Sunday, July 09, 2006

CHEW IT OVER

At 25

a man now stand you
on roots no one can claim
as good as you
(pure born god-son
look at you anywhere
across the globe).

At birth you were blue
I witnessed you suck
that first breath in and turn
as white as snow on top
of Everest. Pure. Pure.
Goodness and Mercy.

Jumble of words my only
clue to give to you
for your mountain view

to burn the libraries
and burn us too
(all that’s come
before you.)

Your (my side) grandfather’s
head handed him
on a silver Salome platter (he knew
more than he could hold on to)

and your great grandfather
stumbled and I shamble
and out of the phoenix ash
of my/your ancestral men you flew
out of the John Baptist ash
you flew beyond the pebbles
in the Jordan where we, the men
before you wash our sad, sad feet

but not for naught—the truth
when sung soothes far beyond
all gold.

I remember your grandfather
(not sober) singing, weeping
in my high gliding stone dead
gothic church—

“A voice of one, crying
in the wilderness, prepare ye
the way of the Lord.”

I remember holding you, screaming
with good rage in a Sea Ranch night.
Taking you outside under the moon
and the giant pines—screaming, screaming.
Holding you. I didn’t know what else to do.
Kicking. Screaming with good rage
till you slowly trembled yourself into rest.

Forgive us, Lord, we know
not what we do.

Good rage. Burn us to the ground.
Good rage. So little good seems
to have come of John the Baptist
and what followed. Your grandfather
loved John the Baptist. Wept and sung
his words and went too easily
into their good night
which I won’t do.

All these words and others too
are here for you, may they be true.

Stephen Gyllenhaal

taken from Claptrap: Notes from Hollywood.

www.cantarabooks.com
www.stephengyllenhaal.com

52 comments:

Kendra said...

Simply perfect love poem to his son. I'm deeply moved, bpb.

gin said...

I am a sucker for poetry and I love this to pieces.
It's wonderful to think of what kind of relationship he must have with Jake.

LisaSmile said...

I'm both surprised and impressed that Stephen Gyllenhaal decided to include this poem in his book - that father and son were both okay with it. Not because I don't like the poem (actually, I do) - but because it's clearly a very intimate, multi-layered declaration and I had a weird feeling reading it.

In fact, I saved it first and then wondered for a while if I actually wanted to/should read it. Call me strange, but this publication, somehow, I find more intrusive than the paps on Jake's back. The fact that they both must have agreed to let it out there, made me decide to read after all.

And it's a beautiful, touching piece. The man's got a very personal, distinct style. Maybe I'll even get the book.

Thank you, BritPopBaby.

Miss Twist said...

"Jumble of words my only
clue to give to you
for your mountain view"
and
"to burn the libraries
and burn us too"


Am I mad and reading too much into this? Or are these references to Brokeback and TDAT?

nice anonymous said...

Yeah, as I've said before, it's clearly a poem of address, directed by the poet at a very specific person, and the rest of us must follow as best we can. It's sort of like coming across a private communication -- a letter sent on from father to son. But it's been included in a published book. And the Gyllenhaals know better than most what it means to be an artist, to take something intensely personal & put it out there in public. They really know the division between public/personal. So I don't feel bad about reading & trying to interpret the poem.

LisaSmile said...

Hey, MissTwist, then maybe some Donnie Darko too when he writes:

burn us to the ground??

Or possibly Dad means something completely different. Heh.

nice anonymous said...

There's the tradition of the laying-on of hands, as it were, between father & son. In the Bible, fathers literally give their blessings to their sons. This poem is infused with religious sentiment and has more than one Biblical reference, so I feel that's in part what this poem is trying to do. It's saying: "Go forth into the world, my son, & thrive & make your mark." But it's also very self-deprecating, in a way that's at odds with that tradition. (Like the very title of the book -- I keep wondering, is "claptrap" how Mr. Gyllenhaal thinks of his poems? I hope not! Poetic utterance deserves more respect than that!) The speaker in "At 25" is not completely comfortable with the authoritarian, patriarchal role that this "giving a blessing" implies. So he's very self-deprecating. Every couple lines he seems to be saying: "I don't have all the answers. I'm not going to pretend to."

heddaparsons said...

