‘Poetry Goes to the Movies’: La Jolla podcaster proves that poems and popcorn do mix

La Jolla teacher and poet Adam Davis is the co-host of the new podcast "Poetry Goes to the Movies."
La Jolla teacher and poet Adam Davis is the co-host of “Poetry Goes to the Movies,” a new podcast that looks at the ways poetry can be cinematic and films can be poetic. Davis’ podcast partner is Scottish poetry editor Colin Waters.
(Nicholas Barrett)

Bishop’s School English teacher Adam Davis and Scottish podcast partner Colin Waters tackle everything from Ginsberg to ‘Groundhog Day.’


Harry and Sally? Adorable. Loki and Thor? Combustible. Belle and the Beast? Magical.

John Travolta and Sylvia Plath? When it comes to artistic odd couples, the pairing of the “Pulp Fiction” and “Saturday Night Fever” star and the indelible poet is not as improbable as you’d think.

And Adam Davis, a poet and an English teacher at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, has the podcast to prove it.

“I think my argument is, ‘Who wouldn’t want to listen to a podcast that explores the behind-the-scenes fight between Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper over who gets to direct ‘Poltergeist,’ and also explores the works of Mary Oliver and T.S. Eliot?’” Davis said of “Poetry Goes to the Movies,” the new podcast he hosts with Scottish film fan and poetry editor Colin Waters.

“When you take two things you’re familiar with and you put them together, you learn new things about both of them, and they become greater than the sum of their parts.”

Launched in October, the six-episode “Poetry Goes to the Movies” combines the co-hosts’ passions for film and literature in a podcast that brings out the best in both art forms, along with appearances by guest poets such as Chad Bennett, Joy Priest and Emma Hine.

Whether it’s Davis using Plath’s “Lady Lazarus” to examine whatever’s going on between Travolta and Nicolas Cage in “Face/Off,” or Waters finding the link between poets and serial killers in the episode dedicated to David Fincher’s “Zodiac,” the podcast makes the case that poetry and film are two seemingly incompatible tastes that, in fact, taste great together.

Like Bogey and Bacall. Or popcorn and Sour Patch Kids. Or the San Diego poet and the Scottish film buff who created and co-hosted the inaugural season of “Poetry Goes to the Movies” but still haven’t met in person.

The future co-hosts became acquainted in fall 2020, when Waters interviewed Davis about Davis’ award-winning debut poetry collection, “Index of Haunted Houses,” for the Scottish Poetry Library podcast.

During the interview, Davis and Waters got to chatting about “Night of the Living Dead” director George Romero and how his horror films reflected moments in American history.

That part of the interview ended up on the cutting-room floor, but the two poetry-loving film fans kept the discussion going over email. So when one of the Scottish Poetry Library podcast producers heard the Romero outtake and suggested they do something with it, the new pen pals decided to take the podcast plunge.

“[As co-hosts], we probably fill in each other’s gaps,” the Edinburgh-based Waters said in an email. “Adam knows a bit more about poetry, I know a bit more about film. Similarly, his being American and me being British gives the show a good dynamic.

“Our cultural influences are similar but different enough to keep things interesting. We really started this podcast because we got on so well; we wanted to keep talking.”

Besides loving Shakespeare and David Bowie, another thing the “Poetry Goes to the Movies” hosts share is an ability to find connective sparks everywhere they look.

As the episodes continue to roll out over the next few months, Davis and Waters link the comedy of “Groundhog Day” with the hair-pulling process of rewriting; look at haunted poems and haunted history through the lens of “Poltergeist”; and attempt to square the poetic genius of Allen Ginsberg and Lord Byron with the not-brilliant films that were made about them.

Then there is the matter of the poets and the serial killer.

“In the third episode, which looks at ‘Zodiac,’ we make the connection between the Zodiac serial killer sending coded letters to newspapers and poets submitting their work to magazines,” Waters wrote. “People often think of poems as codes that need cracking, while poets can be … intense characters. I hope people realize it’s just a little harmless trolling. I mean, Adam’s a poet!”

“I hope this leaves people with the understanding that these two different areas of art aren’t easily separated,” Davis said. “An important part of your enjoyment of film and poetry is understanding that neither is sacred. By combining these disparate artistic genres, you can actually have a more vibrant and interesting life.”

“Poetry Goes to the Movies” is available wherever you get podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify and ◆