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This review is taken from PN Review 194, Volume 36 Number 6, July - August 2010.

TALKING PICTURES DANIEL KANE, We Saw the Light: Conversations between the New American Cinema and Poetry (University of Iowa Press) £33.50

In We Saw the Light: Conversations between the New American Cinema and Poetry Daniel Kane explores the relations between film-makers and some of the most celebrated American poets of the late twentieth century. As the syntax of the title suggests, Kane primarily tracks the influence of film on poetry rather than the other way around, and the book succeeds in convincing the reader that a greater significance should be accorded to the pioneers of ‘alternative’ film when considering the poetry of such figures as Robert Duncan, Robert Creeley, Frank O’Hara, Allen Ginsberg, John Ashbery and Lisa Jarnot. I think it is fair to say that the names of Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage, Alfred Leslie, Robert Frank, Gerard Melanga, Rudy Burckhardt and Jennifer Reeves will, more than likely, never be accorded the kind of attention and critical acclaim that the aforementioned poets have received, but Kane’s erudite study goes a long way in furthering our understanding of the importance of experimental film to poetry in America since the Second World War, and in doing so also reconfigures a few embedded academic assumptions along the way.

In his chapter on ‘The Conversation Between Kenneth Anger and Robert Duncan’, Kane is quick to point out that what the poet is attracted to in the film-maker’s work is, as Duncan says, its ‘final authenticity’; that ‘it has not shied from the true thing which its process reveald [sic]’. Here, and in other similar statements, Kane reads Duncan’s romanticism (of the kind ...


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