What a beautiful poem. There are a number of bibloical references and it is deeply personal and moving. It's also clear to me how close Jake and his father are and how much his father adores Jake.

penny lane said...

I love this part
"I remember holding you, screaming
with good rage in a Sea Ranch night.
Taking you outside under the moon
and the giant pines—screaming, screaming.
Holding you. I didn’t know what else to do.
Kicking. Screaming with good rage
till you slowly trembled yourself into rest."
It is tender and moving.

nice anonymous said...

The other tension in the poem is between one's tradition & heritage, but also of the individual making one's mark. I mean, there's a lot of grandfathers & great-grandfathers listed here in this poem, a lot of ancestral shades haunting it. (Not just the father-to-son connection in Dylan Thomas' villanelle.) The Gyllenhaals can trace their line of descent quite far back in a way that a lot of us can't. So Jake's carrying that burden around on his shoulders, in a way. As I recall from discussions here, the Gyllenhaal family were intellectuals, scholars, scientists, publishers. But Jake's chosen to be an actor & he dropped out of Columbia University to pursue this profession. Until very recently, actors weren't as respected as, say, theologians or other thinkers & writers. And still sometimes, even within Hollywood, they're considered lightweights, all appearance & gesture, without much intellectual power behind them. So the speaker in "At 25" also has the task of reassuring his son that he respects his chosen profession of acting (perhaps he draws a connection between the theatricality of preaching and an actor's performance?). And that he believes his son can indeed make a contribution as strong as the other men in his line through his acting & the roles he chooses.

mrs_dalloway said...

Penny Lane, that was exactly the part that I was going to quote here. I think it's very interesting how he moves from Goodness and Mercy, pure human values, to that good rage that seems to define his son's existence.It appears to have this concept that everything is a struggle between one value and another and between the ideal and the real part,that influence their development.Jake seems to be the man trying to make a difference by still having a beautiful spirit.

nice anonymous said...

Does anyone want to go near the possibility that the speaker is also trying to talk about gender roles & ways of being a man? (Because I'm puzzling over the "mountain view" lines & whether that alludes to some epiphany Jake had during the making of "Brokeback Mountain.") But such a discussion gets into the question of Jake's sexuality, which I have learned, from the past, is a great way to cause a near-riot on Jake-related discussion boards. But say ... purely speculation ... if a son decides to tell his father that he's not way, way to the straight side of the Kinsey scale ... what does the father offer in response? Would he not offer reassurance, as this poem is doing, that the son's choices would not necessarily sever the son from his connection with his family history & traditions? [And now I'll duck & cover.]

mrs_dalloway said...

The epiphany we're supposing doesn't have to be necessarily about his sexuality.A man's configuration implies more than the sexual aspect..moreover,the movie was for Jake an entire process of growing up,so the changes must have been various.I remember him saying at the Toronto Film Festival that while making the film,he understood the relativity of love,of how two people can love each other in multiple ways,giving his own love experiences as example.

In 'At 25', the speaker makes those Biblic refferences..I wonder if he uses them as myths only or do they show some true beliefs.Because I knew he wasn't a Christian.

Anonymous said...

completely off the subject.. here is another e-mail I received about Jake and biking today. so I wanted to share.

ARMSTRONG STRUGGLING WITH MARATHON TRAINING.... to read on click on the link below
(If the link doesn't work, please copy and paste the URL in your web
browser)

URL to article:
http://contactmusic.com/news.nsf/article

SHERYL CROW's ex-fiance LANCE ARMSTRONG is struggling with his bid to complete the New York Marathon - and he's beginning to think it was a bad idea. The Tour De France champion plans to join celebrities like THE STREETS' MIKE SKINNER for the 26-mile run in November (06), but he admits training is much harder than he initially anticipated. Armstrong says, "It's painful. Running is totally different from cycling - the impact on the body. "Those guys (marathon runners) train hard, watch what they eat and go to bed early - things I don't want to do anymore. I'm over that. I like to have a bit of fun." Armstrong has been given a celebrity boost as he trains in Los Angeles - MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY and JAKE GYLLENHAAL are helping the retired cycling star get in supershape for the marathon.
09/07/2006 15:37

SquallCloud said...

