A Poet from Hollywood: Love, Insanity, Stephen Gyllenhaal, and the Creative Process // Chapter 5

Cantara Christopher
13 min readSep 16, 2022


“I’ve Got a Few More Changes”

There was a mad flurry of activity before June 28, the date Housing Works and I had scheduled for the reading, and Stephen wasn’t making things any easier. In two months the books had to be ready and on hand, and we hadn’t even gotten his final edits yet.

I quickly regretted agreeing to the clause in his contract that gave him control over the final wording of his poems. [For poetry, this is always the most ethical way to go. — Ed. 2022] Still not quite satisfied with his poetry, Stephen was calling and emailing Michael more often, sometimes twice a day. When his communiqués seemed to be on the verge of interfering with our personal lives I told Michael so, but he assured me that Stephen’s almost constant need for attention was something he could handle.

The thing is,” said Michael, “all these changes and reconsiderations are making him a better poet. His word choices are improving. He’s stopped trying to be precious with line breaks. His ideas are clearer. It’s time well spent working with him.” Michael’s devotion to Stephen’s poetry made me feel at certain moments that I was dealing with a single two-headed creature who spouted confessional free verse.

There was one day coming up though, that I thought Michael and I would have just to ourselves. Surely Hollywood’s number-one poster family would be taking time off for this very special holiday.

Mother’s Day 2006 was a beautiful spring Sunday. It was also a great day for mooching free food and wine from the Bellevue Literary Review which was holding its semi-annual reading. Of all the literary magazines in New York, their readings were the most lavishly catered. The wine was excellent and the platters of cheese and crudités were plentiful enough to make a meal of, which we did. We feasted, bought two issues of the Review, and listened to a few of their authors read from their work.

At the reading we ran into an acquaintance who invited us to an artists’ open house in the East Village. Surrendering to…

Cantara Christopher

Sometime actress-writer leading visitors down the rabbit hole of the arts, sex, magick, Filipiniana, and America’s hidden history