The Emporium Gazette
Issue 35 -- March 2002

Poetry World ~ Poetry In Hollywood
by Bob Nailor

What every poet dreams: a favorite actor reciting their poem on the silver screen. NOT!

Exactly what are the possibilities for today's poets in Hollywood? Slim? Lean? Non-existent?

Perhaps. Then again, hope springs eternal.

Let's look at the record. Name a movie that has poetry in it. "Out of Africa" and a handful of others come quickly to mind. That could open the way for a good poet to get his/her poem in the public eye.

Name a movie based on a poem. That's right! BASED on a poem. Did I catch your interest? Do you have any idea how many movies there are? I did a relatively small amount of research and found some very interesting facts.

Gunga Din by Rudyard Kipling (1939 movie)
Beowulf by Anonymous (1998 movie)
Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1929 silent movie)
The Bells by Edgar Allan Poe (1926 silent movie)
Ulysses by Homer (1955 movie)
Casey at Bat by Ernest Thayer (1985 movie)
The Charge of the Light Brigade ( 2 movies! 1936 and 1968)
The Odyssey by Homer (1977 movie)

Perceval by Chretien de Troyes (1978 movie AND basis for Wagner's opera - Parsifal)

These are directly based movies with the same title that were obvious. Some of the others available aren't quite that easily seen. I'm reminded of "Clueless" and how it is based on the book "Pride and Prejudice" which I never realized.

Of course, it appears that most of the movies listed are pretty old and Hollywood has moved to the action adventure films and comedies.

Shakespeare's poetry has been done over and over. A Mid-Summer's Night Dream and Romeo and Juliet, even Leonardo deCappio starred in one version just a few years back. Many of
Shakespeare's sonnets have been the building blocks for movies.

If you scrutinize the movies listed you'll perhaps see the pattern: epic, but not always.

The Odyssey was an epic poem by Homer and surprisingly, an adaptation for the 2001 movie of "O Brother Where Art Thou" starring George Clooney.

Comedy in poetry. A recent movie would be "The Grinch" which was based on Dr. Seuss' poem. In fact, many of Dr. Seuss' poems that kids have loved over the years have been made into animations and televised. Just another avenue in Hollywood that you might want to spend some time visiting.

Earlier, action adventure was mentioned. Did you get to see the movie "The Man from Snowy River" that was released in 1982? That was based on the poem under the same name by the poet, A. B. (Banjo) Paterson.

Have you read "Blind Harry's Wallace" by William Hamilton of Gilbertfield? That extremely bloody and vulgar epic was the direct base for a multi-million dollar movie: Braveheart starring Mel Gibson.

Write yourself an epic with depth and feeling. It could become the next box office hit. Or you could just settle back and be comfortable with a walk-on quote of your poem.

Bob Nailor is author of "The Secret Voice," an Amish-Christian story, "Pangaea, Eden Lost," an adventure story, "Three Steps: The Journeys of Ayrold," a Celtic fantasy, and "2012: Timeline Apocalypse," an end-of-time tale. He is also included in several anthologies and collections. Check his website at

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