~ Lucy English ~

Stepping stones in Cancer Alley

The Lyra Festival is Bristol’s (UK) poetry festival, and 2024 is the festival’s sixth edition. The theme for this year was Poetic Futures, with a focus on technology and the future and also imaginative new worlds.

I was invited to view Cancer Alley, a poetry film created by UK poet, Lucy English, with US filmmakers Pamela Falkenberg and Jack Cochran, with digital media effects company Holotronica.

Title screen of Cancer Alley

The film itself is a powerful insight into the lack of responsibility that multinational companies take (or governments enforce) for the impact of their activities on the environment. It highlights the industrial area of ‘Cancer Alley’ in Louisiana and the devastating problem of pollution created by the factories at the heart of the global petrochemical industry. It is impossible not to be deeply disturbed by the situation humanity finds itself in, and reflect on past situations that we still haven’t learnt from. A short poetry film is vastly apart from an Oscar-nominated blockbuster on so many counts (not least budget of course), but I think it is a compliment to the quality of this film that I brought to mind Erin Brockovich and felt depressed that 24 years on from the film, and 50+ years on from the Hinkley ground water contamination incident that it features, that here is another horrible situation that is, inevitably, just one of so many more around the world. I hope that the film is a tiny stepping stone to widening knowledge of Cancer Alley.

Still image from Cancer Alley

The film was presented as a continuous loop at the Watershed arts centre in Bristol. It was situated in its own darkened space, just off the main bar, and was free to enter and exit at will. The audience steps in and faces the double screen presentation, where they can watch standing or sitting.

This was a great venue because it was open all day for curious people to drop in and take a look. For me, I think the chance encounter is hugely valuable for drawing in audiences from a wider base than would choose to specifically attend a film screening of any kind of poetry or art film. The film was prominently featured in the brochure for the festival too, which I think is very encouraging for poetry film. It can be all too easy for organisers to put events that run for a duration at the back of a brochure (where they are easily overlooked), after the ‘headliner’ daily events. I hope this encouraged festival visitors to plan to drop in to the Watershed before, or after, their ticketed events, and people hanging out at the bar for a coffee or some lunch to take a look too.

The film was advertised as a poetry film hologram exhibition. I have to say, this was the most disappointing thing about the presentation. With hologram in the description, I was expecting a 3-d element to the film and felt I was mis-sold on that. I’d been hoping for something more like the ‘Apparition’ I’d seen of a Dominique Gonzales-Foerster piece in her retrospective exhibition a few years ago that was in Dusseldorf and Paris, but in the poetry film genre. I’ve since checked to see if I had misunderstood the nature of holograms, but a generally defining feature of them is the creation of a 3-dimensional effect. Cancer Alley is presented with a layered element. The film is split between footage that appears on a back wall, and images and text that is on a foreground transparent gauze screen. Together these are beautifully done. I particularly liked the integration of the type on screen, and the images of smoke and yellow rain. However, for me, these are flat layers rather than 3-dimensions, albeit with a depth to them.

Holotronica, the company that English, Falkenberg and Cochran worked with on this, does create 3-dimensional presentations, and in fact claims itself as ‘world-leaders in hologram effects’, with many amazing shows and events, including Beyoncé, on their website. They have specialist products for projection – including the specialist gauze screen. Unfortunately, though the quality of the image on the foreground gauze was just beautiful, it was extremely hard to appreciate when the projection on the back wall was on a screen that did not fill the ‘window’ in the gauze. The surroundings of the back screen are all too visible because they were not blacked out. I had to work hard to suspend disbelief that I wasn’t looking through the gauze layer into a classroom with a whiteboard (effectively I was), and that a teacher wasn’t going to appear soon to set geography homework on the effects of pollution.

Installation view: smoke and lettering on foreground translucent screen, with oil industry images on background screen.

But there were also serendipitous pluses at work too. There were points at which the projection spilled onto the ceiling and the adjacent metal pipework and surrounded the viewer, and those moments felt stunningly immersive. They brought me into a comparison with feelings I had inside the Sarah Sze and Artangel project ‘Waiting Room’ last summer in Peckham Rye, London.

