Chuck: After managing to snatch a copy of The Director intended for Todd Baesen, I dipped into the book, and became thoroughly enthralled. Larry and Tony, as I first noted above, have posted several of the poems contained in Ms. Chris Welles Feder' collection, but reading the entire volume, from beginning to end, is like reading a better biography of Welles than all the mean-spirited stuff we have been arguing about on other threads. And much more psychologically biographical than certain works some of us love.
As Ms. Feder writes: "To such readers I can only say, 'If it makes you happy to believe that the Movie Director is Orson Welles, who am I to spoil it for you?'"
But though she is careful to say that "the director" is not necessarily Orson Welles, it is hard to escape the impression she leaves that, in a most intimate way, these poem/monologues are about Welles' life and career. Without mentioning specific titles, she fills a majority of the poems with images from Welles' films and connects them with allusions to his life, in ways only someone who knew him at first hand could manage so confidently.
At a profound level, she must believe these poems are about Orson Welles -- otherwise, why write them?
The book, rather CITIZEN KANE-like, is in five parts: 1. His Death, 2. His Childhood, 3. His Boyhood, 4. His Life as a Movie Director, and 5. His Legend.
Particularly interesting to me, in light of an issue I've brought up here, are the poems "Brother Leo" and "Unanswered Questions," which seem certain to point out the significance of Richard Welles, the shy brother of Orson Welles, seldom mentioned, who stuttered under the harsh discipline of their father. Older by ten years, "certified insane" in 1927, when Orson was twelve, Richard Welles was always a (potentially homicidal?) presence in the background. Of the moment when he learned about his brother's commitment, Ms. Feder has Welles, pondering the permissiveness of his dead blessed Mother against the dictatorial protection of his Father, sum up their whole relationship:
Yet I haven't lost the eyes of the child I was:
in his black and white vision, his parents were gods
traveling from heaven to hell without his permission.
Also intriguing are two poems, "Patrick" and "Patrick's Mother," which seem to suggest the existence of a son, an aspiring movie director whom Orson Welles fathered. These are the only two pieces which do not clearly refer to figures we are aware of: mother, father, guardian, mentor, brother, wives, three daughters, mistresses, etc. Perhaps, as Chris Feder warns in her introduction, there was so much that she never knew, she may have just made up these particular characters.
Symmetry is everything.
All together, the parts form the picture of a man who could not escape his childhood, the conflicts between his father and mother over how he should be reared, and how those conflicts left him with boons and curses which he carried all his life, enchanting or maddening his lovers, off spring and colleagues, as well as those who simply came under his spell.
The poems, taken on a whole, are a splendid collection.
I've read enough bad poetry in my time to recognize how they stand above the normal vanity product. As dramatic monologues, they move us emotionally. Every character, besides The Director, speaks with a dramatic voice of his or her own.
As poems, each work is informed by a strong central image. The nouns are precise, the verbs vigorous, and the adjectives often crackle with intensity. There are few of the adverbs which mar most of our own works.
I think, yes, I like and admire Chris Feder Welles' The Director! I wish the book might have a wider audience.