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Poetry: "The Projectionist's Nightmare" by Brian Patten

23 October, 2009


The Projectionist’s Nightmare

This is the projectionist’s nightmare:
A bird finds it’s way into the cinema,
finds the beam, flies down it,
smashes into a scene depicting a garden,
a sunset, and two people being nice to each other.
Real blood, real intestines, slither down
the likeness of a tree.
‘This is no good,’ screams the audience,
‘This is not what we came to see.’

Brian Patten

This is a fairly simple poem, but in its nine lines it expresses a powerful idea extremely well. The essential theme of The Projectionist’s Nightmare is one that I love to explore. No matter how much we escape from life, it always threatens to come crashing straight back in front of us.

The actual content of the poem is fairly simple to understand, and while it is beautifully written, there is not much to talk about. The bird comes crashing into our escapism, bringing the horrors and gore of the real world into the dark reclusive cinema.

What piques my interest most in this poem is that the scenario presented is not the audience’s nightmare, but rather the projectionist’s nightmare. It is the audience that is shocked back into reality, but they do not anticipate or fear it beforehand. The projectionist, the person who is providing the distraction for the unsuspecting audience, is the one who cannot himself escape the dark realities of the outside world. Even in his domain, where he helps others do the very same, he is unable to take that leap of escapism. I find beauty in the fascinating darkness of that idea. Make of it what you will.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Marius permalink
    23 October, 2009 5:53 pm

    I think he’s just pissed cause he’ll have to clean it up.

  2. Steve permalink
    3 February, 2013 2:11 am

    Patten was writing in the 1960s. The silly comment posted in 2009 can be ignored, but not the poem, which is still resonant in 2013. Refer to ‘Little Johnny’s Confession’ by the same author and think about modern gun violence.

  3. 19 May, 2013 6:58 am

    Car shopping is stressful. Now that there are hundreds of makes and models to choose from, not to mention promotions
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  4. theora permalink
    14 September, 2015 8:50 pm

    not helpful and the analysis is wrong or at least not enough

  5. morton permalink
    15 January, 2017 8:18 pm

    i don’t think the analysis are wrong
    well if they are how do u confirm that

  6. 1 April, 2017 4:53 am

    It’s not it’s

  7. 9 June, 2017 2:11 am

    was the nightmare for the projectionist or for the audience??

    • zama permalink
      7 August, 2017 11:35 pm

      i honestly think for both the audience and the projectionist. the audience because this is their place of escape from reality but here this bird comes crashing down gruesomely reminding them of what life is really like. the projectionists because he is “in charge” of the audiences escape, he is fears the audiences reaction to their interruption of their small escape. hope I made sense.

  8. xxx permalink
    24 February, 2018 5:19 pm

    Very Disgusting

  9. clover permalink
    18 April, 2018 10:56 pm

    I was given this poem today in english and as I read it on the board I thought that this poem had to have a deep meaning and through the entire period I could not stop thinking about the poem and its depth .As soon as I arrived at home I looked the poem up on the internet and I found this .I admit that the poem is very intriguing and I can relate to this poem about my life so I really found it to my liking .

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