Monday, June 30, 2008

Looney Tunes Poetry

Via Midori Snyder, I learned this weekend how American poet laureate Billy Collins was inspired by Bugs Bunny and friends:

As an early devotee of Looney Tunes cartoons, I was fascinated by the strange freedoms of these characters, especially their ability to shape-shift -- like Ovid on speed. Clearly, Bugs Bunny knows as much about leaping, not to mention whirling, zooming and, of course, hopping, as any of the great Spanish poets whom Bly credits with the knack of slipping through walls from one room of the psyche into another. Bugs can be in two places at once, which he is whenever Elmer Fudd points his shotgun down one of the two holes of the rabbit's underground residence. And just as Pirandello and other modern dramatists sought to break down the actor/audience barrier, so Looney Tunes allowed an animated character to talk directly to the movie house audience or to criticize the very hand of its animators, thereby betraying the text itself. In one cartoon which mixes animation with a live action sequence, Porky Pig barges into producer Leon Schlesinger's office demanding to be let out of his contract. Another cartoon opens quietly with the figure of Elmer Fudd in full hunting regalia tip-toeing left to right through the woods. Then, as if noticing a noisy late-comer to the theater or the sound of a shaken box of candy, Fudd stops, turns to face the audience, puts one of his four fingers to his lips and says in a seething whisper: "Shhhh! It's wabbit season." Ah, Elmer, you unlikely modernist! What were your creators reading? Was animator Chuck Jones curling up at night with a volume of French surrealist poetry?

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