~ Nationality: Ireland ~

Magpie – a conspiracy story by David Bickley

Just uploaded to Vimeo last week, Magpie – a conspiracy story is a subtle and atmospheric videopoem by David Ian Bickley in Ireland. The quiet, eerie mood of the piece is hypnotic.

This folkloric exploration imagines the ancient magpie rhyme as one created by the birds themselves, deep in some misty past. Through careful propagation a protective spell was woven through their close community. (source)

The film has a relation to the nursery rhyme, One for Sorrow, and a hint of Edgar Allan Poe. Bickley created the minimal music score as well, timed beautifully with visual changes and words appearing on the screen.

Two other of Bickley’s earlier videos have been featured here at Moving Poems, including the extraordinary Marsh, an award-winning film with poet Paul Casey.

Crossing to Ireland by Jean Maskell

I always tend to feel that poetry animations are best at their most abstract and minimalistic—depending on the poem, of course. This animation by Rachel McMahon AKA RaeRae won the audience award at the Liverpool Celtic Animation Festival. It’s a collaboration with Jean Maskell, “a multi-disciplinary artist and writer inspired by contemporary and historic social issues and the natural world,” who provided the voiceover and text: a poem “about the conflicting emotions of feeling a part of two countries.” Perhaps it is that sense of a provisional existence that makes the kind of tentative approach to the animation—lines drawn and undrawn on white space with a paper grain—such a good fit.

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven by William Butler Yeats

A new film by Dutch artist Pat van Boeckel, featuring some stunning footage from Morocco. Yeats’ poem, originally known as Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven at first publication in 1899, also appeared

in the films Equilibrium, 84 Charing Cross Road and the Korean film Dasepo Naughty Girls. The poem is recited by the character Brendan in the final episode of season 3 of the BBC series Ballykissangel.

The Wikipedia article goes on to list multiple musical settings and uses in novels. Being well out of copyright surely has something to do with that.

Van Boeckel is a regular at Moving Poems, and you can watch more of his videopoems on his website.

Back Up Quick, They’re Hippies by Lani O’Hanlon

Irish filmmaker Fiona Aryan‘s latest collaboration with poet Lani O’Hanlon, “an author, poet, dancer and somatic movement therapist living in South East Ireland near the sea,” as her website puts it. The poem first appeared in Poetry magazine in 2018.

Four Attempts at Making a Human by Dylan Brennan

The full title of this videopoem is Four Attempts At Making A Human – (not) after the Popol Vuh. In recent days it was announced as the winner of the poetry film competition at the revived Drumshanbo Written Word Weekend in County Leitrim, Ireland.

Writer Dylan Brennan and film-maker Jonathan Brennan are the creative duo behind the piece. From their statement at Vimeo:

Popol Vuh is an ancient Guatemalan/Maya text. It is the origin story of the Maya people. In it, the Gods make several attempts at creating humans using a variety of materials: from mud or clay to wood and corn. However, each of these substances prove unsuccessful until they try to make humans out of corn. Finally they succeed.

The poem is in three parts, each with a different tone and pattern on the page. The video recreates this using three sections, each employing a different technique from handheld to stop motion animation to kaleidoscopic effects. Subtle sound effects feature in sections one and two.

Poet and film-maker Colm Scully adjudicated the competition. From his statement on the winning film:

Perhaps about fertility, perhaps a dystopian Frankenstein like horror with a twist at the end, it worked beautifully. Partly filmed in Leitrim Four attempts at making a Human deserves rewatching over and over again, and the visual impact forces rereading of the very powerful poem.

Congratulations to the winning artists and organisers of the event, a further development in the culture of poetry film in Ireland.

The Rope by David Ian Bickley

This was the third place winner in the 2021 Deanna Tulley Multimedia Contest. David Ian Bickley is “an award-winning media artist whose body of work spans the primitive technological of the 1970s to the digital cutting edge of today.” We previously shared his film for a poem by Irish poet Paul Casey, Marsh. This time the text is his own, “based on a story told by Gerald O’Brien,” according to the credits.

It’s always interesting seeing how an accomplished filmmaker approaches the problem of creating a lyrical film for a narrative poem. In this case Bickley may well have crafted the poem with specific shots or images in mind. Regardless, it all adds up to a very affecting film.

Ramblings by Gabriel Rosenstock

Irish poet Gabriel Rosenstock has been collaborating with filmmakers for years, often on adaptations of his Gaelic haiku. This film finds him working with Kashmiri artist Masood Hussain on a brief anthology of four free-verse videopoems, “The Poet as Untouchable,” “Broken Bangle,” “The Dismantling of the Taj Mahal” and “White Flags.”

Ramblings is a suite of short video-poems by bilingual poet Gabriel Rosenstock (Ireland), an Indophile who has been dazzled by his contact with the literary and spiritual legacy of India, her people and landscapes, but is not blind to the darker side of India, such as the caste system, Hindutva, the violence and injustices, and so on. In previous short films with his artistic collaborator, artist and auteur Masood Hussain with whom he created the book Walk with Gandhi, he has focussed on the shabby treatment of dissident poet Varavara Rao. Ramblings ends with an anarchist poem which contains a key to universal peace.

The Pier by Pat Boran

Strange to think we might be safe
in the harbour’s strong embrace
but still unable to embrace our friends,
our arms when we meet stiff
by our sides, a new unease
in our movements, our stillness, in our very breath.

