Modern poetry & art by the contemporary Cleveland artist & poet Steven B. Smith
Popcorn Box Serves Up Poetic Tribute To Film
The Plain Dealer
Steven B. Smith is a Cleveland artist, poet and publisher whose journal "ArtCrimes" features the work of writers and visual artists worldwide.
Daniel Thompson, recently named Cuyahoga County's poet laureate, has written poetry for more than 30 years.
Smith and Thompson co-edited "Crimes in the Dark: Reel-Life Art," a recently published collection of Thompson's movie-related poetry, packaged in a popcorn box with coupons for film-related events.
Last week they stopped by to talk about the collection:
Steven B. Smith: Daniel came up with the whole thing.
Daniel Thompson: When I did "Truffaut and True Friends" - was that (ArtCrimes) No. 4?
DT: That was animal poems. I wanted (a friend) to come up with another (book) of movie-related poems. But he never did it. That's when I got the idea. The idea for putting it in a popcorn box, I can't remember when I got that idea.
SS: You mentioned it at - I can't remember what the bar used to be, the Babylon? Robert Ritchie was reading.
DT: I don't know. I kept thinking of movies, cinema - I have this poem "In the Dark" - popcorn - so it came sort of out of that poem.
Movies have been a big influence on me. At one time, I used to go to 10 movies a week. There's a theater in Chicago where I would go to two double features and sit through them in one day.
But not that many people refer to movies in their poems. That's why I decided to do all the poetry. There weren't that many people I knew in Cleveland that did movie-related poetry.
Also I figured we could get a quickie "ArtCrimes" out of it. As it turned out, I think this thing has been - it seems to me three years...
SS: Two years. You're a year late.
DT: It's been on my mind for that long at least.
SS: You're 18 months late.
Thompson said the graphics didn't come out as he had expected.
DT: I sent over 100 postcards all over the world because (Smith) has this great mailing list of artists; I got stuff that didn't seem to be film-related. They didn't understand the concept. To me, it was the simplest thing in the world. As Smith says: Film embraces everything.
SS: I don't care what you do, it's going to fit.
DT: I was dumfounded. I thought it would be real easy to relate to. I thought there would be lots of Elvises and Marilyn Monroes, and there wasn't.
SS: I'm the only one that did either one.
DT: I told them my poems are very tenuous. Some of them are deeper into movies, some less. But "In the Dark" is about going to movies. That's the real movie poem in there. And "Car Talk" was inspired by two movies: "Wings of Desire" and "Orphee."
SS: I've got one, I can't afford the other. I have 800 movies now in my collection.
DT: Some of this stuff was written 30 years ago, some last year. I figure what I write is timeless, so I take it from my whole life.
Thompson strolled away to chat with a friend. Smith talked about his role in the project.
SS: I published it, I did a lot of illustration, I laid the whole thing out, I edited it, I paid for it. I got a lot of the artwork for Daniel. I even typed in Daniel's poetry into the computer. Daniel inspired it; I basically did all the work. I didn't mind. Eight months ago, I started collecting movies, and now I have 800 movie titles going back to 1895. If you name something good, I probably have it. If you name something bad, I probably have it.
DT: (Returning): All right, this is "In the Dark."
Plain Dealer: When was this written?
DT: Oh - it was written when De Sica's "A Brief Vacation" came out. When was that? It was a long time ago.
SS: His most famous film is "The Bicycle Thief." That's the one everybody knows.
DT: When I went to Oregon last year, I wrote "Warning of Danger." That's in there. About Cary Grant and the cat burglar. That's the most recent one.
It seems ArtCrimes 12 has been a pretty hot item.
DT: You know the book is sold out. I sold it out in a week.
SS: A week. Exactly one week.
DT: I sold a lot at different poetry readings. I sold some in the parking lot at the Cleveland Cinemateque.
SS: One thing I liked about this is, one of my programmers at work I got to contribute, he had never done a piece of art in his life. He did a very nice piece, too. We got a May Show winner in here: Ken Nevadomi.
DT: Also in here is my trip to Oregon, about the Forest Gathering of Poets. It's a story, an eight pager. It mentions Ronald Reagan's home, Gary Cooper's college. So that's what justified it.
SS: I like the fact that the pages are loose, too. I like the popcorn box for it's look, its symbolism. But it's just not strong. You can't put it under your arm and walk across the street with it.
DT: And the film-related coupons.
SS: Although in this case, the advertisers did not pay a single penny to be in here. We don't accept advertising. But I like passing coupons on to our customers.
DT: And these (holds up a flier for the James Dean Gallery in Fairmount, Ind., another item included in the box). I took these off the Indiana Turnpike; I've been stockpiling these for years.
SS: I've lost about $2,300 so far on ArtCrimes. This is the first one I've ever made money on. I lose about $200 an issue.
DT: This is the first one you've made money on?
SS: Out of 12 issues, I've lost $2,300. I tend to give them away a lot. I'm not really into putting a price on art.