The trailer for what sounds like a fascinating film about the survival of the poetry and music of the Sindhi Sufi Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai (or Bhitai), directed by Anjali Monteiro and K.P. Jayasankar. The trailer includes one of Bhittai’s poems. Let me just copy the description from Vimeo:
Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, a medieval Sufi poet, is an iconic figure in the cultural history of Sindh. Bhitai’s Shah Ji Risalo is a remarkable collection of poems which are sung by many communities in Kachchh and across the border in Sindh (now in Pakistan). Many of the poems draw on the eternal love stories of Umar-Marui and Sasui-Punhu, among others. These songs speak of the pain of parting, of the inevitability of loss and of deep grief that takes one to unknown and mysterious terrains.
Umar Haji Suleiman of Abdasa, in Kachchh, Gujarat, is a self taught Sufi scholar; once a cattle herder, now a farmer, he lives his life through the poetry of Bhitai. Umar’s cousin, Mustafa Jatt sings the Bheths of Bhitai. He is accompanied on the Surando, by his cousin Usman Jatt. Usman is a truck driver, who owns and plays one of the last surviving Surandos in the region. The Surando is a peacock shaped, five-stringed instrument from Sindh. The film explores the life worlds of the three cousins, their families and the Fakirani Jat community to which they belong.
Before the Partition the Maldhari (pastoralist) Jatts moved freely across the Rann, between Sindh (now in Pakistan) and Kutch. As pastoral ways of living have given way to settlement, borders and industrialisation, the older generation struggles to keep alive the rich syncretic legacy of Shah Bhitai, that celebrates diversity and non-difference, suffering and transcendence, transience and survival. These marginal visions of negotiating difference in creative ways resist cultural politics based on tight notions of nation-state and national culture; they open up the windows of our national imaginary.
For more on the film and its directors, including some reviews, visit its website.
This new film from Bloodaxe Books, one of Tranströmer’s English-language publishers, incorporates footage of the Nobel Prize announcement and the Tranströmers’ reaction, as well as footage of Tranströmer playing the piano which Pamela Robertson-Pearce had just shot in August. Robin Fulton’s translations appear as subtitles for the Swedish-language readings, which include “The Nightingale in Badelunda,” “Allegro,” “From the Thaw on 1966,” “The Half-Finished Heaven,” “April and Silence,” “From March 1979,” and “Tracks.” This is of course something that the film/video medium is particularly well suited for: it’s wonderful to hear the poet reading in Swedish and know (more or less) what he is saying.
Do read the extensive notes on the Vimeo page. The detail that “Swedish composers have written several left-hand piano pieces especially for him to play” speaks volumes about his status in his homeland. (Hat-tip: Teju Cole on Twitter)
As the first film explains, Palestinian poet Nathalie Handal’s new book, Poet in Andalucía, forthcoming from Pitt, “recreates Federico García Lorca’s journey in reverse (from his book POET IN NEW YORK).”
There’s a real dearth of English-subtitled Arabic poetry recitation on the web; this goes a small way toward righting the balance. It’s interesting to see how poetry is chanted or sung in Arabic, rather than simply read (much less mumbled). Another thing that might be a little difficult for some of us to get our heads around is a poet becoming so popular that he could be branded an enemy of the state, and his works become a relying cry for people opposed to the established order. Such was the case with Nabeel Yasin, Iraq’s most celebrated poet (and last year, an unsuccessful candidate for prime minister), who has been compared to Bob Dylan in his impact on Iraqi society from the late 60s on.
“The Poet of Baghdad” was directed by Georgie Weedon for Al Jazeera, and has just been re-uploaded to YouTube as a single video. The blending of poetry recitation with reminiscence is very effective, I think, and the reflections on exile will probably resonate with emigrants, voluntary and involuntary, from many lands. Al Jazeera posted an interview with the director in early 2010.
This brief documentary on the making of the three poetry films to emerge from the 2010 ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival workshop (see the previous three posts here to watch videos of the films) is a must-watch for anyone interested in ekphrastic collaboration. I was particularly impressed by poet Monika Rinck’s remarks on the life of a poem beyond the page, and her interest in avoiding the sort of filmmaker who might over-interpret a poem:
I like poems and I think also movies about poems to guard a certain openness. I don’t want to have the pictures in the poem locked, as if it couldn’t be otherwise, as if the pictures of the movie override everything which was open before.
I also liked her collaborator Avi Dabach’s admission that he is better able to connect with poems that he doesn’t fully understand, implying that the making of a poetry film is a kind of close reading or exercise in hermaneutics.
Brooks Books is pleased to announce the publication of HAIKU: The Art of the Short Poem, a film by Tazuo Yamaguchi. The haiku cited or read in the film are published in this book/DVD combo as a haiku anthology featuring contemporary English-language haiku writers.
In August 2007 Tazuo attended the Haiku North America conference, where he filmed over 50 hours of interviews and events with contemporary haiku poets, concluding with the HNA head-to-head haiku competition. As Taz writes in the introduction to this book/DVD: “Each poet brought me their wealth of passion, information and knowledge, and timeless insights from their snowball stash they had collected through their life’s sleigh ride of love and interest in haiku.”
A thoroughly wonderful project from Media Mike Hazard at The Center for International Education:
A swarm of 25 first through eighth graders at Capitol Hill School in Saint Paul, Minnesota, was busy as bees off and on for a whole school year, creating Tamamushi-Iro. It is a great little video of haiku about bugs written by the Japanese poet Issa (1763-1827). We might look at it in many different ways.
While developing the project with the art teacher Julie Woodman, I learned from Ross Corson, then an aide to Ambassador Mondale in Japan, that there is a saying, “tama-mushi-iro,” literally meaning “round-bug-color.” It is used in diplomatic circles to describe something which looks beautiful to everyone, yet different from all angles. Our dream became to create a video of some of Issa’s insect haiku which might be seen as tamamushi-iro.
Like a Rashomon, the video has been seen as a program about Issa, about bugs, about poetry, about Japan, about kids’ views of the world, about art and artist residencies, about television, about international education, about experiential learning, about crossgenerational, crosscultural and crossdisciplinary education, about a person who lived 200 years ago, about inquiry science, about old poetry and new technology…It has been seen in many colorful ways.
First, it’s about great poems. This is why I love poetry. My nine year old daughter, who was on the Issa team, saw a spring fly, and flew to get a flyswatter. She raised her arm, and in mid-air stopped, and thought “Issa,” and let the fly fly. Now if we raise a society to respect even the tiniest creatures of the earth, maybe when some dumb finger is about to push a button and blow us all to kingdom come, some small poem will save us from our worst selves. If we can create a society which stops and thinks, stop and think: we just might….
Ambassador Mondale helped us connect with Sakurababa Junior High School in Nagasaki. Our sister city relationship between Saint Paul and Nagasaki was set up to heal the war wounds of World War Two. On a profound level, this was all about international education, across time and space.
I look into a dragonfly’s eye
the mountains over my shoulder.
tsuki ni utsuru
Be sure to read the whole article, and if you’re an educator, consider ordering a copy of the video.