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Poet returns to New Britain to make film

Published:   |   Updated: July 5, 2014 at 08:01 AM

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (AP) — Thomas Wolfe wrote you can't go home again. Try telling that to the poet and New Britain native, Charles Fort.

For more than 63 years, Fort's talent has taken him to various centers of education. But, he keeps coming home. This time he says he's up from North Carolina to care for his 88-year-old mother.

That's only half the story.

Fort is also here to complete his first novel and film a documentary about New Britain — the city he remembers through his most celebrated poem, "We Fear Not the Father." Fort says for 40 years his father toiled on the night shift grinding ball bearings in a New Britain factory. From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. his father was a barber and a landlord of their east side, three-story tenement.

"He was on call 24 hours a day," Fort says. "I wanted to capture his three jobs and his fourth; he was our father and the scaremonger." On a wall outside his West Main Street apartment hangs a collage of his work; it displays photos and articles about him and his family. Once he's inside, Mo-Jo his fox terrier, wags his tail, happy to greet him. Bookcases line the wall; a Wurlitzer piano occupies one corner.

"It's my daughters'," Fort explains. The corridor to his bedroom is lined with cartons of everything he has written, much of it about the brownfields and ghost factories of New Britain.

His documentary film to be completed in the next few months will be black and white, part history, and like Ingmar Bergman's work, will deal with existential issues of mortality, loneliness and faith. He will use a 3D printer for a Federico Fellini effect.

Like Fellini in "The Clown," Fort has a jocular view of ordered, middle class society. He may even use a drone.

Really?

"It's not going to be your Chamber of Commerce production," he says and smiles.

The silent film is funded by grants and will be entered into competition. "The images, which are the basis for my poetry, will be more striking if the people are voiceless," he explains. "I'll have captions and it will be truthful and heartfelt as any poem I've written. There will be beauty, terror and wit. Just like New Britain."

ABOUT CHARLES FORT:

Born in New Britain, poet Charles Fort has written "We Did Not Fear The Father: New and Selected Poems" by Red Hen Press (2010) and "Mrs. Belladonna's Supper Club Waltz, New and Selected Prose Poems, Volumes 1 and 2," by Backwaters Press (2010). Fort's poems have appeared in "The Best American Poetry 2003," ''The Best American Poetry 2000." ''The American Poetry Review," ''Georgia Review" and the "Carnegie Mellon Anthology of Poetry." Carnegie Mellon University Press reprinted his first book, "The Town Clock Burning." He is currently writing his first novel: "The Last Black Hippie from Connecticut." Fort holds an MFA from Bowling Green University and has taught creative writing at the University of Nebraska at Kearny, Xavier University of Louisiana, Oklahoma State University, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and Southern Connecticut State University. He has received an award from the Poetry Society of America, an Open Voice Award from The Writer's Voice (judged by Grace Paley), the Randall Jarrell Poetry Prize (judged by Fred Chappell), and The Mary Carolyn Davis Memorial Award.

His daughters Claire and Shelley are performing actresses; both graduated from Kenyon College. Claire is a graduate student at the University of Washington, Shelley at Brown University.

Fort will hold a book-signing this summer at Café Beauregard.

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Information from: New Britain Herald, http://www.newbritainherald.com

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