In mid-October, Ó Bhéal’s 7th International Poetry-Film Competition took place in Cork, Ireland, in association with the IndieCork music and film festival. The winner was Virginia Gave Me Roses, directed by Dublin-based Fiona Aryan and written by Lani O’Hanlon, from Waterford. 2019 is the first time an Irish film has won this international competition, which has become highly-regarded in the poetry film community worldwide. The winning film was screened at the Kino as part of IndieCork, along with the other finalist films.
The judges this year were poet/film-maker Colm Scully and poet Stanley Notte. Excerpts from their comments:
Being a practitioner myself I learned so much from reviewing the 200 plus entries… Virginia Gave me Roses immediately worked for me on first viewing , and only improved as I watched it again. The beauty of the poem was matched by the subtle imagining of the visual.
In the end the film that stayed in the mind as a fusion of words and images was Fiona Aryan’s depiction of Lani O’ Hanlon’s poem, Virginia Gave Me Roses.
This piece depicts a soft-focused, memory-like family interaction that supports, compliments and, at the same time, adds weight to an original text that is both moving and strongly visual.
This depiction transports the viewer into a dreamlike state where one is enveloped by the profound sense of love and safety which being in a close-knit family occasion provides.
A warm, nurturing film to see at this time of year.
The writer of the poem in this video, Paul Casey, is an important figure for poetry in Ireland, especially in Cork. The poem is named for his home city, which comes from the Irish word for marsh.
Spoken in the video by Aidan Stanley, Marsh is a lament. The poem is unusual in being from the point of view of a place, anthropomorphised with a subjective voice. Paul’s avowed interest in history comes to the fore in this piece, spanning a vast sweep of time, from an ancient untouched land to a contemporary urban location.
Environmental themes shadow the development of the city over its long history, from free earth to “buses and pipes”. Between the poles is first the appearance of humans, with “A Celtic hunter slowing his currach”.* In later generations the human appears in the form of “merchants and markets”. In a time of British rule, “Oil street lamps lit stocks and paupers”. Finally the marsh has transformed into a place where “mobile phones and mini-skirts flirt my name”.
The video is by David Bickley, who is a musician as well as a film-maker. He composed the soundtrack of Marsh especially for it, using audio collected at a marsh in Carrafeen, West Cork, the location of the shoot. These recordings were then mixed with ambient musical sounds. The stunning, almost abstract images of the marsh landscape were shot looking directly down from far above with a drone camera. They are a magnificent yet serene expression of the sense of origins evoked in Paul’s poem.
In an interview about Marsh, Paul states that music is central to his writing, saying “without it there is simply no poem”. The song of this poem is in the voice of a “sagacious witness, persisting across the ages… that wise gentle spirit of sparse words (time)”.
Paul’s advice to poets is to “read a poem every day from a known poet, then another from an unknown poet. And write a poem every day too, no matter how short or ridiculous. Eventually you’ll be equipped for a masterpiece… It’s up to the gods then.”
As a contrast to David Bickley’s beautiful rendering of Marsh, there’s another video of Paul reading it himself in the modern-day incarnation of the city of Cork.
Paul’s great contribution to poetry in Cork includes working with the elderly through poetry appreciation. He is most known to the poetry film community world-wide as the founder and director of Ó Bhéal, organising the yearly poetry film competition in association with the IndieCork Film Festival.
The finalists in this year’s competition have just recently been announced. They include a number of film-makers and poets who might be familiar to Moving Poems followers, such as Stuart Pound and Rosemary Norman, Caroline Rumley, Jack Cochran and Pamela Falkenberg, Charles Olsen, Matt Mullins, Lucy English and Sarah Tremlett, Jane Glennie, Janet Lees, and more.
* A currach is a type of Irish boat with a wooden frame, over which animal skins or hides were once stretched.
This is Qué Palabra, directed by Eduardo Yagüe: a Spanish-language interpretation of Samuel Beckett’s poem “What is the Word” with the original text in subtitles. Jenaro Talens is the translator, and Sergio Cabello the actor. It’s been screened at the 6th International Video Poetry Festival 2018 (Athens) and Festival Silêncio 2017 (Lisbon). I think it’s fair to say that it is very, very Beckettesque. Also, the closing shot is brilliant.