James Franco wasn't the first to bring poetry to the big screen; plenty of films have been made about poets and their work. What better time than National Poetry Month to gather some friends, watch a poetry-related movie, and perhaps discuss some of the poet's work after the film?
Poets.org profiles several poetry-related films in detail. Try one of our suggestions below for the perfect cinematic event. Click the title to find out more information on each film.
Films about a poet's life:
The Basketball Diaries —Based on the autobiography by poet and artist Jim Carroll, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, this film depicts Carroll's reckless youth, and the writing that becomes his means of clarity.
Before Night Falls —Javier Bardem plays Chilean poet Reinaldo Arenas in this film, adapted from Arenas's own memoir.
Piñero —Benjamin Bratt stars in this biopic about Puerto Rican poet-playwright Miguel Piñero, who co-founded the Nuyorican Poets Café in New York City.
Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle – The Algonquin Round Table comes alive in this film which features Jennifer Jason Leigh as Dorothy Parker.
Sylvia — The relationship of Ted Hughes, played by Daniel Craig, and Sylvia Plath, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, is detailed in this film that begins with the couple's courtship as young college students.
Tom & Viv —Willem Dafoe and Miranda Richardson star as T.S. Eliot and Vivienne Haigh-Wood in a film that depicts their tumultuous marriage and Eliot's literary success.
Total Eclipse —This film captures the turbulent, explosive affair between Parisian poets Paul Verlaine, played by David Thewlis, and Arthur Rimbaud, played by Leonardo DiCaprio.
Films that feature poetry:
Big Bad Love — A Vietnam vet keen on writing poetry and prose struggles to improve his personal and his writing life in this film, based on the short stories of Mississippi writer Larry Brown. Brown's own poems, and those of William Carlos Williams, are in the film.
Dead Poets Society — Robin Williams plays an English teacher in an East Coast boys' prep school who inspires his students to love poetry, among other life lessons. The film, which popularized the tradition of carpe diem poems, features verse by Frost, Tennyson, and Shakespeare.
Four Weddings and a Funeral— This romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant and Andie Macdowell features a pivotal scene containing W.H. Auden's "Funeral Blues."
Henry Fool — This quirky film features Thomas Jay Ryan as Henry Fool, an ex-convict who encourages a friend, James Urbaniak as sanitation worker Simon Grim, to become a poet. His first work attains public notoriety and chaos ensues. Make it a double feature with the film's sequel, Fay Grim, starring Parker Posey.
HOWL — Starring James Franco as Allen Ginsberg, this film largely revolves around the text of Howl, its composition, initial reading, and the public's reaction—by the movie's end, nearly the entire poem has been recited.
Poetic Justice — Janet Jackson stars as a young woman struggling to find love and meaning in her life. Maya Angelou's poems "Alone" and "Phenomenal Woman" appear in the film, as does Angelou herself.
Shakespeare in Love — This film is a fictional imagining of the endeavors of a young William Shakespeare, played by Joseph Fiennes, and also starring Gwyneth Paltrow as Shakespeare's love interest Viola. The dialogue and subject matter is full of allusions to Shakespeare's work.
Slam — Poetry is a means of redemption in this story about a D.C. youth, his incarceration, and dedication to the spoken word poetry scene upon release. Slam luminaries such as Saul Williams (whose poetry punctuates the film) Taylor Mali, and Bob Holman have cameos.