I watched this movie again after Gail, my ex-wife and poetry partner, mentioned it to me the other day. Like a lot of other experiences I am having now it was like I was seeing it for the first time, seeing it on a much deeper and richer level, being open to so much more.
This is a story of an older woman living in Korea who sits at the middle of a vortex in her life. Right at the opening she is diagnosed with incipient Alzheimer’s, and she is confronted with the realization that her grandson, who lives with her is implicated in a heinous crime against a young school girl. She is at the same time providing care for pay to an older man who has had a stroke. In the midst of all this, because she had been told by a teacher in her youth that she had the makings of a poet, she signs up for a poetry course at the local cultural center.
The other remarkable thing about this grandmother, though she is on welfare and works part-time for income, is that in every scene in the movie she appears in a different outfit, all colored and many flowered. We should all have such a grandmother.
Clearly this is a quest story, a multi-level quest story, one might say. The predominant and obvious quest is the course assignment to write a single poem by the end. At the same time she is confronted with the quest of understanding and settling on her position with regard to a crime her grandson has committed, making her peace with the issue, so to speak. And she is to accomplish both of these tasks while dealing with the beginning of her Alzheimer’s. She accomplishes all of this by the end of the movie.
Without giving away as spoilers too much of the resolution, let me just note that by the end of the movie she has written the poem; she is in fact the only one in the class to write a poem. What she writes is an elegy, Agnes’ Song, to the schoolgirl whose suicide began the movie.
This is truly a film, a term I use advisedly, based on a conversation I had with my son, another movie lover, several years ago. I had just recommended a movie to him, and he asked, “Is this a movie, or is it one of your films?” Poetry is such a good film that I ended up not only watching it this second time, but I turned around and watched it again the next night.
From the movie Poetry
How is it over there?
How lonely it is it?
Is it still glowing red at sunset?
Are the birds still singing
on the way to the forest?
Can you receive the letter I dared not send?
Can I convey the confession I dared not make?
Will time pass and roses fade?
Now it’s time to say goodbye
like the wind that lingers and then goes
just like a shadow.
Promises that never came
The love sealed till the end.
(Girl’s voice now)
The grass kissing my weary ankles
And the tiny footsteps following me.
It’s time to say goodbye
Now as darkness falls,
Will a candle be lit again?
Here I pray
That nobody shall cry
And I hope you know
How deeply I loved you.
The long wait in the middle
Of a hot summer day
An old path resembling
My father’s face
Even with the lonesome wildflower
Shyly turning away
I hope you know how deeply I loved
How my heart fluttered
At hearing your faint song
I bless you
Before you cross the black river
with my soul’s last breath
I am beginning to dream
A bright sunny morning.
Again I am awake
Blinded by the light.
And hope to meet you
Standing beside me.
Some Comments on Poetry from the Movie
I am a poet – I like flowers and say odd things.
To write poetry you must see well.
Writing poetry is about seeing beauty.
We carry poetry in our hearts.