Notes from TARP, Vilnius, 2015
Liberated Words are delighted to welcome Rebecca Tantony and Shagufta Iqbal to our team! They are both talented young poets and have worked extensively in community projects and events. They will be working with us to develop our outreach programme and to bring poetry film to wider audience.
Rebecca Tantony is a spoken word poet and multi media practitioner. She has taught spoken word at the Barbican Theatre and the San Francisco writing centre, 826 Valencia. She runs the Bristol branch of Hammer and Tongue, one of the UK’s leading spoken word collectives, and is co-director for the Applied Theatre Initiative, a Californian based arts organisation which works with teenagers to create solution focused social change. Her first collection of poetry is published by Burning Eye.
Shagufta Iqbal is interested in bringing poetry to a wider audience, particularly through the use of spoken word, theatre and movement. Her commitment to convey her experience of being part of two diverse cultures has brought her much acclaim and she has been described as being ‘one of the most talked about poets’ in the South West. She was one of the poets in the Public Address tour and runs the online magazine Bristol Women.
I have a new website with the two films premiered at TARP see sarahtremlett.com
As you can see we are not having a festival this spring, mainly because we have been focusing on our own personal projects; but we are however putting in a bid for a future two-year initiative. This will involve a series of workshops and screenings culminating in a national screening including an international call for films. As all the pieces drop into place it is already becoming an exciting project for everyone taking part.
Lucy has been busy organising MIX, the conference in digital writing that we co-founded in 2012 and is currently working on a PhD in Digital Writing, creating a digital poetry film project, The Book of Hours.
I have had my head down for far too long now working on The Poetics of Poetry Film for submission very soon. I have had some really valuable contributions and it will provide a comprehensive overview of the genre, including some of the most exciting and influential makers today.
I am also excited to be working on a poetry film commission from leading poetry filmmaker Alastair Cook for one of the ten National Poetry Competition winners from 2016. The work in question Claire Climbs Everest is a beautifully understated and immediately accessible poem about love and loss by American poet Sam Harvey. As a new departure I will be working with Howard Vause who will be driving the engine and providing support with his comprehensive audiovisual filmmaking and editing skills, so I hope we can do it justice.
Process and Metaphor
In January I was invited by Dr Judy Kendall of The University of Salford to take part in the Poetics and Poetry Network (of North West universities) Symposium on the theme of Poetry Film. I gave an overview of the subject, discussing my own work and included artists such as Meriel Lland (who by great good fortune chanced to come along and was able to answer questions on her own work without any preparation!) and naturally featured work by Marc Neys.
With clearly a rich research community, thought-provoking content and insightful films, discussion flowed throughout the day. Dalia Neis introduced her research into cinepoetics in relation to wind, and the authorial challenges of voicing multiple roles in solo research projects. And thoughts on such as non-metaphorical poetry filmmaking rose to the surface, following my drawing attention to the subject in Marc’s work.
Helen Mort, Tom Jenks, Michael Symmons Roberts all gave insights into their working processes: Tom Jenks on working to a commission and how he achieved layerings of found sound and Michael Symmons Roberts interviewed by Martin Kratz revealed the intricacies of working between poetry and TV documentary – keep an eye out for one that is in production, potentially screening later this year. I was particularly interested in Helen Mort’s film Dear Alison – see below – and hearing her views on the process of making a poetry film in terms of rock climbing, landscape and voice. Both Judy Kendall (writing on the influence of Eastern poetry) and Helen are included in the forthcoming book.
In terms of listening to discussions on process, for me, the stories about making stories – the ‘what really happened’ revelations of any story-makers, the happy accidents and the forced choices of poetry filmmaking are as fascinating as the final, ‘finished’ result. And of course what is so liberating about poetry films is that there is no absolute structure and no absolute finishing point; even if they serve as political flares or contain dramatic narrative they are often (and are allowed to be) emotional archaeology: fissures of feeling caught in mid-flight – not only a point in time and space but also a reading of the healthy functioning of the soul.
Home Page Screening
Welcome to ‘home page screening’ where we are showcasing individual poetry films by poets and filmmakers. We are beginning with a series on performance poetry films.
‘I Write to You Because Your Imprint’s Everywhere’
From the anthology No Map Could Show Them (Chatto & Windus, 2016) poet Helen Mort has focused on women who have had a particular relevance to her and across history. In ‘Dear Alison’ she writes not about but to the late Derbyshire-born mountaineer Alison Hargreaves who died climbing in 1995, and whose decision to continue climbing in the face of being a young mother has left its haunting shadow in her wake.
In discussing the making of ‘Dear Alison’ Helen observed how for her mountaineering and writing poetry are very similar; and how the act of climbing might help shape a line of poetry on the subject – an area that Judy Kendall herself is familiar with.
