Eleni Cay and Friends at the Slovak Embassy in London

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“A poem on paper is nothing more than a piece of writing that may be used for anything that can be done with a piece of writing.”
-Paul Valéry

This event celebrates the multiple forms a poem can take and the multiple voices it can accommodate. It brings together four artists bound by their shared passion for poetry and the arts.

Poetry: Eleni Cay, Robert Peake and Anna Selby
Piano: Valerie Kampmeier
Visual Art: “Did you know? This is Slovakia”

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Noman’s Land Common (Film-Poem Online)

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<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.

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The Essence of Instinct (Film-Poem Online)

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<a href="https://vimeo.com/135297786"><img src="https://www.robertpeake.com/files/2015/08/0196-300x169.jpg" alt="0196" class="alignnone size-medium wp-image-7197" /><br />Click here to watch</a>

 

The Essence of Instinct

for Charles Darwin

That summer you were alone
with your thoughts, which is to say
you were never alone.

Nuage. Vapours. The Narwhal.
Collecting iridescent bugs
in your barely-visible net.

Cataloguing, by sputtering candle
the endless lists, ink darkening
the corner of your mouth.

Your armament of facts
was nothing much to her, as she
tested your reflexes with a pin.

Birdwatching. Beetles. Pheasant
blood-ruffled, shot-riddled,
a black stone’s coup de grâce.

Once there was no pattern,
the crochet unpicked by needles,
coloured threads, broken limbs.

Pricked, you bleed like a prism,
dividing light from light
through the aperture of pain.

All at once, the peacock
opens his eyes, and the threads
pull tight, stitching you in.

Process Notes

Continue reading…

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Push-Bike by Elaine Gaston (Film-Poem)

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<a href="http://vimeo.com/91520689"><img src="https://www.robertpeake.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.

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Aerial Manoeuvres (Film-Poem)

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<a href="https://vimeo.com/97862897"><img src="https://www.robertpeake.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.

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