Cathy Cook presents “Immortal Cupboard” film

Laura Streyle

Filmmaker Cathy Cook presented a collage of images shaped from the life of Lorine Niedecker, a quietly powerful 20th-century female poet native to Wisconsin, Wednesday, April 15. Cook’s film, “Immortal Cupboard: In Search of Lorine Niedecker,” was projected onto the large screen in the Wriston auditorium.
Students, faculty members and other curious or personally connected community members filled the seats of the auditorium to view Cook’s new and unconventional documentary of a poet that some literary critics have described as the 20th century’s Emily Dickinson.
Cook is an exciting member of the artistic community of poetry filmmakers. Experimenting with innovative audio/visual techniques while simultaneously expressing an acute sensitivity for her subject matter, Cook creates work that opens the viewer’s mind to a new realm of connection with poetry.
In her introduction to the film, Cook advised the audience, saying, “When you see my work, think collage. I create 2-D collage, 3-D collage and film collage.”
The effectiveness of the collage technique used in “Immortal Cupboard” is evident. The documentary was one of four films to receive this year’s Wisconsin Jury Prize at the Wisconsin Film Festival.
The Lawrence Film Production Club was instrumental in bringing Cook to the Lawrence campus. In addition, Julie Lindemann and Johnny Shimon, assistant professors of art and film studies, share an artistic relationship with Cook; many parts of the film were shot on their farm. What is more, Lindemann plays the role of Niedecker in the film.
A “Fox Valley gal,” Cook possessed an inside awareness of a Wisconsin community not unlike that of Niedecker. She relied not on scholarly commentary on Niedecker’s work but rather on the voices of those who were close to Niedecker, those who developed respect for Niedecker as a poet of place and those who fell in love with her work. Cook gives new voice and visibility to the extraordinary works of this very private poet.
Aside from a few unfortunate technical mishaps with the infamous Wriston auditorium DVD projector, “Immortal Cupboard” proved to be a fascinating and eye-opening film. The film successfully portrays the way in which Niedecker focused on her immediate surroundings: everyday objects, images of nature, and the culture of the people in her community, to produce compellingly personal contributions to the world of poetry.

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