Tuesday 14 June 2011

Rylance Walks through Wall

The British actor Mark Rylance left the audience thoroughly mystified at the Tony Awards ceremony the other night. Instead of the traditional gushing acceptance speech, he recited part of a poem by a Minnesotan 'prose poet' called Louis Jenkins. It's called Walking Through Walls, and in full it goes like this:

'Unlike flying or astral projection, walking through walls is a totally earth-related craft, but a lot more interesting than pot making or driftwood lamps. I got started at a picnic up in Bowstring in the northern part of the state. A fellow walked through a brick wall right there in the park. I said, "Say, I want to try that." Stone walls are best, then brick and wood. Wooden walls with fiberglass insulation and steel doors aren't so good. They won't hurt you. If your wall walking is done properly, both you and the wall are left intact. It is just that they aren't pleasant somehow. The worst things are wire fences, maybe it's the molecular structure of the alloy or just the amount of give in a fence, I don't know, but I've torn my jacket and lost my hat in a lot of fences. The best approach to a wall is, first, two hands placed flat against the surface; it's a matter of concentration and just the right pressure. You will feel the dry, cool inner wall with your fingers, then there is a moment of total darkness before you step through on the other side.'

Hmm... Well, it may not be much of a poem, but it's one heck of an acceptance speech. I hope the trend catches on - it would liven up the Oscars.
Rylance, by the way, is a repeat offender. At the 2008 Tonys he treated the audience to another dose of Louis Jenkins, one called Back Country:

'When you are in town, wearing some kind of uniform is helpful, policeman, priest, etc. Driving a tank is very impressive, or a car with official lettering on the side. If that isn't to your taste you could join the revolution, wear an armband, carry a homemade flag tied to a broom handle, or a placard bearing an incendiary slogan. At the very least you should wear a suit and carry a briefcase and a cell phone, or wear a team jacket and a baseball cap and carry a cell phone. If you go into the woods, the back country, someplace past all human habitation, it is a good idea to wear orange and carry a gun, or, depending on the season, carry a fishing pole, or a camera with a big lens. Otherwise it might appear that you have no idea what you are doing, that you are merely wandering the earth, no particular reason for being here, no particular place to go.'

What does he see in him, I wonder?


  1. Louis Jenkins was interviewed about the reading of his writing here:

    "For His Tonys Speech, Rylance Turns to a Favorite Source"

  2. Thanks Dave - it's still kind of mystifying though, isn't it?

  3. I'm mystified, Nige. But then, I'm mystified by so many things.

  4. 'Dave Itzkoff, live-blogging this year's show for the New York Times, did not seem immediately impressed by Jenkins' poem--nor did he seem to recognize it as a poem at all. "If you missed any portion of Mr. Rylance's speech, just say a bunch of words at random and you will have successfully recreated it," Itzkoff wrote. (The Times later rectified the mistake with a blog entry.)'

    From "Duluth poet has a very subtle moment in the sun" Posted by: Laurie Hertzel under Book news, Local authors. Updated: June 15, 2011 - 3:21 PM
    Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)


  5. Hi Nige,
    News about Mark Rylance and Louis Jenkins:

    'Connie Wanek interviews poet Louis Jenkins and Tony Award-winner Mark Rylance about their collaboration on the play "Nice Fish" and its evolutions from page to stage, as they prepare for the Guthrie's world premiere this spring':


    Nice Fish by Louis Jenkins and Mark Rylance:
    Intro guide