Poet: Linda France

Amerika (The Man Who Disappeared) by Alastair Cook

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.

Bernard and Cerinthe by Linda France

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

This is the third of the three films from Filmpoem for winners of last year’s National Poetry Competition in the U.K.

Bernard and Cerinthe is a film by Alastair Cook for Linda France’s first placed poem in the National Poetry Competition 2013, commissioned by Filmpoem and Felix Poetry Festival in association with the Poetry Society.

From the National Poetry Competition judges: ‘This strange narrative of a man being seduced by a plant charmed the judges with its vivid imagery and linguistic wit. Its precisely honed couplets move from elegant description (‘the bruise of bracts, petals, purple // shrimps’) to a tragicomic climax, in which our hero finds himself ‘a buffoon in front of a saloon honey / high-kicking the can-can. Can’t-can’t’. Truly imaginative and richly musical, ‘Bernard and Cerinthe’ is as much a pleasure to read on the page as it is on the tongue, and as such was the unanimous choice of the judges for first place in this year’s National Poetry Competition.’ {Jane Yeh}

Linda France is from the northeast of England, and has published seven collections of poetry. See the story in the Guardian, “Linda France wins National Poetry Competition with erotic botany story,” as well as the page at the Poetry Society website, which includes the text of the poem and this bit of back-story:

On what inspired the poem, Linda said: ‘I remember very particularly the day I wrote this poem, actually. I went to visit a friend of mine who has the most beautiful garden. It was the end of August and there was a plant I’d never seen before: Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’, and I was just astonished by it. It’s a very intense blue and the leaves are a silvery green… they’re quite thick, almost waxy, fleshy. That’s one of the things I’m drawn to about plants, they express this tremendous “Otherness”, but they just stay there and let you respond to them, unlike a bird or animal that disappears. A plant remains for you to give your attention to. I love that. I got absorbed in this flower and my sense was that it was very sexy, as many of them are. Cerinthe conceals and reveals at the same time, it has a flirtatiousness about it that’s very seductive. I don’t know how Bernard came into the story, but faced with this out-and-out flirt of a plant, he doesn’t know what to do. So that’s how it happened, really. Obviously it didn’t all come fully formed, but it arose from looking at the flower.’

Antiphonal: a “communal act of making” with twelve poets

An eight-minute filmpoem that still ends up seeming much too short. Digital artist Tom Schofield and filmmaker Kate Sweeney have created a truly masterful, immersive work that pays tribute to one of the glories of Medieval art. I’ll let Sweeney explain:

The Antiphonal project began as an original commission to 12 poets to write a poem inspired by the Lindisfarne Gospels. The poets involved are all based in the region and include: Gillian Allnutt, Linda Anderson, Peter Armstrong, Peter Bennet, Colette Bryce, Christy Ducker, Alistair Elliot, Cynthia Fuller, Linda France, Bill Herbert, Pippa Little and Sean O’Brien. The poems were then turned into a sound installation, entitled Antiphonal, by digital artist Tom Schofield, and sited in two iconic places: the newly renovated Lookout Tower on Lindisfarne and the crypt of St Aidan’s Church, Bamburgh.

Visual artist Kate Sweeney then produced two films in response to the sound installations. Using time lapse Kate sought to capture the colossal beauty of the landscape at Lindisfarne and how it changes through the course of a day. This is contrasted with the fragile detail captured in the Crypt at Bamburgh, where she imagines the breath of the past gently disturbing the cobwebs over the stones.

There’s more background on the website of the Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal.

This project was also part of a larger project, The Colme Cille Spiral, of which it formed one of six ‘knots’.

[…]

The project was a communal act of making, involving a group of poets and digital artists sharing inspiration on two journeys to Bamburgh and Lindisfarne, before they embarked on the commission. Eminent medievalist, Professor Clare Lees, King’s College London, was also involved in a conversation with the poets and artists, providing relevant texts, images and stories. The sound installation produced from the poems worked in a different way from the written page, enacting a dialogue between the poems, and demonstrating the emotive power of the human voice. The project reworked medieval themes and images, translating them and re-interpreting them for the present. It also placed poetry in new settings and involved different audiences. The crypt was more successful than the Tower, because of the number and noisiness of the visitors to the Tower. This was the first use of the crypt, which has been newly opened to the public, and the members of the church and community took ownership of the project, asking for there to be chairs so they could sit and listen over a period of time. The impact of the project continues in two further exhibitions, and a radio programme. The project is about listening and attention, and about hearing the echoes of the past in the present.