Images from the films where they fell across the room and ceiling

I was fortunately able to chat to all three of the creators, Lucy, Pam, and Jack, after I watched the film. They see the result at the Watershed as their pilot project, something that they would like to build upon, leading to something better and more ambitious in the future. For this event specifically, they are fully aware of the limitations of the technical presentation of the film at the Watershed. Budget is always an issue because the technical equipment is very expensive, and it does create limitations and compromises. They would have liked to have been able to black out the area behind the gauze. Some artists are of the mindset that they would not show their work in less-than-ideal conditions. But I am very much with Pam on her views that doing something and showing work on a shoestring is better than doing nothing – it can only mean learning from the process and helping to demonstrate what is possible and what might be achieved in future. They would love to be able to bring this work to other venues, and I hope it helps them, and others, to bring poetry film installation ideas to fruition in the future.

From left to right: Pamela Falkenberg, Jack Cochran (Outlier Moving Pictures), Lucy English

It is sad that creatives are so often put in the difficult position of doing something with nothing or very little, and/or funding it themselves. The technology is paid for, the technical staff are paid for and little is left for either the details of fulfilling the true creative potential of the work that has been created, or paying the artists fairly. (I recommend anyone interested in this to check out the campaign of UK-based artist Lindsay Seers – Frank Fair Artists Pay)

It is also interesting to reflect on the differences between this and the VR experience Abandoned Library that I saw at the MIX 2023 conference at the British Library. The VR meant that the creatives were in full control of the ‘environment’ in which the viewer was placed. There were similarities in the environmental theme, and the use of smoke, mist and rain to create mood and feeling for the piece. However, VR is still so restrictive and uncomfortable to experience. I’m not sure I would readily swap the ease of stepping into a room and comfortably sitting down, for something I’ve got to wait my turn for or book a slot, then sitting awkwardly in a swivel seat while someone (at far too close quarters) adjusts the headset while I feel like I am about to have a minor medical procedure. I would rather be in a room with Cancer Alley.

Like Pam Falkenberg, I am always going to be a fan of doing something on whatever basis you can manage regardless. Poetry film is a powerful genre, but making events and opportunities where it can step up a level to become impactful through immersion is, for me, something to keep pushing for. Cancer Alley is to be celebrated as another stepping stone forward in presenting poetry film in more immersive and creative ways.

Reconnections: free online screening of poetry films at Lyra Bristol Poetry Festival

Pleased to see this:

Reconnections banner

Date: Saturday 17th April 2021
Price: Free
Time: 12:00 – 1:00pm

A screening of poetry films on the theme of Reconnection, curated by Liberated Words. Reconnection to landscape, the body, our history, family and heritage, during and before the pandemic. Artists featured include Kat Lyons, Edalia Day, Rebecca Tantony, Alice Humphreys, Liv Torc, Yvonne Reddick, Helmie Stil, Helen Johnson, Sarah Tremlett, Sarah Wimbush, Isobel Turner, Edson Burton, Michael Jenkins, Pierluigi Muscolino and Francesco Garbo. Followed by a discussion and Q&A with Sarah Tremlett and Lucy English of Liberated Words.

In registering for the event, I found that I had to use a UK postcode — your mileage may vary. Get your free ticket here.

News Round-Up: Pandemic Edition

“Why Poetry?” Video Podcast Special on Poetry Film with Lucy English


This is such an excellent look at the role of collaboration in poetry film-making. A very well-edited and satisfying program, focusing on Lucy English’s Book of Hours project, it ought to work well as an introduction to the genre for poets and filmmakers alike.

Ó Bhéal Poetry-Film Competition Open for Submissions

Guidelines here.

Weimar Poetry Film Award: Festival Postponed, Deadline Extended

Guidelines here.

FVPS Deadline Extended and The Symposium Postponed until Fall 2020

“The Film and Video Poetry Society will postpone our 3rd annual symposium; we are hopeful, and are committed to rescheduling for fall 2020. Submissions remain open and our deadline extended to August 3, 2020.” More here.

