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PULP FICTION 20 YEARS ON

Is there a person over the age of 18 alive who hasn't seen Pulp Fiction - or some offshoot of its pop culture impact? Like exploding brain splatter, Pulp Fiction became the film hit of 1994, and is, arguably, the greatest American film of that decade - perhaps of all time (in a short list that includes Blue Velvet and Apocalypse Now and Taxi Driver, to be sure). A sort of sexier, even darker Touch of Evil for our time.

Soundtrack to our twisted dreams
Tarantino, despite or because of seeming to be a nerdy creep in "real life" is, in reel terms, a cinematic genius of B-thrills and Cannes insight - a rare balance.  Indeed, only a few other Western directors have ever managed to fuse art and thrills better or as well - Welles, Hitchcock, Spielberg, Scorsese are peers.

That poster!  That gimp scene! That watch monologue! That dance! That heroin! That soundtrack!  That amoral ultra-violence! I still remember seeing it with a friend.  When it ended, we turned to each other in amazement.  It was the first time since Indiana Jones when I had seen, in the cinema, a film that felt completely a work of genius, a work of visual pleasure, nihilistic, pugilistic, aesthetic.

Tarantino has never made a better film - and he won't.  Ethically sick, visually jam-packed, verbally slick, it is wit mainstreamed. It's perfect, and structurally so splendid, so surprising, so respectful and yet disruptive of its source genres, and thus, unbeatable.  That's okay, because we will always have his original hit of heart-racing adrenaline.

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THE WINNER OF THE SIXTH FORTNIGHT PRIZE IS...



Wheeler Light for 'Life Jacket'.

The runner-up is: Daniel Duffy - 'President Returns To New York For Brief First Visit'

Wheeler Light currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.



Life Jacket

summer camp shirtsI couldn’t fit in then
are half my size nowI wanted to wear
smaller and smallerarticles of clothing
I shrunk to the sizethat disappeared

of an afterthoughtin a sinking ship body
too buoyant to sinktoo waterlogged for land
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JOHN ASHBERY HAS DIED

With the death of the poetic genius John Ashbery, whose poems, translations, and criticism made him, to my mind, the most influential American poet since TS Eliot, 21st century poetry is moving into less certain territory.

Over the past few years, we have lost most of the truly great of our era: Edwin Morgan, Gunn, Hill, Heaney and Walcott, to name just five.  There are many more, of course. This is news too sad and deep to fathom this week.  I will write more perhaps later. 

I had a letter from Ashbery on my wall, and it inspired me daily.  He gave me advice for my PhD. He said kind things about a poetry book of mine.

He was a force for good serious play in poetry, and his appeal great. So many people I know and admire are at a loss this week because of his death. It is no consolation at present to think of the many thousands of living poets, just right now. But impressively, and even oddly, poetry itself seems to keep flowing.