This author-made poetry film, by Irish poet Pat Boran, really hit the spot this morning. Which is surprising, because it contains two things that are usually a red flag for me: sentimental soundtracks with piano and strings, and a number of quite literal matches of shot to text. But these are offset, for me, by Boran’s imaginative variety of shots overall, his deft touch with editing, and the quietly powerful effect of the poem/film (his term) as a whole. And it does feel like an organic whole, as if the poem emerged from or together with the filming. All he says about his process is that it was “shot on East Pier, Howth, Co. Dublin, August 2020.” (He made a blog post for it, but go to YouTube for the text.)

We’ve always had a soft spot for author-made videopoems and poetry films here, and it’s great to see a poet of Boran’s stature take the medium so seriously, and recognize poetry film as its own genre. His current author bio concludes like this:

Since 2015, and the publication of Waveforms: Bull Island Haiku, in which the poems are accompanied by the author’s own black and white photographs, he has been increasingly drawn to the possibilities presented by matching photographs and various other graphic forms with text, not only producing an ongoing series of PoemCards, but more recently exploring short poem-films.

Virginia Gave Me Roses by Lani O’Hanlon

In mid-October, Ó Bhéal’s 7th International Poetry-Film Competition took place in Cork, Ireland, in association with the IndieCork music and film festival. The winner was Virginia Gave Me Roses, directed by Dublin-based Fiona Aryan and written by Lani O’Hanlon, from Waterford. 2019 is the first time an Irish film has won this international competition, which has become highly-regarded in the poetry film community worldwide. The winning film was screened at the Kino as part of IndieCork, along with the other finalist films.

The judges this year were poet/film-maker Colm Scully and poet Stanley Notte. Excerpts from their comments:

Being a practitioner myself I learned so much from reviewing the 200 plus entries… Virginia Gave me Roses immediately worked for me on first viewing , and only improved as I watched it again. The beauty of the poem was matched by the subtle imagining of the visual.

—Colm Scully

In the end the film that stayed in the mind as a fusion of words and images was Fiona Aryan’s depiction of Lani O’ Hanlon’s poem, Virginia Gave Me Roses.

This piece depicts a soft-focused, memory-like family interaction that supports, compliments and, at the same time, adds weight to an original text that is both moving and strongly visual.

This depiction transports the viewer into a dreamlike state where one is enveloped by the profound sense of love and safety which being in a close-knit family occasion provides.

—Stan Notte

A warm, nurturing film to see at this time of year.

Marsh by Paul Casey

The writer of the poem in this video, Paul Casey, is an important figure for poetry in Ireland, especially in Cork. The poem is named for his home city, which comes from the Irish word for marsh.

Spoken in the video by Aidan Stanley, Marsh is a lament. The poem is unusual in being from the point of view of a place, anthropomorphised with a subjective voice. Paul’s avowed interest in history comes to the fore in this piece, spanning a vast sweep of time, from an ancient untouched land to a contemporary urban location.

Environmental themes shadow the development of the city over its long history, from free earth to “buses and pipes”. Between the poles is first the appearance of humans, with “A Celtic hunter slowing his currach”.* In later generations the human appears in the form of “merchants and markets”. In a time of British rule, “Oil street lamps lit stocks and paupers”. Finally the marsh has transformed into a place where “mobile phones and mini-skirts flirt my name”.

The video is by David Bickley, who is a musician as well as a film-maker. He composed the soundtrack of Marsh especially for it, using audio collected at a marsh in Carrafeen, West Cork, the location of the shoot. These recordings were then mixed with ambient musical sounds. The stunning, almost abstract images of the marsh landscape were shot looking directly down from far above with a drone camera. They are a magnificent yet serene expression of the sense of origins evoked in Paul’s poem.

In an interview about Marsh, Paul states that music is central to his writing, saying “without it there is simply no poem”. The song of this poem is in the voice of a “sagacious witness, persisting across the ages… that wise gentle spirit of sparse words (time)”.

Paul’s advice to poets is to “read a poem every day from a known poet, then another from an unknown poet. And write a poem every day too, no matter how short or ridiculous. Eventually you’ll be equipped for a masterpiece… It’s up to the gods then.”

As a contrast to David Bickley’s beautiful rendering of Marsh, there’s another video of Paul reading it himself in the modern-day incarnation of the city of Cork.

Paul’s great contribution to poetry in Cork includes working with the elderly through poetry appreciation. He is most known to the poetry film community world-wide as the founder and director of Ó Bhéal, organising the yearly poetry film competition in association with the IndieCork Film Festival.

The finalists in this year’s competition have just recently been announced. They include a number of film-makers and poets who might be familiar to Moving Poems followers, such as Stuart Pound and Rosemary Norman, Caroline Rumley, Jack Cochran and Pamela Falkenberg, Charles Olsen, Matt Mullins, Lucy English and Sarah Tremlett, Jane Glennie, Janet Lees, and more.

* A currach is a type of Irish boat with a wooden frame, over which animal skins or hides were once stretched.

City Swans by Bernard O’Rourke

Bernard O’Rourke is an Irish writer, film-maker, and spoken word artist, new to Moving Poems. Filmed along Dublin’s Grand Canal, his City Swans reflects discontent and restlessness within the enclosures of city life. The poem is richly voiced by Bernard himself, woven into the melancholy whimsy of Brendan Carvill’s guitar chords. As an ensemble, the piece evokes a sense of sky-born hope glimpsed in lowly places. It was a finalist in 2018 for the Ó Bhéal Poetry Film Prize at the IndieCork Film Festival, Ireland.

Lantern Smoke by Dagogo Hart

This film by Steven Beatsmith for a poem by the Dublin-based poet Dagogo Hart was a runner-up in Button Poetry‘s 2017 Video Contest.