Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Bennett blog.

Yesterday Mac Bennett's name came up in the blog as a member of Gonzo Theater in Nashville, and later as an actor in a couple of Ernest movies. Before I took up the subject, I hadn't thought of him in years. I didn't know him very well, but I did know him because we had some friends in common, people I knew at Vanderbilt. I think Mac was a student there at one point, too, but I'm not sure anymore, and he's not in the Vanderbilt alumni on-line directory. He would have been a few years ahead of me.

Professionally, the last thing mentioned in the IMDb is a short film he produced in 1992. So, from my point of view, he's someone whose later activities and whereabouts are unknown, even to the extent of whether he's still alive or not (I hope he is). Anyone with any kind of social life can probably come up with of a raft of old acquaintances like that.

Still, I have one fond and vivid memory of Mac Bennett. Mac had some gift for comedy, and an enthusiasm for exposition -- especially at parties. He looked the part too, with a stocky built, unkempt hair, lively pale eyes and usually a cigarette or a drink in one hand. I remember him best from one particular party; I don't remember which one it was, though it might have been New Year's Eve 1985 at my flat, which was a corker.

The party wasn't a poetry reading party by any stretch of the imagination, but at one point Mac was inspired to recite a poem -- one that I think I'd heard him recite, from memory, on other occasions. He knew it well, put himself into, and got us all to listen. Not only that, it fit into a festive atmosphere.

It's one of Baudelaire's. I've read that it was originally a prose poem of his, in French of course, but a number of translations of the poem are available. I wouldn't know which translation Mac used, but I've reproduced the cadence of his reading, as best as I can remember, using a translation that I like.

"Get Drunk!"

Always be drunk.
That's it!
The great imperative!
In order not to feel
Time's horrid burden
bruise your shoulders,
grinding you into the earth,
Get drunk and stay that way.
On what?
On wine, poetry, virtue, as you will.
But get drunk.
And if you sometimes happen to wake up
on the porches of a palace,
in the green grass of a ditch,
in the dismal loneliness of your own room,
your drunkenness gone or disappearing,
ask the wind,
ask everything that flees,
everything that groans
or rolls
or sings,
everything that speaks,
ask what time it is;
and the wind,
will answer you:
"Time to get drunk!
Don't be martyred slaves of Time,
Get drunk!
Stay drunk!
On wine, virtue, poetry, as you will!"


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