I don't always connect to poetry. Some nice imagery though. However religious references are usually lost on me altogether unless it's some snatch I remember from catholic school or presbyterian sunday school or if it's something widely known.

Ivy said...

Wow. I agree with the people on here who say how personal and intimate it is. A definite father-son poem rather than being just about fatherhood (which he had already experienced with Maggie's birth). I think he's a lovely daddy.

Anonymous said...

I had a similar feeling to lisasmile's about not really being sure I wanted to read it. I skimmed it, but I felt a little queasy doing even that, and have avoided reading it ever sense. It's reassuring to me to know that I do still have SOME boundaries to my obsession. The other thing that was too much was the video of the family supposedly looking at where Jake was going to build a house. In that case, there was the added ick that, at least to me, the whole thing looked sooo fake and put on that it made the family look bad in my eyes.

Unfortunately, my "too invasive" bells don't go off when I am looking at pap pics in general.

dangerous woman said...

" Does anyone want to go near the possibility that the speaker is also trying to talk about gender roles & ways of being a man? (Because I'm puzzling over the "mountain view" lines & whether that alludes to some epiphany Jake had during the making of "Brokeback Mountain.") But such a discussion gets into the question of Jake's sexuality, which I have learned, from the past, is a great way to cause a near-riot on Jake-related discussion boards. But say ... purely speculation ... if a son decides to tell his father that he's not way, way to the straight side of the Kinsey scale ... what does the father offer in response? Would he not offer reassurance, as this poem is doing, that the son's choices would not necessarily sever the son from his connection with his family history & traditions? [And now I'll duck & cover.]
"

I agree totally with you.
Wise and sensible words.

By the way I'm republican ...
so the aristocracy !!!!! ...

Jake's mother Naomi FONER. The name Foner is very interenting too ... check that ....

Anonymous said...

I don't quite understand why some people are saying they are unsure whether to read it or not.Surely that is the whole point?The book of poetry is published and Mr G, wants it read.

I agree it's biblical in a lot of ways.Not sure Mr G is, or if he is really referring to his forefathers?I expect he has his own beliefs like we all do.All in all a very complex piece which we can dissect for a long time but Jake is the only one who will know the true meaning behind it all.

The Bearded Lady said...

I'm not an expert in poetry by any means. As I read this ,I come away with a view he has of his son, as special, pure, messiah like.
I suppose that's a view of one's children many parents can identify with.
The mountain references to me denote purity, and noble view, as in: "At birth you were blue
I witnessed you suck
that first breath in and turn
as white as snow on top
of Everest. Pure. Pure.
Goodness and Mercy."

followed by : "Jumble of words my only
clue to give to you
for your mountain view"

I think mountain here is used as, in sense of perspective.
I think he is also saying ,he sees parallels between his son and his own father...as in "Your (my side) grandfather’s
head handed him
on a silver Salome platter (he knew
more than he could hold on to)"

There is more to this poem, but that's how I interpet those stanzas.

nice anonymous said...

It's the John the Baptist reference that's giving me the most trouble. What is the connection between the Gyllenhaal grandfather -- the Gyllenhaal heritage -- and that particular saint? (Anyone? Bueller?) So John the Baptist baptized people & preached. And John was murdered by Herod, who was complying with a request made by his stepdaughter & niece, Salome. Salome had danced so well, so sexily, that she was promised, as a reward, anything she desired, and she asked for John's head on a platter. (Salome is one of the evil, sexually out-of-control females in the Bible.) But how does that episode inform this poem? Do we have anyone who's really into the Bible here?

Anonymous said...

