~ Poet: Martin Heslop ~

To The End Of Things, Part 5: Mountains by Martin Heslop and Helen Tookey

An excerpt from a unique collaboration between poet-filmmakers Martin Heslop and Helen Tookey, celebrating and evoking the spirits of place — or as they put it, “deciphering the landscape, coaxing it back into language.”

In September 2019, writer and composer Martin Heslop and poet Helen Tookey spent a two-week residency in Great Village, Nova Scotia, in the house where Elizabeth Bishop lived as a child. They wrote poems and prose pieces, fragments, notes. And they collected field recordings and sounds: waterfalls, rivers, cave-drips; crickets under pylons, in blueberry fields, by the shafts of old mines; the creaking and cracking of a wooden church during a hurricane; the harmonium and all the bells in the house; the turning mechanism of a lighthouse beam, abandoned radio-sets. They were recording the present and searching for possible futures, but also looking to summon the buried histories of the place.

Back home they made films, visiting and revisiting the Durham and Northumberland coast, Parys Mountain on Anglesey, South Gare on Teesside – places similarly scarred by the presence and now the loss of industry. Over the past year, they have been weaving these sounds into the films, creating new conversations, across the Atlantic Ocean.

Using sound and film, their poems and their voices, entwined with early recordings of Nova Scotian Gaelic songs gathered from the archives of the Beaton Institute at Cape Breton University, Helen and Martin are creating a series of audio-visual poems – a narrative sequence – weaving together the experiences of a woman trying to navigate an uncertain and unfamiliar landscape, and the voice of a man who is of this place, but of a different time. This man is the draegerman of the mines, the rescuer, and he tells of the underground world he remembers, recalls voices of those he rescued and those he could not. They are both deciphering the landscape, coaxing it back into language.

Parts one to five were released in November 2020, with the second half of the story to follow in the New Year.

Watch all five November releases.