Best Woody Allen Poetry Moments

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.


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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.