Join our film-poetry renga

Friends, I am delighted to invite you to contribute to a new digital project while we are all in lockdown, and hopefully beyond.

I have been asked by the wonderful poet Jo Colley to work with her on some activities to launch her fourth collection, Sleeper from Smokestack Books. It’s a glorious book full of double lives, Cold War spies, masked relationships, and emotional distances.

While we can’t bring you a physical launch (yet), we would very much like you to take part in a film renga. A renga is a long poem of linked verses that are created by several poets in collaboration,  under the guidance of a renga master. The renga master directs the flow of the chain, and will select each verse in turn from the selection put forward by the poets.

In our renga, we are providing you with a weekly prompt, which is a short verse from a long poem in the Sleeper collection. We are asking for a 20 second video clip that complements the text rather than directly illustrating it, and which also responds to the images already accrued. Each time we release a new prompt, we will also show you the film so far.

Here is your first prompt:

the table in your house
dim light on a glass of brandy
incoherent babble, justifications

And here are the instructions:

  1. Read the prompt
  2. Watch the film so far (applicable from week 2 onwards)
  3. Take a 20 second piece of footage (to allow for editing)
  4. Your video should contain images that complement the text, but not necessarily be a direct illustration of the images in the text
  5. Your video should be responsive to the feel of the composite film so far
  6. Please hold your device in landscape orientation when filming (like a TV screen)
  7. Please email your video to sleeperpoems@gmail.com
  8. Prompts and the film so far will be released every Monday for 11 weeks, and deadline for each week’s submission is 5pm every Friday

 

House of Abasement

Ah! A little something dark and twisted comes flowing forth today, from me and from my two contributors. Enjoy this very Strange Prompt…

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From Julie Easley, a poem:

I thought I might be dead

waking up in this shrunken room.

The walls seem elastic

to my touch, bending with my body,

as if breathing on their own.

A small window beckons me,

desperate as I am for light,

for signs I am living.

There is movement, a momentary

glimpse of hope as images

flash before my eyes.

But I am just a mirror,

a reflection of my past, playing

out on repeat until I learn.

And from Jo Colley, a prose-poem:

It’s so light, but there are no windows: the light comes from a series of ultra violet bulbs, giving the impression of daylight. Light making an effort to emulate the sun, to be real, to improve your sense of well-being. But the effort is too great. And there’s nothing to hide under or behind: all open plan, wooden floorboards, floor cushions. You feel so exposed. It makes you want to prostrate yourself face down on the tasteful rug and list every one of your inadequacies. You suspect this might take some time.

Delicious!!

 

Itinerant Line

I have been reading far too many books on poetic form by Penned In The Margins, and so have been forced to write a poem entirely made of anagrams of the prompt (except for the little joining words because I’m not completely brilliant/psychotic).

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Luckily, I also have more sensible poems here from Jules Clare

Travelling from place to place
Plane, train, automobile
A Climatic emergency disgrace
Turning down the emission dial

A line is easy to define
Especially if it’s mine
Locally from Newcastle to Scotland
The Lowlands to The Highlands sublime

How will I get on in life?
Will I be in a dream?
Will I proffer a knife ?
Personal challenges unclean

Purple visions and strife
Dressed to kill in Docs
Travelling between Lisbon and Fife
Observing European Goths

And from Jo Colley – thank you, both!

The line between acceptable and unacceptable
The line between here and there
The line between what is mine and what is yours
which shifts like the line of the tide, a salt stain
on the sand, watermarked silk
The line between now and then, ungraspable
like water, like the wings of a hummingbird
Yesterday, today and tomorrow with the light
growing and shrinking on the horizon, the sky
forever an endless bowl without a single line
where we will all fall upwards into infinity

In Search of the Miraculous

Welcome back to the second week-long block of daily experimental writings in response to these strange prompts. As ever, I’d love to featured something from you, no matter how small or weird, just comment or message me and I’ll get it sorted.

#8 In search of the miraculous2

Here’s a lovely poem from Bernadette McAloon, full of rhythm and song.

No Fatima, no Lourdes
no tubercular girls
no fevered rosaries
no swine,  no pearls
no multiplied fish
no unlikely streams
no swarm of Marys
no wayside scenes
no bathing for cures
no housemaid’s knee
no canonised psychotics
no parting the sea
no blue genuflections
no Magdalene hair
no combustible bush
no wing, no prayer

Big thanks to Jo Colley for submitting this poignant prose poem. Be sure to watch out for her new pamphlet, How To Break A Horse, out now via indie press Blueprint. You can also buy her full collections from Smokestack, including brand new collection Sleeper, which launches at Newcastle Lit & Phil on 9 March.

Once I was in touch with the ineffable, believing miracles were only a breath away. If I prayed, Jesus would come and dry my tears. If I prayed, Jesus would sort out the misery of home. So I prayed, fervently, on my knees, desperately, fingers entwined so tightly, eyes squeezed together so hard, that it hurt. And once I think I saw Jesus, standing in my bedroom in a white nightie, looking holy and beautiful and sad. I think he came to tell me that it doesn’t work like that. Miracles cannot be ordered or begged for, and they don’t necessarily go to people who deserve them. Because who doesn’t? Suffering is par for the course in a human’s life and you may as well learn that early on. No, miracles are not a response to a child’s prayer, they are not about justice or about putting the world right. They are like flowers that grow through the cracks of the rubble of a bombed building. They are the sound of a woman sweeping up broken glass in a Sunday morning kitchen. They are found in the unexpected irrepressible laughter of children who have had everything taken away. A kind word from the check out boy at the supermarket when your heart is trying to carry bad news. 

From Rachel Burns, author of Girl In A Blue Dress from Vane Women press:

Tabernacle
After Dean Browne

The tabernacle flame in my church was always lit,
my childhood spent wishing something would happen
praying for a dark wind to come and blow the doors open
hoping the glass would crack and the flame blow out
but no that never happened. God, I was bored
listening to Father Lowry stammer through the Amens,
the Our Fathers, the Christs, the Lords
my knees sore from kneeling in a pew.

I’d never make the leap between religion and sex
in a tent, as you did. I had no such awakening.
That’s not strictly true. I do recall a camping trip
the flame of the Tilley lamp dwindling,
the smell of paraffin the tent plunged into darkness, my grip
tightening, the gasp for breath, the sudden climax.