Saturday, 23 October 2021

Arts & Life

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

Bruce Willard’s poem, “Song Sparrow,” captures with such intimacy, the interruption of the comforting rituals of time: seasons changing, children growing older, water under the bridge, the world continuing its march.

Here, in the midst of this, our long and tumultuous pandemic “season,” I am struck by how familiar the breathlessness that Willard describes feels.

As with the best poems, the familiarity is formed through empathy — something that poetry teaches us, again and again.

Song Sparrow
By Bruce Willard

That summer we opened the lake cottage,
prehistoric sound of loons before us,
decades of children at our back,
familiar sound of water
under the porch eaves.

A song sparrow
hit the window
just as summer began.

You held it in your hand
bent over, unable to breathe
another year, working
your fingers
under its feathers and bone.

American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2021 by Bruce Willard, “Song Sparrow” from In Light of Stars (Four Way Books, 2021.) Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

When historical figures become the subjects of poetry, there is a rich opportunity for transporting us into the emotional world of such people through the beauty of the imagination.

The facts of Anarcha Westcott’s difficult story can be found online, but Dominique Christina’s persona poem, “How Anarcha Sees His Work,” enriches our understanding of the brutish work of the 19th century South Carolina physician, J. Marion Sims, and in so doing, the poet imbues Anarcha’s life with a quality of human dignity in powerful ways.

How Anarcha Sees His Work
By Dominique Christina
i seen a chicken get his head
cut off and bein a chicken
he dumb and don’t know he
dead so he floppin and still running the yard
still! no head at all blood like bread crumbs
runnin runnin and folk laugh and
wait on the chicken to know he gone and it
take a while

i mean it aint always quick or easy
for a dead thing to know it’s a dead thing
so its squawkin and flappin
like it still got life and ain’t no life there
at all and that is what it’s like

doctor/massa tickled
at the blood and the squawkin
waitin on me to know i’m a dead thing
and me, dumb wit stayin.

American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem from, Anarcha Speaks: A History in Poems, copyright © 2018 Dominique Christina. Reprinted with special permission from Beacon Press. Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

The monk’s ton­sure is inten­tion­al, a shaved bald spot as part of the rit­u­als of sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion, but here, in his poem, ​“Ton­sure,” Kevin Young sees this hered­i­tary mark­er as a com­plex sign of the things a man inher­its from his father, the dif­fi­cult, the beau­ti­ful, and, most pow­er­ful­ly, the part that repeats itself when he becomes a father, too.

Young​’s col­lec­tions are always an occa­sion, as is his next book, “Stones” (2021), in which this poem appears.

By Kevin Young

Forever you find
your father
in other faces—

a balding head
or beard enough
to send you following

for blocks after
to make sure
you’re wrong, or buying

some stranger a beer
to share. Well, not
just one—and here,

among a world that mends
only the large things,
let the shadow grow

upon your face
till you feel
at home. It’s all

yours, this father
you make
each day, the one

you became when yours
got yanked away.
Take your place between

the men bowed
at the bar, the beer
warming, glowing faint

as a heart: lit
from within & just
a hint bitter.

American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2020 by Kevin Young, “Tonsure”, from Virginia Quarterly Review, Spring 2020. Forthcoming in Stones (Alfred A. Knopf, 2021.) Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.


Anyone who has watched the James Bond films over the course of time has a pretty good idea of how the storyline will play out when Agent 007 goes up against the latest megalomaniac villain.

With Daniel Craig in his fifth and final appearance as James Bond, “No Time To Die” picks up where “Spectre” left off, allowing for the spy’s romantic relationship with Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) to mellow his usual sexual escapades.

With age and maturity, Craig’s Bond is no longer a womanizer, unlike Sean Connery’s apparent eagerness to bed any attractive female, including the distaff adversaries he hoped to convert to the right side.

Even though Bond loves Madeleine, he has trust issues that go back to his love for Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) in “Casino Royale,” who ultimately betrayed him. While the affair with Madeleine may be fraught with wariness, Bond is more restrained when it comes to the opposite sex.

