Archive | June, 2010

Fancy a go?

26 Jun

I have recently been inspired by a simultaneous blog posting between Chris Emslie and Caroline Crew.  After having a discussion (strangely for the modern day, face-to-face and not online) they decided to simultaneously write and post on the same subject at the same time. The subject being how much as a poet you can encroach on other poets “territory”.

I thought this was a really interesting idea, so if any other poetry bloggers out there would like to try the idea of one mass simultaneous posting on a single subject then let me know.  I’m up for it.


Bob Cobbing

24 Jun

This week I have been listening to the sound poetry of Bob Cobbing.  Sound poetry is meant to bring human speech down to it’s most basic components and bridge the gap between music and speech.  The recordings of Cobbing are very playful, and often remind me of the sort of experimentation with sounds that my daughter would make at the very beginning of her exploration into speech.  Sound poets are trying to reach beyond words and meanings and capture something  of the essence of the human voice.

For many though, sound poetry will be a lot of gobbledygook which signifies nothing, and in no way am I going to attempt to disabuse anyone of their view.  As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so poetry is in the heart and ear, and if your not feeling it well, your just not feeling it.

Where I do think sound poetry is very useful though, in on the level of performance.  Often people can feel quite inhibited by performing in public, it does not come naturally to many.  However, it is a skill that can be learned.  I would encourage anyone who feels inhibited by the sound of their own voice or is worried that they may not be making the most of their vocal chords to listen to sound poetry.  I would then encourage people to play around and explore sounds themselves.  Generally, once we stop being children, we are not encourage to play in this way.  However a good relationship to sound is important to make the most of your voice when speaking in public.  Playing with your voice should deepen you understanding of sound, and also what you as an individual can achieve with your own voice.  Go on, have some fun.

Poetry in unusual places. No.11

20 Jun

I wouldn’t normally been found reading the Financial Times (it has the highest reading age, in vocabulary terms, of any British newspaper), however my Father in-law was visiting this weekend, and it is his paper of choice.  I thought I would have a flick through the magazine and found a poetry mention, by regular weekend columnist Mrs Moneypenny.

As well as quoting the John Updike poem Midpoint, Mrs Moneypenny asserts that as time is money (and her time is calculated at £3,000 an hour) she never reads fiction or poetry unless she is on holiday.  I however found this puzzling as I have always thought that poetry was the perfect form of literature for those short on time.

On an average commute into work on public transport it would be possible to read, or listen to, and average length poem several times.  Most poems need two or three readings for the reader to get under their skin.  The rest of the time can be used in mulling, musing or perhaps pondering what the poem says.  Most good poems manage to capture more depth, have more resonance and speak more to the human condition than your average novel.  Given the fact you could read one a day, on your commute or lunch hour that is a startling five brushes with quality literature a week.  What’s not to like for the time poor?

Also this week I have recorded an awful lot of poems with Alastair Cook.  I now excitedly wait for the results later in the year.

A micro press is named.

10 Jun

A while ago I blogged about the micro press my cousin and I are setting up.  Due to prior commitments we have both had progress has been a little slow in setting up, but we are ready to take it up a gear now and get serious.  I’ve already done a lot of musing, and as far as I can see the musing (or strategy, as professional people like to call it) is very important.  However we are now getting to the stage when we are looking at materials, practicalities, and worst of all cost.  Because we are an incredibly small operation, and will be producing only about twelve copies of each book, we can’t work on the economies of scale that larger operations can.  So making the most of what we do buy and getting real value for money will be paramount.  It’s a good thing neither of us have pretensions to making money out of this venture, it is certainly going to be a very expensive hobby.

So when are you open to submissions?  I hear you cry.  We aren’t, at the moment.  However we may well be in the future, and any calls for submissions we make will be made through this blog, so keep on reading.

Oh, and the name?


The filming of poetry

2 Jun

Alastair Cook photographer, architect and artist writes about filming poetry.  Alastair lives and works in Edinburgh. His professional work can be found at Alastair’s ongoing interpretive and responsive work with poets can be watched at

The combination of film and poetry is an attractive one. For the poet, perhaps a hope that the filmmaker will bring something to the poem: a new audience, a visual attraction, the laying of way markers; for the filmmaker, a fixed parameter to respond to, the power of a text sparking the imagination with visual connections and metaphor.

Poetry has been seen as a bountiful source for the creative process of the lyrical side of experimental film practice since filmmakers and critics began theorising the concepts of film. Many filmmakers view film as an independent art, often persuading that film can only be an art form if it struggles to work within its own language. The combination of image and text forms what writer William Wees has called Poetry-film. In his essay, The Poetry Film, published in 1984, he notes that “…a number of avant-garde film and video makers have created a synthesis of poetry and film that generates associations, connotations and metaphors neither the verbal nor the visual text would produce on its own.”

The initial step taken by the poet is the very essence of collaboration: the underlying trust placed in the filmmaker with one’s work. This handover of the text is a moment of trepidation, a transfer of trust. However, it is also a point of invigoration, described by Morgan Downie: “I love the notion of collaboration and especially the way technology frees us up to do these things. It’s great to see someone else taking something you’ve done and running with it…. there’s a sense of engagement and commitment.”

In an interview with the Scottish Poetry Library this spring, poet and presenter Owen Sheers made a similar point, that the genesis of a poem may be with the poet, but there comes a point where the filmmaker takes control. I took the opportunity to discuss with Owen Sheers the methodology imposed when bringing six poems to the screen in the recent BBC4 series, A Poet’s Guide to Britain. It is clear there is a conflict for the filmmaker when drawing the viewer’s attention to the poem; is the text of the poem placed on the screen or is it merely read? The answer, with unswerving common sense, is that it depends.

The possibilities for the introduction of literal visual images, non-literal images, suggestive images or visual signposts are all vying for attention. The filmmaker’s skill is to interpret what the particular poem is asking for. Owen’s measured opinion was that there is an opportunity for “a surprising image, to place two things up against each other which don’t quite fit.” The essence is that if the words must be on screen then perhaps not the entire text but only a carefully chosen extract, alongside the poem being read in full. Sheers noted that he feels that this is essential in attempting to reach a wider audience.

And so, the poem will be read to you. Listening to a poem is not like reading a poem; there’s a sense of enlivening as a poem is launched into the air. Seamus Heaney, talking of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, noted that when he heard the whole thing read aloud the experience taught him, in the words of the poem, to sit still. This idea, the experience of being read to, allows the reader to be captive, open to the experience.  This is the essence of Poetry-film.

So, a Poetry-film is a single entwined entity, a melting, a cleaving together of words, sound and vision. It is an attempt to take a poem and present it through a medium that will create a new artwork, separate from the original poem. The film is a separate work from the text itself and this in turn may be able to open up poetry to people who are not necessarily receptive to the written word. Poetry often tries to deal with the abstract world of thought and feeling, rather than the literal world of things. The Poetry-film is the perfect marriage of the two.

Many thanks to the team at Anon for allowing the publication of this piece, it is an abridged extract from a longer article that will appear in Anon 7, out soon.  It’s worth buying.