Here is a poem by William Carlos Williams, the guiding spirit of Jim Jarmusch’s movie Paterson.
This Is Just To Say
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
Williams wrote a very long poem called Paterson, about a city in New Jersey. It starts like this:
Paterson lies in the valley under the Passaic Falls
its spent waters forming the outline of his back. He
lies on his right side, head near the thunder
of the waters filling his dreams! Eternally asleep,
his dreams walk about the city where he persists
incognito. Butterflies settle on his stone ear.
Immortal he neither moves nor rouses and is seldom
seen, though he breathes and the subtleties of his machinations
drawing their substance from the noise of the pouring river
animate a thousand automations.
The city is a man and the man is the city, and in the film he is played by Adam Driver. Paterson (no first name given) wakes up at the same time every day next to his wife Laura (Goldshifteh Farahani) and walks to work. Paterson is a bus driver. He listens to the passengers’ conversations but does not join in. He eats his lunch on a bench with a view of Passaic Falls. After his shift he goes home and has dinner with his rather flaky but delightful wife, listens to her latest plans (she wants to be a cupcake mogul and a country singer), then walks their bulldog, Marvin. He stops at the neighborhood bar for a beer. Then he goes home and goes to sleep. The following day his routine starts again, with slight variations.
If I knew I was going to watch a week’s worth of this I might have declined, and I would have regretted it. Nothing much happens in Paterson, and that is the point. Our bus driver (Adam Driver playing a bus driver named Paterson in a movie called Paterson, galaxies away from Girls and Kylo Ren) is a poet, watching and listening. Out of the ordinary, trivial details of daily life he writes poetry. He has a different way of seeing, which Jarmusch lets us experience. (In the morning Laura tells him she dreamed of twins, so everywhere he sees identical pairs.) Overheard tidbits make their way into lines of verse. His questions are mirrored and answered in the outside world.
This silence, solitude, reflection that the wellness industry has appropriated and sold back to us as “mindfulness”, this is where Paterson’s poetry comes from. This is not loneliness, this is creation.
I love this movie. Arrival and Paterson are my two favorite movies of the year because they pay tribute to the power of language.
Book: Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh (later)