Filmmaker: Kate Sweeney

Hammersmith by Sean O’Brien (excerpts)

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This new poetry film by UK filmmaker Kate Sweeney, based on a poem by Sean O’Brien, was commissioned by the 2016 Newcastle Poetry Festival. The Vimeo description reads:

In response to extracts from Sean O’ Brien’s same-titled poem, ‘Hammersmith’ is an elegiac, hand-drawn animation sweeping through 1950’s London. drawn from the iconic cinematography from Jules Dessin’s 1950 noir film, ‘Night And The City’.

The soundtrack by Lady Caroline Mary includes a song by Bernadette Sweeney.

In the Air by Kate Sweeney

A unique poetry film: a hand-drawn animation of poets’ hands from interview snippets that can also be seen as a remix videopoem. Kate Sweeney explains in the Vimeo description:

Created from short elliptical sequences taken from archived interviews with four Bloodaxe poets. I wanted to isolate the gestures used when explaining the poetic, the abstract thoughts they couldn’t express in words alone. Gesture is communication that is also a kind of drawing in the air.

C.K Williams, in his interview with Ahren Warner, muses that “In a sense the final version of any work of art pretends to be an improvisation; even a painting. First the painter puts down the ground on the canvas or the wood then he puts down another layer of something then he begins to put the blocks in and then the last layer, little brush strokes, that look like improvisation”. The archive offers a window through to all those described layers. It tracks the process of producing a poem, a book and in a way, a poet. Inspired by my research in the archive, the animation includes the smudges, rips, mistakes and corrections, of the paper it was drawn on, revealing and incorporating the process into the final version.

Bees by Beverley Nadin

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Kate Sweeney directed this film for Beverley Nadin’s Commended poem in the 2014 National Poetry Competition.

From the judges: ”This poem of historical abuse works powerfully because it’s written with a tremulous watchful grace. The adult perspective recalling the child perspective is very finely done, as the bifurcated character remembers the day that clove her in two. Its rhymes are halting, haunting, they come and go as if desperate both to remember and forget.” – Glyn Maxwell.

The Poetry Society’s annual National Poetry Competition is for previously unpublished single poems.
Filmpoems have been commissioned in partnership with Alastair Cook and Filmpoem for all eleven winning poems, and will tour at festivals around the country and beyond.

Proof: a poetic glimpse into the archives of Bloodaxe Books

A poetry film/documentary hybrid. The filmmaker, Kate Sweeney, describes it in the Vimeo description as

A poetic glimpse into the archives of the North East [UK] poetry publisher Bloodaxe Books, the contents of which were recently purchased by Newcastle University.
The film was made by artist Kate Sweeney in collaboration with poets Tara Bergin and Anna Woodford in spring 2013

Anna Woodford and Tara Bergin both held residencies at the archive. Bergin talks about her fondness for archives in a video introduction to the film. The same site (CAMPUS social network) gives a fuller explanation of how Proof came to be:

In 2013, Newcastle University acquired the archive of Bloodaxe Books, one of the most important
contemporary poetry publishers in the world. Two poets and recent PhD graduates, Anna Woodford and Tara Bergin, were asked to take a look into the as yet un-catalogued boxes to gain an initial sense of the archive’s scope and potential. To document their findings, they teamed up with artist Kate Sweeney to make a short ‘poem-film.’ They called it ‘Proof’.

“It was very strange and very interesting,” Bergin says.

The film includes guest appearances by Bloodaxe authors Gillian Allnutt, Simon Armitage, John Hegley and Anne Stevenson.

Love on a Night Like This by Josephine Abbott

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A Kate Sweeney film, commissioned by Filmpoem and the Felix Poetry Festival in association with the Poetry Society. This is one of three films for the winners of the Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition 2013.

From the National Poetry Competition judges: ‘This poem, built on motion, powerfully presents the balancing act of loving another human being. It depicts both the simplicity and enormity of that act, and our powerlessness in the face it, reduced as we are to “sea-birds in the teeth of a gale.” We loved the atmosphere and detail – that plastic pot skittering on a path, birds “made helpless as plastic bags”… This is a poem in which the personal and universal, the minute and the enormous, do more than co-exist: they are one and the same thing.’ {Julia Copus}

For a bio of Josephine Abbott and the text of the poem, see the Poetry Society website.

Antiphonal: a “communal act of making” with twelve poets

An eight-minute filmpoem that still ends up seeming much too short. Digital artist Tom Schofield and filmmaker Kate Sweeney have created a truly masterful, immersive work that pays tribute to one of the glories of Medieval art. I’ll let Sweeney explain:

The Antiphonal project began as an original commission to 12 poets to write a poem inspired by the Lindisfarne Gospels. The poets involved are all based in the region and include: Gillian Allnutt, Linda Anderson, Peter Armstrong, Peter Bennet, Colette Bryce, Christy Ducker, Alistair Elliot, Cynthia Fuller, Linda France, Bill Herbert, Pippa Little and Sean O’Brien. The poems were then turned into a sound installation, entitled Antiphonal, by digital artist Tom Schofield, and sited in two iconic places: the newly renovated Lookout Tower on Lindisfarne and the crypt of St Aidan’s Church, Bamburgh.

Visual artist Kate Sweeney then produced two films in response to the sound installations. Using time lapse Kate sought to capture the colossal beauty of the landscape at Lindisfarne and how it changes through the course of a day. This is contrasted with the fragile detail captured in the Crypt at Bamburgh, where she imagines the breath of the past gently disturbing the cobwebs over the stones.

There’s more background on the website of the Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal.

This project was also part of a larger project, The Colme Cille Spiral, of which it formed one of six ‘knots’.

[…]

The project was a communal act of making, involving a group of poets and digital artists sharing inspiration on two journeys to Bamburgh and Lindisfarne, before they embarked on the commission. Eminent medievalist, Professor Clare Lees, King’s College London, was also involved in a conversation with the poets and artists, providing relevant texts, images and stories. The sound installation produced from the poems worked in a different way from the written page, enacting a dialogue between the poems, and demonstrating the emotive power of the human voice. The project reworked medieval themes and images, translating them and re-interpreting them for the present. It also placed poetry in new settings and involved different audiences. The crypt was more successful than the Tower, because of the number and noisiness of the visitors to the Tower. This was the first use of the crypt, which has been newly opened to the public, and the members of the church and community took ownership of the project, asking for there to be chairs so they could sit and listen over a period of time. The impact of the project continues in two further exhibitions, and a radio programme. The project is about listening and attention, and about hearing the echoes of the past in the present.

The Lab Aquaria by Colette Bryce

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This was the first of the three films Kate Sweeney made in collaboration with poet Colette Bryce for her residency at the Dove Marine Laboratory. (The other two are Ballasting the Ark and Turbines in January.) Sweeney wrote:

‘The Lab Aquaria’ seeks to capture a tone, a feel of the lab; a sort of visual mood or reflection that leaves an after-image of the poem. Colette wished to include one site-specific piece about the Dove laboratory and we visited together to collect imagery in photography and video.

Though there are a couple of direct matches between text and film image, the film as a whole escapes the trap of excessive literalism, and comes across as a lyrical meditation on marine life and the work of science.

[UPDATE] The three films were shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Prize for new works in poetry in 2013.

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