Amber Tamblyn’s Poetry Corner: Mary Jo Bang’s New Poetry Collection Lets the Poet Play All The Characters In Life

by Amber Tamblyn

Mary Jo Bang’s intriguing new collection, A Film In Which I Play Everyone (Graywolf Press), imagines a world of familiar stories involving the many experiences—both harrowing and heartbreaking—that make up any given life, but in which the poet gets to play each character of those lives. These inventive, sharp poems are written like the best scenes of a film, the kind that make a movie memorable, and Bang directs her readers toward the points of view she wants them to experience, in the exact way she wants them to be experienced, like any good filmmaker would. In the title poem, “A Film In Which I Play Everyone,” Bang writes: “Home, you unpack the items/you bought, crease the bags flat, stack them out of sight./All without saying a word. This a nonspeaking part./You’re an extra. That day you were filmed/on the steps walking into the school dance,/the costume you wore was pure you.” These are beautiful meditations on life, love, ambition, and the power of pondering what a different ending could look like for any of us, if only we could write them in just the ways we not only wanted to, but needed to.


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