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This article is taken from PN Review 234, Volume 43 Number 4, March - April 2017.

Poetry in Motion Maitreyabandhu
I’d like to think of something critical to say about Paterson, Jim Jarmusch’s near-perfect film-poem about the workings of the imagination, but I can’t think of anything worth mentioning. Set in Paterson, New Jersey, a man called Paterson – whose hero William Carlos Williams also lived in Paterson, where he wrote a poem called ‘Paterson’ – drives a bus with ‘PATERSON’ on its destination indicator. Paterson (Adam Driver) gets up, leaves his girlfriend (Golshifteh Farahani), takes his morning stroll to the depot, drives, listens to snatches of conversations, returns home, walks the dog (an English bulldog), goes to same neighbourhood bar, drinks a beer, then walks back home again.

That’s about it. The film is at pains not to be dramatic. On one of his walks with the dog, Paterson is waylaid by roughnecks in an open-top car who tell him that his dog is in danger of being dogjacked (the dog version of hijacked). Nothing happens to the dog. Walking home from the depot, Paterson notices a young girl alone, waiting for her mother. She has a ‘secret notebook’ and writes poems. She reads him one. No one calls the police or the Safeguarding Officer. Paterson’s girlfriend buys a guitar they can’t afford. They don’t end up at one another’s throat.

The actual poetry in the film – the words of which appear across the screen as Paterson composes them while eating Cheerios, or leaning on the steering wheel, or just ‘walking dully along’ – are written by the 74-year-old Oklahoma-born poet Ron Pagett. ...


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