Newlyn PZ Poetry Film Competition Winners Announced

The 2020 Newlyn PZ Film Festival was cancelled, but we still know the winners of the poetry film competition thanks to a post at the increasingly indispensable Liberated Words website.

Cadence Video Poetry Festival, Other Film Festivals Move Online

Rather than cancel entirely, the Cadence Video Poetry Festival made the choice of screening films online in five screenings on 15-19 April. A number of other film festivals are opting to screen films online for a few days as well. It’s a shame that so many film festivals bar submissions of films that are freely available online. Otherwise it might be possible for Cadence and others to post all competition films to the web on a permanent basis, and people with dodgier internet connections (including myself) would have an easier time watching them. If the pandemic makes meat-space festivals impossible for the next couple of years, as seems possible, some festivals might end up doing a 180 and requiring all submissions to be available on the web. That would certainly shake things up!

Visible Poetry Project Films All Online

The Visible Poetry Project is one web-first, festival-like thing that wasn’t hurt by the pandemic. A film went up each day in April, and you can watch them all on their website.

New Book on Videopoetry by Valerie LeBlanc and Daniel H. Dugas

Books on or about videopoetry are a rarity, and this one is available for free as a PDF, with a print version due out later this year. Here’s Sarah Tremlett’s mini review. It’s cool to be able to read about the making of a film and then click a live link to watch it. I’ll be interested to see whether the print edition includes QR codes allowing readers with mobile phones to watch the films as they read.

Online “Festival of Hope” Features Videopoetry

This is a cool festival. And it looks as if the films may remain live for a while.

Corona! Shut Down? Open Call and Ongoing Release of Videos

New Media 2020 Corona Festival banner

It’s not just for poetry videos, but this is well worth checking out — and submitting to. As they say, “Corona isn’t the plague, and not all infected people are gonna be dying. Probably, the crisis is a wake-up call – to rethink and change!?”

“Poetry and Climate” film screening at Lyra Bristol Poetry Festival

Lucy English and Sarah Tremlett of Liberated Words have organized a poetry film event focusing on poetry and climate on Saturday, March 14 in Bristol, UK. Tickets are free.

Curated by Liberated Words, these short poetry films will reflect on the current climate emergency as well as celebrate the natural world. Plus short discussion on the rising genre of poetry film and how artists and poets are responding to our changing environment. With Lucy English and Sarah Tremlett.

Arnolfini (Theatre)
Saturday 14th March 2020
1:00 – 2:00pm

There’s more information on the Liberated Words website, and it sounds like a really exciting event, with films from around the world and a panel discussion including Mark Smalley from Extinction Rebellion as well as UK ecopoets Helen Moore, Meriel Lland and Caleb Parkin. If you can’t make it to Bristol, Lucy and Sarah note that “We are also looking for further screening venues, and other poetry films on the subject, particularly including diversity within the makers.” For those who can attend, the whole festival looks pretty unmissable, with an overall theme of “climate, nature, and romantic Bristol.”

Unseen Forces and the Protagonist’s Point of View

presentation at ZEBRA 2019

Whilst subjectivity often lies in the hands of the poet, the film-maker can double the affect. This can be through their narrative use of the lens in relation to the position of the protagonist, or narrator, particularly in response to unseen forces; placing the viewer or camera in interesting and even culpable positions. I have selected three pairs of films that utilize contrasting approaches to this technique. The first two generate comic pathos; the second two focus on man’s inhumanity to man; and the final pair on the difficult dramatic technique of intimating freedom from negative forces beyond the screen (this world which is not that world).

The Desktop Metaphor (2017), by British poet Caleb Parkin, with filmic interpretation by Dutch film-maker Helmie Stil, centres in content and form on the subtly humorous juxtaposition of the prosaic with the profound and mythical in relation to man’s position in a desktop universe. The light from a steadily repetitive photocopier plays central stage in this film, accenting the repetitions in the poem, where office products alongside Stil’s photocopied face are interwoven with concepts of the infinite – ‘The Great Stapler which attaches the night to us’.

