Harry Potter and the Dramatic Poem

I have been thinking about dramatic poems a lot lately; my sudden attention to them as a genre came about while watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I. Cable television now exists in India, as does HBO and other movie channels, and the Harry Potter series is often repeated. So there I was, in the rural mountains of India, watching wizardry in command, and I began wondering why this movie was one of my favorites of the series, if not my absolute favorite. I knew this movie was slow-moving and I generally enjoy slow-moving films, but this was not it, at least not all of it.

I realized then that this movie for the first time — the penultimate movie in the lengthy series — tackled relationship like never before. The actors for six previous movies did a good job at character and believability, but it was like the director of this movie decided it was time to push the acting, push the character relationship, push the drama like it had never been pushed. The last three or four movies in the series were not your average cute family movies, and they put forth entertainment that were dramatic, but based in action. Deathly Hallows Part I was based in drama, with some action. The three main characters were pushed to the edge, their edge, and the scene where Harry and Hermione dance in the tent is the climax of this. It is perhaps the best scene in the movie. Extremely dramatic, with a dance as relief of pressure.

And so at this point my mind turned to the dramatic poem. “My Last Duchess” is arguably the quintessential dramatic poem. And those who take this stand may be correct. Perhaps it’s the pre-modern language, but for me, while I do not deny its importance, “My Last Duchess” fails as the quintessential dramatic poem. For that title, I might just go to Frost’s “Home Burial.” I once read a remarkably detailed criticism of the poem by Randall Jarrell, and ever since then this poem keeps coming back to the forefront of poems I love.

And then it hit me: I don’t believe I have ever really written a dramatic poem. Or if I have, it wasn’t good enough to remember. I have written many narrative poems, but like the other Harry Potter movies, they lack the dedication to relationship, to character, to drama, and I now have it in my mind that I want to be pushed as the actors were in Deathly Hallows Part I. I want to write a dramatic poem that sends me to the edge of my abilities as a poet and then catapults me past it into the next level of my craft, and I may have the perfect subject to do it with: I have been wanting to write a poem about Minnehaha, and I may do so in a collaboration with Angelique Moselle Price. But even if I don’t, Minnehaha will be written about. Dramatically.

That I can promise.

2 thoughts on “Harry Potter and the Dramatic Poem”

  1. Josh, it is time for you to read Gertrude Stein's Stanzas in Meditation: the Corrected Version. Stay tuned Sept 1 for my article about how I came to read it (Scene4 Magazine). When you say Minnehaha and evoke Longfellow you get to the essence of where Stein started for this rather out-there long poem and it is a love poem. She pushes right to the edge and wow, did that ever make Alice jealous. The thing is Stein pours out her heart to ABT. So complicated. yup very interesting your discussion of the dramatic poem.

  2. Thanks Karren. Admittedly, and embarrassingly, I am not sure I ever read a Stein poem. Actually, I am sure I did. But she is someone I have wanted "to read" but never have. Perhaps the time is ripe.

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