by John Deming
Woody Allen’s movie Midnight in Paris is up for some Oscars tonight. Allen has made more than 40 movies and they contain a bounty of literary references. Here are eight great poetry moments in Woody Allen’s work.
1. Dickinson in Shadows and Fog
My personal favorite Woody Allen poetry reference comes in Shadows and Fog when an arrogant artiste clown (John Malkovich) runs into a young, wealthy student (John Cusack); the clown is in search of his girlfriend (Mia Farrow), a sword swallower who fled the circus when she found the clown fooling around with a trapeze artist (Madonna). The student has just slept with the sword swallower at a brothel and pines for her. Here’s how their conversation begins:
Clown: Oh, mercy. We never know when we have a good thing. We always have to ruin it.
Student: I know exactly how you feel. The earthly paradise known as woman.
Clown: All we’ll ever know of heaven.
Student: All we need know of hell.
They are referencing Emily Dickinson’s two stanza poem #1732:
My life closed twice before its close;
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me,
So huge, so hopeless to conceive,
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.