On Loop (2013), one of the funniest films in recent years by British film-maker and animator Christine Hooper, also focuses on the impotence of man’s condition in order to create humour. However, in this case the viewer is given the point of view of the invisible protagonist, who is in bed and tossing and turning with insomnia. In a short space of time we get to know exactly who the protagonist is, without ever seeing her, since an imagination in overdrive lets slip the jumbled contents of her thoughts. These are married with a visually fractured room, and a hyper-alert voice-over (Susan Calman) that is so well chosen to dramatically accentuate, through the sharply rising and falling tones of the melodic accent, a disjointed, racing imagination. Placing the viewer in the physical and mental position of the protagonist is a clever device, the comic pathos doubled in affect.

Two contrasting filmic approaches to man’s inhumanity to man are found in Numbers (English and Piatek, 2016) and Hopscotch (Vilk and Aisha 2017). Numbers begins with the film-maker and the footage itself. Maciej Piatek asked Lucy English to write a poem to the footage centering broadly on someone trying to find their way in society. Lucy arrived at the refugee survivor’s narrative, which Maciej paired with a voice-over by a survivor herself.

The black-and-white footage is from a laboratory, and I quote Maciej: ‘showing each stage of death of a human white blood cell, revealing the dying cells apparently trying to alert their immune system allies that they are dying’. He says he ‘looped and delayed in time the same piece of found footage to make it look like a disease outbreak. At the end of the film one can see in the left top corner the cell is actually disappearing’.

This film rests on the visual absence of the survivors themselves. The screen and the cells as human experiment are a surface to reflect upon, in the way that a tombstone in a graveyard focuses our thoughts. We are entirely tuned to the voice and its wholly credible narrative. However, the voice slowly disappears and the liquid vibrating aspect of the cells delicately suggests the negative role of water and the ocean in the stories. Although the survivor’s voice lets us know she survived, the screen tells us a different story. The film intimates what is not shown.

The next film, Hopscotch (2017), also intimates an insidious negative force, highlighting targeted, everyday abuse, particularly against Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) women in Scotland. It is based on a poem by Nadine Aisha, and is directed by leading film-maker Roxana Vilk, with executive production by AMINA – Muslim Women’s Resource Centre with support from Rape Crisis Edinburgh.

We are immediately drawn into the centre of the conflict. An invisible stalker hisses suggestive remarks to a girl who then retorts ‘he says to me’ placing us, the viewer, as her third-party confidante. At the same time the camera focuses on a girl strolling across the screen on a cold evening. Through this clever filmic device, we see from dual points of view – as both her friend and her assailant – creating dramatic tension.

We cut to daytime, on a bus, and she continues: ‘Sat on the bus with a stranger’s hot breath’ and we are there again, but from the point of view of the abuser sitting right behind her, just as Christine Hooper placed us in the mind and physical position of the insomniac. ‘I want you’ he hisses. We follow our prey through the streets, and the abuse continues ‘stuck up bitch’ ‘what’s wrong, can’t you take this’, ‘Slut, slag’.

Standing alone in a railway station as everyone else speeds past, we recognize the victim’s frozen isolation, and how such abuse robs us of an authentic, relaxed interaction in public places. She is left with the fallout of the words and an ensuing alienation: ‘clenched them tight in fists that now mark the imprint of nameless men trying to name me’. The film continues for nearly five minutes, exposing us, the viewer, to a sense of an unending and unpredictable persecution. Ultimately the stalking camera reaches a climax where the victim turns, takes the camera, and starts filming herself. For a moment she, as in everywoman, triumphs; but through the majority of the narrative Vilk has expertly drawn us in, to inhabit the obsessive mind of the perpetrator.

Roxana told me (email 11 December 2019):

One of the reasons I was drawn to the style I used was also about reflecting on the “male gaze” in cinema in the sense that it is often male directors behind the lens; and I wanted to parallel that to this harassment of women in public spaces. Then to give the poet/ protagonist the chance at the end to grab the camera and turn the lens on herself… so she could speak to the audience without the male gaze and take back ownership of the story.

