A powerful new film from the Spanish director Eduardo Yagüe in response to a poem by the Uruguayan writer Rafael Courtoisie, which is included in the soundtrack. London-based translator and poet Jean Morris supplied the English translation used in the subtitles, a collaboration which I’m happy to say I had a small role in bringing about. The music is by Four Hands Project, and the actresses are Mercedes Castro and Montse Gabriel.
A gorgeous film from 2003 by the London-based animation artist Katerina Athanasopoulou, with an English translation of a poem by Cavafy (Kavafis) in the soundtrack. Click through to Vimeo for additional credits and a list of selected screenings.
With the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe, the poem has received a great deal of attention online and in the press. An article in The Guardian provided some background:
“No one leaves home unless / home is the mouth of a shark. You only run for the border / when you see the whole city / running as well.” This evocative stanza from poet Warsan Shire’s Home hit a nerve online recently as the European public finally woke up to the reality of the refugee crisis. Explaining, in short verses, the unthinkable choices refugees must take, Shire writes: “no one puts their children in a boat / unless the water is safer than the land.”
The young Nairobi-born, London-raised writer first drafted another poem about the refugee experience, Conversations about home (at a deportation centre), in 2009 after spending time with a group of young refugees who had fled troubled homelands including Somalia, Eritrea, Congo and Sudan. The group gave a “warm” welcome to Shire in their makeshift home at the abandoned Somali Embassy in Rome, she explains, describing the conditions as cold and cramped. The night before she visited, a young Somali had jumped to his death off the roof. The encounter, she says, opened her eyes to the harsh reality of living as an undocumented refugee in Europe: “I wrote the poem for them, for my family and for anyone who has experienced or lived around grief and trauma in that way.”
Shire was something of a phenomenon well before this poem became famous, though. The New Yorker wrote about her last month: “The Writing Life of a Young, Prolific Poet.”
Her poetry evokes longing for home, a place to call home, and is often nostalgic for memories not her own, but for those of her parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, people who forged her idea of her ancestral homeland through their own stories. With fifty thousand Twitter followers and a similar number of Tumblr readers, Shire, more than most today, demonstrates the writing life of a young, prolific poet whose poetry or poem-like offhand thoughts will surface in one of your social media feeds and often be exactly what you needed to read, or what you didn’t know that you needed to read, at that moment.
And sure enough, I first encountered her work this past weekend, when a stanza from a poem she wrote in 2011 was being passed around in image-meme form in reaction to the Da’esh attacks in Paris. I shared it to my Facebook feed, where it quickly racked up more likes and shares than anything I’ve posted all year.
Richard Brautigan‘s famous 1967 poem may be treated as holy writ by Silicon Valley dipshits who pray for the advent of the singularity, but that doesn’t stop it from being a fascinating cultural artifact in its own right. So I was pleased to see this fine student film by Edward Phillips Hill, which also includes something I’ve never seen before: process notes right in the end credits.
- stop animation because it’s a physical/tactile medium
- the other images that flash by are either screen captures of social media or images taken from my phone camera while looking at social media, in essence looking through the technology seeing what is being ignored
- the music was chosen as it resembles a techno song yet played by acoustic instruments, thus furthering the duality of modern life & the constant push and pull between ‘technological’ life and ‘real’ life
Poet Choman Hardi recorded her poem ‘The Songs’, in 2004 at the British Council in London for their think-tank Counterpoint. The performance appeared first on a multimedia CD Rom exploring the theme of memory and migration. The CD containing perspectives on this topic from photography, creative writing, psychotherapy and cognitive neuroscience is still available free from Counterpoint. Email counterpoint [at] britishcouncil.org (replace [at] with the symbol @)
Eleven years on, Hardi’s second collection of poems in English, Considering the Women, was published last month by Bloodaxe — who, by the way, have just debuted a new website. (Check out the multimedia section.)