“For several books now, A. Van Jordan has been proving himself master of the dramatic monologue. His skill is especially dazzling in The Cineaste as he turns to cinema, that other realm of persona and projection. With an imagination illuminated by empathy, Jordan inhabits the eye of the camera, the eye of the actor, and the ‘I’ of a viewer tethered to image and history. These terrific poems give shape to lives made of light.”
— TERRANCE HAYES
A place, though visible, is like a ghost
of memories. Even memories one forgets
linger in the space in which they occurred.
Here within the expanse of vaulted ceilings,
doorways leading to more doors, hallways
leading to more halls, the faintest recollections
absorb over time; no act will wholly evanesce.
A remarkable montage of poems that explore film, poetry, and the elusiveness of reverie.
A. Van Jordan, an acclaimed American poet and the author of three previous volumes, “demonstrates poetry’s power to be at once intimate and wide-ranging” (Robert Pinsky, Washington Post Book World). In this penetrating new work he takes us with him to the movies, where history reverberates and characters are larger than life. The Cineaste is an entrancing montage of poems, wherein film serves as the setting for contemplative trances, memoir, and pure fantasy. At its center is a sonnet sequence that imagines the struggle of pioneer filmmaker Oscar Micheaux against D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, which Micheaux saw not only as racist but also as the start of a powerful new art form. “Sharpen the focus in your lens, and you / Sharpen your view of the world; you can see / How people inhabit space in their lives, / How the skin of Negroes and whites both play / With light.” Scenes and characters from films such as Metropolis, Stranger than Paradise, Last Year at Marienbad, The Red Shoes, and The Great Train Robbery also come to luminous life in this vibrant new collection. The Cineaste is an extended riff on Jordan’s life as a moviegoer and a brilliant exploration of film, poetry, race, and the elusiveness of reverie.
Award-winning poet A. Van Jordan is the author of four collections, most recently The Cineaste, (W.W Norton & Co, 2013), which Terrance Hayes described as “dazzling.” His other books include Quantum Lyrics, (W.W. Norton & Co., 2007), M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A, (W.W Norton & Co., 2005), which was listed as one the Best Books of 2005 by The London Times, and Rise (Tia Chucha Press, 2001), which won the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award. Jordan has been awarded a Whiting Writers Award, an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and a Pushcart Prize. He is also a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a United States Artists Fellowship and a Lannan Literary Award in Poetry.
When asked by storySouth about his research into Oscar Micheaux’s life and work for his chapbook, The Homesteader, Jordan responded, "I’m more interested in the cultural materialism around the time and the emotional resonance of a scene. Once I get the facts down, I can hang the emotion on the facts around place and time. The iconography of it all just becomes a restriction, like a form, from which I can then create language."
Jordan has taught at a number of institutions including, Prince Georges Community College, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, The University of Texas at Austin, where he was tenured as an Associate Professor, Rutgers University-Newark where he served as the Henry Rutgers Presidential Professor, and at the University of Michigan, where he currently serves as the Robert Hayden Collegiate Professor of English Language & Literature.