Freedom from unseen forces beyond the screen provides the central tenet in the final two films. In Quarry (2019) with poem by American poet Melissa Stein and animated line drawing by British artist animator Josh Saunders, a dramatic narrative is placed squarely in front of us. With a delicate and charming line illustration, a girl and boy swim naked in a quarry. However, through the concise and well-placed choice of words which indicate brooding danger – for example ‘a girl is swimming naked in dark water’ – an undercurrent of impending loss of innocence emerges.

The narrative is told as if in the third person, but as it reaches the denouement the narrator enters the first person. It is at this point that we sense that the earlier controlled use of language might indicate a personal psychological burial, now being exhumed. Within the developing drama, Saunders’ figures swim with innocence and a fragile, vibratory naivety; dipping into and below the surface – at one with the water, the rocks and each other. As we realize this event actually happened to the author, so we adjust, and mentally include the invasive eye of an intruder. Achieving delicacy and innocence in a film is a difficult feat; however, with such restraint, both visual and verbal, the result is powerful and memorable, and shows how animation can add to narrative in dramatic ways beyond live footage.

Storm Song (2019) by young British artist (and Central St Martins graduate) Rebecca Hilton is also set in water, but underwater, accompanied by two poems. On the surface, it appears to be a lyric, moving abstract painting where mermaid-like figures (some fully clothed and with long trailing fabric) unwind and intertwine, being both the ink and the brush. However, this film contains an underlying tension, and, rather than making a loud political statement, uses space, language and embodied gesture to subtly deny the constricts on the surface of enforced identities and ideologies from the powers that be – ‘for all we understand is power’.

Alongside an enigmatic voice-over, the viewer’s gaze finds itself broken by frequent black ‘rests’ – a technique I haven’t seen except with intertitles. These black spaces, in a ‘ma’-like way, inspire reflection on what has just been said. And just over halfway through the two poems interweave with each other. The themes in ‘Ghost Ribbon’ (2019) explore return from failure, whilst ‘Cataclysmic Storm’ (2019) investigates the weight of authoritarian power and control ‘Suspended up up up until you breathe’.

Whilst in Quarry we are taken on a developing narrative that intimates in its dramatic unselfconscious innocence a dark denouement, in Storm Song, the darkness gradually filters through, as a continuous invisible, quiescent force.

An earlier version of this essay appeared on Liberated Words.

Poetry film panel included in Saboteur Awards Festival

I was pleased to see this inclusion among the workshops and panels scheduled to coincide with the 2019 Sabateur Awards ceremony, to be held on May 18 at Impact Hub, Birmingham, UK:

2:30-3:30pm Poetry Film: The Power of Collaboration, a panel run by Lucy English, Helen Dewberry, and Sarah Tremlett.

This panel investigates the rapidly growing genre of poetry film, and how it is expanding through social media sharing and poetry film making workshops. Spoken word poet Lucy English, and film makers Helen Dewbery and Sarah Tremett, discuss the collaborative process in the creation of The Book of Hours and share some of the challenges and benefits of cross genre art forms.

The Book of Hours was created by spoken word poet, Lucy English and 27 collaborators from Europe, America and Australia. The Book of Hours is a re-imagining of a medieval book of hours and contains 48 poetry films. The project has been twice longlisted for the Sabotage Awards and was shortlisted for the New Media Writing Prize. Individual films have been screened at a variety of international short film festivals.

Founded in 2011 by Sabotage Reviews, the annual Saboteur Awards include some genuinely interesting categories, with a public nomination process that may or may not make it more egalitarian—which seems on the face of it an odd concern for an essentially competitive undertaking, but literary prize culture always invites a certain amount of anxiety and discomfort, so such gestures toward populism can help dispel that.

