It gives me the greatest pleasure to share with you the trailer for The Actual / Fuck. This poem is made up of all the titles in the collection, essentially a list poem in its own right. It was put together by Jamie MacDonald (who created the trailer for An Evening With An Immigrant) and shows his incredible skills and attention to detail.
Don’t forget, you can pre-order the collection right now from Penned In The Margins.
And from that latter link, here’s the publisher’s description:
The Actual is a symphony of personal and political fury — sometimes probing delicately, sometimes burning with raw energy.
In 55 poems that swerve and crackle with a rare music, Inua Ellams unleashes a full-throated assault on empire and its legacies of racism, injustice and toxic masculinity. Written on the author’s phone, in transit, between meetings, before falling asleep and just after waking, this is poetry as polemic, as an act of resistance, but also as dream-vision. At its heart, this book confronts the absolutism and ‘foolish machismo’ of hero culture-from Perseus to Trump, from Batman to Boko Haram.
Through the thick gauze of history, these breathtaking poems look the world square in the face and ask, “What the actual—?”
Confidently crossing an imagined border between experimental film and video poetry, Anna Fo‘s Sealed Faithful Halls is an outstanding instance of both. The poetic text is spoken by the film-maker and readable in subtitles. Before the poem arrives there is a two-minute visual introduction with a freely-shifting musical soundscape by Theofanis Avraam. Both of these wordless elements of the film are brilliant as well.
The film was created during lockdown, one of 50 short films selected for the 50 Shorts VS Covid-19 project of the Cyprus Ministry of Education and Culture.
The Museum of English Rural Life in Reading has a legendary, frequently hilarious Twitter account, so like many of their followers, I guess I was expecting something a bit Monty Pythonesque when they first announced the upcoming YouTube premiere of a filmpoem called I, Sheep, “the profound story of a single ewe and her links to the lives of a farm and farming family.” It turned out however to be a deeply serious, moving, and brilliantly conceived film, influenced by Susannah Ramsay’s conception of the filmpoem as “a poetic composition that interweaves experimental film practices with film-phenomenological concepts and creative self-expression.” Poet Jack Thacker worked closely with the filmmakers—Teresa Murjas, a professor of theater and performance, director James Rattee—and a sheep named Jess, whose POV shots do lend a certain droll charm in character with The MERL’s online profile. As the webpage for the project explains,
One hot summer’s day in 2018, following a workshop at The MERL, Teresa Murjas (Professor of Theatre & Performance at the University of Reading) and filmmaker James Rattee travelled to see Jack and Jess on their remote farm. They brought with them a range of cameras, one of which Jess wore during filming. Multiple perspectives on their interlinking lives and rural environments were captured in the varied gimbal, go-pro and drone footage that was collected.
As the months passed, one creative act would generate another. Roles were performed, film footage was collated, poetry written, and footage edited. Readings were performed, recorded, footage was reshaped, and audio material collated. Sound, imagery and words were progressively layered and synthesised until now, in July 2020, when the filmpoem is about to be shown very for the first time.
It’s no surprise that this kind of prolonged, intensive collaboration should produce such a varied and satisfying film. I imagine it will do well on the film festival circuit, if and when film festivals ever resume. But I’m grateful they chose to release it on the web first.
One minor point of interest to those of us who struggle to connect audiences with poetry: Despite The MERL’s well-executed promotional campaign, and despite more than 153,000 followers on Twitter, the video unfortunately did not go viral, though it has garnered a respectable 1,227 views. But getting people to watch a 16-minute poetry film was never going to be easy. And merely creating viral content is not why they made the film in the first place:
I, Sheep is one of a cluster of creative works generated for a project at The MERL entitled Making, Using and Enjoying: The Museum of the Intangible (funded by Arts Council England). This explored intersections between the Museum’s tangible holdings, the idea of intangible cultural heritage (ICH) and creative and digital practices. As outlined by UNESCO, ‘cultural heritage does not end at monuments and collections of objects. It also includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.’ Responsively, The Museum of the Intangible project began by bringing people together around things, and then drew on their living experiences and relationships to explore, through creative practice, the significance of ICH within a museum context.
White Clouds is a musical poetry video that was filmed, directed and edited by the outstanding Taiwanese film-maker and poet, Ye Mimi, who released it to the web just two weeks ago. The story of the film…
This song is an adaptation of the poem “White Clouds” by Taiwanese poet Lo Lang (1927-2015). The recording was made by Lo’s daughter Sirong, a renowned, award-winning singer-songwriter in Taiwan. When Lo Lang wrote the poem in 1950, he was expressing his deep desire for freedom. At that time, many Taiwanese were suffering from extreme violence and political repression at the hands of the ruling Kuomingtang, which took over Taiwan after losing the Chinese Civil War to the Chinese Communists. This recording, made in 2018, marks a watershed moment for Lo Sirong and her now deceased father, as Taiwan flourishes today as a fully democratic society.
Lo Sirong sings White Clouds in the Hakka language. She has a marvellous voice, deeply expressive of her father’s poetry. The music overall is wonderful to hear. The English subtitles bring the welcome experience of the poem in written translation as well.
Ye Mimi’s earlier videopoems include I See Green and Golden Shadows as part of the Wild Whispers global videopoetry project, initiated by Chaucer Cameron in the UK. Dave shared three of Ye Mimi’s videos from earlier years here at Moving Poems, including from her own poems. One of these videos was also published by Cordite Poetry Review from Australia, where she wrote an interesting account of her relation to videopoetry.
Ye Mimi’s bio at Vimeo:
Ye Mimi is a Taiwanese poet and filmmaker. A graduate of the MFA Creative Writing Department at Dong Hwa University and the MFA Film Department at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she is the author of three volumes of poetry and has internationally exhibited several of her poetry films. Through collaging her words and images, she improvises a new landscape trying to erase the border between poetry and image making. Book-length translations of her work are available in Dutch and English.