The Ants was made for the poetry film competition of the Leipzig Poetry Society in Germany. The challenge was to make a film based on any poem by Joachim Ringelnatz (1883-1934), a cabaret poet and absurd humorist. Most of the Ringelnatz poems I have read are strange and funny, and very short. I chose Die Ameisen/The Ants for its whimsy, and partly because it includes a reference to Australia, where I live. It’s a coincidence too that ants have been a funny and instructive presence in my life. The film is bilingual, in German first and then English. It was a fun film to make, with music created for it by my long-time collaborator, Adrian Carter, and collage art by Kollage Kid. Both of them are in the UK.
The film ended up taking first place in the contest.
All this week I’m going to be featuring recent poetry films by Marie Craven. When she joined Moving Poems as an editor last year, our initial instinct was to avoid sharing her own films too often to avoid the appearance of favoritism, but I’ve recently changed my mind about that. Marie has become one of the most prominent filmmakers in the international poetry film scene, and it’s silly to pretend otherwise. So it’s catch-up time! Especially since Marie has just caught up on her blog, and I can simply quote her process notes for most of these films.
Warsan Shire was born in 1988 in Kenya to Somali parents, she grew up in London… She won her first prize at an international slam event and is now the editor of the magazines Literary arts mashup and Spook. She leads workshops, in which poetry is used as a tool to try to overcome personal traumas.
The film’s animation appears to be strongly influenced by the body movement in Misma’s choreography, which is graceful yet dynamic. The outstanding original artwork by Melissa Kitty Jarram is richly expressive and affecting.
Glenda Jackson provides the voice of poet Stevie Smith in this animated interpretation of her extraordinary 1950’s poem ‘The Blue from Heaven’. Suzie Hanna has adapted and animated the poet’s own drawings to communicate her rueful, wistful, comic, and melancholy themes with music and sound design by Phil Archer. In Stevie Smith’s awkward world, King Arthur banishes Guinevere to the palace, and he enters the blue from heaven.
A surrealist journey through colours and shapes inspired by the poem Romance Sonámbulo by Federico García Lorca. Visual poetry in the rhythm of fantastic dreams and passionate nights.
This is a poetry film only in the sense that it takes its inspiration from one stanza of Lorca’s, but it’s a brilliant animated homage to Spanish surrealism that reminded me of everything I love about the whole Generation of ’27, which includes so many of my favorite poets and artists. It’s difficult to imagine 20th century poetry and art without this incredible flowering of talent in the years leading up to the Spanish Civil War. U.S. poets who came of age in the 1960s were heavily influenced by Spanish poetry in translation; I’d say it was equal in impact to translations of classical Chinese and Japanese poetry. For me, getting a bilingual anthology of 20th-century Spanish poetry as a Christmas present when I was 11 was a life-changing experience. I doubt I would’ve become a poet otherwise.
Anyway, here’s a serviceable English translation of “Romance Sonámbulo”, followed by the original.
This has got to be one of the best student animations I’ve ever seen. Jake Mansbridge animates a poem from American poet Claudia Rankine‘s Forward Prize-winning collection Citizen: An American Lyric as part of an exciting new initiative from the Forward Arts Foundation, which sponsors both the Forward Prizes and UK’s National Poetry Day. Here’s how their director, Susannah Herbert, described it in an email:
National Poetry Day UK, which falls on the first Thursday in October, is about to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Effectively, this is a huge mass participation cultural festival that gives everyone in the nation an excuse to share a favourite poem, or line of poetry – through readings, displays, performances and, increasingly, through social media. The theme this year is Truth.
A friend who ran the MA course in Animation at the University of Hertfordshire invited us to give her students a “brief” that they could work to as part of their degree course. We gave them 100 Prized Poems, an anthology of poems drawn from the shortlists of the Forward Prizes over the years… plus a few other poems, all loosely connected to the theme of Truth, and suggested they each create an animation that would bring the poems they chose – and National Poetry Day – to new audiences.
This stunning Jake Mansbridge animation of a poem from Claudia Rankine’s Citizen is just one of the films that came out of the process… and the best are being shown next month at London’s Southbank Centre.
That 20 October screening at the Southbank Centre is part of a six-day festival, Poetry International. If you can’t make the screening, all of the videos are being uploaded to a playlist on the National Poetry Day YouTube channel.
Rankine is no stranger to poetry film. She collaborated with her husband, filmmaker John Lucas, on a series of video essays, a few of which I’ve shared here, and Citizen included both stills and transcripts from those videos. So I was happy when Citizen became so celebrated and widely read on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s also one of those books that every clueless white person should read.