Pádraig Burke of the production company Runaway Penguin directed and edited this filmpoem-performance video hybrid. Though some of the shots struck me as a bit too literal, they were balanced by other, more oblique images, and Dave Lordan‘s intense delivery was a good fit for the dire subject-matter of the poem. “My Mother Speaks to me of Suicide” appears in his collection The Lost Tribe of the Wicklow Mountains (Salmon Press, 2014).
Irish poet Dave Lordan’s stirring recitation is backed up by music from Sunn O))) and an inspired cut-up of a movie about the Titanic, A Night to Remember (1958). Though I post a lot of videos that remix old film footage here at Moving Poems, I thought it was pretty unusual to make such a lengthy poetry film all from a single source—and one on the same subject as the poem. So I asked the video editor, Eamonn Crudden, to comment. Here’s what he wrote.
I made the video for “The Fucking Titanic”in about 20 hours over two days. Dave knew that his book of prose experiments—First Book of Frags—was about to come out and asked me to get involved in making a video for one of the pieces.
He left the choice of piece up to me and I picked the Titanic one because, reading it online months earlier, I had been struck by the ‘voice’ of the poem—a proletarian female voice cursing her fellow passengers on the Titanic, and the world generally, from beyond a watery grave. I imagined her voice condemning those on the upper levels of the ship, to reliving the disaster over and over for all eternity.
That thought was the hard work in the process of making something for Dave! The rest was really just a mechanical process. I knew that with any dramatized reconstruction I could get my hands on I could capture that thought. It would be as simple as putting the ‘voice’ in the piece over footage of the disaster in progress.
I have made a number of quite experimental films in the last few years—constructing new stories using original monologues (of my own usually) and combining these with edits of my own footage and footage drawn from films that come to hand. Dave knew about my approach so I guessed, without ever directly asking him, that he’d be OK with a piece made through appropriation.
He made a rapid voice recording at my request and e-mailed it to me. I decided to work by having a look at A Night To Remember—an old black and white film about the Titanic. I downloaded and started to watch a just-OK rip of it ‘in’ Final Cut Pro. As I viewed it, sometimes at double and triple speed, I started to strip out all of the dialogue scenes, keeping the unfolding action sequences, and started to make a sub-selection of resonant images that would suit being looped. I knew the moment I first tried looping some of those more resonant shots over the reading and the soundtrack by Sunn O)) that I had a crescendo to build up to. I then started into editing a fast summary of what was left of the film when the dialogue was removed and immediately knew that the almost ‘nouvelle vague’ feel that resulted, combined with a crescendo based on loops, would work as an approach for the whole piece.
I don’t feel bad or guilty about this kind of appropriation at all. It is not as if I or Dave will profit from the venture. I think the quite compelling nature of the result justifies the approach. I am primarily an editor and editing to me is a creative activity. The creative part of my work on it was a simple choice of music and of an existing text to rifle for imagery. Maybe it is useful to compare this approach to VJing? I don’t think there is ‘originality’ in the video—but as a little machine to heighten the intensity of Dave’s piece I think it works. That’s enough for me. I heartily recommend this cheap and dirty approach to others who want to give their poetry and writing a visual element.
To order a copy of First Book of Frags, see the Wurm Press website.