BOOK REVIEW

A poet’s life in the movies

Posted May 21, 2011, at 7:32 p.m.
Last modified May 22, 2011, at 12:48 p.m.

“My Cinema Paradiso: A Movie-Marathon Lifetime Memoir in 3-D Poetry,” by Tom Lyford; Green Bough Publishing, Dover-Foxcroft, 2010; 80 pages, trade paperback, $14.95.

At some point in the making of five chapbooks of poetry over the past half-decade or so, Tom Lyford must have realized that practically every memory he has from his 60-odd years of life in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, has an analog in a movie. So he went back through scores of poems, found his own private Oscar nominees, gave them movie titles, and bound them together into “My Cinema Paradiso.” The result is a collection of Tom Lyford’s Greatest Hits, containing his characteristic down-to-earth, straightforward, often geeky and sometimes ironically wistful humor.

The gist is that everybody is the hero, or anti-hero, of his own film:

It helps to think of life as a movie — in fact:

make life your movie … life imitates art imitates

life, after all, and no matter how relatively boring

or exciting or noir you find your soap opera,

it’s still your basic adventure with the same

old textbook conflicts, crises, climaxes,

and final resolutions —

You can fantasize your own importance (like Luke Skywalker among mobs of Jabba the Hutts), or try to face reality (like Pinocchio: “was I / the only donkey boy / in that / crowd?”), or be a James Bond of your own marriage (“Diamonds are Forever”), or just observe your mind’s weirder cinematic errantries (“Earth vs. The Flying Saucers”):

 

We are not alone. They cultivate us

like peas (PODS!); they abduct us

(BODY SNATCHERS!); re-splice our

genes (X-FILES!); … in

some hideous, insidious

Plan-9 (FROM OUTER SPACE!)

 

Social activism, this is not. But it is definitely grounded in postwar middle-American central-Piscataquis County. If your life sometimes seems like a series of Woody Allen punch lines, you’ll want to pick up “My Cinema Paradiso.” It and Lyford’s other books are available through www.tomlyford.com.

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