Since the vast majority of Moving Poems’ readership is from outside the U.K., it might help to put this in anthropological context. From what I can determine, the U.K. literary scene appears to be largely centered on a bewildering array of prizes and honours, which poets must compete for in order to make themselves more attractive to potential publishers and to assert dominance over fellow poets. This is not surprising given the intensely hierarchical and competitive nature of British tribal culture, especially among the Oxbridge moiety, many of whose members come from the traditional warrior elite. The size and popularity of the literary prize system may also partly be explained by the awkward nature of British courtship practices and intimate relationships more generally, which historically has led individuals to attempt to demonstrate romantic fitness and/or filial piety through grotesque and extreme efforts, helping to launch a colonial empire and the industrial revolution. So, for example, the newly appointed poet laureate, Simon Armitage, cited his indebtedness to his parents in his first statement to the press — and had his qualifications for the job ritually questioned by members of the Oxbridge moiety, disturbed perhaps by his northern and working-class background (though too constrained by linguistic taboos to say so directly).

All that said, I still don’t understand why Lucy English’s Book of Hours project has failed to win in the collaboration category for the Saboteur Awards—not once, but twice. This more than anything indicts the prize system for me, though it’s cool that they have this festival to help broaden the conversation.

“Uprooted” poetry film screening in Bristol, 23 March

There’s a brand-new poetry festival in Bristol this month called Lyra. Lucy English is one of the co-directors, so you know there’s got to be at least one poetry film screening. And sure enough, there is. Here’s the description from the full programme [PDF]:


Filmmakers for these short poems include Ghayath Almadhoun and Marie Silkeberg, Jan Baeke, Alfred Marseille, Maciej Piatek and poet Hollie McNish.
Time: 12:00 – 1:00pm
Price: Free

Uprooted is a curated poetry film screening by Liberated Words co-directors, poet Lucy English and videopoet Sarah Tremlett, reflecting on the lives of refugees and migration, and how artists can illuminate and fulfill important roles. Three types of film will be shown: those centred on war zones, those in transit and the views from those both welcoming and ‘settling’ in a new country. The films show how artists can bring another view of the refugee crisis beyond how it is portrayed in the media.

These regional poetry festivals around the UK are really turning into a good venue for poetry films. If you’re able to get to Bristol in two weeks, the whole event sounds grand.

Ian Gibbins, Lucy English interviewed about their videopoems and poetry films

Two very different but equally intriguing poets were interviewed recently in wide-ranging discussions that included questions about their film and video projects. The March 2019 issue of an Australian, bi-annual online literary journal called StylusLit featured Ian Gibbins in conversation with Rosanna Licari, and on March 5 the blog HeadStuff.org posted ‘It was an experiment and I didn’t really know how people would react’ | Interview With Lucy English. Taken together, they present an interesting range of possibilities for how to translate poetry into film/video, and the backgrounds of the poets are a study in contrasts: Ian from the world of science, and Lucy straddling the creative writing and slam/performance divide. It’s hard to select just a couple of quotes, but these should give you a taste:

Constructing the videopoems can happen in many different ways. Sometimes, I will have pre-existing text and then I get an idea for a video sequence which I will then go out and acquire. Sometimes I have some images I’ve collected for no special reason, and then I’ll match them to a pre-existing poem. Sometimes I’ll come up with a concept and then write some text and get the video more or less simultaneously.

The audio part of the video is an important element too. I’ve been putting some of my poems to my own music for a long time now either as performance or as part of art installations. So for some videos, I already have the complete soundtrack. Otherwise, I’ll compose music or soundscapes to suit the project at hand. In general, I prefer to have the soundtrack first and then fit the video to it. This allows me to closely match the visual and aural rhythms of the piece.

I’ve always enjoyed experimenting with animation and some of my early video poems were entirely based on animated text. More recently, I’ve been learning advanced video compositing techniques and 3D animation which allow me to create totally new visual environments from a mixture of pre-existing images and computer-generated scenes or effects. This process is 100% analogous to the way I use found or sampled text in my poems.
Ian Gibbins in conversation with Rosanna Licari


What I have learned from making short films in collaboration is that there is a visual language which although I was aware of I hadn’t fully taken on board how this works. I was so used to looking at films I wasn’t analysing them. I have now got a deeper insight into how using images affects the viewer and how a film maker doesn’t need to ‘illustrate’ what is in the poem. The language of film isn’t necessarily narrative; we are shown a series of images and we ascribe ‘meaning’ to them. Obviously when writing a novel there is a narrative structure which I don’t need if I am writing a poem or making a poetry film. I have a visual imagination and I have really liked exploring the world of visual images in poetry film. It’s going to be interesting to see if any of this is transferred to my writing of fiction. Perhaps my prose will become more ‘poetic’ and less led by ‘story’!
‘It was an experiment and I didn’t really know how people would react’ | Interview With Lucy English

