I hear voices, I see visions

1 Oct


Elephant’s Footprint – Poetry Films

Bringing life to life is more difficult than it looks.

Who is the reader, the listener, the viewer and really so what?

The way I look at life is different to the way you look at life – I would imagine; I can send you a print-out of my browser history to confirm this if you like.

I would bet my bottom Euro though that we both review life as a sequence of images with an extremely unAttenborough totally unreliable narrator intoning apparent fact ad nauseum.

Poetry Films make the voice, and the visuals converge, and the results hint, suggest and deliver a particular type of poke in the ribs that they couldn’t do on their own.

The films made by poets from Swindon and the elsewhere that exists beyond the town were of high quality and obviously the result of some hard graft coupled with effective mentoring from Helen Dewbery and Chaucer Cameron of Elephant’s Footprint.

Unfortunately, I was buttonholed by my unreliable narrator two poems in, and he just wouldn’t shut up.

In total, there were fifteen short films crammed into a one-hour time-slot.

The voice in my head and I would have preferred some time to reflect on what we were seeing, but the movies kept streaming past, eventually in a blur reminiscent of a rubbernecking tailback on the opposite carriageway of the M25.

I was reminded of one of my not so successful date movies; the early short films of John Waters, where two hours of jump cuts and screeching transvestites curdled my girl’s popcorn.

I consoled myself with the thought that it was just too rich a cinematic feast for her to consume in one go, her verdict was less forgiving ‘infantile amateur crap and one hour fifty-nine minutes too much of it.’

But I will now pan away from Baltimore and return to the wonderful Richard Jefferies Museum (if you haven’t been lately you should, its transformation from fusty agricultural relic to a vibrant, active museum is astonishing) and Poetry Films.

One of the films was so good it caused me to completely zone out and not give the other works the respect and attention that they deserved.

Unfortunately, it was the second film, so films three to fifteen were seen through an overlay of the film that fascinated me.

Not good for a reviewer to effectively ignore 87% of the show, but I did, and I’m sorry.

George Morehead’s ‘Gone’ was a film of intensity and apparent simplicity.

It actually encouraged some pretty complicated thinking.

The brave and risky use of images and word fragments silenced both myself and the persuasive idiot that natters behind my eyebrows.

Starting with colour changing squares layered with scratches, speckles and noise, the piece then introduced a refrain which hammered at the jerky archive footage dimming in and out of view.

‘Sad Day’ Pinter pause and jaunty music, ‘Sad Day’ Pinter pause and jaunty music, ‘Sad Day’ and text scrambles the screen.

Single words come and go, phrases litter the coloured squares.

Grief consumes every frame and me.

As the film ends, my inner voice begins to talk over every subsequent film.

What was I watching? What were the squares? Is it hopelessness or hope?

Can I escape the colours? Does the Sad Day repeat forever?

The film is a perfect example of the potency of poetry and the seductive possibilities of the moving image.

Much later I realised that ‘Gone’ had taken away my afternoon, I’ll never get it back, but that’s grief all over.

Elephant’s Footprint Poetry Films, at Richard Jefferies Museum 29 September 2016, was part of Poetry Swindon Festival.

Chronicle written by Michael Scott.



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