Posts By Marie Craven and Dave Bonta

Song of the Soil by Jessica Mookherjee

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Jessica Mookherjee‘s poem “Song of the Soil”, from her collection, Tigress (Nine Arches Press, 2019), is given heartfelt filmic treatment by Helen Dewbery and Chaucer Cameron, under the auspices of their production house, Elephant’s Footprint. According to the book’s webpage,

Jess Mookherjee is of Bengali heritage and grew up in Swansea. She has been widely published in magazines, including Under the Radar, Agenda, The North, Rialto, Antiphon and Ink, Sweat & Tears. She is author of The Swell (Telltale Press) and Joyride (Black Light Engine Room Press) and Flood (Cultured Llama). She was highly commended in the Forward Prize 2017 for best single poem. Jessica works in Public Health and lives in Kent.

The poem expresses a deep connection to the Earth in an elegy of lost origins and disappearing ground. Giving further voice to these themes, the film is imbued with overexposed images of a natural world scorched yellow and burnt brown, and a soundtrack made ominous by ambient bass. Mookherjee’s solemn, rich narration rounds the elements of this powerfully organic piece.

The film is part of a series Helen and Chaucer have been doing for Nine Arches Press. They note that “The film-poems are not only viewed by Nine Arches’ existing readers and online audiences, but are a tool for their poets to engage more easily with their existing and new audiences.” The press, however, does not appear to embed any of the videos on the books’ pages, which is kind of baffling.

L’homme et la mer (Man and the Sea) by Charles Baudelaire

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German film-maker Patrick Müller here adapts to the screen Charles Baudelaire‘s poem, “L’homme et la mer (Man and the Sea)”, from the poet’s most famous collection, Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), first published in 1857. This is his second adaptation of a Baudelaire poem, after Le Chat (2013).

The piece displays a distinctive approach by the film-maker, who shot it on the tiny and mostly obsolete super 8 celluloid format, popularised as a home movie medium from the time of its release by Eastman Kodak in 1965. Müller’s artisanal work includes hand-processing the film himself, then transferring it to the high-quality 4K video format for completion. This combination of analogue and digital creates uniquely beautiful images, with the sensuality of the film grain rendered in uncharacteristic clarity, and the choices in colour grading adding further to the poetry of the visual stream.

The softness and quiet passion of Müller’s voice entices us inwards to the text and the film. As with Caroline Rumley’s, Open Season, shared on Moving Poems yesterday, the soundtrack of L’homme et la mer is punctuated by sudden breaks to silence, as if to give moments of contemplation before beginning anew with the next fragment of the film.

The French-English translation of the poem in the subtitles is by Lewis Piaget Shanks (1878-1935).

Müller’s detailed process notes on the film may be read at filmkorn.org.

Open Season by Caroline Rumley

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From Caroline Rumley, a film-maker/poet I admire greatly, this is Open Season, a melancholy response to living in the USA since 9/11. Rumley’s description on Vimeo:

After reading Albert Samaha’s powerful reporting on the first hate crime after 9/11 in the United States, I was inspired to make this found footage retelling of a glimpse of his story.

Here’s the Buzzfeed article she drew upon for her information and some of the text.

City Swans by Bernard O’Rourke

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Bernard O’Rourke is an Irish writer, film-maker, and spoken word artist, new to Moving Poems. Filmed along Dublin’s Grand Canal, his City Swans reflects discontent and restlessness within the enclosures of city life. The poem is richly voiced by Bernard himself, woven into the melancholy whimsy of Brendan Carvill’s guitar chords. As an ensemble, the piece evokes a sense of sky-born hope glimpsed in lowly places. It was a finalist in 2018 for the Ó Bhéal Poetry Film Prize at the IndieCork Film Festival, Ireland.

Alphonso’s Jaw by Sarahjane Swan and Roger Simian

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Recently I became part of an international collective of artists called Agitate:21C. In its short existence, it has attracted about 300 outstanding experimental, avant-garde, and generally ‘other’ artists from around the world, including film-makers, poets, curators, critics, lovers of the arts, and just about any kind of alternative creator, focused on any medium, genre, style or form.

Originally part of a larger art installation created for Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival, Alphonso’s Jaw was the first poetry film I found via A21C. It is written and directed by Scottish artists Sarahjane Swan and Roger Simian, also known as Avant Kinema. Sarahjane appears in the film and voices the piece in English and French. I find it virtuosic in its fusing of word, soundscape and image, as well as deeply moving in its meditation on the timeless horrors of war in the lives of individuals.

This is an excerpt from what the artists have to say on the film’s page at Vimeo:

The installation, and our subsequent short film, were inspired by our fascination for two objects we discovered amongst Edinburgh University’s Anatomy Collection: (1) the cast of a disfigured face; (2) a prosthetic jaw constructed on an early nineteenth century battlefield.

Through some research we unearthed the story of Alphonse Luis, a young French gunner struck by shrapnel at the Siege of Antwerp, 1832. Having suffered horrific facial injuries, losing his lower face, Alphonse’s quality of life was eventually improved when the Surgeon-Major and a local Belgian artist collaborated on the construction of a silver prosthetic jaw, painted in flesh tones and adorned with whiskers.

We uncovered historical accounts of Alphonse Luis’ injury, surgery, recuperation and rehabilitation in medical journals of the day, and drew on these for an exploration of identity, disfigurement and reconstruction.

In Alphonso’s Jaw we imagine that Alphonse Luis has become dislocated from history to exist outside of any specific time or place, trapped in eternal convalescence, soothed by the dreams of his Battlefield Muse, who is equal parts Night Nurse, Scheherazade and Beauty from Beauty and the Beast. Luis’ Battlefield Muse is, in turn, both horrified and fascinated by her patient.

The poem, titled “Beauty and the Silver Mask,” can be read at Avant Kinema’s blog, in both its full English version and the short fragment of it spoken in French, which was translated by Raymond Meyer.

Snow Memory by Brendan Bonsack

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Fellow Australian film-maker Brendan Bonsack is one of the finest of the lyrical video poets I have encountered. Multi-talented, skilled and prolific in filmpoetry, photography, performance, and music, he is also a generous supporter of poets and their culture in this country, especially in Melbourne, where he is co-producer of a community radio show devoted to the spoken word.

Snow Memory is a wordless video poem, alluding to its themes in beautifully composed images and music. There are suggestions of fragmented narrative to be found in the precisely rhythmic editing between images, some shot by Brendan, others drawn from archival and alternative sources.

Whether finding expression in videos, poems, or any of his other chosen forms, Brendan’s work is inspiring to say the least, its effect on audiences well described here:

“Bonsack has one of those voices that fills a room with golden light…”
Nkechi Anele, Triple J Radio, Australia

In the case of this film, it’s a snowy silver.

Write Out: A Scribe’s Haiku #3 by Kathryn Darnell

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In my first post as a contributor to Moving Poems, I am delighted to introduce to the site the work of Kathryn Darnell. Her Write Out: A Scribe’s Haiku #3 is part of a series of animations of original haiku about her work as a calligrapher. Music is by Elden Kelly.

Kathryn has been a professional illustrator and calligrapher for over 30 years, dividing her time between commercial art and fine art practice. Her “animated calligraphics” are an extension of her passion for letters. Her personal artwork is regularly exhibited in galleries, and she is an adjunct professor of art at Lansing Community College.

In 2018, her video, Things I Found in the Hedge, in collaboration with UK poet Lucy English, was the winner of the inaugural edition of the Atticus Review Videopoem Contest, which I judged and discussed in Moving Poems Magazine.