Where once the James Bond films played as separate standalone adventures, linked by characters both malevolent and benign, the Daniel Craig series has unfolded as a unified whole. “Skyfall,” for one, revealed important aspects of the double-O agent’s early life.

“No Time To Die” begins in the aftermath of 2015’s “Spectre” where the film’s conclusion saw Bond and Madeleine drive away in the iconic Aston Martin DB5.

While the film opens with a flashback to Madeleine’s troubled childhood, Bond first makes his appearance when he and Madeleine are visiting a rocky, hilltop city perched atop southern Italy.

During the lengthy pre-credits sequence, the sojourn to Italy is charged with peril when the pair are trapped by an army of henchmen determined to kill Bond. What ensues is an extended action sequence with the Aston Martin delivering the necessary firepower.

When the dust settles on the ambush and subsequent shootout, Bond figures that Madeleine betrayed him and bids her farewell at a train station with the notion they will never see each other again.

Five years later, Bond has retired from MI6 and is living a blissfully peaceful single life in Jamaica, which is soon upended by the arrival of his old CIA pal Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) seeking help for a mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist.

Leiter and his associate Logan Ash (Billy Magnussen), whose awkward grin suggests something more sinister, dispatch Bond to Cuba, where he contacts CIA agent Paloma (Ana de Armas), so slinky in a black dress that she looks like a model.

There’s more to Paloma than good looks; she’s an actual dynamo in stiletto heels, punching and kicking goons with as much efficiency as Bond. Unfortunately, her screen time is limited to an explosive evening in Havana at a lavish ball hosted by the evil SPECTRE organization.

Meanwhile, there’s a new Agent 007 in Nomi (Lashana Lynch), an equal match to James Bond who is not about to give her license-to-kill digits to the retired veteran, until possibly convenient to do so.

Maybe it’s a matter of convenience, but the chief villain Safin (Rami Malek), a terrorist bent on destroying at least half of the globe with a deadly toxin, has a link to Madeleine that is anything but benevolent.

While his old boss M (Ralph Fiennes) seems cagey, Bond gets an assist from Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and gadget-whiz Q (Ben Whishaw) for the inevitable showdown at Safin’s remote lair and its underground laboratory with bio-weapons that must be destroyed to save the world.

At one point, Bond meets up again with his old foe Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), now caged like Hannibal Lecter but lacking necessary menace. It can also be said that Safin is a lightweight antagonist; his mechanical, muted manner does not convey the intended threat of real danger.

Inevitably, film buffs are likely to continue the debate over the finest actor as Agent 007 and the best of the official twenty-five films (not counting Peter Sellers and David Niven in 1967’s “Casino Royale” and Connery’s return in “Never Say Never Again”).

Nostalgia and an appreciation for the Ian Fleming novels may dictate Sean Connery remains the reigning champ. Arguably, “From Russia With Love,” the most pure spy story with minimal gadgets, and “Goldfinger” will rank at the top of the best entries.

Daniel Craig, for all of his weariness and emotional baggage never carried by the likes of Connery, deserves a spot near the top, if for no other reason than his first outing in “Casino Royale” was so spectacularly thrilling.

“No Time to Die,” which has emotional parallels to “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” is a fitting ending to the Daniel Craig era, with surprises that should not be spoiled.

A thrilling yet disturbing twist to the climax of “No Time To Die” is certain to engage some passionate discourse for the fan base. One can only wonder what will be the next character arc for a new Bond.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

The summer television press tour has come to an end and there are plenty of options on cable networks for new shows this fall. Some programs will be very topical.

Take, for instance, the post-apocalyptic saga spanning multiple timelines of “Station Eleven” on HBO Max. This limited drama series tells the stories of survivors of a devastating flu as they attempt to rebuild and re-imagine the world anew.

Based on the bestseller by Emily St. John Mandel, “Station Eleven” feels like a prescient cautionary tale of COVID-19, even though the book was published in 2014 and the first episodes were shot in early 2020 just before the pandemic hit.

During the press tour, executive producer Jessica Rhoades may have been wishful in saying this show “speaks to what, hopefully, the audience is excited to watch and see next.” That may be true if joy is to be experienced coming out on the other side for the survivors.

