Poet files #6

Russell Crowe: poetry commander

So last week we had secret poetry by the commander of BP, and a week or two before that we had secret poetry by our new (deputy) coalition commander. Now it’s time for a master (though not The Master) and commander.

As the picture suggests, this story goes backwards through time. Last month Russell Crowe told GQ magazine: “I am always described as ‘Hollywood Hard Man’. It’s just ridiculous. I know some hard men, mate, and I am not a hard man. I’m a guy who likes poetry, who writes songs. I put on make-up for a living. Give me a break. If I was a hard man, I wouldn’t be any good at my job.”

It’s touching. And he means it. Last year, as if we could forget, he accepted his Empire Award with an original* piece of work, which goes (in part):

I am celebrating my love for you with a pint of beer and a new tattoo.

Imagine there’s no heaven.

I don’t know if you’re loving somebody. To be a poet and not know the trade, to be a lover and repel all women. Twin ironies by which great saints are made, the agonising pincer-jaws of heaven.

I’m skipping a bit, but there’s a Bee Gees coda:

It’s only words, and words are all I have, to take your breath away.

According to the Guardian, “Crowe told the audience: ‘Thank you for this honour, and thank you for this opportunity to read some poetry at a British awards ceremony. It is one of my favourite things to do’.”

But back in 2002 it hadn’t been so pretty. At the Baftas he had recited a poem, and it had been (admittedly only in the US transmission, and also not in the live performance!) edited out. The gentle actor was forced to issue an apology to the producer, who he had apparently punched, and roughed up against a wall, saying: “You f***ing piece of sh*t. I don’t five a f*** who you are. Who on earth had the f***ing audacity to take out the Best Actor’s poem?”

Which makes this final quote from his GQ interview all the more – ahem – poetic:**

“How many times have you read that I punch photographers? I have never punched a photographer. But I have thrown some of the sharpest intellectual barbs in my life at guys who are chasing me down the street with a camera. I cut them to the quick.”

Anyway, I’m very sorry; I haven’t been able to find any of the Beautiful-Minded One’s high school verse. But I can tell you that the poem the producer paid for so dearly was by Patrick Kavanagh: Sanctity. It goes (very sweetly, I think) like this:

To be a poet and not know the trade,
To be a lover and repel all women.
Twin ironies by which great saints are made,
The agonising pincer-jaws of heaven.

* sic transit gloria mundi

* in this case, a figurative synonym for disingenuous.

We constantly hear in the poetry world that no one likes poetry, that poetry is ‘dead’. Poppycock. Poetry is in fact everywhere: wherever you go, if you scratch the surface you find a poet. Poet Files is an exclusive series in which Baroque in Hackney scrutinises the unlikely, and finds the secret poetry lurking there. Look for it every Saturday morning.

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