This is Filmpoem 50, a collaboration between Scottish filmpoet Alastair Cook and 20 other poets hailing from Scotland, England, Ireland, the U.S., South Africa and Belgium. I have a rule against posting films containing my own poetry to Moving Poems, but in this case my lines account for only 1/20th of the poem, so I decided not to be precious about it. Besides, it’s too important a poetry film not to feature. The composition process involved Alastair sending each writer a snippet of found film. To quote his original email:
You can be trite, erudite, short or shorter (no more than three or four lines) but the brief is this—Americana, the 1950s, travel.
All the clips are from the same batch of film and the artistic conceit is that a narrative will thread through these. This batch of film has this family move through America over the years, these boys grow up and some of the footage I have is heart-wrenching, always tinged with the salient and sombre fact that I source these from house-clearances, that the death of the filmmaker releases this footage to me.
The official description, from Vimeo and the Filmpoem website, reads:
Watch Alastair Cook’s brand new film, three years in the making, with new writing by twenty of the world’s best poets, sountracked by composer Luca Nasciutia and read by poet Rachel McCrum – screens worldwide from Autumn 2016. New ekphrasis work by poets John Glenday, Vicki Feaver, Stevie Ronnie, Janie McKie, Brian Johnstone, Jo Bell, Andrew Philip, Linda France, Dave Bonta, Angela Readman, Michael Vandebril, Gerard Rudolf, George Szirtes, Emily Dodd, Ian Duhig, Rachel McCrum, Robert Peake, Polly Rowena Atkin, Pippa Little and Vona Groarke.
This was originally planned as Filmpoem 40, but got delayed for a number of reasons, during which I believe the concept changed and matured a bit. I list Alastair as the chief poet here because it was his concept from start to finish, and he edited and moved around the submissions after they all came in. The decision to have a single narrator was, I think, a good one, but it’s amazing how well the conjoined text holds together on its own. Clearly, this is an approach to filmpoetry/videopoetry composition deserving of further experimentation. Alastair had been building on what he learned in making his Twenty Second Filmpoem back in 2012, which also involved 20 poets and some found footage.
In other Filmpoem-related news, I see that there will be a fourth Filmpoem Festival, or series of festivals, dubbed Filmpoem Sixteen, though it doesn’t sound as if we can expect an open call:
Filmpoem Sixteen will focus on a series of invited curated events. The first of these is at the Hauge Centre in Ulvik in Norway, where Alastair is artist in residence in May. Alastair has directed The Sword, a new film working with Hauge’s incredible landscape poetry, alongside readings by John Glenday, cinematography by James Norton and sound by Luca Nasciuti; the film will premier on May 12th. Alongside this new film, the Hauge Centre will screen a Scottih retrospective of Alastair’s work and selected works by others from the Filmpoem Festival submission archive.
Check back for further announcements as our new director Helmie Stil brings her own flavour to Filmpoem.
A Westray Prayer by C.J. Hurst
Filmpoem 32/A Westray Prayer by Alastair Cook
One of the highlights of the Filmpoem Festival earlier this month in Dunbar, Scotland, was a screening of five films by five different filmmakers for this same poem, all of them employing the same reading by the author, which they were not allowed to cut up. This meant that each of the filmmakers had to decide how to fill the silence before and after the short text. John Glenday himself attended the screening, reading and introducing his poem, which, he pointed out, is partly about silence. “When we’re silent, we’re letting the world in,” he said, adding: “Silence gets all the best phrases.”
The other two filmmakers who contributed work for the screening, Ian Henderson and James Norton, don’t appear to have uploaded their films to the web, though Norton has shared his audio track at SoundCloud:
The work is based on Glenday’s Uncle Alexander, who was in the D’ Battery 307th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery and died in the Battle of the Sambre on November 4th 1918, the same battle as Wilfred Owen. Glenday’s Grandfather, who was a blacksmith, signed the papers allowing his son to go into the Forces before he was of age.
The footage is used under a Creative Commons licence from archive.org
For more on John Glenday, see the Scottish Poetry Library website.
Another in the Absent Voices series of seven filmpoems from Alastair Cook “focused on the celebration of the vast and semi-derelict Greenock Sugar Sheds,” as he put it in the description of a previous film. Scottish poet John Glenday reads his poem (which, I have to say, I absolutely adore).
All seven films will be premiered at the Scottish Poetry Library on December 6:
This performance event features music from Luca Nasciuti and Rita Bradd, along with readings from Vicki Feaver, Brian Johnstone, Sheree Mack and Jennifer Williams, each reading over their film to live accompaniment.