Since the passing of Hugh Hefner and lifestyle changes in the sexual revolution, the Playboy empire is not what it used to be. Now along comes the A&E network with the 10-part series “Secrets of Playboy.”

Yes, it sounds like an expose, and during the press tour a network executive noted that the Playboy brand was “a beacon of progress for some, but also a gateway to a much darker world,” and a “toxic environment that became an unchecked playground for nefarious conduct.”

Interesting stories are certain to be told from former playmates. Sondra Theodore was only 19 when she became Hefner’s girlfriend, then about three decades his junior. During the time of her relationship with the publisher, Sondra became Playmate of the Month in July 1977.

Another participant in the program is Miss January 1973, Mike Garcia, who later became the director of Playmate Promotions. In the past, Miki testified to sordid details of the Playboy empire that may surface in the series.

During the press conference, Miki claimed that while traveling on a promotion, “something terrible happened to me, and you’ll see it in the documentary.” Mike tried to monitor the women, but stated that she “couldn’t really protect them from Hugh Hefner.”

With a premiere date uncertain but a series that should come out near Halloween, AMC’s “Rag doll” is a modern-day Faustian thriller based on the novel by Daniel Cole about six people that have been murdered, dismembered and sewn into the shape of one grotesque body.

Assigned to the case are London detective Nathan Wolf (Henry Lloyd-Hughes and his best friend and boss Emily Baxter (Thalissa Teixeira), joined by the unit’s new recruit Lake Edmunds (Lucy Hale).

The “Rag Doll Killer” taunts the police by sending them a list of his next victims, with Wolf’s name among them. And with those victims to protect, the police heroes soon come under intense scrutiny.

The new AMC+ original series “Kin” is about a close-knit Dublin clan that must face the consequences of their choices. It’s more a Shakespearean drama than a gangland crime story.

To be sure, this fictional Irish family is embroiled in a gangland war, and executive Dan McDermott boldly claimed that this “series will engage and resonate with viewers, especially those who love ‘Gangs of London,” which remains one the top titles on AMC+.”

While we are on the topic of crime, the History Channel’s nonfiction series “Great Escapes with Morgan Freeman” will focus on the most daring convict escapes from some of the most notorious prisons in the world.

Freeman, who famously starred as a wise inmate in “The Shawshank Redemption,” hosts the dramatic re-enactments of escapes from infamous prisons like Alcatraz, with dynamic storytelling and cutting-edge visual effects.

During the press tour, answering a question about whether “Shawshank” resonated with him during the program, Freeman said he doesn’t “have much trouble separating fact, reality, from movies, things like that.”

For a change of pace, Lifetime will launch the movie series “Highway to Heaven,” which follows Angela (Jill Scott), an angel sent back to Earth by God to help others in need.

In the premiere movie, Angela assumes the role of a temporary school counselor and finds herself working alongside principal Bruce (Barry Watson) as she intervenes in the lives of a troubled student Cody (Ben Daon) and his father Jeff (Robert Moloney) after a death in the family.

Have you ever seen comedian Sebastian Maniscalco perform one of his stand-up routines on a streaming service? This guy has a hilarious take on everyday life, pop culture and the Italian American ethos. His facial expressions and body language are brilliantly funny.

Maybe it’s a stereotype that Italians love food, but that would explain the new Discovery+ series “Well Done with Sebastian Maniscalco,” which is about the comedian’s obsession with food, but don’t dare call him a “foodie.”

Sebastian takes a deep dive into the gastronomic world from every angle, blending his curiosity and humor into the mix of a cooking show. His signature social observations and commentary lift “Well Done” into a rarefied space.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.


At the age of 91, Clint Eastwood is not just an institution but an actor and director, performing double duty in his latest film “Cry Macho,” with an apparent desire to outlast all of his contemporaries.

We should not begrudge Eastwood’s wish to keep working; instead, his work ethic is something to be admired. While he will never play Dirty Harry again, nor appear in a spaghetti western, his characters will likely be more like the ones in “Gran Torino” and “The Mule.”

The artwork for the film’s poster features an iconic pose of Eastwood that suggests a throwback to his early Westerns, but “Cry Macho” is not the story of a righteous gunslinger roaming the range.

