Author: James Franco
Publication date: Jan 2016
Description: James Franco’s chapbook of poems Straight James/Gay James explores the different personas he uses in his writing, art, acting, and filmmaking. The poetry varies from the imagistic to the prosaic. The chapbook also contains an interview of “Gay James” conducted by “Straight James.” Yes, Straight James asks the question: “Let’s get substantial: are you f*****g gay or what?”
James Franco is an actor, director, writer, and visual artist. His poetry has appeared in a chapbook, Strongest of the Litter, and the book, Directing Herbert White. He is also the author of two works of fiction, Palo Alto and Actors Anonymous, and two books of collage of memoir, snapshots, poems, and artwork, A California Childhood and Hollywood Dreaming.
I got to read an advanced version of this title on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. It was my first netgalley book experience, and I rather enjoyed it. I normally prefer the hard copy books, but I do think I will have to do this more often.
So this book grew on me the more I read on. I have never read anything by James Franco and wasn't sure if this book was authentic, a satire, or a joke. The first poem, Dumbo, didn't leave much of an impression on me, until I re-read it after completing the whole book, then suddenly some of the lines made sense, and the poem as a whole came more into focus.
In "Custom Hotel", I liked the imagery the most-
The white sun drops below The West Side horizon Like a baby in a chrisom,
Baptized in a sky of blood,
At night: a centipede of lights.
another favorite line-
Beyond, the planes Lift, as if on strings.
Above the black damped city
The "Gucci Book of the Dead" had a rhythm I liked, but otherwisedidn't leave much of an impression on me. "Black Death" I did not care for at all.
Now what really woke me up is "I was Born into a World" I loved every line of this poem! Wonderful, concise, powerful, relate-able. This poem spoke to me the most, and actually put a smile on my face as I continued to read it. Well done Franco, I thought, well done. I don't want to re-quote from it, because I loved all of it, so I will just leave it at that.
"Venice" I loved for it's historical film references, and it's simplicity, and because it made me feel there, at that time, eating omelettes, and watching the skaters in the bowl with James Franco.
My second favorite poem is "Hello Woman" another one wherein I loved every verse..."my only escape is a poem, feel the curves they are the liquid shape..."
"Rebel" was thoughtful and well spun. From going to Dean, the crash, his ghost, his unintentional legacy, to the MTV and social media era, the selfie, and what it even means to be a rebel anyways.
The Lana Del Rey poems were okay.. just okay.
The Brother poems were excellent. In the previous poems, the line breaks and the paragraph breaks did not always flow well in my internal narrative reading voice. But I thought the breaks in "Brother One" were executed quite well, adding both meaning and emphasis where it wouldn't have otherwise been.
All of the brother poems, and "Twenty year Chip" gave me insight to the author as a person, it made him more human, and more graspable. I enjoyed the grounded-ness to them.
"Straight James/ Gay James," was entertaining, but to me personally it didn't hold much value within the eye of poetry. It read too much as a conversation, not really what I am looking for in a poem, but still, as I said, it was entertaining to read.
Overall I was kind of surprised to find myself enjoying this read. I liked that the topics varied so widely, were personal, and the sharp images he conjured with some of the verses.
I'd give this book 4 stars.