Directing Herbert White: Poems

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Overview

The debut poetry collection by the actor, director, and writer James Franco

I’m a nocturnal creature,

And I’m here to cheat time.

You can see time and exhaustion

Taking pay from my face—

 

In ...

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Directing Herbert White: Poems

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Overview

The debut poetry collection by the actor, director, and writer James Franco

I’m a nocturnal creature,

And I’m here to cheat time.

You can see time and exhaustion

Taking pay from my face—

 

In fifty years

My sleep will be death,

I’ll go like the rest,

But I’ll have played

 

All the games and all the roles.

     —from “Nocturnal”

 

“There’s never been a book quite like this. Hollywood—fame, celebrity, the promise of becoming an artist—is the beast at its center. Franco knows it like Melville knows whaling. Hollywood in this book devours its young. Obsessed with myths about its own past, it can be survived only by finding a vantage point that is not Hollywood. Bold yet subtle, fearless yet disarming, Franco has made a book you will never forget.” —Frank Bidart

 

“A star-studded cast moves like ghosts across the screen of James Franco's poetic consciousness, imbuing the writing with scenes of icons who are also humans replete with sorrow and presence in our own psyches. James Dean, Monica Vitti, Catherine Deneuve, Sal Mineo, Heath Ledger, pass and fade. The author has a wonderful self-reflexive insouciance about his own fame and roles inhabited, from Hart Crane to Allen Ginsberg to Harvey Milk's lover. Franco is a gifted contemporary Renaissance kind of guy, surveying the waterfront of illusion, suffering, and impermanance. We leave the movie theater a little wiser.” —Anne Waldman

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
04/28/2014
In his surprisingly vivid first collection of poems, film and TV star Franco writes what he knows: sonnets, sequences, and terse persona poems that explore the traps and trips of adolescence and the seductive, sometimes fatal paradoxes of Hollywood. Aggressively ragged in line and stanza shape, productively coy in their play with who speaks and for whom, Franco’s pages address “the life I made for myself” along with the lives of less fortunate media darlings: Heath Ledger, Sean Penn, Sal Mineo, Lindsay Lohan. The title refers to the film Franco made from Frank Bidart’s poem about a necrophiliac killer; there and elsewhere, Franco portrays himself as actor, director, writer, teenager, adult, and self-haunting ghost, never away from an imagined lens. Poems titled after Smiths songs reimagine doomed friends from eventful teen years—“I found I had the love life of the octopus,/ Groping and grappling.”—and establish his feel for life offscreen. As with his fiction, some readers will say that the book leans too hard on his prior fame: and yet fame, and its effects, are Franco’s primary subjects. The best of these poems are works no one else could have written, bright reflections on the author’s ambitiously dizzying time in the spotlight—or is it a hall of mirrors? (Apr.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Directing Herbert White: 

 

"Franco's bold and magnetic examination of life in the mirrored hall of make-believe and fame taps deeply into our collective mythology." —Booklist

 

"The stories in Directing Herbert White disconcert and titillate, they swagger and collapse, andthey explore what it feels like to be a character. How did we get to be this way? is the unspoken question—weird, ugly humans, on and off stage, trying and failing? Franco's poems are brave and whip-like, and in the center of their mirrored labyrinth, they house and refine a vulnerable, curious, and very distinct poetic sentience." —Tony Hoagland

 

"A star-studded cast moves like ghosts across the screen of James Franco's poetic consciousness, imbuing the writing with scenes of icons who are also humans replete with sorrow and presence in our own psyches. James Dean, Monica Vitti, Catherine Deneuve, Sal Mineo, Heath Ledger pass and fade. The author has a wonderful self-reflexive insouciance about his own fame and roles inhabited, from Hart Crane to Allen Ginsberg to Harvey Milk's lover. Franco is a gifted contemporary Renaissance kind of guy, surveying the waterfront of illusion, suffering, and impermanence. We leave the movie theater a little wiser." —Anne Waldman

 

"There;s never been a book quite like this. Hollywood—fame, celebrity, the promise of becoming an artist—is the beast at its center. Franco knows it like Melville knows whaling. Hollywood in this book devours its young. Obsessed with myths about its own past, it can be survived only by finding a vantage point that is not Hollywood. Bold yet subtle, fearless yet disarming, Franco has made a book you will never forget." —Frank Bidart

"Individually and collectively, the poems in James Franco's Directing Herbert White dramatize the fever dream of American celebrity culture while coolly taking that fever's pulse. In a style both direct and elusive, as anguished as it is ironic, Franco shows us what it feels like to be, at one and the same time, looked at and invisible, acting and acted upon. But what makes this book so distinctive and powerful is the disturbing image of ourselves we see reflected back at us from the funhouse mirror of our public fantasies." —Alan Shapiro

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555976736
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publication date: 3/18/2014
  • Pages: 96
  • Sales rank: 70,266
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

James Franco

James Franco is an actor, director, writer, and artist. He has appeared in numerous films, and has directed and adapted many literary works for the screen, including Frank Bidart’s “Herbert White.”

