Double Ds: Kurt Brown

Kurt Brown joins the Double Ds!

Brown is the founder of the Aspen Writers’ Conference and edited the Aspen Anthology.  His poems have appeared in the Ontario Review, Massachusetts Review, Crazyhorse, Southern Poetry Review, Harvard Review, and many more. His books include Sincerest Flatteries: A Little Book of Imitations, Return of the ProdigalsFables from the Ark, Future Ship, and More Things in Heaven and Earth.  No Other Paradise, Brown’s latest collection, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press. Click here for more information on Kurt Brown.

Denise Asks:
Who is your favorite actor and why?

Kurt Brown:
This is a hard one —  I want to say anyone who makes me forget who they really are and convinces me that they are really the character they are playing. But that’s way too general. I could list a number of actors who always convince me — Richard Burton, Meryl Streep, Anthony Hopkins, Cate Blanchett, Laura Linney, early Jack Nicholson, much of Brando, Helen Mirren, Tom Hanks in one scene from “Punchline,” Jeremy Irons, John Hurt, Vanessa Redgrave, among others  (actors who have never convinced me of anything: Keith Carradine, Tom Cruise, Dennis Hopper, Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Redford, Kathy Bates, Sylvester Stallone, all clunky and painfully self-conscious). But these are all English speaking, contemporary actors. Sometimes (often) totally unknown actors will sweep me away with their performances, and the best actors in any film are frequently not the stars but those in supporting roles. What about actors from other countries and other cultures? And what about the great actors of the past, even silent film actors? I love everything about Chaplin but his sentimentality. Kurosawa’s actors are stylized, but great. Sometimes, in some films, Gerard Depardieu; and the new French sensation, Audrey Tatu.  I think Claire Danes has great tragic potential. Dustin Hoffman has entertained me for years, but only as a comic actor. Some Australian actors whose names escape me at the moment. The brilliance of Antonio Mastroianni. But I’m only running on. I haven’t answered your question, only circled it. I hope that’s sufficient.

Dustin asks:
What book(s) had the most influence on you as you started to write poetry?

Kurt Brown:
This is easy: Edith Hamilton’s book about Greek mythology, “Timeless Tales…” etc. I read this book in high school on my own (one of the first books I read that wasn’t assigned) and it blew my mind. What thrilled me was the drama, violence, sudden metamorphosis, and surprisingly human character of the gods. But what really happened, without my knowing it at the time, was that the book opened me to the power of imagination. Film, television, and radio hadn’t done this, at least not as well. But readingabout the gods expanded the possibilities, for me, of what imagination can do. Text was far more powerful for me than objectified art because I had to create a world myself, not just observe someone else’s version of one. Somewhere in his work Thoreau boldly asserts that no great poetry has been written since the Greek myths. This shocked me: what about Shakespeare, Milton, The Romantics, and so on. But I can see now where he was coming from: the primal, uncivilized imagination untouched by culture and Tradition. Later, in college, Dante’s “Inferno” took me even farther, deeper into the possibilities of the imagination. I was stricken with the power of it, and I’ve never recovered.

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