I took the boys to see Avatar, a long, loud, kitschy paean to nature mysticism and noble savagery. I left the theater with a headache, sore ass and the wish to see Tokyo Story again, but took solace from a poem by D.J. Enright I had read the night before. It’s about poetry but it might as well be about movies, another art form possibly beyond resuscitation in our time. Here’s “Buy One Now” (from Collected Poems, 1948-98; originally in Sad Ires, 1975):
“This is a new sort of Poem,
It is Biological.
It contains a special Ingredient
(Pat. pend.) which makes it different
From other brands of poem on the market.
“This new Poem does the work for you.
Just drop your mind into it
And leave it to soak
While you relax with the telly
Or go out to the pub
Or (if that is what you like)
You read a book.
“It does the work for you
While (if that is what you like)
You sleep. For it is Biological
(Pat. Pend.), it penetrates
Into the darkest recesses,
It removes the understains
Which it is difficult for us
Even to speak of.
“Its action is so gentle
That the most delicate mind is unharmed.
This new sort of Poem
Contains an exclusive new Ingredient
(Known only to every jackass in the trade)
And can be found in practically any magazine
You care to mention.”
Avatar is cynically attuned to the conventional wisdom of the day: Indians good, cavalry bad. When the movie opened two weeks ago, several high-school students I was working with went to see it. Their review arrived in the form of a single, often repeated word , one that I hope is soon criminalized: “Awesome!” They were unable to say anything else about Avatar, not even a hint of the plot. As Enright says of his “new sort of Poem”: “Its action is so gentle / That the most delicate mind is unharmed.”