The Man with the Kindest Face (Film-Poem Online)

<a href="https://vimeo.com/271929492"><img src="https://www.robertpeake.com/files/2018/05/tmwtkf-thumb.jpg" /><br />Click to watch</a>

The Man with the Kindest Face

The rear-view glimpse is fleeting
as he lets you into the lane.

He might not have a face at all
or change it like a set of masks—

behind a newspaper in the waiting room,
sliding over to make room on the bus.

You resolve next time to look at him,
risk letting him look back at you.

You taste the salt in your throat,
and you hear him ask, What’s wrong?

You smile at him and say, Nothing.
And you mean it. Nothing at all.

The man with the kindest face has change for a twenty

He doesn’t look rich. Yet his pockets overflow with coins. “How much do you need?” he asks, and you tell him. You want to tell him more—-that you need to believe, understand, be heard. He extends his closed hand like a magician. You expect nothing. You expect a dove to fly out from his sleeve. You open your hand, beneath his, and wait.

Process Notes

The poem is a splice of the first poem that opens my new collection Cyclone and one of the many poems featuring the same figure that recurs throughout the collection. The film is footage from the Prelinger Archives, which I projected cylindrically into a 3D rendering environment (Blender), rotating the camera to give a continuous scroll effect. I then sliced and flipped this, giving the Rorschach-test-like effect of imagery spilling out from the midline. We then projected this footage onto the face of our friend and actor Barney Wells with a sheet behind him and filmed it. Valerie once again composed and performed the music, and from there it all came together quite quickly in the editing process.


Noman’s Land Common (Film-Poem Online)

<a href="https://vimeo.com/152471055"><img src="https://i.vimeocdn.com/video/552486948.webp"/><br />Click to watch</a>

Noman’s Land Common

A shadow passes over the meadow, effortless
in its cooling presence, a wake
of songbirds, for a moment stilled,
for a moment passed over
by a presence like night, a shoal of fish
beneath the barnacled hull,
tender in covering, blanket-soft,
the lids pulled over
our welling eyes, to shed a drop
in the pool of soft grasses,
which ripple, concentric,
in an unseen wind that blows
all things, together, onward, all things,
eventually into crossing,
into parting, into the covering-over
of life with — not death, exactly — 
but the other side, the other life
in which cloud, meadow, fish, ship
reveal their true names to us — 
flashes-through-sunlight, dark
moisture, ink of relentless progression.
A brush dipped
in clear water, the pigment’s smoke,
a cipher of leaves in the swirled cup.
The Hawthorn renounces her wedding vows.
Slow raptors finger the dryness of heat.
Nameless, in the new world, a congregation
of petals, root, trunk, and branches,
new leaves, in the unnamed world,
hold out their yellow hands to the rain.
A voice cries out
in a language you recognise, and the cloud — 
for that is what it is, just a cloud,
retreats in spinal curvature over the hill,
which is grass, then soil, then stone,
a foetus in the centre, its open hand
a gesture of greeting, of saying “goodbye” — 
and now you are on your knees, in a field,
jet-lagged, on a Wednesday, remembering
your name, a gift from your mother,
as the multiplication tables arrange
themselves before you, pieces for chess,
a calendar full of meetings in which
you can never say: for a moment, I was
that shadow, say, listen, I have been
to the other side of life, and a child
rests in the womb of the earth,
but instead stare-down at your ink-stained
hands, and nod, and arrange your broken
face into the gesture of listening.

Process Notes

With the tenth anniversary of the birth and death of our son James fast approaching, I find myself writing about the ongoing effects, including sudden and overpowering moments of grief. The text came first. I then shot time-lapse of clouds through an inexpensive toy kaleidoscope using a Raspberry Pi camera. I also shot real-time nature footage through the same kaleidoscope by holding it up to my smartphone camera. Valerie composed and performed the music. The title refers to a nearby patch of common land in North Hertfordshire that we frequent. One year, after extensive tilling, a field adjacent to the common erupted in red poppies, not unlike the no-man’s land of the First World War.


“School Trip” Read by Phil Abrams (Video)

The Public Poetry Series, sponsored by Fjords Review, aims to foster a person-to-person experience of poetry through video. The actor Phil Abrams has done a remarkable job reading my poem “School Trip” to camera.

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=binga5XpTmU"><img src="https://www.robertpeake.com/files/2014/11/Screen-Shot-2014-11-19-at-21.08.45.png" alt="Phil Abrams reads &quot;School Trip&quot;" class="alignnone" style="width: 100%; max-width: 560px;" /><br />Click here to watch the video</a>

He seems to feel and then say, unfolding his nuanced emotional range line-by-line in extreme close-up, embodying a kind of haggard, Giamatti-like anti-hero that is the perfect speaker for this poem.

Be sure to check out all the videos in the Public Poetry Series here.


Learning the Letters (Film-Poem)

Learning the Letters
Britton, South Dakota, 1939

“F” is for future, bright as a lens,
bubbles in the scrubbing basin,
thin as the skin on aunt Agnes’s hand,
the breakable surface of a pollywog egg.
It’s no shame to be poor, but a shame
to be dirty, since soap is cheap
and water is free
, and hats last a lifetime
for those who can’t afford the ribbons and pomade.
One day you will be gee-whiz gone,
just like “T”, like “that”, the last
Cracker Jack in the box, the last farrier
in a town full of town cars — the touchdown
you scored, the gloves, plaques, and blue ribbons
boxed up for safekeeping, which is never quite
safe enough. Outside, it is bright. It is “B”
and you are abuzz at the start of things,
though you “H” and mother says he who “hesitates”
is “L”, which you were once, at the fair,
“lost” in a petrified forest of trousers and skirts,
and will be again job-seeking in Des Moines
or Detroit, the hot, big “D” of Dallas, looking
to make a name that will make the town paper.
There is always a way, when you square up
straight, “F” is for facing the music, the camera,
looking up eye-to-eye as your portrait
gets taken, showing yes, you were “S”
you were somebody, looking, direct and uncertain
down the long barrel of whatever is ahead.

Credits

Children of Britton, South Dakota
Filmed by Ivan Besse in 1938
Courtesy Prelinger Archives

8mm projector sound courtesy nemoDaedalus

Music by Valerie Kampmeier

Poem by Robert Peake


Jonah (Film-Poem by Alastair Cook)

Lens-based artist Alastair Cook has done a remarkable job incorporating a poem I wrote in memory of our neighbour-friends’ son into a film-poem in his characteristic visual style. Be sure to listen through headphones to get the full effect of Vladimir Kryutchev‘s binaural recordings. The film will premiere at the Felix Poetry Festival in Antwerp soon.

&lt;a href="http://vimeo.com/42966391" data-mce-href="http://vimeo.com/42966391"&gt;Video by Alastair Cook&lt;/a&gt;