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Book Title

A Film in Which I Play Everyone

Author 1
Mary Jo Bang
Poem Excerpt
 We are all dying but some more than most,
so says my interiority. It talks to me
as green fills the screen. It takes my arm
and walks alongside me. I never ask
where I’m going. I know I'm not meant to arrive.
—from “Here We All Are with Daphne”
A Film in Which I Play Everyone takes its title from a response David Bowie gave to a fan who asked if he had upcoming film roles. “I’m looking for backing for an unauthorized autobiography that I am writing,” Bowie answered. “Hopefully, this will sell in such huge numbers that I will be able to sue myself for an extraordinary amount of money and finance the film version in which I will play everybody.”
Mary Jo Bang’s brilliant poems might be the soundtrack to such a movie, where the first-person speaker plays herself and everyone she’s ever met. She falls in and out of love with men, with women, and struggles to realize her ambitions while suffering crushing losses that give rise to dark thoughts. She’s drawn to stories that mirror her own condition: those of women who struggle to speak in a world that would silence them. Embedded in these poems are those minor events that inexplicably persist in the memory and become placeholders: the time she lied and had her mouth washed out with soap; the time someone said she wasn’t his “original idea of beauty but something. / Something he couldn’t quite // put his hands on”; the time she stood in indifferent moonlight on a pier as a cat lapped at the water. Tinged with dark humor and sharpened with keen camerawork, A Film in Which I Play Everyone stars Bang at her best, her most provocative.

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 Mary Jo Bang is “an ingenious phrase maker, startling English out of its idiomatic slumber” (The New York Times Book Review)

About the Author

Mary Jo  Bang
Credit: Carly Ann Faye

Mary Jo Bang has published eight poetry collections, including A Doll for Throwing and Elegy, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and new translations of Dante’s Inferno and Purgatorio. She teaches at Washington University in Saint Louis.

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  • "Bang’s cinematic ninth collection (after A Doll for Throwing) takes a tour of lived experience through a capricious lens that superpositions the familiar and the uncanny... Wry and invigorating, this resonant collection mollifies the need for certainty."—Publishers Weekly
  • "These inventive, sharp poems are written like the best scenes of a film, the kind that make a movie memorable, and Bang directs her readers toward the points of view she wants them to experience, in the exact way she wants them to be experienced, like any good filmmaker would."—Amber Tamblyn, Bust Magazine
  • "For all of us who are searching for ways to understand the life given to us, A Film in Which I Play Everyone parses that endless mystery."—Annelie Hyatt, Columbia Journal of Literary Criticism
  • "Many of these poems deal either directly or indirectly with outsiderness—the feeling that someone else is directing your movie... She is suggesting, it seems, that being oneself, and being at peace with the world, can be a good and even necessary alternative to being in power. Then again, why should the two be mutually exclusive? Why should anyone have to choose?"—Liza Katz Duncan, Los Angeles Review of Books
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