When it Rains, it Pours

I am involved with three different poetry events in the coming week.

The PityFirst, the UK Poetry Society commissioned me to design video sequences for “The Pity”–a commemoration of the centennial of the First World War involving new poetic responses to conflict.

As poets Denise Riley, Steve Ely, Zaffar Kunial, and Warsan Shire read their poems in the Purcell Room on Thursday night, my video sequences will be playing on the big screen behind them.

It was a pleasure to collaborate this way, and I am looking forward to the result. More details are here.

Swindon Festival of PoetryNext, we are off to Wiltshire for the excellent Swindon Festival of Poetry on Friday. I am giving a lunchtime reading at Lower Shaw Farm which promises to be delicious. I am looking forward to seeing friends, and putting real faces to a few virtual acquaintances. That evening Don Share, editor of Poetry will read his poetry to musical accompaniment. The whole festival looks terrific. Hats off to Hilda Sheehan for bringing together such a wealth and diversity of poetry events.

The TroubadourFinally, it is back to one of my favourite London venues, The Troubadour, on Monday night for an evening of American poetry. I am looking forward to finally meeting Tim Nolan, as well as a fine lineup of expats, transplants, and imports who all share the same accent as me. Come join us if you can.

More details about each event are available on my website. Come early, say hello, and bring an umbrella.


One Stop (Film-Poem)

One Stop Laurels

Our recent film-poem collaboration “One Stop” was nominated for best music/sound at Liberated Words III in Bristol, where it premiered. The original soundtrack was composed and performed by Valerie Kampmeier. The film commemorates the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

<a href="http://vimeo.com/105005307"><img src="http://cdn5.peakepro.com/files/2012/02/one-stop-screenshot-1024x577.png" alt="One Stop" style="max-width: 500px;">Click here to view the video</a>

 

One Stop

Do you remember beach-combing
for three-oh-three shells,
our little Easter-egg hunt
for exploding chocolate?
I think of you whenever
I snap the pill box shut.
You called our ride in a Higgins
boat "one stop on a busy tube."
We breathed through our helmets,
begging the spume to ricochet,
then leapt the ditch toward freedom
and cleared the snarling wire.
So this is freedom. This side
contains the same amount
of nitrogen in the air.
We won the race with our fists,
hands down, sound bananas.
What was it all for, Charlie?
Nineteen more minutes of linked
hands and holy prayers
to that bombshell divinity?
How do we know this road
leads back to the invisible base?
Go first. I'm right behind you.

Process Notes

I sourced archival colour footage of WWII, and composited this into an animation that I created using Blender 3D. I recorded journeys on the tube with an X1 Zoom, and mixed this under Valerie's music and my voice reading the poem.


“Buttons” (Award-Winning Film-Poem for Children)

Buttons LaurelsI am delighted to announce that “Buttons” won the judge’s prize in the 2014 Southbank Centre Poetry Film Competition “Shot Through the Heart” children’s category. It will premiere at the prize-giving ceremony on July 18th at the Purcell Room in London.

<a href="http://vimeo.com/89524515"><img src="http://cdn5.peakepro.com/files/2014/07/20140302175638-1024x576.jpg" alt="Buttons" style="max-width: 500px;"/><br>Click here to view the video</a>

Buttons

Buttons themselves are a kind of love token,
they fasten your coat to keep out the damp,
and love is each stitch sewn tight and unbroken
sticking them down like a well-licked stamp.

Buttons make eyes for your stuffed toys to see,
which bulge when you squeeze them right up
but love holds them on through the teddybear tea
or they’d fall with a splash–in your cup!

The things that we love we keep close as we can
sewn into our pockets and stitched on our sleeve
but one day, time’s tick-tock will unravel our plans
and a button will fall down, roll on, and just leave.

Buttons make eyes for your stuffed toys to see,
they fasten your coat to keep out the breeze,
the things that we love we keep close as can be,
but sometimes our love means we let them go free.

So, goodbye to the buttons, both pearly and black,
you fastened our trousers, you picked up the slack,
we will miss your bright shine, and miss your click-clack
we love you, goodbye now, and we hope you come back.

