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Cinema Muto
Jesse Lee Kercheval
Other Formats
Cinema Muto (E Book)
96 pages, 6 x 9

About the Book

In Cinema Muto, Jesse Lee Kercheval examines the enduring themes of time, mortality, and love as revealed through the power of silent film. Following the ten days of the annual Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Italy, this collection of ekphrastic poems are love letters to the evocative power of silent cinema. Kercheval’s poems elegantly capture the allure of these rare films, which compel hundreds of pilgrims from around the world—from scholars and archivists, to artists and connoisseurs—to flock to Italy each autumn. Cinema Muto celebrates the flickering tales of madness and adventure, drama and love, which are all too often left to decay within forgotten vaults. As reels of Mosjoukine and D. W. Griffith float throughout the collection, a portrait also emerges of the simple beauty of Italy in October and of two lovers who are drawn together by their mutual passion for an extinct art. Together they revel in recapturing “the black and white gestures of a lost world.”


Cinema Muto is a tender tribute to the brief yet unforgettable reign of silent film. Brimming with stirring images of dreams, desire, and the ghosts of cinema legends gone by, Kercheval’s verse is a testament to the mute beauty and timeless lessons that may still be discovered in a fragile roll of celluloid.





Cinema Muto, Jesse Lee Kercheval’s astonishingly moving and personal paean to silent film succeeds in “saving silence,” as her first poem announces, while also, paradoxically, giving it a contemporary voice. This book is a fascinating look at silent film that is also, as in all good poetry, a journey of self-discovery.”—Sharon Dolin, author of Burn and Dodge

“This miraculous work—each poem a transformation of script into story, silent film into loud life—is the one book you MUST read this year.”— Hilda Raz, author of All Odd and Splendid

“Jesse Lee Kercheval’s Cinema Muto is a richly complex and marvelously inventive sequence—proudly sui generis in its ability to combine a quirky and individual lyric voice with a novelistic narrative. We can’t help but delight in the book’s surprises and genre-hopping, but Kercheval’s ultimate intent is elegiac: the book is not merely a lament for a lost art form, but a bittersweet reckoning with all things transient, including ourselves. If justice were poetic, a movie adaptation of Cinema Muto would be soon to follow.”— David Wojahn, author of Interrogation Palace: New and Selected Poems 1982–2004


First Prize Posner Poetry Award 2009 from the Council for Wisconsin Writers

Outstanding Achievement in Poetry recognition by the Wisconsin Library Association Literary Awards Committee

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