~ Bloodaxe Books ~

Torch by Aoife Lyall

A paean to the power of the imagination from Scottish poet Aoife Lyall and her publisher Bloodaxe Books, directed by Irish poet and filmmaker Luke Morgan, with music by his brother Jake Morgan. The poem evidently appears in an upcoming collection called The Day Before:

Focusing on the earliest weeks and months of the pandemic, these intimate and meticulous poems mark the lived experience of someone who must navigate a world she no longer understands, exploring first steps and last breaths, milestones, millstones, emigration, fly-tipping and the entire world to be found in the space behind the front door.

Blank by Linda France

Blank is another in a series of collaborations between film-maker Kate Sweeney and poet Linda France. Sweeney’s artist statement about the film:

In the administrative section of the Bloodaxe Books Poetry Publisher’s archive, there is a post-it note stuck to an invoice. The note has slipped through the archival ‘cleaning’ process and rather than being discarded, has been preserved by accident. In 2017, I drew and digitised a font from the letters making up the short message written on the note. For every missing letter in the font, there is a dot; a hole, an ellipsis. I called the font, ‘Janet’.

‘Janet’ an ephemeral trace drawn from an archive has become a conduit for other voices and the starting point for collaboration with other artists and writers to speak, not about or for, but through ‘Janet’.

In 2019, I invited poet Linda France to write a poem using ‘Janet’. Blank is a response to both the metaphorical and the structural potential of the font, ‘Janet’. France has extracted the implicitly feminist possibility of ‘Janet’ as a tool for articulating the female experience of the effect of the male gaze (and consequently the effect of its absence).

As a printed document it is possible to see how France has utilised the concrete and structural qualities of ‘Janet’. The poem printed on the page is punctured but readable. In order to make the video, Linda and I had to translate and devise a way to ‘sound out’ the poem. And so, as a video poem, Blank becomes a playful presentation of the relationship between the visual and audible characteristics of the mark – the period, the omission – and its use within poetic texts presented on the page, the screen and in performance.

Blank is one of a series of video-poems produced in collaboration with other poets and artists. It is part of my practice-led PhD project; working with the Bloodaxe Books publisher’s archive as a site and source for my research into the ways collaborative practice can be used to look at the shape and form of the hidden archival artefact.

Both film-maker and poet have featured several times before here at Moving Poems, on projects together and and with other artists.

In the Air by Kate Sweeney

A unique poetry film: a hand-drawn animation of poets’ hands from interview snippets that can also be seen as a remix videopoem. Kate Sweeney explains in the Vimeo description:

Created from short elliptical sequences taken from archived interviews with four Bloodaxe poets. I wanted to isolate the gestures used when explaining the poetic, the abstract thoughts they couldn’t express in words alone. Gesture is communication that is also a kind of drawing in the air.

C.K Williams, in his interview with Ahren Warner, muses that “In a sense the final version of any work of art pretends to be an improvisation; even a painting. First the painter puts down the ground on the canvas or the wood then he puts down another layer of something then he begins to put the blocks in and then the last layer, little brush strokes, that look like improvisation”. The archive offers a window through to all those described layers. It tracks the process of producing a poem, a book and in a way, a poet. Inspired by my research in the archive, the animation includes the smudges, rips, mistakes and corrections, of the paper it was drawn on, revealing and incorporating the process into the final version.

Proof: a poetic glimpse into the archives of Bloodaxe Books

A poetry film/documentary hybrid. The filmmaker, Kate Sweeney, describes it in the Vimeo description as

A poetic glimpse into the archives of the North East [UK] poetry publisher Bloodaxe Books, the contents of which were recently purchased by Newcastle University.
The film was made by artist Kate Sweeney in collaboration with poets Tara Bergin and Anna Woodford in spring 2013

Anna Woodford and Tara Bergin both held residencies at the archive. Bergin talks about her fondness for archives in a video introduction to the film. The same site (CAMPUS social network) gives a fuller explanation of how Proof came to be:

In 2013, Newcastle University acquired the archive of Bloodaxe Books, one of the most important
contemporary poetry publishers in the world. Two poets and recent PhD graduates, Anna Woodford and Tara Bergin, were asked to take a look into the as yet un-catalogued boxes to gain an initial sense of the archive’s scope and potential. To document their findings, they teamed up with artist Kate Sweeney to make a short ‘poem-film.’ They called it ‘Proof’.

“It was very strange and very interesting,” Bergin says.

The film includes guest appearances by Bloodaxe authors Gillian Allnutt, Simon Armitage, John Hegley and Anne Stevenson.

Danebury Ring by Tim Cumming

Another video from U.K. poet-filmmaker Tim Cumming, this one uploaded to YouTube, whence the following description:

A film poem shot by poet Tim Cumming at Danebury Ring on the Hampshire-Wiltshire-Dorset borders. Danebury Ring is a stunning Iron Age hill fort where sheep graze in the centre of the rings, and the rings are circled by huge old trees. Tim Cumming’s poem, Danebury Ring, appears in the forthcoming anthology of British and Irish poetry, Identity Parade from Bloodaxe Books.

That anthology is now available (scroll down for a well-produced video of the launch reading).

Tomas Tranströmer

This new film from Bloodaxe Books, one of Tranströmer’s English-language publishers, incorporates footage of the Nobel Prize announcement and the Tranströmers’ reaction, as well as footage of Tranströmer playing the piano which Pamela Robertson-Pearce had just shot in August. Robin Fulton’s translations appear as subtitles for the Swedish-language readings, which include “The Nightingale in Badelunda,” “Allegro,” “From the Thaw on 1966,” “The Half-Finished Heaven,” “April and Silence,” “From March 1979,” and “Tracks.” This is of course something that the film/video medium is particularly well suited for: it’s wonderful to hear the poet reading in Swedish and know (more or less) what he is saying.

Do read the extensive notes on the Vimeo page. The detail that “Swedish composers have written several left-hand piano pieces especially for him to play” speaks volumes about his status in his homeland. (Hat-tip: Teju Cole on Twitter)

Three poems (Flute Boy, Marriage of Opposites and Half-caste) by John Agard

John Agard is joined on stage by the flautist Keith Waithe, a fellow Guyanan, in an extract from a film by Pamela Robertson-Pearce called John Agard Live!, which was included as a DVD along with Agard’s 2009 collection Alternative Anthem, from Bloodaxe Books. (There’s also video of Agard reading the title poem.)

Abd el-Hadi Fights a Superpower by Taha Muhammad Ali

Filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce for the DVD anthology from Bloodaxe Books, In Person: 30 Poets, edited by Neil Astley. I was especially impressed by the way Ali’s translator, Peter Cole (So What: New and Selected Poems 1971-2005), translates something of his reading style into English in the second half of the video.

For a few more online poems by Taha Muhammad Ali in English, see his page at Poetry International Web.

Poems from the Iraq War by Brian Turner

This video includes six poems: “Here, Bullet,” “Hwy 1,” ”Eulogy,” “16 Iraqi Policemen,” “The Inventory from a Year Sleeping with Bullets” and “At Lowe’s Home Improvement Center,” taken from Brian Turner’s two books, Here, Bullet and Phantom Noise.

If I don’t post more poetry reading videos here, it’s because such videos are often poor quality (dark, out-of-focus, too quiet, etc.) and many poets don’t really know how to read their work. This video demonstrates how to do it right. In fact, the poems are so intense and so well read, I find I really don’t mind the utter minimalism of a single-camera close-up on the reader’s face. Neil Astley shot the video for Turner’s British publisher, Bloodaxe Books.

Brian Turner doesn’t appear to have a website, but here’s his Wikipedia page.