The resulting poetry film, made with Dark Sky Media and UKClimbing.com sits between a form of documentary tribute through poetry, and an evocation of the very themes that preoccupy the poet herself. It is in fact a form of portrait of Helen through Alison; or, not only Helen as conduit for Alison but Alison as conduit for Helen, where we see Helen more clearly as a result. And it is also a metanarrative on the process of writing: of the struggle of putting one word after another; of literally conceiving poetry, line by line.
The film follows Sheffield-born Helen as she climbs at Stanage Edge rising dramatically above stark moorlands in the Peak District, UK. She has mentioned before that this is a place where she finds she can compose; where lines surface and images resonate, whether climbing, running or walking with her whippet Charlie.
Echoing the contrast of the landscape the filmmakers have shot Helen’s authorial journey partly in extreme close-ups as if we are trying to see as close as possible into Helen’s mental poetic footholds, as well as the wider rock-climbing experience. As such the filmmaking is astoundingly direct, condensed and uncompromising; it is held together editorially as a series of complete visual vignettes, rather like the serial nature of climbing itself, from ledge to ledge. Most importantly we feel we are with Helen not watching her, and as such we also are touched by and reminded of Alison’s journey and spirit. Here the protagonist as writer but also climber is constantly shadowed by her subject, and as Helen moves up the rock face we sense both the struggle to write but also the struggles of women who are courageous and take risks.
With the topic of non-metaphorical poetry films still echoing in our minds we also might consider this particular work as riven with metaphorical seams (rock metaphors to discuss metaphor notwithstanding). Throughout ‘Dear Alison’ close-up shots of Helen’s hand writing the poem punctuate the film and at the end she draws a firm but balanced line under the last word. We might think of this as jointly associative for both climber and poet: the metaphorical horizontal evocation of the joyous release from the vertical ropes and carabiners that stop a climber’s fall; or equally, the poet’s release from language, deliberately letting the line go; the summit having been reached. However, the analogy between mountaineering and writing ends there: the poet displays their roped words, carabinered like woven lace; the mountaineer hauls in their rope erasing all traces of the climb.
I too was born in Sheffield, my mother’s hometown, where her side of the family were painters and decorators for nearly a century and my father worked in the steelworks. Whilst Helen grew up in Chesterfield I was brought up ‘down south’ on the borders of Herts and Cambs, where my mother never regained social consciousness, having lost the shopkeeper spirit of camaraderie that sustained her. Seeing life through her eyes, her failed compromise, has given me an exile’s fondness for the town. As such I take to Helen’s writing, and her crafted phrasing, as if it were of the city itself; so I too, like Helen, am channelling identity through another woman’s experience.
Helen Mort’s first collection ‘Division Street’ (Chatto and Windus, 2013) was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Costa Award and won the Jerwood Aldeburgh Prize. Her second collection ‘No Map Could Show Them’ was shortlisted for the Banff festival’s mountain book awards in Canada. Helen is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan. In 2017, she was a judge for the International Man Booker Prize.
“Oh to be in row 20 at the Arnolfini in Bristol on October 3 when the lights dim and the screen lights up because that’s the way it was meant for videopoetry to be experienced. If Marinetti could only see us now, his dictum parole in liberta announcing ‘LIBERATED WORDS’ in Bristol, a celebration of the leap from page to screen.” Tom Konyves
Tears in Rain
Tom Konyves writing for us!
We invited Canadian pioneer of videopoetry Tom Konyves to cut the ribbon on our series of fascinating writings on our selected poetry films – see resources /articles. Tom has chosen a film by Madrid-based graffiti artist and poetry filmmaker Dier (included in the VideoBardo section of our 2013 festival). Dier has taken Roy Batty’s (or rather Rutger Hauer’s inspired improvisation) from the dying words soliloquy from Blade Runner as the title of the film, and as a metaphor for the erasure of graffiti and lost voices on the city streets. This is doubly relevant since Ridley Scott was enlightened enough to go with Hauer’s spare, lone voice rather than the sanctioned but wordy script and paradoxically it has now entered universal language. I think it is a fitting choice for our festival theme, but to remind us to remember rather than let moments be lost in time – in commemoration of all those who gave all they could give – their lives – in the 1914–18 war. Light a candle don’t cry in the rain. S
All those . . . moments . . .
will be lost in time,
like tears . . . in . . . rain.
Time . . . to die . .
On Poetry Film
Check out the Screensister podcast with Penny Florence and myself at Liberated Words at Encounters, 2014.
Screensister – aka – Stephanie Wessell and Adele Fletcher, are collecting podcast interviews with people in the film industry – particularly with women. Great idea.
Thank you Steph and Adele.
Liberated Words CIC; liberatedwords.com Company No. 8867403 reg. address 8 Foxcombe Road . Bath . BA1 3ED . BANES . UK .