Filmmaker: Alastair Cook

I Shake Out My Coat by Michael Symmons Roberts

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This is Filmpoem 39, by the core team at Filmpoem: directed by Alastair Cook with cinematography by James William Norton and sound composed by Luca Nasciuti. The text, by Michael Symmons Roberts, was one of four new poems by British poets on the theme of migration commissioned for Filmpoem Festival 2014.

The video is also presented on the Filmpoem website, an increasingly useful site for people interested in poetry films generally. (If you’re in London this weekend, don’t miss the Filmpoem events at the Southbank Centre.)

Ocean by David Harsent

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David Harsent reads his poem over a score composed by Luca Nasciuti in this film by Alastair Cook; James William Norton contributed cinematography. According to the description on Vimeo, “Filmpoem Festival 2014 commissioned British poets David Harsent, Helen Mort, John Glenday and Michael Symmons Roberts to produce new work on the theme of migration,” and then commissioned films incorporating the poems. I hope to share the others here in the weeks ahead.

Bernard and Cerinthe by Linda France

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This is the third of the three films from Filmpoem for winners of last year’s National Poetry Competition in the U.K.

Bernard and Cerinthe is a film by Alastair Cook for Linda France’s first placed poem in the National Poetry Competition 2013, commissioned by Filmpoem and Felix Poetry Festival in association with the Poetry Society.

From the National Poetry Competition judges: ‘This strange narrative of a man being seduced by a plant charmed the judges with its vivid imagery and linguistic wit. Its precisely honed couplets move from elegant description (‘the bruise of bracts, petals, purple // shrimps’) to a tragicomic climax, in which our hero finds himself ‘a buffoon in front of a saloon honey / high-kicking the can-can. Can’t-can’t’. Truly imaginative and richly musical, ‘Bernard and Cerinthe’ is as much a pleasure to read on the page as it is on the tongue, and as such was the unanimous choice of the judges for first place in this year’s National Poetry Competition.’ {Jane Yeh}

Linda France is from the northeast of England, and has published seven collections of poetry. See the story in the Guardian, “Linda France wins National Poetry Competition with erotic botany story,” as well as the page at the Poetry Society website, which includes the text of the poem and this bit of back-story:

On what inspired the poem, Linda said: ‘I remember very particularly the day I wrote this poem, actually. I went to visit a friend of mine who has the most beautiful garden. It was the end of August and there was a plant I’d never seen before: Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’, and I was just astonished by it. It’s a very intense blue and the leaves are a silvery green… they’re quite thick, almost waxy, fleshy. That’s one of the things I’m drawn to about plants, they express this tremendous “Otherness”, but they just stay there and let you respond to them, unlike a bird or animal that disappears. A plant remains for you to give your attention to. I love that. I got absorbed in this flower and my sense was that it was very sexy, as many of them are. Cerinthe conceals and reveals at the same time, it has a flirtatiousness about it that’s very seductive. I don’t know how Bernard came into the story, but faced with this out-and-out flirt of a plant, he doesn’t know what to do. So that’s how it happened, really. Obviously it didn’t all come fully formed, but it arose from looking at the flower.’

Grand Union Bridge by Ian Duhig

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Another of Alastair Cook‘s filmpoems for the Poetry Society in partnership with the Canal and River Trust as part of the Canal Laureate 2013 project. See my post of Lifted for more details. Jo Bell writes,

Ian Duhig’s poetry combines a deep learning with a lively wit, and a strong sense of Irish heritage as well as a need to honour the workers of a former age. His poem, Grand Union Canal, takes us to Paddington Basin in London.

Ian Duhig reads his text in the soundtrack, which was composed by Luca Nasciuti.

Fallow Field by Scott Edward Anderson

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This is Filmpoem 34 by Alastair Cook, who writes:

Fallow Field is a poem by Scott Edward Anderson, from his brand new eponymous collection. It’s been a pleasure to make a Filmpoem for a friend and this harks back to my earlier work, motifs I explored and delighted in a number of years ago which suit Scott’s incredible words.

Scott’s collection Fallow Field is available from Aldrich Press, Amazon and scottedwardanderson.com.

Of the various blurbs on the website, I particularly liked this one:

“Wow, Pop, I had no idea you wrote so many poems!” – Walker Anderson, the author’s 10-year-old son

Anderson blogs at The Green Skeptic and Scott Edward Anderson’s Poetry Blog.

The Black Delph Bride by Liz Berry

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https://vimeo.com/75167349

Another of Alastair Cook‘s filmpoems for the Poetry Society in partnership with the Canal and River Trust as part of the Canal Laureate 2013 project. See last week’s post of Lifted for more details. Jo Bell says of this one,

Liz Berry’s film is a darker narrative, shot on location as all of these films were, at the Black Delph in the Black Country. Harking back to the canal ballads of the Victorian time, this has a Dickensian tragedy about it.

For more about Liz Berry, visit her website. Her dramatic reading is set off brilliantly by Luca Nasciuti‘s soundtrack.

Lifted by Jo Bell

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A recent filmpoem by Alastair Cook, featuring the words and voice of the U.K. Canal Laureate Jo Bell. On my two-month visit to the U.K. this summer, I was charmed by the whole canal scene. We ran into canals almost everywhere we went, and the Grand Union Canal was a great place to go walking near where I was staying in London. Most fascinating of all were the locks, and this filmpoem really captures their essence, I think.

This is one of four filmpoems that Alastair Cook produced for the Poetry Society in partnership with the Canal & River Trust as part of the Canal Laureate 2013 project, all screened at London’s Southbank Centre on National Poetry Day (October 3), which this year had the theme of Water. I’ll probably post the others in due time, but if you’re impatient, all four are featured in a post at Jo Bell’s site Waterlines: Canal and River Poetry. She says, in part:

My poem, Lifted, is about canal locks in general but specifically about Lock 30 of the Trent & Mersey, near Roger Fuller’s boatyard in Stone, Staffordshire. This stretch of water is very familiar to me, and to anyone who travels that great arterial east-west waterway through the English Midlands. This footage was shot on my own boat by Alastair, who proved to be not only an artist but a keen and capable crew member.