Snowblindness (Film-Poem)

<a href="https://vimeo.com/87357326">Click here to watch the video</a>

Snowblindness

It is hard to know how I got here,
now that we cut the sled dogs loose,
and went our separate ways for help,
hard as pack ice in the footsteps
I crunch into, wondering whose they are,
following a herd of anxious commuters
doubtless on their way to warmth,
raising what look like pitch forks
against the white buildings ahead,
their black tongues crying, “Murder”
as I laugh into the snow-licked wind,
glad not to be the foreman on that rig,
glad to see the thousand-pair kind eyes
blinking out in front of me, soft-nosed
welcome party, parting ways as I approach
the city centre, flushed and sweating,
under this maniacal sun, I skip forward,
breathing heavily, pulling off my clothes.

Process Notes

I found a film of reindeer in the archive.org 35mm Stock Footage collection and, after watching it several times, I began to develop a narrative about a man lost in the Arctic Circle. The poem came from there, followed by the video and effects editing and finally the music and sound effects.


Ursula (Film-Poem Online)

<a href="https://vimeo.com/82382137"><img src="http://www.robertpeake.com/files/2013/12/ursula.jpg" style="max-width: 500px;"><br>Click here to view the video</a>

Ursula

Black hair. Red claws. That’s all
you need to know. She left
the cubs a long time ago,
and now all she wants is a man
to drink gin and play snooker.
She keeps a gun in her purse
and two ex lovers in jail,
signs her letters with a kiss
and a dab of cheap perfume.
She knows how to use a letter opener,
walk upright like a lady,
forage berries in the forest,
bandage a gunshot wound,
claw her way out of the trunk
of a speeding car, and roll away.
She’s on the hunt when hunted,
growls obscenities when hit
by a tranquillizer dart.
In this city full of garbage,
she knows you by your smell.

Behind the Poem

The BearPaul Stephenson and I have been sending each other postcards with the implicit dare to try to write a poem about whatever is depicted — the stranger, the better. When I received this postcard advertising some kind of noir West End stage production called “The Bear”, it set my head spinning.

I wrote a very different kind of poem about a bear several years ago, a lament that became part of my first short collection Human Shade. But the more I stared at this “dame” with a pistol in her hands, the more she and the bloody-clawed bear behind her seemed to fuse in my mind.

Valerie and I found some old excess footage, now in the public domain, from a Los Angeles film studio in the 1950s, and we put this together with road, wind, and bear noises as accompaniment. So this new film-poem was born.


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


Seventeen of Twenty

Alastair Cook has been at it again, with an evocative new project inspired by PechaKucha, wherein he comissioned twenty poets to write very short pieces to accompany twenty seconds of footage each. I was delighted to have been seventeen of twenty, and impressed with the results.

<a href="http://vimeo.com/45299284">Twenty Second Filmpoem</a> from <a href="http://vimeo.com/alastaircook">Alastair Cook</a> on <a href="http://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.


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;