The Book of Hours is complete in web form and published in tree-flesh media

The Book of Hours coverI’ve been remiss in mentioning that Lucy English’s unique Book of Hours, an online calendar of poetry films made in collaboration with video artists and filmmakers from around the world, is at last complete — and worth many hours of exploration. Not only that, but there’s a printed version of the texts now out from Burning Eye Books, a terrific UK publisher specializing in spoken word poets. Many of the most effective poems in the book emerged during the process of collaboration, making this a unique milestone in the history of filmpoem innovation comparable in stature to the poetry films of Tony Harrison.

To whet your appetite further, there’s a new review of the book by poet and novelist Deborah Harvey over at Poetry Film Live.

It’s an ingenious idea – a calendar of poems that re-imagine the illustrated psalter of mediaeval literature for a secular, 21st century readership/audience. Lucy is supported in this endeavour by her extensive knowledge of the both fields, coupled with a poetic voice that is especially well suited to the demands of poetry film.

For all that there are mentions of stained glass, doom paintings, sun dials and psalmicly panting sheep, the subject-matter of the poems is resolutely secular. Churches are places to be visited in a spirit of curiosity rather than devotion, saints are grey and made of lead, and no miracles happen at wells that are simply oozy patches in stony holes. Similarly, the lives encapsulated in the poems are not ones of monastic contemplation. The poems accommodate a sizeable cast of friends, ex-lovers, family members, former inhabitants of holiday cottages, personifications of the seasons, and animals, and include arrivals from and departures for destinations far beyond an anchorite’s cell.

And yet the sacred is here, in the poet’s tender attention to moments snagged in the memory, rendering them dream-like, and magnified by their lifting up as an offering to the reader. This is the poetry of non sequiturs, missed opportunities, small losses that loom large, the lives we don’t lead […]

Read the rest. And if you see an announcement of a screening of the project in your area, don’t miss it!

Poetry films on the refugee crisis to be screened at North Cornwall Book Festival

For those able to get to St Endelion on October 4th, this sounds like a great event.


Event 2
Thursday 4th October, 7.30pm, St Endellion Hall
Admission £6 (Free to accompanying carers)

Uprooted tersely describes the situation of the subjects of this evening of poetry films. Poetry filmmaker and writer, Sarah Tremlett and performance poet and novelist, Lucy English are Liberated Words. They’ll screen powerful and varied short poetry films from their Home From Home project, exploring the effects of war in the Middle East and the refugee crisis, as well as interpretations of home for those arriving as immigrants in a strange country. Between films, Lucy will perform poems from The Book of Hours.

If you’re not sure just what a poetry film might look like, you can watch some of the Liberated Words catalogue of films here.

You can find out more about Sarah’s work here, and about Lucy’s work here.

Liberated Words CIC www.liberatedwords.com was founded in 2012 by poetry filmmaker and arts writer Sarah Tremlett (www.sarahtremlett.com) and performance poet and novelist Lucy English (Reader in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University). Poetry films are short films combining poetry (spoken and/or written with the moving image and music, and Lucy and Sarah’s focus is to curate and screen films from their community workshops alongside top international poetry filmmakers. Workshops include working with: school children (English, Media and Dance), dementia patients, and teenagers with autism (where they were recognised by Bath Council for raising awareness about autism, particularly for the parents and carers involved).

Their current project-in-progress Home from Home which will take place in 2019, centres on urban and rural groups facing homelessness, whether refugees or those from a variety of disadvantaged backgrounds.  It offers the opportunity to use poetry film workshops and a one-year screening programme as a means of expression and learning, while creating a revealing approach to consciousness-raising for the general public. Films screened on this special festival evening have been selected by Sarah from the Liberated Words and Poem Film archives, or by courtesy of the artists. There will be an opportunity for discussion after the screening.