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Read an Excerpt

Directing Herbert White

POEMS


By James Franco

GRAYWOLF PRESS

Copyright © 2014 WHOSE DOG R U Productions, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-55597-673-6



CHAPTER 1

    Because

    Because I played a knight,
    And was on a screen,
    Because I made a million dollars,
    Because I was handsome,
    Because I had a nice car,
    A bunch of girls seemed to like me.

    But I never met those girls,
    I only heard about them.
    The only people I saw were the ones who hated me,
    And there were so many of those people,
    It was easy to forget about the people who I heard
    Liked me, and shit, they were all fucking fourteen-year-olds.

    And I holed up in my place and read my life away,
    And I watched a million movies, twice,
    And I didn't understand them any better.

    But because I played a knight,
    Because I was handsome,

    This was the life I made for myself.

    Years later, I decided to look at what I had made,
    And I watched myself in all the old movies, and I hated that guy I saw.

    But he's the one who stayed after I died.

    Film Festival

    Don't be in a rush.
    I have compiled a few movies,
    A little film festival.
    Watch and judge, you are the jury.

    A little film festival in your mind.

    I think you'll hate these films, because they're mine.
    And I've created some sick
    Things that are not nice for people to see.

    First I bored everyone
    And then at the end
    I put in a shot of my dick
    And another one with some blood.

    A little film festival just for me.

    All movies suck. Which ones are good?
    The ones that are good, even they are no good.
    You have to like no-good movies to like movies.

    Now I am watching my little film festival.
    And I'm my biggest fan.

    It's nice when you know what you like, and I do.
    I like the shape of my face and how I sit
    Curled in a pose-non-pose.

    James, thank you, thank you, your festival is the best.

    Dear James, I don't understand your festival. You were so great in
    Freaks and Geeks, why don't you stick with that kind of stuff?

    I also killed a few people.
    A little film festival just for me.


    Editing

    The devices make it easy now.
    Smooth is what the old timers say
    Is best. The Godfather proceeds

    From scene to lapidary scene
    So inevitably, who is aware
    That someone arranged these shots?


* * *

    But me, I like a bit of fast pace
    Mixed with slow. I don't cut
    Unless I have to. Long takes,

    Give it to the actors,
    Let them have their pacing
    And emphasis. Viewers are too used

    To polished performances from which
    The editor has taken away all the messiness.
    Bring in

    The seams when possible: a shot that goes
    Out of focus, an actor stumbling on
    A line. In Paranoid Park there is this

    Punk girl that keeps looking straight into
    The camera when she speaks,
    It's like she's speaking to us.

    That's non-professional and only calls
    Attention to the filmmakers.

    So what?

    Who's not aware we're watching film?
    Even when the Brothers Lumiere
    Shot that train coming toward the camera,

    And the audience got up and ran,
    I'm pretty sure they knew
    What was really going on.


* * *
    It's fun to react. It may be less
    Intrusive, doing long takes—
    Never cutting, so

    The audience is lulled into a long,
    Slow meditation, a space where actor,
    Director, editor, and audience

    All come together and feel something.
    In Jeanne Dielman, we sit with the prostitute
    At her kitchen table,

    As she pounds the meat onto the flour,
    Rolls it all with an egg—two slabs—
    And puts them into a bowl, and covers them,

    For later, for her son.


    Chateau Dreams

    I picture them all, in different positions,
    And the same positions,
    And I, like a sculptor, would position them, and mold them.
    Or like a choreographer put them through the same paces,
    Again and again.

    At the center of the arrangement of chalk bungalows
    There is an oval pool like a blue pill,
    Huddled by ferns, palms and banana trees
    Tended to be wild,
    Webbed by a nexus of stone walkways.

    In the day,
    Mermaids and hairy mermen drape the brickwork.
    At night the underwater lights electrify the pool zinc blue,
    The surface cradles the oven-red reflection of the neon Chateau sign
    Above Sunset, above the paparazzi and miniskirts.

    There is a painting of a blond sailor,
    Dressed in blue and red and white,
    A stoic version of myself.

    For nine months in '06, while fixing my house,
    I stayed in the bungalows,
    First in 82, next to the little Buddha in the long fountain
    Trickling.

