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Gathering Paradise
May 6, 2010 8:18 AM   Subscribe

Bill Murray Reads Poetry to Construction Workers at Poets House
posted by xod (21 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
I really wish he had read some more accessible (or at least good) poetry.

How about Scary, No Scary. I bet those guys would have dug that.
posted by 256 at 8:24 AM on May 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I really wish he had read some more accessible (or at least good) poetry.

Oddly enough, Emily Dickinson seemed to get the most applause, but I don't think she's what most people would consider "accessible."

Also, you don't think Lorine Niedecker is good?
posted by Hypocrite_Lecteur at 8:33 AM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oddly enough, Emily Dickinson seemed to get the most applause, but I don't think she's what most people would consider "accessible."

TBH, the applause may have been 90% for the name recognition.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:36 AM on May 6, 2010


I didn't think that poem by Niedecker was good.

And I really assumed that they were applauding Bill Murray, not Emily Dickinson.
posted by 256 at 8:36 AM on May 6, 2010


Wow, this really made me smile.

I'd like to think some of these guys got the architectural metaphors Dickinson was slingin'.

Beautiful. Murray is brilliant as usual, and really seems to be having a good time.

I wish something like this would happen where I work.
posted by kinnakeet at 8:43 AM on May 6, 2010


Possibly they were just applauding Bill Murray. But they didn't applaud a couple of the ones before that. I suppose it could have been name recognition, though.
posted by Hypocrite_Lecteur at 8:44 AM on May 6, 2010


And I really assumed that they were applauding Bill Murray, not Emily Dickinson.

I think it was obvious by the way they were nodding their heads that the words resonated with them. You don't have to understand the metaphorical basis behind "Gambrels of the Sky" to appreciate what the poem is trying to get across.
posted by clearly at 8:46 AM on May 6, 2010


No one will ever believe them.
posted by organic at 8:48 AM on May 6, 2010 [7 favorites]


Kind of stunty but interesting.

And I really assumed that they were applauding Bill Murray, not Emily Dickinson.

If that were true, seems like they would have applauded all the poems loudly, which they didn't. I thought they got the building metaphors and "majesty of nature" vibe from it and appreciated that.

How about Scary, No Scary. I bet those guys would have dug that.

Too bad the Poets House program staff didn't have you on speed dial!

Anyone who cares, the text of the actual poems in the clip were:

Billy Collins, Another Reason Why I Don't Keep A Gun In The House
Lorraine Niedecker, Poet's Work
Emily Dickinson, [I dwell in possibility] (#657)
posted by aught at 8:53 AM on May 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I do like and wholeheartedly embrace Bill Murray (or whoever)'s idea, however, that you can read poetry to construction workers without worrying over whether they'll get bored or scratch their heads or say 'That's sissy stuff.' I am always heartened to see art break out of the hoity-toity classist structure it's been built into over the last however many years, and it's refreshing to see such a lack of condescension w/r/t to who wants to listen to poetry or who can appreciate it.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:55 AM on May 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Kind of stunty but interesting.

(In case it wasn't clear, I mean the video, not the fpp.)

And "Lorine," not "Lorraine," duh.
posted by aught at 8:55 AM on May 6, 2010


Too bad the Poets House program staff didn't have you on speed dial!

I know! But it's not too late! I would love to help them pick the perfect poem for any reading or event. (hint: it's "Scary, No Scary")
posted by 256 at 9:05 AM on May 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am always heartened to see art break out of the hoity-toity classist structure it's been built into over the last however many years, and it's refreshing to see such a lack of condescension w/r/t to who wants to listen to poetry or who can appreciate it.

It's also interesting to look at it from the other end—that is, the ways that working people and servants have always shaped, informed, and contributed to the making of art that is generally held to be the territory of elites. Speaking of Emily Dickinson, there is a fine scholar named Aífe Murray who has done some terrific research over the years on Dickinson's relationship to her family's (Irish) domestic servants, including longtime maid Maggie Maher and groundsmen from the Kelley family.

As it happens, Murray has just published a book, Maid as Muse: How Servants Changed Emily Dickinson's Life and Language, that explores this relationship and the culture of the Irish working class in nineteenth-century New England generally. I haven't gotten my hands a copy yet, but I've read Murray's work before and she's excellent. As she writes in this summary of points,
Domesticity was a volatile aid to [Dickinson's] literary process. Not a timid pastime or a barrier but a method for developing great art. The brevity of recipes, the mix of astonishing flavors in cooking, the meditativeness of baking—or "menial labor and the muse"—were parts of her alchemical writerly recipe. . . . Readers are usually concerned with the ways great writers influence the language and culture—this book turns that notion upside down.
I was happy to see some of the secret nods and smiles on the faces of the workers as Murray read "I dwell in Possibility." Here's another great architectural poem by E.D.:
The Props assist the House
Until the House is built
And then the Props withdraw
And adequate, erect,
The House support itself
And cease to recollect
The Augur and the Carpenter -
Just such a retrospect
Hath the perfected Life -
A Past of Plank and Nail
And slowness - then the scaffolds drop
Affirming it a Soul -
Happens to dovetail with the point nicely, I think.
posted by cirripede at 10:26 AM on May 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wanted to be cynical about this, but it was a great fun smiley thing, especially the introductions at the end. "I love your work, and I love out outfit."
posted by willF at 10:36 AM on May 6, 2010


that shit was fucking awesome.
posted by From Bklyn at 10:40 AM on May 6, 2010


I would love to help them pick the perfect poem for any reading or event. (hint: it's "Scary, No Scary")

My choice would have been Bob Hicok (former automotive die designer) or Mark Turpin (former carpenter).
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:55 AM on May 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Awesome.

Never underestimate construction workers. I'm pretty sure "standing around, tittering nervously" is exactly what I'd be doing if I was being filmed while Bill Murray read me poetry.

Forest Electric is the last company my dad worked for. He had a fine arts degree from Cooper Union, and we grew up with a number of classical poetry books in the house. He was fond of Kipling, and could recite "Gunga Din" by heart.

He worked at the Met for a while, when they were renovating their ground floor. My dad left a drawing on the inside of an electrical panel, so he could finally say that his work had been installed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:10 AM on May 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


(He also led a series of walking tours during his lunch breaks at the Met. These became popular among his coworkers when he started taking people to see Cleopatra's Needle. It was either his charm, or the arrival of sunbathing season in the park.)
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:15 AM on May 6, 2010


the applause may have been 90% for the name recognition.

Possibly they were just applauding Bill Murray. But they didn't applaud a couple of the ones before that.

Did we watch the same video? The poem spoke to them, it got through, he read it superbly, and it was chosen b/c it used construction of a house as its metaphor. It connected. In other words, don't try and second guess what you can plainly see and hear when you watch the video: that poem delivered the goods, and proved the point that good poetry is meant for everybody. That is the demos in action here: poetry can connect to ordinary people.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 12:29 PM on May 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's a recording of Bill Murray introducing a Billy Collins reading. Are they buds?
posted by pracowity at 10:48 PM on May 6, 2010


I thought he read the Dickinson poem beautifully, as well. Now I really want to listen to an audio book read by Bill Murray.
posted by Atom Eyes at 6:34 PM on May 18, 2010


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