Jonathan Tel‘s Commended poem from the Poetry Society‘s National Poetry Competition 2014, as read by Alastair Cook in a film directed by Corinne Silva, with sound by Vladimir Kruytchev. A particular challenge for this film was how to represent the Chinese characters included in the text. I also found the low-key camera work and natural sound a good counterpoint to the poem, which takes the form of a somewhat discursive letter. The statement from competition judge Zoë Skoulding reads:
‘Ber Lin’ connects places by exploring coincidences of sound and sense. The carefulness of expression intriguingly gives the feeling of a translation, even though it is not one. This distancing effect makes us see how language is always on the move, living in juxtaposition with other languages. At the same time the poem gives a sharp sense not just of place, but place as it is imagined and remembered.
Considering that Jonathan Tel is himself American, the choice to have Alastair read it adds another layer of linguistic juxtaposition.
I see by the way that the Poetry Society has a really nice page now for its commissioned poetry films, including a sub-section for the National Poetry Competition 2014 Filmpoems, so if you’re impatient at my slow rate of sharing them here, you can go there and watch them all.
This spoken-word film featuring the Botswana poet TJ Dema was directed, filmed, and edited by Masahiro Sugano of Studio Revolt in Phnom Penh. Click through to Vimeo for the complete credits, as well as the text of the poem and a bio of the poet. Sugano left the following note there as a comment:
TJ Dema is a renown poet from Botswana. Her poetry style would be called “spoken word” in the US. But speaking poetry out loud is how poetry has always been done in her homeland. So this is not a “street” or “urban” version of published words. This is poetry as it should be in Botswana. I had the great honor to get acquainted with this talented woman while traveling with Kosal Khiev (Cambodian Son) for London 2012 Cultural Olympiad in the UK. During her show at the Shakespeare museum, she told a few hilarious episodes about how poets are treated and represented in Botswana. I hope to share that video someday soon with you. Once again it is a great honor to present this video to you all. The production was done all in Cambodia (literally “in house” production) when she came to visit in March of 2015. Oh, and we filmed another piece called “Neon Poem” while TJ was here. Stay tuned. Like “Studio Revolt” on the Facebook page. You will be notified of the next release.
— Masahiro Sugano
I used her reading to create this soundtrack [SoundCloud link]. For the visual part of the video I wanted a strong contrast between blurry images of light (filmed at an exhibition on the history of light design) and extreme close ups of human skin and hair. Trying to create a mix of sensuality and a weird sensation of fright. Alienated.
Nic S. has also made a video with this text, using her own voice in the soundtrack, but I can see why Swoon chose Jægtnes’ reading: she’s the rare example of a poet who’s also an excellent interpreter of her own work—which is especially impressive considering that English is, I assume, not her first language. She is the translator too, I think: the Poetry Storehouse bio indicates that she’s published a collection of English translations of prose poems drawn from her first two Norwegian collections.