    Lindsay Lohan was about.
    The Chateau was her home, the staff her servants.
    She got my room key with ease,
    She came in at 3 a.m.
    I woke on the couch, trying not to look surprised.
    I read her a short story about a neglected daughter.

    Every night Lindsay looked for me.
    My Russian friend Drew was always around like a wraith
    —He, like the blond painting, was my doppelganger—
    Writing scripts about rape and murder.
    A Hollywood Dostoevsky, he gambled his money away.
    We played a ton of ping pong.


* * *
    In '82, John Belushi died from a speedball in Bungalow 3;
    In '54, forty-three-year-old Nick Ray
    Fucked fifteen-year-old Natalie Wood in Bungalow 2;
    In 2005, Lindsay Lohan lived in room 19 for two years
    Because "she didn't want to be alone."
    Ambulance calls were the regular antidote to her demon nights.

    Midway through my stay,
    I changed to Bungalow 89.
    In that room,
    I read a bunch of Jacobean plays
    About revenge, seduction, and lust.

    In Bungalow 89
    There was the sailor on the wall,
    Glass eyed and pale.

    The room was on the second level,
    The exterior walls hugged by vines.

    Every night Lindsay looked for me and I hid.

    Out the window was Hollywood.


    Marlon Brando

    I remember when I first watched
    Brando in his wife-beater
    And thought I had discovered him.
    And then realized three generations

    Had already succumbed to his power.
    He has the strength of all that America
    Has to offer from its art,
    He is the bull and the ballerina.

    I love Stanley Kowalski and Terry Malloy
    Because they are the brutes
    Puppeteered by a genius.
    Instead of performances

    They are manifestations of a wild mind
    Wrestling with its crude incarnations.
    Marlon Brando is man vs. nature
    And that is what we want in a man.

    Like Tennessee and Blanche
    We want our poetic selves
    Destroyed by handsome brutes
    In wife-beaters and oiled hair,

    The poetry of being fucked to death.


    Los Angeles Proverb     The bricks of LA were mortared with thick Indian blood,
    Girls so gorgeous brown, pounded into mush and then made into stories.

    Then the Spanish blood flowed in the rivers, down south, and was gone, except
    In Sepulveda, Van Nuys, Los Feliz, Pico, San Vicente;

    The streets of the City of Angels tell stories.

    The movie palaces were built with the bones of ten million actresses,
    And the great mansions of Bel Air and Beverly Hills and Brentwood and
    the Palisades
    Are the mausoleums of naked, drugged, stupid, happy, young actors,
    all gone.

    There are deals made, and they all mix and stink like the tar pit at La Brea.

    LA sprawls:
    Gangs, cars, palm trees, beaches, strip malls, 7-11s, smog, beaches,
    Secret hideaways in the hills above Sunset,

    There are four square blocks downtown, around Los Angeles Street
    and 4th
    That are nothing but crack addicts.

    Hollywood is an idea.
    I want to get into the thix of it.

    Movies won't be around forever.

CHAPTER 2

    1. There Is a Light That Never Goes Out

    I waited in the shadow of my stupid house.
    The Mustang rolled up in the low black water,
    Growling softly, then it stopped and purred.
    Dark green paint like a deep flavor,
    Like hard, sour-apple candy catching in my throat.

    A hint of his blond swoop, the red button of his cigarette.
    Smoke out the window. Sterling:
    His name like a sword reflecting light in a dark room.
    I'm the sword swallower.

    And the grass licked my shoes.

    2. Please, Please, Please

    Now the picture had him in it
    Up the red path
    To my house
    In his coal tux
    Slicked like a wet cat.
    I did my best in a lime-green dress.

    All his gang from school:
    Inside they each had some from his flask;
    And Sterling smiled a toothy smile, yellow and sharp.

    And then we danced.
    Not to one song, but ten songs.
    It was the scene where the audience came over to my side,
    Because I got what I wanted.

    I was in love with a cliché.

    Boys his age have bodies like knives.
    I was holding one by the blade.


    3. Ask

    I used to think about playing guitar,
    Now I just listen.

    With girls,
    Just push and it gets there.
    As soon as you hit puberty, go.
    Take what comes, ugly is okay too.

    With Erica, you were on someone's brother's bed;
    Pothead Mormons—listen—
    A flower-covered comforter, blue ground;
    A drum kit in the corner of the room,
    Bass drum like a bulldog and a couple of sleeping flamingo cymbals.

    Gentle, but you weren't.
    Love came—like viscosity filling a tube—
    And you killed it with a bunch of thrusts.

