~ Scottish Review of Books ~

Event review of Alastair Cook’s “Absent Voices”

Writing for the Scottish Review of Books, Theresa Muñoz reviews a live screening and performance of Alastair Cook‘s “Absent Voices” series of filmpoems. Since I’ve never personally seen a filmpoem screening done in what might be called a karaoke-like fashion, with the poet present to read the text while live musicians performed the soundtrack, I was especially interested in hearing how well these videos worked in that context.

When folk read poems, images sparked from the narrative float through their minds. Alastair Cook’s own brand of Filmpoems, whereby the poet reads his work against a running 8mm or 16mm short film, provides the audience with a firm set of visuals. It’s an intriguing art form which both expands and contracts the poem’s possibilities, as the audience tries to thematically integrate the text with the established visuals of the film (and soundtrack). The majority of Cook’s Filmpoems are lush, evocative and dark creations filmed in the derelict sugar shacks on the James Watt Dock in Greenock.

Set in the Scottish Poetry Library’s cosy downstairs area, the setting was that of a makeshift cinema. A white screen hung from the high wall. A golden clarsach, later trilled by Rita Bradd, stood in the corner. Musician Luca Nasciuti was on hand to provide a haunting soundtrack. Cook began by describing how the batch of film poems came about. Commissioned by the arts collective Absent Voices, Cook asked seven poets to contribute a work: Gerard Rudolf, Jane McKie, Brian Johnstone, John Glenday, JL Williams and Sheree Mack. The poets were each given archived pictures of the sugar industry and watched a short film about the dilapidated buildings.

Read the rest.