00am in

Over ten weeks spanning June, July, and August 2020, Val Vinokur composed a cycle of poems documenting life during the...

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On Looking at My Calendar

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/08/2020 - 7:31pm in

Tags 

poem, poetry, writing

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