Jim Jarmusch Lists His Favorite Poets: Dante, William Carlos Williams, Arthur Rimbaud, John Ashbery & More


Wiki­me­dia Com­mons pho­to by Chrysoula Artemis

When it comes to Amer­i­can indie direc­tor Jim Jar­musch, we tend to think right away of the impor­tance of music in his films, what with his col­lab­o­ra­tions with Neil Young, Tom Waits, and Iggy Pop. (Jar­musch is him­self a musi­cian who has released two stu­dio albums and three EPs under the moniker Sqürl.) But Jarmusch’s most recent film, Pater­son, is an ode to poet­ry, drawn from his own love of New York School poets like Frank O’Hara and John Ash­bery. Set in Pater­son, New Jer­sey and fea­tur­ing a main char­ac­ter also named Pater­son (Adam Dri­ver), the film aims to show, writes Time mag­a­zine, “how art—maybe even espe­cial­ly art made in the margins—can fill up every­day life.”

Jar­musch was drawn to Pater­son, the town, by William Car­los Williams. The mod­ernist poet called the town home and pub­lished an epic poem called Pater­son in 1946. Although that dense, com­plex work is “not one of my favorite poems,” Jar­musch tells Time, he namechecks Williams as one of his favorite poets.

I think we can see the influ­ence of Williams’ spare visu­al imag­i­na­tion in Jar­musch films like Stranger than Par­adise, Down by Law, Ghost Dog, and Bro­ken Flow­ers. Jar­musch goes on in the course of his dis­cus­sion about Pater­son, the film, to name a hand­ful of oth­er poets he counts as inspi­ra­tions. In the list below, you can find Jarmusch’s favorites, along with links to some of their most-beloved poems.

–William Car­los Williams (“Aspho­del, That Gree­ny Flower,” “4th of July”)
–Wal­lace Stevens (“The Man with the Blue Gui­tar,” “The Snow Man,” “Thir­teen Ways of Look­ing at a Black­bird”)
–Dante Alighieri (Can­to I of the Infer­no)
–Arthur Rim­baud (“The Drunk­en Boat,” “Vagabonds”)
–John Ash­bery (“Self-Por­trait in a Con­vex Mirror”—read by Ash­bery)
–Ken­neth Koch (“In Love With You,” “One Train May Hide Anoth­er”)
–Frank O’Hara (“Steps,” Var­i­ous Poems)

As we read or re-read these poets, we might ask how they have informed Jar­musch’s styl­ish films in addi­tion to the influ­ence of his cin­e­mat­ic favorites. Sev­er­al great direc­tors have con­tributed to his pecu­liar visu­al aes­thet­ic. The only film­mak­er he men­tions as a hero in his Time inter­view is Bernar­do Bertol­luc­ci, but you can read about Jar­musch’s top ten films at our pre­vi­ous post–films direct­ed by such lumi­nar­ies as Yasu­jiro Ozu, Nicholas Ray, and Robert Bres­son.

via Austen Kleon’s week­ly newslet­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jim Jarmusch’s 10 Favorite Films: Ozu’s Tokyo Sto­ry, Kurosawa’s Sev­en Samu­rai and Oth­er Black & White Clas­sics

Jim Jar­musch: The Art of the Music in His Films

Wern­er Her­zog Cre­ates Required Read­ing & Movie View­ing Lists for Enrolling in His Film School

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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