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James Franco shows his literary side on Jimmy Fallon show

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James Franco went on Jimmy Fallon's "The Tonight Show" to talk about theater and film, but he got sidetracked by poetry. His new collection, "Directing Herbert White," is coming from Graywolf Press on April 15.

"I know how an actor writing poetry sounds," Franco told Fallon on Friday. But, he added, "I have a master's degree in poetry."

It may be the first time those words have been said on the show; it most certainly was the first time such a statement was met enthusiastic applause.

Franco earned his MFA from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina, spending four years on the poems in the book. "It's not easy getting a graduate degree," he said on the show.

Like many poets, Franco has created a work that's references other poetic work; unlike them, he is also referencing film. The cover of "Directing Herbert White" features a blurry photo of the actor Michael Shannon, who appeared in a short film Franco directed. The film was titled "Herbert White," and it referenced a poem by Frank Bidart.

As Franco points out, on Thursday, Bidart won the National Book Critics Circle award for poetry for 2013 with his collection "Metaphysical Dog."

Bidart has blurbed Franco's poetry collection. He writes: "There's never been a book quite like this. Hollywood — fame, celebrity, the promise of becoming an artist — is the beast at its center. Franco knows it like Melville knows whaling. Hollywood in this book devours its young. Obsessed with myths about its own past, it can be survived only by finding a vantage point that is not Hollywood. Bold yet subtle, fearless yet disarming, Franco has made a book you will never forget."

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