Like contemporary lyric poetry itself, poetry film these days is overwhelmingly serious in tone. Here’s an exception. Bristol-based filmmaker Graeme Maguire and poet Marcus Slease have produced “an experiment in letting go of perfection and critical thinking” that’s also highly entertaining in a Rabelaisian sort of way. Let me reproduce Maguire’s Vimeo description in full:
DIRECTOR: Graeme Maguire
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Sarah Maguire
POETRY: Marcus Slease
SOUNDS: Annie Gardiner of Hysterical Injury
STARRING: Rick Hambleton, Natalie Brown, Mo, Jamie Lindsay
THANKS TO: The Cube, Scubaboy Inc, Floating Harbour Studios, Geneva Stop
Gentlemen is a poetry film project in collaboration with poet Marcus Slease. The film was created for an event called Uptight in Bristol, the name of which was the inspiration for the theme of the film. Inspired by Robert Frank’s ‘Pull My Daisy’, a silent film overlaid with jazz music and poetry by Jack Kerouac, Gentlemen is shot on super-8 and contains no dialogue. It is accompanied by a poetic narration by Marcus and an interpretive bass guitar sound track by Annie Gardiner.
The film is also an experiment in letting go of perfection and critical thinking. It was shot on one 3 minute roll of super-8 with all editing done in-camera. This meant planning and timing out all the shots before the shoot and then shooting each one in sequence using a stop watch. After processing the film the result is a fully edited film. This also meant that we could only do one take of each shot so the actors HAD to get it right first time!
[I]nstead of moaning about not being able to connect with other British poets, we want to join forces with artists in other mediums and create a united front against the thugs that control the literary, political and social world of this country. Just as the Beats were influenced by Bop Jazz, and the New York school poets inspired by painters, we feel more at home with Bristol’s DIY artists/musicians/activists.
We are two poets, Sarah Maguire (Bristol) and Marcus Slease (London) that to put it mildly are sick of traditional intellectual, stiff, PHD driven British poetry and feel obligated to do something …anything ….to make a change.
We have created Uptight for our own mental health and general punk fuck you activism! We will hold regular events that will bring together poetry, music and film. Our events will be queer friendly, woman friendly and we will make every effort to be inclusive and engage with artists of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
Uptight is working on the first publication of a print (YES real recycled paper) and online magaZINE that will show case all that is truly modern in art and poetry.
Irish poet, writer and visual artist Melissa Diem’s translation into film of a piece by the Belfast-based poet Carolyn Jess-Cooke, another of the commended poems from the 2013 National Poetry Competition. One of the judges, Julia Copus, said of it:
The carefully controlled domestic setting of this poem is held in a tense balance with the uncontrollable wildness of the outside world. Here, a common disquiet – centring on the fragility of a newly-created life – is freshly captured by the surprising image of a hare, that could at any moment go bounding off for good over the night fields.
The Poetry Society and Alastair Cook’s Filmpoem project deserve commendations of their own for enabling such inspired poetic collaborations as this.