Category Archives: video

Getting REEL

walker in silhouette

REELPoetry 2022 – the festival of poetry film, is on 25/26/27th February, live (in Texas) and online (everywhere). I’m delighted to have been able to curate a short program of poetry films, which I’ve called Stravaig. I like to think of it as a wander through film-poems both from Scotland, and around the globe about the natural world and our relationship with it.

As well as a couple of my own short films, the Straviag program (Festival program, Day 1: 26th Feb) has works from film makers I am really pleased to be able to include – Life-breath Songs, presented by Scotland’s Makar Kathleen Jamie – the poet driving this national poetry collaboration – is a collection of three beautiful poetry films by eminent Scottish poetry film maker Alastair Cook (founder of Filmpoem), and featuring the gorgeous voice of Eilidh Cormack (of folk trio Sian). The Mirror is a poised collaboration between poet Em Strang and filmmaker Jonny Randall.

I’m also very pleased to be able to include the challenging The animal that therefore I am by award winning Dutch filmmaker Bea de Visser – a unique collaboration with animals (and other human animals). Jesse Adlam’s and poet Greta Stoddart’s Lie in a field on your back gives a precious moment of pause in the rush of the world. Artist Alisha Anderson delivers a remarkable visual-speech-poem centred on the aftermath of forest fire in Meristem. The wave by Janet Lees with poet Lucia Sellars is a song for and of the sea, and for life.

REELPoetry 2022 – the festival of poetry film, is on 25/26/27th February, live (in Texas) and online (everywhere). For tickets and program details see http://www.publicpoetry.net/reelpoetry (Please remember to adjust event times from CST to your own timezone.)

REELPoetry 2022 poster

.
.
.


a tree speaks

.

a large beech tree

a tree speaks is a short film poem.

The poem is one that I wrote back in 2017 when I was working on a collaboration with artist Tansy Lee Moir.

Now felt like a good time to rework some text animation that I made for a projection back then into a proper film poem. You can see the result below… (sound on is best)

.


Rough Currency

Rough Currency is a new poetry pamphlet by the excellent Rebecca Sharp, published by Tapsalteerie.

This is a short video trail that I made to promote the pamphlet and an online launch event coming up soon. Music is by the superb Philip Jeck.

Full details and how to order copies at the Tapsalteerie website.


TRAWL

UPDATE:

TRAWL is an Official Selection for screening at the 2020 ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival in Berlin

TRAWL is a video poem made for Stanza 2020 (Scotland’s International Poetry Festival) as part of Scotland’s Year of Coasts & Waters 2020.

It’s a collaboration between myself, poet Matthew Caley, using text from his sixth collection Trawlerman’s Turquoise, musician and bioacoustician Alex South, and experts in marine science at the University of St Andrews.

You can see TRAWL on a screen at the Byre Theatre during the Festival, or you can watch it on my Vimeo channel, right here… (volume up to hear Alex’s amazing soundtrack!)

 

More about …

TRAWL at StAnza 2020
http://www.stanzapoetry.org/festival/events/trawl

‘Trawlerman’s Turquoise’ by Matthew Caley is published by Bloodaxe Books
https://www.bloodaxebooks.com/ecs/product/trawlerman-s-turquoise-1218

Matthew Caley will be at Stanza 2020, for further details please see
http://www.stanzapoetry.org/festival/poets-artists/caley

Alex South is a composer, performer, and bioacoustician
https://alexsouth.org/

With thanks to marine scientists at the University of St Andrews, especially:
Richard Bates, Ellen Garland, Bernie McConnell, and Luke Rendell.

.

.


Place of Graves

I seem to be making more posts that I want to begin with “something a little different this time”. Hopefully that is a good thing. This time the different things are a short film, and that the poem is not my own. The short film is one that another poet asked me to make. The poet was acclaimed Scottish writer and Stanza founder, Brian Johnstone. Of course I was flattered to be asked, so, not really knowing what I was getting into, I said ‘OK!’

Brian sometimes performs with musicians Richard Ingham and Louise Major as ‘Trio Verso’, and he wanted to use improvisations Richard and Louise played around readings of his poem. Brian sent me an ad hoc recording he that he’d made already. I listened and decided I’d like to re-record it so I could make a new sound mix.

The problem I found was that the subject of Brian’s poem was both difficult, and something I knew very little about at all. This very short preface that he had written for the video explains the context:

“In the aftermath of the Holocaust a Jewish actress returns to her ancestral shtetl in Eastern Europe too seek evidence of her family’s former life.”

I didn’t even know what a ‘shetl’ was. I had to look it up. I learned that shtetls were small market towns in Eastern Europe with significant Jewish populations. The Yiddish word ‘shtetl’ means ‘little town’. They existed for hundreds of years, but by the 1930s they were in decline to some extent due to a variety of demographic and cultural changes. The Holocaust destroyed what remained of the way of life of the shetls. There is a great deal of excellent material available online. This is from a short piece by Joellyn Zollman:

“For American Jews, a majority of whom are of Ashkenazic (Eastern European) descent, the shtetl serves as a mythical point of origin. This simple, down-to-earth culture–guided by what seems to contemporary observers a colorful combination of religion and folk wisdom–is where we came from. And while shtetl life was inexorably changed by industrialization and modernization, it was destroyed by the Holocaust. Thus, shtetl life is sanctified with an aura of martyrdom.” [source]

I’ll be honest – this all seemed quite alien to me, and felt a long way from anything I knew. Brian had given me some cues about season, and winter. We also talked about an inscription in Hebrew I’d been surprised to discover in a rural church churchyard near where I live. These offered some possible points of visual access, but Brian had suggested the idea of the film to me at at point in the year where, even in driech old Scotia, the snows had mostly melted. On top of this, I wasn’t finding Trio Verso’s improvised musical take on the poem very immediately accessible. I needed something to help me connect. In the end this came from an odd place, an in-between place. Lost ground on the AM band of my car radio.

I’d noticed that when switching sources on the radio, there were places, not properly tuned in on AM where the radio produced odd rising and falling notes as I drove along: pops and crackles of radio frequency noise generated by machinery or power overheads, occasional radio echoes of distant voices or music, sometimes foreign, usually indistinct. In my own mind I’d called it ‘AM drift’. Sometimes now I just leave the radio there instead of tuning to a channel. It’s a strange sound, slightly ghostly. I find it oddly soothing. As the car moves through the outskirts of Dundee it feels as if the radio is picking through scratched layers of paint to older shades beneath. Like itching at an underskin of remote times and places, tuning in to vague shimmers of somewhere else.

I started bringing together samples of ‘AM drift’ with the recordings of Brian and Richard and Louise. The drifting static of forlorn radio noise, at once contemporary and remote, seemed to provide traction. Like the sensual roughness of surface that paper manufacturers call tooth, it offered to hold marks. I still didn’t find this an easy piece to make. I think that I felt I was an intruder in a place cherished by other people.

In retrospect I suppose the feeling was like when you enter an old cemetery as a tourist. You probably don’t know that much about the people who are buried there, or the people who might have come to mourn them. But you step quietly. You don’t want to behave poorly or give offence. It is a place that might be pastoral, perhaps even serene, but you know it is not a place that has been easy.

Place of Graves will be included in ‘Fields of War’ on Saturday September 7th at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh.