Lament For Graham Parkinson by Karl Parkinson

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An intense, affecting videopoem from Irish poets Karl Parkinson (text, voiceover) and Dave Lordan (video), along with musicians Conor O’Connor, Claus Jensen and Charlotte Hamel from The King Mob. Parkinson wrote about the making of the videopoem for The Irish Times. The poem came first, arising from his grief at the death of his nephew Graham from cancer at the age of 21.

Graham was my sister Elaine’s only child, and he grew up living alongside me in the same flat in O’Devaney Gardens, on Dublin’s northside. With him being an only child, and me having no brothers, we formed a very special bond during his short life. After his death, I wanted, as a writer, to create something beautiful and lasting in his memory, and eventually wrote a long elegiac poem about his fight with cancer, and also my own grief for his passing.

He studied the canon, re-reading the great “poem[s] of elegy and mourning, especially from one male on the death of another male.” The resulting poem

was first broadcast on RTÉ’s Arena arts show, on the first anniversary of Graham’s death, and recently published in my collection Butterflies Of A Bad Summer (Salmon Poetry). But I felt that the best way to honour Graham’s memory was to make a video poem, to take it to a larger audience, particularly those in my own community, the Dublin council estates, and inner-city working class, where to be honest poetry books are not big sellers.

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The video draws on new technology and on the history of avant-garde cinema/film, especially modernist experiments of the 1920s and ’30s. It’s a 16-minute long piece in which we tried to push the video-poem tradition at least a small bit in the way of serious artistic expression. We hoped to merge the old poetic tradition of elegy and lament with the new and very exciting medium of indie video art, now open to almost any artist in the western world, at a relatively small expense, compared to what it would have cost 20 years ago. I feel, and hope, that we have done justice to Graham’s life, struggle and memory with something that may have a lasting appeal for others that have been affected by cancer, or any other life-stealing disease, or by the loss of someone young and dear to them.

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