Do we have anyone who's really into the Bible here

Stephen Gyllenhaal?It could be a question for him.Unless that's too late?Maybe he will answer some more in the future .

Katie of Sweden said...

He's a true artist. He moves me! I also love that he's so open with his dad's alcoholism. My dad is one too (though living a normal life; working and everything...but not in contact with himself...very obvious to the family around him, and very sad), and to me it's such a taboo - still. I'm glad that Stephen is so open about it. It he reads this; thanks!

mrs_dalloway said...

Katie, I know EXACTLY what you mean. And what I love about the poem and especially this part is that hard and negative parts of the existence are viewed from a very wise and experienced interiority. The warmth and opened-heart can be actually felt,touched in this poem!

Anonymous said...

The poem is deeply religious. Stephen Gyllenhaal is a very religious/spiritual man. At his NY reading he said that he hoped to reach the religious right through his own religious beliefs. he said that a lot of people don't realize that people on the left side of politicals are just as relious as the people on the right. He was very passionate about that. The poems I have read so far are all very personal.

Anonymous said...

hmm - okay - yeah - thats all I got to say about this poem.

I really lik eyour films Mr Gyllenhaal - I can't wait for your next one!

mop said...

I don't get it.

cina said...

Although I might not get every meaning in this poem (english not being my first language as the main reason), I'm deeply moved by the love that is so incredibly evident in it. It's a beautiful declaration of pride and love from a father to his son. It actually made me teary-eyed the first time I read it.

Katie of Sweden said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Bearded Lady said...

I like the part where he says... "to burn the libraries
and burn us too
(all that’s come
before you.)"

as if to say he is break with convention...he seems to go beyond pride, to humility as if a student of his own son...wow

only1annabel said...

Awww can this family get any more appealing! Hands up if you wanna be a Gyllenhaal!!!
What a nice way to commemorate his sons birthday! Poppa Gyllenhaal we love you (and your son!)

phoebe said...

^^ *eagerly raising both hands*

The poem is fascinating. I love his way of writing. It's so intense and straight-forward, yet tender and ambiguous. And I agree with Penny Lane @ 7:38, I love that part too. It's SO beautiful.

zoo said...

I absolutely adpre this poem. The first time I read it I was left breathless, honestly. I love the way the father looks at the son as both a consequence and a beyonding (no such word, I know, but you know what I mean) of his blood line. I love the mixture humility and the pride. It says things in such a beautiful, lyrical way and yet they ring so true and real.

It's amazing.

Anonymous said...

poem sucks and makes no sense. fans just like it because they're blinded by gylly love

nice anonymous said...

No, it doesn't, er, "suck." You have to respect that this poet has serious intentions. The voice is very sincere, full of feeling. And he's quite good at conveying images -- I wish he'd focus on them more often. That's where the poem comes alive. No, this guy isn't Dylan Thomas or Jane Kenyon, but then not many of us are. He'll get better, as he keeps writing. In the meantime, this was a very moving missive to his son. How many fathers write like this to their family members, I ask you? Show some respect for the truth of the emotion & his braveness in putting it out there, in public.

Girl Friday said...

And on an unrelated note:

They apparently went riding together again!

http://buzzfoto.com/?p=67

Jake has finally shaved. Thank Christmas!

SquallCloud said...

Ah girl friday always good to see Jake riding Mathew WITH! I said WITH! Jake riding WITH Mathew. ;o)

Anonymous said...

"Show some respect for the truth
of the emotion & his braveness in putting it out there, in public."

hahahaha, you're probably one of those folks that sip espresso and ponder the cracks in the sidewalks.

The poem was good for about the first 2 lines then when it got to the bible beater stuff the goodness of it went way down hill. Stick to movie directing Daddy!!!

mrs_dalloway said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mrs_dalloway said...

Anon 10:26, stick to cartoons, if you don't get the symbolism of words used in literature. At least,if you don't appreciate a man's poem,you could give some relevant arguments to support your opinion.

britpopbaby said...

Wow, where are these trolls coming in from? I thought I'd fixed my shit filter - obviously not. Maybe I'll have to upgrade to premium.

