The Sinking of the Titanic – James Cameron, M. Night Shyamalan, Max Beckmann, and Some Haiku – 100 Year Anniversary

One hundred years from this coming Saturday night, the HMS Titanic struck an iceberg, broke into pieces, and slipped into the cold Atlantic and into legend.

It would be quite a task to collect all the reams of paper, the miles of celluloid, and the billions of bytes that have been dedicated to discussing the mysteries or assigning the blame or drawing the lessons–all the visions and revisions–of that sad night.

James Cameron, the director of Titanic (newly re-released in 3D) has spent a considerable portion of his life and fortune toward both significant real life discovery and fictional storytelling about the ship.

Several years ago I used to try this Titanic joke–though it was really quite short–out on friends:

Me: “Hey, I just read on the Internet that James Cameron is going to team up with M. Night Shyamalan to make a sequel to Titanic.

Friend: No way!

Me: Yeah. It’s going to be a metaphysical, disaster thriller called “Icy Dead People.”

And as an aside, a freak iceberg–perhaps a mystical, imaginary one–would be as good as an explanation as any as to the mystery of the disintegration and sinking of M. Night’s movie career…but I digress.

To reflect rather more seriously on the Titanic tragedy though, the painting above by Max Beckmann hangs in the Saint Louis Art Museum and is a pretty effective depiction of the harsh, cold sea in contrast with the ironically warm lights of the doomed ship. Though in reality the sea was quite a bit more calm on that night–at least until the ship went down–the painting works as an expressionist piece depicting the turmoil and despair that the people must have experienced.

And, to add my own tiny poetic contribution to the titanic Titanic colloquy, here are some linked haiku:

glimmering city
on waves, portholes like strata,
ship as metaphor

ship as metaphor
a horizontal babel
towering in waves

towering in waves
the snows from ten thousand years
chilling black waters

chilling black waters
pour through the jagged gash in
the pride of an age

the pride of an age
is settling down, down, down
the cold atlantic



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