Nationality: U.K.

Huntress by Janet Lees

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Huntress is by Isle of Man poet and artist Janet Lees, who also shot and animated the images.

The piece encourages us towards a wider-awake vision, towards more sensitive ears, with attention facing both inwards and outwards, and on the perceptual spaces in between. True to the soul of our times, it is deeply moving and beautifully well-realised.

George Simpson is the creator of the soundtrack, providing a track called “Artemis”, from his album Still Points In The Turning World. Emotionally affecting, with an elegant and simple extended first movement, followed by expansion into expressive drama, the music coherently accompanies the visual and textual elements in an organic way.

All the elements of this video merge to become an audio-visual experience far more than any sum of its parts.

Song of the Soil by Jessica Mookherjee

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Jessica Mookherjee‘s poem “Song of the Soil”, from her collection, Tigress (Nine Arches Press, 2019), is given heartfelt filmic treatment by Helen Dewbery and Chaucer Cameron, under the auspices of their production house, Elephant’s Footprint. According to the book’s webpage,

Jess Mookherjee is of Bengali heritage and grew up in Swansea. She has been widely published in magazines, including Under the Radar, Agenda, The North, Rialto, Antiphon and Ink, Sweat & Tears. She is author of The Swell (Telltale Press) and Joyride (Black Light Engine Room Press) and Flood (Cultured Llama). She was highly commended in the Forward Prize 2017 for best single poem. Jessica works in Public Health and lives in Kent.

The poem expresses a deep connection to the Earth in an elegy of lost origins and disappearing ground. Giving further voice to these themes, the film is imbued with overexposed images of a natural world scorched yellow and burnt brown, and a soundtrack made ominous by ambient bass. Mookherjee’s solemn, rich narration rounds the elements of this powerfully organic piece.

The film is part of a series Helen and Chaucer have been doing for Nine Arches Press. They note that “The film-poems are not only viewed by Nine Arches’ existing readers and online audiences, but are a tool for their poets to engage more easily with their existing and new audiences.” The press, however, does not appear to embed any of the videos on the books’ pages, which is kind of baffling.

Alphonso’s Jaw by Sarahjane Swan and Roger Simian

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Recently I became part of an international collective of artists called Agitate:21C. In its short existence, it has attracted about 300 outstanding experimental, avant-garde, and generally ‘other’ artists from around the world, including film-makers, poets, curators, critics, lovers of the arts, and just about any kind of alternative creator, focused on any medium, genre, style or form.

Originally part of a larger art installation created for Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival, Alphonso’s Jaw was the first poetry film I found via A21C. It is written and directed by Scottish artists Sarahjane Swan and Roger Simian, also known as Avant Kinema. Sarahjane appears in the film and voices the piece in English and French. I find it virtuosic in its fusing of word, soundscape and image, as well as deeply moving in its meditation on the timeless horrors of war in the lives of individuals.

This is an excerpt from what the artists have to say on the film’s page at Vimeo:

The installation, and our subsequent short film, were inspired by our fascination for two objects we discovered amongst Edinburgh University’s Anatomy Collection: (1) the cast of a disfigured face; (2) a prosthetic jaw constructed on an early nineteenth century battlefield.

Through some research we unearthed the story of Alphonse Luis, a young French gunner struck by shrapnel at the Siege of Antwerp, 1832. Having suffered horrific facial injuries, losing his lower face, Alphonse’s quality of life was eventually improved when the Surgeon-Major and a local Belgian artist collaborated on the construction of a silver prosthetic jaw, painted in flesh tones and adorned with whiskers.

We uncovered historical accounts of Alphonse Luis’ injury, surgery, recuperation and rehabilitation in medical journals of the day, and drew on these for an exploration of identity, disfigurement and reconstruction.

In Alphonso’s Jaw we imagine that Alphonse Luis has become dislocated from history to exist outside of any specific time or place, trapped in eternal convalescence, soothed by the dreams of his Battlefield Muse, who is equal parts Night Nurse, Scheherazade and Beauty from Beauty and the Beast. Luis’ Battlefield Muse is, in turn, both horrified and fascinated by her patient.

The poem, titled “Beauty and the Silver Mask,” can be read at Avant Kinema’s blog, in both its full English version and the short fragment of it spoken in French, which was translated by Raymond Meyer.

