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Kenneth Rexroth - The Signature of all Things

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(Jul 01, 2010)
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The Signature of All Things expounds on the poet's legacy with captivating recitation, live music, and rare accounts of Rexroth's remarkable life by some of the most important writers, historians, and activists of our day. One special night back in 2005, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth, Los Angeles' premier venue for poetry hosted a night of luminaries celebrating the work of one of the poetry world's stars: Kenneth Rexroth. Held at Beyond Baroque, the notoriously avant-garde Literary Arts Center in Venice Beach, this standing-room-only celebration attracted an eclectic and eccentric roster of participants extolling Rexroth's impact on his art forms. This film documents a magical night of tribute to the genius of Kenneth Rexroth and his numerous timeless contributions to the world culture. Curated and hosted by Grammy-nominated poet Michael C. Ford, this film is a testament to one individual's impact on an art form and expresses a lasting impression of an American original. By turns exuberant and bitter-sweet, this film memorializes Rexroth with wild recitations and wry reminiscences from the assorted friends, family members, former students, writers, music archivists, performers and poets who knew him best. The film bridges the gap between past and present literary generations and shares special memories through forgotten images, rare photographs and original artwork. This lively document will excite the ear and intellect and provide a fuller portrait of Kenneth Rexroth, whose life's work is sure to inspire anyone interested in contemporary poetry.

About the Actor

Arguably one of the most talented and respected artists of his generation, Rexroth was not only a venerated poet, but an essayist, literary critic, translator and painter. Perhaps most significantly, he was also considered instigator of The San Francisco Renaissance. Rexroth became a poetic mentor, promoting the poetry of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Philip Whalen, Denise Levertov, and many others on the radio station KPFA. He organized a weekly salon and invited friends and other poets to come and share their philosophical and poetic theories. Among those in attendance were Robert Duncan and Richard Eberhart. Rexroth organized the lauded October 1955 Six Gallery reading, featuring Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, Michael McClure and introducing the audience to Allen Ginsberg's first public reading of "Howl". Rexroth is considered the originator of poetry performed with Jazz. His work was composed with attention to musical traditions and he performed his poems with jazz musicians. He wrote of jazz poetry: "It takes the poet out of the bookish, academic world and forces him to compete with acrobats, trained dogs, and Singer's Midgets, as they used to say in the days of vaudeville." Jazz poetry is, simply, the recitation of poetry with the music of a jazz band. However, as Rexroth noted, the poem shouldn't merely be read against music, it should integrate into it. "A life-long iconoclast, Rexroth railed against the dominance of the east-coast 'literary establishment' and bourgeois taste that was corrupting American poetry. While he refused to consider himself a Beat poet, his influence as champion of anti-establishment literature paved the way for others to write poems of social consciousness and passionate political engagement. His greatest contribution to American poetry may have been in opening it to Asian influences through his mystical, erotically charged poetry and superb translations." (

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Kenneth Rexroth - The Signature of all Things
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