Actor and director's debut poetry collection, Directing Herbert White, will deal with 'successes and failures within Hollywood'
Not content with conquering the acting world, the musical world, the directing world and the art world, James Franco is continuing his bid for world domination with the news that he is set to publish his first poetry book.
Ideally suited to the world of poetry – he has an Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina, and played Allen Ginsberg in the film Howl– Franco has been signed by small Minnesota publisher Graywolf Press for his debut collection, Directing Herbert White. The poems will be published in April 2014, with the title taken from a poem about a short film that Franco directed and wrote, which in turn was adapted from Frank Bidart's disturbing poem Herbert White.
Graywolf poetry editor Jeffrey Shotts described Franco's poetry as "a series of portraits of American successes and failures from within Hollywood … But they are also smart and highly aware notes of caution of what can happen when the filmed self becomes fixed and duplicated, while the ongoing self must continue living and watching."
Franco told the New York Times that his title poem, Directing Herbert White, was "about my relationship to that poem, Frank's relationship to the poem as I have learned about it from knowing Frank and the adaptation process," and "how Frank puts so much of himself into the figure of this psycho necrophiliac". He described his other poems as "a way to blend film and poetry and performance and persona – all the things that I think are related to that poem and that process I went through of adapting that poem".
The actor's poetry follows a short story collection, Palo Alto, released by Franco last year. Reaction to the collection was mixed: while Killian Fox in the Observer said the collection was "a promising start, and the Hollywood hunk has definite talent", Catherine Taylor in the Guardian advised making only a "brief trip" to Palo Alto, and Publishers Weekly was even more damning. "The author fails to find anything remotely insightful to say in these 11 amazingly underwhelming stories," wrote its reviewer. "The overall failure of this collection has nothing to do with its side project status and everything to do with its inability to grasp the same lesson lost on its gallery of high school reprobates: there is more to life than this."
Franco also published his first poetry chapbook, Strongest of the Litter, earlier this autumn. Described as "thoroughly beautiful and spare", the poems "have the texture of contending angles", according to their publisher Hollyridge Press. "I'm a raging Kowalski whose/ Temper can be measured by/ How little I can give./ How abusive my reticence," writes Franco.