Click through to book a ticket.

Lucy English shares lessons from The Book of Hours poetry film project

The latest issue of Poetry Film Live includes an extremely interesting new paper by Lucy English, “WRITING POETRY FOR POETRY FILMS: an exploration of the use of spoken word poetry in poetry films“. It joins a growing section at the magazine of essential papers on poetry film and videopoetry by the likes of Sarah Tremlett, Tom Konyves, Fil Ieropoulos, and Susannah Ramsey. The paper is much too long to quote in its entirety, but here’s how it begins:

The Book of Hours is an online collaborative poetry film project, which forms the creative component of my PhD in digital writing. I am making forty eight poetry films to correspond to four different times of day for all the months of the year. This structure has been based on the Medieval Books of Hours, highly decorated and beautiful collections of prayers and readings which followed the Christian calendar. My book of hours is secular but is meditative in nature and intends to create a reflective mood. All the poetry films have been made in collaboration with international film makers. (English, 2016)

For the critical component of my Phd I chart the development of the project and the collaborative process. I also examine what has informed the writing of the poetry for The Book of Hours. Although the poetry exists in a poetry film form it also exists as printed text, a collection of poetry, which will be published by Burning Eye in 2018. In this article I have tried to unpick my understanding of the writing of the poetry, from initial inspirations, to its development as a cohesive collection, and what sources I have looked to for guidance.

English goes on to talk about her background in the spoken word poetry scene, how she’s had to adjust her writing style “to find a contemplative form of spoken word that can be translated to poetry film”, why she chose to pattern her work after Medieval books of hours, and the challenges of writing ecopoetry in modern Britain, among other topics. I found her mix of academic and personal discourse engaging and her arguments persuasive. Do go read… and then visit The Book of Hours to catch up on new additions.

Poetry Film Competition: Light Up Poole

Submissions are requested from poets and filmmakers as part of Light Up Poole, a unique digital Light Art Festival aiming to transform Poole’s town centre after dark from 15-17 February 2018.

Focussing on a theme of ‘Identity’, festival organisers are looking for films, up to a maximum of three minutes, that address the topic and consider how identity is reflected in contemporary society. What does it mean to be an individual, a member of a family, a worker in the city, in a rural setting, a person living in Britain today?

For the purpose of this submission request, a poetry film is defined as a fusion of spoken/written word with visual images where the combination of media provide a richer experience than either the spoken/written word or visual images could do on their own. In this instance, a poetry film isn’t simply a video recording of a poet reading a poem. The poetry film can also include music.


Ten short-listed films will be shown at select venues in Poole’s town centre throughout the duration of the festival, with further screenings as a prelude to main cinema screenings at Lighthouse Poole during March/April 2018. The winning film will receive £500, to be shared between poet and film-maker in the case of collaborations.

Links to films must be received by 26th January 2018. High Definition files will be required for short-listed films.

Please send to matt@artfulscribe.co.uk


Lucy English is co-creator of the poetry film organisation, Liberated Words, which curates and screens poetry films. Lucy is best known as a performance poet who has published three novels and is currently a Reader at Bath Spa University where she teaches on the undergrad and Master’s Creative Writing courses. Her specialisms include writing for digital platforms.

Sarah Tremlett, MPhil, FRSA, SWIP, is a British poetry filmmaker, artist and arts theorist/writer, with a first-class honours degree in Fine Art and an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. In 2012, she co-founded Liberated Words poetry film events with poet and novelist Lucy English to screen international poetry filmmakers alongside films made in the community, and co-conceived MIX conference, Bath Spa University.


Entry is free to anyone, and should be made via email to matt@artfulscribe.co.uk including the following info in an attached word document:

  • Name and duration of Film
  • Name of director
  • Country of origin
  • Contact details
  • Name of Poet
  • Name of Poem
  • Synopsis
  • Filmmaker biography
  • and a Link to download a high-resolution version of the film.

You may submit as many entries as you like. Films must interpret, be based on, or convey the festival theme. Non-English language films will require English subtitles.