This is a great example of how a good soundtrack (here, the work of Luca Nasciuti, with voiceover by Alastair Cook) can really make a poetry film work. It’s from a new-to-me-project:
The fitba, the teams, the love for the game. Nicknames was written by William Richardson, read by Alastair Cook and filmed by Jane Groves. Nicknames was made as part of Luminate Festival’s Well Versed project. Workshops with Craigshill Good Neighbour Network were led by poet Rachel McCrum and filmmaker Alastair Cook. Nicknames was edited by Alastair Cook.
Scotland’s creative ageing festival, is held from 1st to 31st October across Scotland each year. The festival brings together older people and those from across the generations to celebrate our creativity as we age, share stories of ageing and explore what growing older means to all of us. Each year, there are activities all over Scotland – from art workshops and dance classes to music performances and authors’ events – and you will find Luminate in theatres, galleries, community halls, care homes and lunch clubs, as well as events online that take us to audiences everywhere.
To make up for my prolonged absence (I’ve been relocating to the UK for the winter), here’s a whole triptych of filmpoems from Filmpoem itself: the crack team of filmmaker Alastair Cook and composer Luca Nasciuti, working in commission for a fascinating project from Northumberland-based poet Stevie Ronnie.
In July 2013 writer and multidisciplinary artist Stevie Ronnie visited the High Arctic as part of the Arctic Circle international residency programme. Arctica is a year-long series of interlinked artworks on the subject of climate change that Stevie has made in response to that experience.
These works are interdisciplinary in nature encompassing literature, performance, photography, artist’s books, film and a public art installation.
[…] The films also feature Arctic footage shot by US-based artist Michael Eckblad alongside found footage from Alastair’s collection.
‘What I Should Have Said’ is the first Filmpoem of the Arctica triptych. It takes us into the air as we settle in to listen – then brings us back to ground in the Arctic. This is a love poem to the family that Stevie left behind, originally composed shortly before he set off on his Arctic journey. ‘What I Should Have Said’ appears in Stevie’s collection of poetry ‘Manifestations’ (Red Squirrel Press).
‘Time and the Two Year Old’s Hands’ is the is the second Filmpoem of the Arctica triptych. It reaches the midway point of the triptych and turns back on itself, the hourglass turning over, injecting an urgency into this plaintive call for the survival of our children. The poem ‘Time and the Two Year Old’s Hands’ was composed as a creative response to the IPCC report on Climate Change that was commissioned by Tipping Point, the Free Word Centre and Spread the Word for the publication ‘Weatherfronts: Climate Change and the Stories We Tell’.
‘From Arctica’ is the is the third Filmpoem of the Arctica triptych. It brings us back from the Arctic to Northumberland and was originally composed in response to the tragic and unexpected death of a child in Stevie’s local community. This difficult and moving ending to the tryptich is about the about the acceptance of the unspeakable, the unthinkable and those things that are around us that we choose not to see. ‘From Arctica’ is an extract from a yet to be published poetic narrative that explores climate change, light, dark and our relationship with death against the backdrop of the Arctic landscape.
Watching them back to back, there’s a definite gestalt effect for me. Also, these filmpoems certainly put my own difficulties adjusting to a more northern latitude (London! Yowza) in perspective.
A film by James William Norton in collaboration with Filmpoem. The poem by Paul Nemser was commended in the 2014 National Poetry Competition from the Poetry Society, who commissioned the film as part of a series of NPC 2014 filmpoems. NPC judge Roddy Lumsden said of the poem:
‘After the Calm’ is a mix of deliciously frothy language and mysterious narrative. It is angsty and slippery. It tempts us to solve that restricted narrative but keeps our attention. It shifts between straightforward lines and unusual phrasing (‘dizzily companionable wane’, ‘angels powdering the breezes’). Intriguing, somewhat disturbing, it impresses with its dark charm.
This filmpoem by Katie Garrett is an excellent demonstration of how to stay close to the imagery of a poem without merely illustrating it and diminishing both film and text in the process. The text, by Mark Pajak, is a Commended poem from the Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition 2014. Judge Zoë Skoulding’s remarks on the poem already seem to anticipate the filmpoem:
The ingenious structure of ‘Cat on the Tracks’ produces an eerie sense of inevitability, where the lines of both poem and the train hurtle on their collision course. The filmic detail of the cat’s eyes’ slow blink draws us into a parallel world in which physical laws seem – just for a moment – suspended.
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.
From the judges: ”This poem of historical abuse works powerfully because it’s written with a tremulous watchful grace. The adult perspective recalling the child perspective is very finely done, as the bifurcated character remembers the day that clove her in two. Its rhymes are halting, haunting, they come and go as if desperate both to remember and forget.” – Glyn Maxwell.
The Poetry Society’s annual National Poetry Competition is for previously unpublished single poems.
Filmpoems have been commissioned in partnership with Alastair Cook and Filmpoem for all eleven winning poems, and will tour at festivals around the country and beyond.
A poetry-film about a photographer strikes me as a particularly difficult assignment, but director James William Norton of Filmpoem rose to the challenge, enlisting the aid of actress Kelcy Davenport. Artist and writer Roger Philip Dennis‘ poem “Corkscrew Hill Photo” took First Prize in the Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition 2014, and Norton uses his recitation in the soundtrack, along with soundscapes by Farah Mulla and music by Dissimilar.