Sponsored by the Poetry Society as part of National Poetry Day , Denise Riley, Steve Ely, Zaffar Kunial, and Warsan Shire premiere powerful poetic responses in this centennial commemoration of the First World War. Visuals by Robert Peake.
I am involved with three different poetry events in the coming week.
First, 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.
Next, 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.
Finally, 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.
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.
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.
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.
How can one write poetry when language burns the tongue? For German-Jewish poets living in exile during the Holocaust, the banishment must have been double — not only from homeland, but language. For a poet like Paul Celan, words become as intractable as life itself. But through her careful translations, Ruth Ingram brings into English three exiled poets working within the German language through grief, disillusionment and guilt toward a kind of reconciliation. That is, these are survivor-poems that also represent poetry-as-survival.
The opening poem by Hilde Domin, a so-called “assimilated Jew” whose privileged life was upended by flight and exile, speaks chillingly to survivor guilt. “Build Me a House” begins, “The wind comes…” and describes it lifting old papers “like doves” and displacing us “like jellyfish” on shore. It is a gentle but inevitable force, against which she builds a pretty house. Finally, “the wind passes / like a hunter, / whose hunt is not / meant for us.”
I was once again delighted to read a couple of poems at Theater 150‘s “Sneak Peek Writers’ Showcase” back in January.
Thanks once again to Charles McDonald for filming.