Muirburn by Yvonne Reddick

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Dutch filmmaker Helmie Stil‘s latest filmpoem, just released online yesterday, is a brilliant follow-up to her award-winning The Opened Field. Like that film, it’s based on a poem from the UK Poetry Society’s 2017 National Poetry Competition, this time the commended poem “Muirburn” by Yvonne Reddick, a scholar of ecopoetry and up-and-coming poet from the northwest of England. And like Dom Bury’s “The Opened Field”, “Muirburn” is an unsettling poem that gives Stil plenty of room to subvert viewers’ expectations, steering just close enough to standard, narrative film-making to draw us in and reveal the—I would argue—true, uncanny reality of nature and our relationship with it. One of the National Poetry Competition judges, Pacale Petit, noted that the poem itself contains “filmic flashes, which dissolve and sear as if glimpsed through a furnace”, and added that it “concludes on an astonishing parting image”—a real gift to the filmmaker, who certainly rose to the challenge.

The film premiered in March, according to the Poetry Society’s announcement post:

Yvonne Reddick also won the inaugural Peggy Poole Award, and the film ‘Muirburn’ was premiered at the Peggy Poole Award readings at Bluecoat, Liverpool on 13 March 2019.

Semechki (Семечки) by Eta Dahlia

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Be sure to click the CC icon for English subtitles.

A fascinating collaboration between Russian poet and filmmaker Eta Dahlia and UK poet and artist Iris Colomb. It grew out of a residency at the Center for Recent Drawing, one of “a series of experimental translations of Eta Dahlia’s minimalist Russian poems into gestural drawings,” Colomb writes, which were

entirely process-led. I made use of my limited knowledge of Russian, allowing me to experience the poems phonetically without semantic bias. Translating the poems’ sounds into gestures became the basis of my systemic approach.

I listened to each poem repeatedly for an hour, interpreting each sound as a separate movement tracing a line. Throughout this process my repetitive gestural sequences produced an increasingly intricate network of lines, generating a tightly layered shape. My movements evolved with each iteration, the drawing itself exposing their range.

The resulting compositions became complex maps of my changing perception; areas and textures displaying different levels of conviction and doubt, making these drawings both translations and documents of performance.

The video was featured in 3:AM Magazine last September as part of their Duos series.

Aftermath by Siegfried Sassoon

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Layla Atkinson directed this vivid animation of a poem by Siegfried Sassoon that insists on the importance of remembering the horrors of war in peacetime. The animators are Marie-Margaux Tsakiri-Scanatovits, John Harmer, Rok Predin, Jocie Juritz, Jacob Read, and Clelia Leroux; see Vimeo for the rest of the credits. The Trunk Animation Production Company website provides detailed production notes. Here’s the middle part:

Being that the poem obviously has a dark subject matter, we wanted to find a balance so that an audience would be able to enjoy the film, relate, and hopefully retain Sassoon’s warning, without being either too harrowing, or too warm.

We worked with the amazing Julian Rhind-Tutt on the voiceover, and he played with the delivery of different lines to help ground each scene in a reality.
The visual narrative has a cyclical structure that as we progress, slowly erases reality as memories take over, only for our main character to make a firm decision to regain control and pull themselves back into the here and now.

The poem was written in 1919, and we took influence from cubism, in so much as we wanted to tell multiple stories and ideas at once from different viewpoints. Layla also approached the overall look and feel using a mixture of different textures and materials to build up visual layers.

Read the rest.

The Opened Field by Dom Bury

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Devon-based poet Dom Bury‘s poem won the 2017 National Poetry Competition sponsored by the UK Poetry Society, and the judges said:

The darkly allegoric winning poem surrounds six boys in a field enacting a disturbing coming-of-age ritual, and is told with a driving rhythm and mantra-like repetitions. The poem interrogates themes of unchecked masculinity, exploring our destructive relationship with each other and with the natural world. The barbaric impulses enacted are interwoven to offer us a sombre and precisely wrought ecological and social fable for our times.

This film interpretation by Helmie Stil takes, perhaps unavoidably, a somewhat illustrative tack while remaining suggestive and allusive in all the right ways, so that the poem doesn’t feel pinned down, as it easily could have felt with a more conventional approach.