Gerard Malanga, 2010. Photograph by Asako Kitaori. © Asako Kitaori
Born in the Bronx in 1943, Gerard Malanga started writing poetry in his late teens. His first volume, 3 Poems for Benedetta Barzini, appeared in 1967, and he has since published roughly a dozen collections of poetry. Since his start in the New York art scene of the sixties, Malanga has also worked extensively in film and photography. He is primarily known for his emphatic black-and-white portraits of fellow writers, poets, and artists as well as Screen Tests, a series of silent film portraits he produced with Andy Warhol. The following is an excerpt of a conversation that took place via e-mail over several months in the fall of 2010 between my home in Copenhagen and Malanga’s in upstate New York.
You’re a photographer, filmmaker, and poet. Which of these is primary for you?
I’ve always considered myself a poet in everything that I do, whether it’s photography or movie-making. The one thing that unites all three is the image, the language of the image. Jean Cocteau was my inspiration and model as a polymath. His works were evidence of what one can do in a number of mediums.
When I started writing poetry in my senior term of high school—I was sixteen—I felt in touch with a secret language. It gave me a sense of identity. I suddenly discovered I wasn’t alone. I saw that I was part of a tradition. I truly believe I was fated to become a poet and that I was guided by some mysterious force.
I was a kid of the streets. There were no books to speak of in the apartment where we lived. The neighborhood library was my home away from home and on weekends I’d go to the movies, absorbed by the magic of the big screen. All that I’ve done in my life thus far, all the poems and all the pictures, are not so much an intermingling of my life with art but a divine accident. Read More