“Cry Macho” is the right fit for him at this point in his career. Eastwood’s Texas cowboy Mike Milo is a former rodeo star and has-been horse breeder who, in 1979, reluctantly takes an assignment from his old boss to venture south of the border.

Wealthy rancher Howard Polk (Dwight Yoakum), a year after firing Mike as his horse trainer, comes to him for the dubious task of retrieving his estranged teenage son Rafo (Eduardo Minett) from the care of his crazy Mexican ex-wife Leta (Fernanda Urrejola) in Mexico City.

While Mike has no particular fondness for his old boss, he feels obligated to return a favor to the person who gave him a job after a severe injury ended his riding career, which was followed by the loss of his wife and son.

One senses that the long drive on the dusty roads all the way to Mexico City presages a rockier trip back home after arriving at the destination of Leta’s mansion where the boy’s decadent and alcoholic mother is protected by menacing bodyguards.

Leta warns that Rafo is a delinquent who has a passion for entering his prize fighter rooster named “Macho” in illegal cockfights. Rafo could be involved in other illicit affairs, but mama seems not to care.

When Mike resists a drunken advance in her bedroom, Leta is no longer hospitable, and at this point it’s also fairly evident that she will become vengeful and task one of her henchmen in pursuit back to the border.

As the kid survives on the streets of the big city, Rafo is quickly found at a cockfight and proves reluctant at first to go with Mike to Texas until a tentative bond is formed with the promise of having his own horse on a ranch.

What happens next is a journey through the back roads where delays occur because of transportation difficulties and pursuit by the federales and Leta’s thug, the latter discovering that the aging Mike still has a nice right hook.

That the nonagenarian still has a few moves, as unlikely that may be in the romance department, becomes part of the story when Mike and Rafo stumble upon a desert small town where the cantina is run by the widowed Marta (Natalia Traven).

Enjoying the hospitality afforded by Marta, a woman about half the age of Mike who is also raising her orphaned granddaughters, the two travelers decide to hang around the village for a while, even camping out on the benches of a small church.

Perchance, Mike enjoys the flirtation that blossoms with the cantina owner. Other things bind him to the village. Mike finds purpose with helping a local to tame some wild horses, and pretty soon he becomes a Dr. Dolittle by helping others with their sick pets and farm animals.

The chemistry between the veteran cowboy and the kid may seem perfunctory but it revolves around the trust that comes from overcoming shared adversities on the road, and with Mike imparting occasional wisdom such as saying “the macho thing is overrated.”

With Mike and Rafo spending so much time together, conversation turns to forming a bond where the two learn something from each other. When the kid claims Mexicans ride horses better than gringos, Mike quickly reminds him that he’s half-gringo.

The heart of the film is most moving and satisfying during the sojourn in the small dusty town, where Mike connects easily with people who don’t even speak English or when he communicates with one of Marta’s deaf grandchildren through sign language.

Other than a thug trying to tangle with Mike or suspicious federales poking around, “Cry Macho” is devoid of gunfights, brawls, exciting car chases and other staples of an action film.

Clint Eastwood has directed a slow-paced trip through the picturesque desert terrain that would be fitting for a Western, but it’s a sentimental journey of redemption and second chances for both the cowboy and the kid.

The wisdom of “Cry Macho” comes when Mike says to Rafo, “You think you have all the answers, but then you get older and realize you don’t have any. By the time you figure it out, it’s too late.” Let’s hope it’s not too late for Eastwood to turn out more films.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

Upcoming Calendar

10.23.2021 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
Rodman Preserve Saturday self-guided walks
10.23.2021 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Prescription Drug Take Back Day
10.23.2021 11:00 am - 3:00 pm
Northshore Fall Festival
10.23.2021 5:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Luau on the Lake
10.25.2021 5:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Lake County 29'ers Cribbage Club Meeting
10.26.2021 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Rotary Club of Clear Lake
10.27.2021 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Thompson virtual town hall
10.28.2021 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
10.30.2021 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
Rodman Preserve Saturday self-guided walks

Mini Calendar

Cookies! uses cookies for statistical information and to improve the site.