(Dan Goldes has lived in Glen Park on Joost St. since 1998. His documentary films include 5 Blocks, Arrested (Again), ub2, and Keeper of the Creek. 5blocksproject.com)
Oakland resident Paul Panish has been writing poetry for most of his 87 years and a new documentary film about him, directed by Glen Park resident Dan Goldes, won the Good Life Audience Award at San Francisco’s Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema. The film will screen at the Best of Bernal season finale on Friday, Sept. 16, at 7:00 pm at Bernal Heights Park.
Panish started writing poetry in 1955 as a 20-year-old student at Brooklyn College in New York, but the demands of supporting a family meant that earning a living took priority. In his poetry, Panish calls himself “a man of a hundred trades.” Working, variously, as a technical writer, newspaper editor, actor, voice-over talent, and author, among other things, Panish, his wife, Anna Belle, and their two children moved from New York to Berkeley in 1970. Panish returned to writing poetry in earnest in his mid-60s, and in 2008, moved to Oakland.
The poem featured in the film is titled, “Poem On My Eighty-Seventh Birthday – A Confession”. In it, Panish reflects on his life and takes stock of what it means to age. In the film, he notes that, “When I was young, people didn’t live to be 87, except in unusual circumstances.”
Panish’s poetry has appeared in Smoky Blue Literary and Arts Magazine, Signal, Bluestone, The Formalist, War, Literature, the Arts Journal, and The Raven’s Perch. His translation of Euripides’ Medea was performed at Columbia University, while his opera libretto Marry Up, Marry Down was performed in San Francisco’s Opera Theatre Unlimited. He is the author of the non-fiction book Exit Visa: The Emigration of the Soviet Jews.
Director Dan Goldes, who is also Panish’s cousin, made the 8-1/2 minute film after interviewing Panish for an oral history. “I’ve known Paul since I was very young but, until our interview, I didn’t know he had been writing poetry nearly all his life.”
Goldes is the director of 5 Blocks, a feature documentary about San Francisco’s Mid-Market Street, which debuted at the San Francisco Green Film Festival before playing at festivals in Rotterdam, Istanbul, and Prague. His short films have screened at more than 100 festivals worldwide.
Paul Panish: Poem On My Eighty-Seventh Birthday screens at Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema’s Best of Bernal season finale on Friday, Sept. 16, at 7:00 pm. Admission is free. https://bhoutdoorcine.org/best-of-bernal/
A selection of Panish’s poetry can be found at https://panish2.wixsite.com/paul-panish-poet.