Vincent Ferrini calls himself, “the living poem.” At 80 years of age his enthusiasm and energy for life is infectious. Poem In Action portrays the forces which forged him as a poet: his life as an immigrant’s son and factory worker, the Great Depression, the Communist Party and the poetics of place.
Shot over a period of eight years, filmmaker Henry Ferrini provides a nephew’s eye-view of his uncle’s personal journey. From “the last surviving proletarian poet” to the “conscience of Gloucester,” Vincent Ferrini’s work spans five decades. Living outside the academic community, he speaks to literary and non-literary people alike.
His magnetic presence and unyielding creativity make for an energizing example of the artist as a citizen. This is not a portrait of the poet as reclusive or diffident but as a spokesman, social activist, teacher and historian.
Henry Ferrini works out of the port city of Gloucester, Massachusetts. Over the last 25 years, much of his work has focused on what Jack Kerouac called, “the great continent of New England.” His interest in cultural geography has taken him to working-class communities throughout the industrial Northeast unearthing material most would overlook.Ferrini’s films do not follow the conventional patterns of a biographical documentary. He employs a lyrical, impressionist approach that allows for greater exploration of the subject’s philosophies, thoughts and ideas. He calls his work “film poems.” This style is manifest in Polis is This: Charles Olson and the Persistence of Place an hour long journey through the poet and filmmaker’s hometown guided by a who’s who in American poetry: Amiri Baraka, Robert Creeley, Anne Waldman, Vincent Ferrini, John Sinclair, Ed Sanders and John Malkovich. Ferrini’s current project focuses on the great saxophonist Lester Willis Young. Little-known outside jazz circles, Mr. Young’s life could be considered an ugly beauty, a story of exquisite grace set within a time of loathsome racism.