There aren’t too many rules about what makes a successful poetry film, but one I tend to follow a lot when deciding what to post here is that a too-close match of imagery to text usually feels redundant and reductive, diminishing a poem rather than adding an extra dimension. But in this new film from the UK Poetry Society, somehow a teenage poet, Shakira Morar, and director Suzanne Cohen manage to break that rule, and I think it’s because the limpid quality of the text allows the illustrative imagery to attain a symbolic, even mythic weight. Watch it and judge for yourself. Here’s the description on the Poetry Society’s website:
On World Poetry Day 2017, we are delighted to present a new poetry film, produced by The Poetry Society to celebrate the overall winner of the Poetry for Peace 2016 project, chosen by Judith Palmer. The film features the winning poem by Shakira Morar, aged 17, from Headington School, Oxford, who reads the poem in the film, in English, while the Arabic translation by Manal Nakli appears as subtitles. The poem is inspired by a 4,000 year-old Mesopotamian jug in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and the film is directed by Suzanne Cohen.
‘Poetry for Peace, 2016’ is part of the award winning, Arts Council-funded ‘Writing Mesopotamia’ collaboration between Oxford poet Jenny Lewis and the distinguished Iraqi poet Adnan al-Sayegh aimed at building bridges between English and Arabic-speaking communities. It involved Adnan and Jenny working with the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, The Poetry Society and more than sixty 11-17 year olds from four Oxford schools – Oxford Spires Academy, the Sudanese Saturday School, Headington School and Cherwell School – on themes of heritage and peace to produce poems for a competition judged by the poets.
This is To The Marriage Of True Minds, a 2010 narrative short about Iraqi asylum seekers in the UK directed by Andrew Steggall. Producer Sunny Midha describes it on Vimeo as an Arabic adaptation of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116. William El Gardi and Amir Boutrous are the two main actors; full credits are on the Motion Group Pictures website.
This recent addition to the Book of Hours project is
Bruno Gussoni: Flute, Alto Flute, Tibetan Bells (Italy)
Claudio Ferrari: Electronics (Italy)
Iao Aea: Fretless Electric Bass (Italy)
Click through for the text for the poem.
I have Googled the earth and I’m tired of paradise. This city is home. I am its key and broken door.
Coventry-based poet Antony Owen performs his poem in this 2015 film by Adam Steiner (director), Brian Harley (camera and editing) and Alan van Widjgerden (sound), which kicked off a poetry-film project spearheaded by Steiner called Disappear Here. Last year they raised enough money from a crowdfunding campaign to produce a whole series of films exploring the Modernist/Brutalist superstructure of Coventry Ringroad: 27 in all, from nine writers and nine filmmakers. The launch screening is on March 16, and although it’s free, registration is required.
This sounds like a truly commendable use of film to bring the perspectives of poets and artists to bear on pressing local issues (which are also global issues, capitalism being what it is). Here’s a blog post from last year that explains what they hoped to accomplish:
The challenge of Disappear Here is to bring together artists of different stripes, some more experienced practitioners, others up and coming and hungry; native Coventrians and people who might be coming to the city for the first time and seeing it with fresh eyes; expressing the human aspect of what is so commonly seen as an inhuman structure, another one of HRH Charles’ “concrete monstrosities” – by way of contrast, witness the faux-Kensington banality of his ideal housing estate, Poundbury – but it is also fair to say that few near-monolithic concrete structures inspire such intense feelings of love and loathing.
But there is a positivity to the project. As much as it is anything, Coventry Ringroad is an archetype of reinvention. Each time the same A4053 road, but every journey around it different. It is the eye through which Coventry is (notoriously) seen, and can be seen, from above and below; a looping horizon where tarmac sea and brilliant blue sky meet and form a sinew of shuffling perspective. […]
Coventry is an ex-working-class city, chock-full with post-industrial grit from crumbling fire of red brick, after many of its 70s, 80s and 90s industries successively closed down. As such, the city has become an affordable and welcoming haven for artists with a burgeoning community of creative and socially-conscious practitioners – there is a story to be told there. I think the people and the city’s physical attitudes speak to this, guarded but protective. As both defensive wall and encircling stranglehold – the ringroad echoes this taut insularity, but also provides us with a blank canvas for reimagining public space. I think this push/pull reflex makes for an interesting tension as to how we define a city and its search for its centre.
U.K. poet Janet Lees and photographer and videographer Rooney are among my favorite poetry-film collaborative partnerships; every one of their too few videopoems is a small gem. Marc Neys profiled them back in 2014: “The Real and Pure Worlds of Janet Lees and Terry Rooney.” The above is a film he didn’t include in his piece, but to me it’s a great illustration of the poet’s dictum that less is more. Mayto Sotomayor is credited as editor.
A recent addition to Lucy English’s ambitious, multi-filmmaker Book of Hours project, this time from director Eduardo Yagüe—his third for the project, I think—with music by Podington Bear, voiceover by Rebecca Tantony, and an appearance by the actress Gabriella Roy. The stark contrast between the wintry footage and the summery text creates an interesting spark gap for the imagination to leap.