Process Notes

Raspberry Pi Camera with LEGO armature

When Valerie and I read the call-out for a film-poem competition with a children’s category happening here in London, we had to give it a try.

I wrote and recorded the poem, and then began playing with stop-motion animation. I used Christmas ornaments made of teasel, blue tack, coloured paper, a Raspberry Pi with LEGO-mounted camera arm (my own creation, at right), and of course lots of buttons. Valerie wrote and recorded the music at the end.

After more than forty hours of painstaking animation work, it was so gratifying to discover that the judges–a group of London school children–really liked the result.

We hope you do too.


Push-Bike by Elaine Gaston (Film-Poem)

<a href="http://vimeo.com/91520689"><img src="http://cdn5.peakepro.com/files/2014/06/screenshot-1024x576.png" alt="push-bike" style="max-width: 500px;"/><br>Click here to view the video</a>

Push-Bike
Click here to read the text of the poem on the Poetry Society website.

Process Notes

Valerie and I were honoured to be selected to make a film from one of the seven commended poems in the 2013 UK National Poetry Competition. We admired Elaine Gaston’s “Push Bike” as a poem, and sought to carefully expand on some of its themes with music and visual imagery. I used the camera module on a Raspberry Pi to capture time-lapse of clouds out our front window, and mixed this in with public domain footage from Preligner archives. Valerie composed piano music based on “Oh, Oh Antonio” by C.W. Murphy, which is mentioned in the poem. The film premiered at Filmpoem 2014, Antwerp.


Filmpoem 2014, Antwerp

Alastair Cook saying interesting things about film-poemsPoets, musicians, and filmmakers from all over the world converged on FelixPakhuis in Antwerp last Saturday for a fantastic day of screenings and conversation.

It was a pleasure to see John Glenday again, and to meet outstanding poets like Michael Symmons Roberts and Zeynep Köylü alongside filmmakers like Marc Neys and Adele Myers.

You can read more of my thoughts on the day, and view a selection of excellent film-poems from the first screening curated by Alastair Cook, which provides a fine introduction to the genre overall, in my article on the Huffington Post.

Click here to read the article and enjoy the films.


Aerial Manoeuvres (Film-Poem)

<a href="https://vimeo.com/97862897"><img src="http://cdn5.peakepro.com/files/2014/06/birds.png" style="max-width: 500px;"><br>Click here to view the video</a>

Aerial Manoeuvres

In dreams, I am convinced
I have always been able to fly–
the updraft from the cliff
will catch me like my mother
when I launched from the stairs
on a bird-brained impulse,
avian memory, invincible faith.
Airline rituals reassure me–
the act is routine ad tedium–
tyres drift up off the tarmac,
metal wings skate the air.
“Falling doesn’t hurt,” we joke,
“it’s hitting the ground.”
So I fall, and fall into myself,
gasping awake on a feather bed.
Larks slice through the dawn,
and part of me goes with them,
diving toward the updrafts,
hoping, mid-air, to be caught.

Process Notes

I had a feeling of the kind of film-poem I wanted to create here, something about flight. I used Blender to render a flock of birds and then composited them together with historic aviation footage from the Prelinger Archives. The poem wrote itself after that, and Valerie’s piano accompaniment followed. We also recorded birdsong on an H1 Zoom and looped it to create a backdrop of sound.


Jellied Eels (Film-Poem)

I had a great time reading poems at the Poetry Cafe in Soho tonight as part of the Southbank Poetry Competition awards. Valerie and I also collaborated to turn my third-prize-winning poem, “Jellied Eels”, into the following film-poem.

<a href="http://vimeo.com/84169213"><img src="http://cdn5.peakepro.com/files/2014/05/jellied-eels-300x168.jpg" alt="jellied-eels" class="alignnone size-medium wp-image-6013"/><br/>Click here to play the video</a>

Jellied Eels

Read the text of the poem at the South Bank Poetry Magazine website.

Process Notes

I recorded the poem through a pair of walkie-talkies to achieve the desired vocal effect. When then paired Valerie’s piano composition with morse code sounds. With so much going on auditorily, and because the poem itself is quite visual, we opted for a simple pan-out on time-lapse footage of light on water, which ends with a serpentine blur-cut that seemed to converge upon and reinforce the ending image of the poem quite well.