how does our rising terror...

from my anthology of must read (a)merican poems

Jane Cooper

Seventeen Questions About KING KONG

The most amazing thing I know about Jane Cooper
is that she’s the niece of King Kong.

     —James Wright

Is it a myth? And if so, what does it tell us about ourselves?

Is Kong a giant ape, or is he an African, beating his chest like a responsive gong?

Fay Wray lies in the hand of Kong as in the hand of God the Destroyer. She gives the famous scream. Is the final conflict (as Merian C. Cooper maintained) really between man and the forces of nature, or is it a struggle for the soul and body of the white woman?

Who was more afraid of the dark, Uncle Merian or his older sister? She was always ready to venture downstairs whenever he heard a burglar.

When he was six his Confederate uncle gave him EXPLORATIONS AND ADVENTURES IN EQUATORIAL AFRICA by Paul du Chaillu, 1861. Does that island of prehistoric life forms still rise somewhere off the coast of the Dark Continent, or is it lost in preconscious memory?

Is fear of the dark the same as fear of sexuality? Mary Coldwell his mother would have destroyed herself had she not been bound by a thread to the wrist of her wakeful nurse. What nights theirs must have been!

Why was I too first called after Mary (or Merian) Coldwell, till my mother, on the morning of the christening, decided it was a hard-luck name?

How does our rising terror at so much violence, as Kong drops the sailors one by one into the void or rips them with his fangs, resolve itself into shame at Kong’s betrayal?

Is Kong’s violence finally justified, because he was in chains?

Is King Kong our Christ?

Watch him overturn the el-train, rampage through the streets! But why is New York, the technological marvel, so distrusted, when technologically the film was unsurpassed for its time?

Must the anthropologist always dream animal dreams? Must we?

Kong clings to the thread of the Empire State Building. He wavers. Why did Uncle Merian and his partner Schoedsack choose to play the airmen who over and over exult to shoot Kong down?

He said: Why did I ever leave Africa?—and then as if someone had just passed a washcloth over his face: But I’ve had a very good marriage.


A work of wonder and oddity. I’m amazed at Cooper’s use of form, at the great awakenings that come from thoughts cast aside.

Not nonsense. No. Words as anti-matter, as dark matter – that suddenly, and without explanation, appear whole.

This poem finds its voice as film – the rush of visuals, as though words were streaming through an editor’s reel ... clickclickclickclickclick ... a razor cutting here, cutting there, letting go ... stories in pools on the floor ... until a sure hand gathers the bits, puts them on a table, tapes them together – such an unlikely moment - and I cannot, for the life of me, imagine any other way.

Film as mirror; poetry as mirror.


Sara Kearns said...

hi sam,

'really good post -- both the poem and your analysis and reflections. 'very timely, too. which reminds me, evocative post title, as well.

'hoping you're doing well.


sam of the ten thousand things said...

I appreciate the read and comment, Sara.