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.