JoyceDavenport said...

I relate to what the Bearded lady said about the messiah like images Stephen has used about Jake. The whole poem seems to be about giving him a sense of his history and place in the Gyllenhall lineage – and also in the world The phrase ‘look at you anywhere across the globe’- which I take as a reference to Jake’s image being everywhere. Before modern times the only global images would be those of religious founders and saints and royalty and nobility. I get the sense that Stephen feels Jake is a pinnacle in the line (the reference to mountain view) and the phrase, ‘pure born God son’ has stuck with me since the first reading. It is quite extraordinary as immediately invokes the virgin birth.

There is an understanding in eastern religion of reincarnation and the fact that some souls- generally considered wise -are old souls. Old however also denotes tired. There is also an understanding that religious founders are ‘pure’ and new and fresh- without the burden of many lives and full of energy. It takes that kind of energy to sparkle and shine in the world- in any sphere- religion, politics science or arts. The pure soul can see clearly and others are attracted to their energy. I feel that Stephen sensed from birth that Jake’s energy is special and that he would rise to the top in whatever he did. In the process he is at once the culmination of all that has gone before and it’s destruction. It is a poem of passing on the flame to a new generation- and one that recognizes that this generation is very special. New energy creates something fresh but it also sweeps away tradition ‘my high gliding stone dead gothic church’. The poem seems to welcome the burning energy of youth that will ‘rage against the dying of the light’ the reference to ‘going to easily into their good night’ seems to be a reference both to Dylan Thomas and his and Jake’s grandfathers alcoholism.
Sorry about the long post but I found the poem so rich and intense I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

nice anonymous said...

Excuse me, all you regulars, while I depart from the blog to sip espresso & ponder the cracks in the sidewalks. ;-)

(Espresso? In this heat & humidity?)

If you're going to criticize the guy's poem, Anonymous, you have to say a little more than: "This sucks." That kind of remark just isn't helpful for any artist to consider, if he or she is working at a particular art & trying to do better with each effort.

JoyceDavenport said...

Hey nice anonymous you're a regular here too- or hadn't you noticed?. Jake Watch addiction kinda creeps up on you doesn't it? It's a bit like trolls.

As if simple Jake addiction wasn't enough to be going on with.

Jake's Bint said...

gorgeous

Seaweed said...

A touching gift for a son from a loving father.

Sirius said...

If you've got your hot, little hands on "Claptrap" check out "On Opening Night" and "Light," which I'm sure are about Jake. And also "Vertigo," which seems to be about a baby who did not make it into the world.

Anonymous said...

^^^

Apparently Naomi had a miscarriage before Maggie was born.

Dottieb said...

only1annabel said...
Awww can this family get any more appealing! Hands up if you wanna be a Gyllenhaal!!!

-- I do! Maybe they'll adopt me! No, wait. . . . I'm older than Stephen. . . . I'll have to adopt them!

Dottieb said...

It would be neat if Stephen made an audio CD of "Claptrap." Or maybe Jake could do it!

Anonymous said...

Although the 4th line is a tad anti-Muggle I absolutely love it! And the whole poem although of a strange rhythm has a strong voice sure in its own truth.

The whole piece gives me the overwhelming impression that the father cannot believe the beauty of the son he helped create.

So no pressure for the son then!

I found the comments you guys made about the mountain being perspective and the 'burn us too'being about breaking from convention fascinating.

Ultimately I find that the poem ends with hope 'not for naught' 'phoenix ash'. Also in the context of the senseless fury of humans in general I find it beautiful that he speaks of 'good rage' implying its cleansing, cathartic necessity.

And in the end the last line speaking to perhaps allay fears that he is baring his soul here (this may help those who have felt voyeuristic reading the poem) that these words are only some of those that exist, a glimpse of the depth of his feelings for his son.

I don't know much about the religious references but how wonderful for him to feel this way about his son and how wonderful for his son that he feels this way about him and is able to say it to him and for all the world to hear.

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