Our final Guests for the day are Helen Dewbery and Chaucer Cameron who are Elephant’s Footprint. It is a pleasure to have them join us for INKSPILL 2018.
Here they join me for an Interview which includes EXCLUSIVE video work. Enjoy!
What draws you to poetry film?
When Chaucer was writing a vision statement for Elephant’s Footprint, she came across an article by visual artist Mary Russell and author Gerard Wozek. Chaucer was delighted to discover that we shared a fundamental belief that: visual and literary art carries spiritual, political, and sociological messages and that ‘visual poetry is a physical manifestation of ‘what it means to be a human being engaged in seeking community’. And, that the medium of film poetry is intrinsically alchemic—magic.
Chaucer’s Wild Whispers is an international film-poetry project that began with one poem and led to fourteen versions, in ten languages, and twelve film-poems. The poetry versions and film-poem adaptations were ‘whispered’ from one to another, across the world. It is a great demonstration of how film-poetry works and we consider it to be the perfect vehicle for exciting collaborations and for fostering strong, positive connections between countries and across the world.
Our poetry-film life began in New York on Brooklyn Bridge in 2009. We were both drawn to merging visual images and poetry after Helen took some holiday ‘snaps’ and Chaucer wrote a poem. The result was Arrival – we rarely show it, but here it is, for this weekend only!
https://vimeo.com/296626395 password: INKSPILL
It is the potential of film-poetry, to offer creative opportunities for exploring and communicating poetry in new ways, that’s exciting. For instance, last year Helen’s work was been shown at the LiKE festival in Slovakia, which focused on various forms of contemporary literature and more importantly was seen by wide audiences in Slovakia including, high schools, universities and other communities.
Similarly, Chaucer’s film-poem Pearls was screened in Kritya International Poetry Festival 2017.
How long does it take to create a poetry film?
Film poems, like any other poetry, it can be created almost instantly or can take many months to produce even years.
Can you tell us about some of the Festivals you have shown at?
Film-poetry has an international community and network of festivals. We’ve shown film-poems in many of these and have visited two in Germany: Zebra in Münster and Weimar.
We also went to The International Video Poetry Festival 2016 held at the Free Self-Organised Theatre EMBROS in Athens. The festival creates an open public space for screening contemporary visual poetry and is part of the counter-culture activities of Void Network and + the Institute [for Experimental Arts]. The evening started at 9pm and ended at 3am with a continuous screening of visual poetry! It worked – the theatre was packed for the whole six hours!
Our first experience of showing our work was at Liberated Words Poetry Film Festival 2013, in Bristol – when we found out about it we couldn’t believe our luck that a festival of this sort was on our doorstep and we attended the whole festival.
In recent years we have preferred introducing our work at poetry events, rather than specifically poetry-film festivals.
How did your work with Nine Arches start?
We are both passionate about film-poetry and we are constantly looking for new channels to promote film poetry as a genre of poetry. We have produced two thirty-minute film-poetry collections, Nothing in the Garden and I Live my Life Through Windows, and have worked independently with poets on single poems but we wanted to reach more poets and work more collaboratively. However, we wanted to reach more poets and were coming to the end of our partnership with the poetry magazine The Interpreter’s House. Helen had just finished filming Angela France performing her collection The Hill and we had become more familiar with the work of other Nine Arches poets and had great admiration for the press. Helen emailed the editor, Jane Commane and a partnership was formed.
We’re still finding our feet with this work as the film-poems are a hybrid form,
a cross between promotional videos and film poems. We are still trying new ideas and testing the balance between the two distinct genres, but the result is exciting. People new to poetry engage more easily with visual and auditory content, making film-poems an ideal medium. The film-poems are not only viewed by Nine Arches existing readers and online audiences, but are a tool for their poets to engage more easily with their existing and new audiences.
Have you got any workshops coming up?
This year we trained ten poets (only one had any prior experience) over a six-month period, meeting monthly. The group worked together as a collective whereby each person was responsible for creating at least one film-poem,
but they also worked together using the skills of the rest of the group. This resulted in a final show of sixteen film poems to an audience of fifty people. It was very well received and the whole collective film-poems are going to be screened in Athens in November. We are hoping that we can repeat this model of training in Worcester next year or any location convenient to a core group of people.
We are also available for one-to-one training and mentoring if anyone has a particular project they want to work on. We can also provide drop in sessions that were well received at saboteur’s awards.
What advice would you give people starting out with poetry film?
Find your own starting place. We started with Arrival. The video poet Lucia Sellars said recently on Facebook: “My experience with video-poetry, started with my fondness of music and certain landscape circumstances that struck me deeply in my daily routine at the time. ….. the first few videos I made where an investigation about blending only sound and image.”
If you already have some technical skills there are many apps you can download on your phone to make simple films. You don’t need expensive equipment, and there are online resources of images, film and sound.
Find someone with the skills that you don’t have and ask for their help.
Think about collaborating with a filmmaker – but keep fully involved in the process.
Join our next collective!
Add anything else you wish to
What’s in the name? – Attempts to define film poetry or to even agree on what terminology to use, is a developing field. We use the term film poetry as a generic term to encompass any other term that might be used. It seems to fit in a poetry context: surrealist poems, long poems, love poems, performance poems, page poems, film poems …
We are starting a new Film Poetry Competition which will be launched in January. We are planning a section for ‘first film poems’.