Filmmaker: Kate Sweeney

Vaccine by Christy Ducker

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I can’t say enough good things about this animated film by the ever-inventive Kate Sweeney. It works equally well as a poetry film or as a lyrical promo for vaccination; the transition from prose narration (by Dr. Mohamed Osman) to poetry half-way through is natural and powerful, and the poem by Christy Ducker is extraordinarily good. Here’s the description:

An animated film highlighting the research and fieldwork into finding a cure for Leishmaniasis, a chronic disease affecting millions of people in areas such as Sudan and Syria. The film was made as part of a collaboration between poet Christy Ducker and artist Kate Sweeney and scientists working at York University at The Centre for Chronic Disease.

Working in collaboration allows access to an other’s research, in this case, the work of scientists who are actively working to find a cure, and to study the causes and exacerbations of the Leishmaniasis disease. Dr Mohamed Osman sent me photographs he had taken when in Sudan of the people he was working with, trialing a vaccine for the disease. I was able to interview him, talk to him about my interests in stories and how we tell stories to frame experiences and use his response and his photographs in the initial part of the film. The second part of the film is an animated response to Christy’s poem that explores metaphorical links between medical vaccinations and the grieving process. Where the loose style of the first part of the film reflects the nature of conversation, the more structured animation in the second part reflects poetry’s structured, considered language.

A Scientist’s Advice on Healing by Christy Ducker

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The winner for Best Animation at Rabbit Heart Poetry Festival 2017, where it was also a finalist for Best Overall Production. Filmmaker Kate Sweeney notes in her c.v. that the 2016 film is a “2.05 min hand-drawn animation. In collaboration with poet Christy Ducker and Centre for Chronic Diseases, York. Funded by Wellcome Trust.” It’s one of at least two films that came from that collaboration, as well as a pamphlet of photography and poetry called Messenger.

Drawing on the science of immunology, Messenger explores how we wound and how we heal. Whether the focus is a tiny molecule or a global problem, Christy Ducker’s succinct poems offer ‘hope and a warning’. Illustrated throughout by Kate Sweeney’s striking photographs, Messenger shuttles between science and art to suggest alternative ways of looking at recovery.

For more on Ducker, see her website.

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.

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