Finding Poetry in Daily Routines

By Kevin Yu

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Poster of Paterson, (2016.)

Paterson is instantly one of my favorite movie of last year. It is directed by Jim Jarmusch, who is also the director of the unique vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive, starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. Paterson was premiered at Cannes and is still on at a/perture. I strongly recommend it to everyone. Here’s why.

This movie is all about day-to-day mundane life, routines, from Monday to Sunday, literally. It is centered on our protagonist, Paterson, who is a bus driver. What’s special about him is that he also writes poems. Not a poet in any way, he just writes occasionally on his secret notebook. Here are his routines: He gets up in the morning, has breakfast, walks to work, writes some lines before driving, writes some more on lunch break, gets home in the evening, checks mails, fixes the always-misplaced mailbox, has dinner, walks his dog, and goes to a bar. The next day, these exact same routines repeat. Every day of his life is almost identical.

So what’s good about this repetitive and anti-dramatic movie?

The most poetic things originate from our daily lives. Paterson’s everyday life is *almost* identical, but always a little different every day. At one point you are so familiar with his routine, you can sense even the slightest variation, and be marveled at how beautifully these interludes fit. For example, one night as he walks his dog, he hears a guy rapping a self-written, unfinished song in a laundry store while waiting for his laundry done. Paterson stops to listen for a while, with his dog staring curiously. Then he offers his compliment and departed, never to meet that man again. It’s life, and it’s poetic.

And he writes poems. That’s all the magic I need. He writes on his bus before driving out, writing until his coworker comes knocking at his door. He writes on lunch break, sitting before a gorgeous waterfall. He writes in his basement at home, only back to reality when his wife starts looking for him, and she always knows where to find him. He can turn everything in his normal, ordinary, average life into beautiful poems, even a match box.

Paterson is the name of the protagonist, but it is also the name of the city he lives in. William Carlos Williams, a real life poet who comes from this city, is Paterson’s favorite poet and gets mentioned a lot in the movie. He can write everything into a poem. To him, even a bus driver is poetic, according to the movie. This is exactly what this movie is, a poem to a bus driver.

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One Response to Finding Poetry in Daily Routines

  1. mediaphiles says:

    Isn’t it great when a film can follow the ins-and-outs of someone’s mundane routine and we still find it fascinating? While I haven’t seen Paterson, I love your comment about how just the slight variations in the protagonist’s day end up meaning so much to you as the viewer.

    -Lydia Geisel

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