Filmmaker: Alastair Cook

Twenty Second Filmpoem: 20 poets, 20 seconds each

http://vimeo.com/45299284

Alastair Cook‘s 22nd filmpoem is both playful and profound, a lovely demonstration of the magic that can happen when poets write ekphrastically in response to film clips.

Twenty Second Filmpoem (the 22nd Filmpoem) is twenty 20 second Filmpoems; it was conceived when I was asked to do a pecha-kucha.org night. An interesting concept, you present 20 slides for 20 seconds; I thought I’d do something a little different, actually create some work for the event. I commissioned 20 writers, all listed below, to write flash fiction against some 1960s found footage I’d edited. It’s ambitious and inevitably some bits work much better than others, but for me it is imperative to push this a little, to leave my comfort zone. And invariable, all the writing is superb, and for that I am thankful.

I also took the opportunity of using Vladimir Kryutchev’s binaural field recordings, for which I thank him. His amazing binaural map of Sergiyev Posad in Russia is here: oontz.ru/en

See the rest of the description on Vimeo to read all 20 short poems. The poets are: Andrew McCallum Crawford, Mary McDonough Clark, Al Innes, Guinevere Glasfurd-Brown, Elspeth Murray, Janette Ayachi, Jane McCance, Donna Campbell, Ewan Morrison, Angela Readman, Gérard Rudolf, Zoe Venditozzi, Jo Bell, Sally Evans, Pippa Little, Tony Williams, Robert Peake, Stevie Ronnie, Sheree Mack and Emily Dodd. Dodd blogged about her part in the production. A couple of excerpts:

I received a link with a password for my film, it was number twenty (password twenty). The film was 1960s found footage and it was beautiful. Alastair had edited it to tell a 1 minute story.

I watched a woman in a white dress on her wedding day. She kept looking at the Best Man. I wrote my initial thoughts down and came back to watch it again, two days later.

My brief was to respond with a piece of flash fiction that could be read aloud within 10 seconds. Alastair wanted it to be short, two or three lines maximum, he said just a haiku in length.

[…]

When I was first commissioned I’d thought along the same lines as the bride… is this really me?

  • What if I watch the film and have no emotional response?
  • What if I can’t do flash fiction?
  • What if my piece ruins the whole presentation?

And all of this ran through my head while waiting for a response from Alastair.

Thankfully, I had this reply within a couple of minutes:
No it’s bloody perfect x Baci x

I Lost You by Guinevere Glasfurd-Brown

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http://vimeo.com/44743267

Alastair Cook says about his 21st filmpoem:

Guinevere Glasfurd-Brown’s I Lost You is a letter to her father, who was killed when he was 29. This film is for our fathers, and yours.

Cook continues to surprise, eschewing his usual abstraction for an extreme simplicity, which, for me, enhances the emotional appeal of the text.

Aan Het Water / On the Water by Bernard Dewulf

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http://vimeo.com/43475356

Two films commissioned by the Felix Poetry Festival for a poem by Antwerp’s City Poet, Bernard Dewulf. The filmmakers, Alastair Cook and Swoon Bildos (Marc Neys), are of course no strangers to Moving Poems. See Swoon’s write-up on the festival at the discussion blog.

Jonah by Robert Peake

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Alastair Cook‘s 20th filmpoem uses a text and reading by Robert Peake. The film is due to premiere at the Felix Poetry Festival in Antwerp on June 15.

The poem’s back-story is fascinating. Let me quote from the first couple of paragraphs from Alastair’s description on Vimeo:

[P]rior to London, Robert lived in a small town full of artists in the foothills of the Santa Barbara mountains called Ojai (a Chumash Indian name meaning either “moon” or “nest”). He lived next to the directors of the local theatre company on one side, and a metal sculptor called Mark Benkert and his wife Marcia on the other. One morning just before dawn, a 400-pound black bear wandered through the theatre directors’ yard and out onto Robert’s street. He then climbed into a tree and became stuck.

Robert takes up the story: “he drew us all out, awed us with his presence, and brought us together as neighbours. Sadly, because it was also the first day of bear hunting season, he was shot out of the tree that night and killed by the wildlife “authorities.” Benkert swung into action, welding and cutting all night to produce a half-ton metal outline of a bear in rusted iron sheeting. Early the next morning, a capable rock climber, he hauled himself and the statue up the tree and placed it there–his bulletproof metal bear defying all. As far as I know, it is still in the tree. Mark and I became closer, and finally discovered that we held in common losing a son: my James in infancy, his Jonah gone at thirty-two from drugs and mental illness leading to suicide. The town commissioned Mark to create a bigger second statue to be displayed prominently.”

The God of Sugar by Vicki Feaver

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http://vimeo.com/40869581

Alastair Cook‘s latest filmpoem features cinematography by James William Norton and a terrific score by Luca Nasciuti. Vicki Feaver is a highly regarded, regularly anthologized English poet with three poetry collections out.

Better Days by Kevin Cadwallender

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I’ve been reading interviews collected around the U.S. during the Great Depression by the Federal Writer’s Project, and this poem perfectly captures my reaction to that heritage of hard times and lives cut short by poverty and dangerous work. This is Alastair Cook‘s 19th filmpoem, with a sound composition by Mark Walters.

Leper Window, St Mary the Virgin by Jane McKie

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http://vimeo.com/36201991

Alastair Cook’s 18th filmpoem incorporates a text by Scottish poet Jane McKie which “won the inaugural Edwin Morgan International Poetry Competition in 2011 and was praised by the judges as ‘spare, musical and wonderfully imagined,'” Alastair tells us. Luca Nasciuti was the composer.