    Right in the middle she had to leave.
    The second time she was better. Boring.


* * *

    In the bathroom I sat naked on the floor.
    Blood blooming.
    —Science and fiction.
    This is the rite of passage.
    I am the vessel.
    He is the instrument.



    4. Stop Me If You Think That You've Heard This One Before

    When I was in seventh grade I put kids in three categories:
    Sports kids, smart kids, and social kids.

    Some kids played football well and were dumb and ugly;
    Some kids got great grades and their only friends were their parents;
    There were others that danced among us

    And made us all look like the kids we were.
    They were big, daring, and sexual.
    I wasn't much in any of the categories.

    But in high school I met Sterling and I had something.

    At this one party I was drunk and so was everyone else.
    The sofas and chairs were floating,
    And the people were shifting in their spheres,
    I sat on a couch and took a ride.

    Through a door to the kitchen, I saw a circus.
    Plenty of colors: red and yellow and white.
    There were a few ringmasters barking out things
    And some lions in green letterman jackets
    And this huge black seal, bonking down on this one guy, Ivan.
    Bouncing him like he was a ball of air.
    Until Ivan was slouched halfway to the linoleum.

    One of the others hit him on the crown with a frying pan,
    Like a cartoon, Ivan went all the way down and lay flat.

    Sterling was on the side of it all.
    Pouring foamy, piss-colored beer
    Over Ivan's bloody pale face,
    Laughing his electric eel grin.

    His sharp dogteeth.

    On the car ride home,
    He drove us drunk through the dark
    Like a boat
    On a flat, starless sea.


    5. Girlfriend in a Coma

    Megan McKenna had a skinhead boyfriend,
    He crashed his car into a pole.
    The paramedics lifted her out of the crumpled car,
    And laid her on the cement. They cut away her jeans.

    Sterling and I fought all the time,
    Driving around in his rotten green Mustang.
    I was the sweetest sixteen,
    And when we hit the other car
    Darkness met me at the windshield.

    My father kept Sterling from the room.
    I was plastered and sutured and puffed up.

    When I go to heaven,
    I'll think of Sterling.
    I'll think that I loved him.
    I'll think that he was human.
    That he was a poor little brain in a dangerous body.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Directing Herbert White by James Franco. Copyright © 2014 WHOSE DOG R U Productions, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of GRAYWOLF PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

I.,
Because, 5,
Film Festiva, l6,
Editing, 7,
Chateau Dreams, 9,
Marlon Brando, 11,
Los Angeles Proverb, 12,
II. The Best of the Smiths: Side A,
1. There Is a Light That Never Goes Out, 15,
2. Please, Please, Please, 16,
3. Ask, 17,
4. Stop Me If You Think That You've Heard This One Before, 18,
5. Girlfriend in a Coma, 20,
III.,
Acting Tips, 23,
Seventh Grade, 25,
James Dean on Havenhurst, 26,
Fifth Grade, 28,
Splash Mountain, 29,
My Place, 30,
Utah, 32,
Second Grade, 33,
Lindsay, 34,
IV. The Best of the Smiths: Side B,
1. This Charming Man, 41,
2. Reel around the Fountain, 43,
3. Hand in Glove, 44,
4. William, It Was Really Nothing, 45,
5. How Soon Is Now?, 46,
V.,
31, 49,
They Called You Sean De Niro, 51,
Fake, 52,
River, 53,
Hello, 55,
Hart Crane's Tomb, 56,
Sal Mineo, 57,
When My Father Died, 59,
VI.,
Film Sonnet 1, 63,
Film Sonnet 2, 64,
Film Sonnet 3, 65,
Film Sonnet 4, 66,
Film Sonnet 5, 67,
Film Sonnet 6, 68,
VII.,
Nocturnal, 71,
Brad Renfro, 72,
Directing Herbert White, 74,
Ledger, 79,
When I Hit Thirty-Four, 81,
Telephone, 82,
Love, 83,

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2014

    I absolutely love James' poetry. My favorite is "Because&qu

    I absolutely love James' poetry.
    My favorite is "Because" : the simple idea of actors not being 
    immortal, but their work living on even after they're dead is such 
    a deep concept.  ----Nicole W. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 17, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Wow..... I already love Franco's fiction, but his poetry is even

    Wow.....
    I already love Franco's fiction, but his poetry is even better! Some people may disagree with me on this, but his work reminds me of Patti Smith's poetry. You can definitly hear his voice in every poem. My personal favorite, is his poem about Kurt Cobain.  The imagery is awesome and James definitly has a way with words.  There are hints of an autobiography here as well.  I recommend it. 

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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