I’m delighted to bring you the final cut of the experimental, collaborative film-poem myself and poet Jo Colley have been making over the last 2 months. I say final cut, but in fact there are more sections to the poem, so consider this the final version of a pilot edition. Jo has edited together footage donated by several people, most of who are excellent poets in their own right – please watch through to the end for the credits.
We’re very grateful to those who sent in clips, whether they were eventually used or not. One thing we’ve learned from this process is that it’s harder than you think to capture even 20 seconds of compelling video! Writing poetry and making film-poetry are most definitely two linked but separate disciplines. Where do their skill sets diverge, and where do they overlap? I’m going to think and research more in order to answer that question in future blogs, and in my own film-poems. My gut tells me the overlap lies in attention to detail, and the creation of metaphor. What do you think?
As with a traditional renga, anyone from the group of participating artists can offer contributions as often as they like – which is how we welcome back Alison Raybould, who gave us our very first images. It just goes to show, try try again! Sometimes it takes a few attempts to get a bit of film that works the way you want it to.
Poet and renga-master Jo Colley has selected this clip of hands crocheting vintage wool for a number of reasons. One is that she enjoyed how it continues an overall mood of domesticity that is appropriate to the atmosphere of the poem it illustrates. She also liked seeing an action that is different from the pickling described in the verse, yet is also a kind of magic transformation of one substance into another thing entirely. And finally, she has fond memories of the wool shop featured on the wrappers in the film – if you’re from Darlington, maybe you do too?
A fascinating turn in the imagery this week, as new contributor Anathema McKenna picks up on the cut paper strips of week 7 and turns them into an abstraction. The choppy rhythm and ‘prison bar’ effect of the collaged lines is unexpected yet effective in conveying the actions and atmosphere of the verse, without ever becoming a direct illustration of the words.
We’d love to see your ideas for what might come next in this multi-authored film!
Welcome to week 6, the mid-point of this experimental project based on a poem by Jo Colley from her latest collection, Sleeper. The footage for this verse uses a combination of old photos featuring marbles, and video of raindrops falling on a dark puddle.
Every week we ask for contributions of film clips that might in some way illustrate or respond to the words, imagery, and above all the emotional tone of the poem. This last week we received several pieces of film, some very beautiful, but few seemed to really be in dialogue with the words of the prompt.
It can be hard to put images to words, but for this to work there must be some sense of connection. Here, the roundness and clustering of the marbles are a visual echo of the berries in the poem, described as “beads”. The rain on water stands in for the “cider vinegar”, and the sinister hints of the word “drowning” are suggested by both the darkness of the water and the earlier glimpse of a doll positioned face-down in a disturbing posture. Take a look, and see if you can catch what I mean.
So, here’s a hint for how to approach making a film clip for this week’s verse, because there are very few visual references in it!
Take three or four of the words that seem to you to be most important for the atmosphere of the verse. For example, you might choose ‘sharp’, ‘catches’, ‘throat’ and ‘truth’.
Write them in a random way on a piece of paper, and then start to make a spider-web of associated words, images, objects, colours even. It might look like this:
Now try connecting two or three of your associated images together (ideally three), to create a possible moment of footage. For example:
Connecting ‘knife’ (sharp) with ‘stroking neck’ (throat) gives a strong image. Too strong?
Connecting ‘drop something’ (catches) with ‘broken glass’ and ‘plasters on fingers’ (sharp) suggests a scene of letting something drop and shatter, perhaps filmed from above; or a scene of injured fingers picking up shards.
Connecting ‘twitter feed’ (truth) with ‘broken glass’ (sharp) makes me imagine swiping a broken phone screen – perhaps the images on the phone could be staged to be relevant to the poem’s atmosphere of a relationship in trouble – photos of the couple in happier times?
Connecting ‘tear’ (catches) to ‘Bible’ (truth) to ‘mouth’ (throat) gets us perhaps the most art-house image, of someone ripping up and chewing the pages of a Bible.
Have a go yourself, and see where your associations take you – and remember, ALWAYS film in landscape orientation, and send us your clip to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm this Friday! Here is the full verse of poetry to inspire you:
This week a contribution from Bernie McAloon takes us back towards imagery of nature, but purple and grainy with age. The road up through trees is the ‘Bank’ and perhaps the ‘challenge’ mentioned in the verse, the tint of the film stock is the stain of the burst berries.
Next week is our midpoint, verse 6, and we would love you to contribute a 20-second clip of video that responds to the following text:
Here is your challenge – can you send us something that shows neither forks, nor pots, not vinegar, but still illustrates the mood of the poetry. Repetitive action, the suggestion of unspoken hostilities in the word ‘drown’?
Send your landscape-oriented footage to email@example.com by 5pm Friday 8 May!
Our film-poem takes a new turn this week, as archive footage contributed by Wilf Wilson is spliced into the mix. When imagery of war appears inside the confines of what has so far been a domestic setting, what is the psychological impact? Where is this story going? Take a look at the film so far, and then read the verse for week five. We want your 20 second film clip to take us forwards!
We need 20 seconds of footage that reacts to this verse, but it doesn’t have to be a direct illustration of it. Bring us something that speaks of challenge, or bursting? Remember to film it in landscape orientation, and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm on Friday 1st May.
This week’s clip is provided by Lilly Flypchuk, whose daily lockdown walk takes her along the banks of the upper Tyne.
Looking at how the film is progressing, it’s really interesting to notice how the mind forges links between the words of the text and images that may seem quite unconnected. In week one, there was a clear link between Ali’s film (light shining through a glass tumbler) and Jo’s words “dim light on a glass of brandy”, but also the way the light twisted and turned seemed to fit well with the text “incoherent babble”.
Natalie’s footage used spoons, which weren’t mentioned in Jo’s poem at all, but their silver shininess chimed with “kept for best”, the domestic nature of the object matched with “cupboarded”, and of course their Hall of Mirrors reflections gave us the “face…but folded”.
This week we see a river whilst reading “pond reeds” and our mind puts the sense impressions together. When the text gets to “fresh out of the cellophane” the transparent glisten of the water becomes the plastic wrapping – or it at least it did in my mind!
Have a look for yourself, and then please do spend 20 seconds this week recording a clip for verse 4, using these guidelines.
At the end of this 11-week renga, we will smooth out the final edit, record a definitive version of the vocal track, and add a unifying musical score. But for now, take a look at how the draft is developing…
I have a new filmpoem for you to look at – it’s VERY amateurish, hooray. I filmed my shadow at Hartlepool station when waiting for a train one morning. (Pretty soon I’m going to have a collection of work entirely created at Hartlepool station while waiting for trains). There are two soundtracks overlaid; one is a free download of wind chimes, the other is my annoying voice being much more boring-intoning-typical-poet than I’d like. Anyhoo, give it a look if you’d like 🙂