~ Zata Banks ~

Review of Poetry Film screening at the MIX conference

Bath Spa University, July 2017

 MIX 2017 poetry films programme cover

Revolution, Regeneration, Reflections. These were the themes chosen for the MIX 2017 conference to celebrate the human capacity for renewal and experimentation combined with deep thought and to look at where creative writing, storytelling, and media creation intersect with and/or are dependent upon technology. The programme featured a mix of academic papers, practitioner presentations, seminars, keynotes, discussions, workshops and poetry film screenings.

Artists/poets and digital writers were asked to submit poetry films/film poems/video poetry responding to these themes. Nineteen poetry films from the international submissions received were screened throughout the duration of the conference.

The selection was curated by Lucy English, Reader in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and co-founder of Liberated Words, and Zata Banks, founder of PoetryFilm, an influential research arts project and film screening series.

I wondered if the themes of revolution, regeneration and reflections were too optimistic in theme. Perhaps war, power, consumerism, genocide, apocalypse, violence and chaos are nearer to what governs our thoughts at present.

Some of the poetry films covered predictable ground: love, word play, abstracts and introspection. Other films braved the realms of suicide, oppression, humour and sustainability. Some were cleverly and/or beautifully designed, others revealed their workings (you almost saw the filmmaker at work).

The curation itself was expertly put together. The viewer could watch to the end without feeling bombarded or overwhelmed, while at the same time feeling they had traveled; a journey which was troubling at times, more re-assuring at the end. We were taken from political marginalisation and resistance to universal sustainability in 19 films.

The first film, If We Must Die by Othneil Smith, used imagery from a 1970s Blaxploitation film to highlight resistance and a 1919 sonnet written in response to attacks on African-American communities, and began:

If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.

The last film, Kate Flaherty’s A Mouse’s Prayer, with a delicate voice and a mouse’s prayer to the moon, ended:

O moon, you see me
when others do not,
you know my brown fur’s sheen,
and you reflect for me
my own great smallness
in your immensely
dark and speckled sky.

At the end of the first film and the beginning of the last film, the viewer literally looked into someone’s face. This created an intimate space, connected the viewer to the personal and forged the link between responsibility and hope.

Whilst I watched, I kept thinking: this is a poet’s curation (but then, what is a poetry film if it’s not poetry?). There were no long distracting pages of seemingly endless credits, no words were trying to compete with images and there were no excessive soundtracks. Almost all the films selected had near equal elements of sound, image and text.

Selecting for a poetry film curation isn’t just about choosing the best films submitted. The films need to sit alongside one another to flow, illuminate, juxtapose — the whole should be greater than the sum of its parts.

I was able to recognize Zata’s experimental film choices that invited us to focus on semiotics. The meaning making systems in the elements that make up the films (sound, movement, etc). In Matthew Griffith’s Pain in Colour, we were asked to find meaning through colour, movement and sound but with no words.

But can you have a poem without words? I’m not sure. But I know you can have a ‘poetic experience’ and Pain in Colour offered up its own meanings within the whole curation. I’m not sure it would have done so on its own. I would prefer to see it in a gallery space, where I may be less self-conscious of finding a specific context and meaning.

The territory of poetry film is still being mapped. And as I watched the films the nagging question hanging in the mainly empty auditorium was ‘What is poetry film?’ The curation didn’t direct me to the answer. But it led me to wonder if poetry film needs to be more confident in embracing its own genres (whether that is seen as another type of art film or an entirely new genre of poetry), and then we may be nearer to developing clearer analytical language and critical discourses.

In the middle of the curation, the background evangelist in Cindy St. Onge’s Road to Damascus and the end line in Dave Bonta’s Grassland, “I’ll break like bread at your table”, gave a jolt toward the anxieties of faith and a hope for something more, and was a reminder that the curation was a journey from resistance to sustainability.

Angie Bogachenko’s version of Oracle of a Found Shoe and the collaboration between Cheryl Gross and Lucy English, Shop, both animations, demonstrated that animation works when the images and words work together, where you can’t see the seam between the two. Both showed the strength of the poem and the skill of the animator.

I noted that 11 of the 19 films, by nature of the poem or the choice of presentation, had a strong performance element. This reflects the balance of new work that I have seen emerging elsewhere. Poetry film is an ideal medium to embody spoken word poetry, and as a genre I think it will bring an immediate and urgent contribution to the field.

By design or chance, the curation at MIX 2017 brought a rhythm, line by line, film by film, that on a large scale was sustained to the end. The themes created a forward momentum — and that reflects the journey of poetry film itself.

Call for poetry films: MIX 2017 conference

conference banner

Bath Spa University’s bucolic Newton Park campus may seem an unlikely venue for an important international conference on writing and technology, but apparently it has “the best specialist digital and studio resources for teaching in the South West [U.K.] – equal to anything found in top commercial organisations and broadcast companies.” The MIX 2017 conference sounds truly interdisciplinary, with “a vibrant mix of academic papers, practitioner presentations, seminars, keynotes, discussions and workshops. Alongside scholars and researchers, artists, creative writers and creative technologists interested in literary forms are welcome to submit proposals.” More to the point for our interests, the organizers have issued a special call for poetry films.





The themes for this year’s conference are revolutions, regenerations, reflections. We would like to encourage artists/poets and digital writers to submit poetry films/ film poems/video poetry to be screened during MIX in our Viewing Theatre at Newton Park campus. Poetry films/ film poems/ video poetry is an emerging genre that fuses the use of spoken-word poetry, visual images, and sound to create a stronger representation and interpretation of the meaning being conveyed.



Short films should be submitted via email using a direct link to Youtube, Vimeo or an open link to Dropbox or WeTransfer. The email subject line should read ‘Your Name; Poetry Film Submission’ and the body of the email should include a 50-word description of the film.

Maximum 2 submissions per artist, these can be sent in the same email. This email should be sent to mix@bathspa.ac.uk by Wednesday 1st March.

The films will be selected and curated by Lucy English, Reader in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, and Zata Banks (founder of PoetryFilm research art project https://poetryfilm.org)



4K HD projector and 5.1 surround sound



  • Poetry films/ film poems/ video poetry up to 3 minutes.
  • Submitted via email using a direct link to Youtube, Vimeo or an open link to Dropbox or WeTransfer.
  • Email subject: ‘Your Name; Poetry Film Submission’; and the body of the email should include a 50-word description of the film.
  • No more than 2 submissions per artist, these can be sent in the same email.
  • Films must relate in some way to the conference’s themes: Revolutions, Regenerations and Reflections.
  • English language or with English language subtitles.
  • Deadline: Wednesday 1st March 2017.


If you would like to attend the conference please click on the ‘Bookings’ tab.

Quattro Ottobre (October Fourth) by Francesca Gironi

A unique piece even by the highly eclectic standards of the poetry-dance film genre. For one thing, the dancer/choreographer, Francesca Gironi, also wrote the text. For another, video artist Jack Daverio‘s imagery complements and expands the text in such a way that this could easily be characterized as a videopoem senso strictu. It’s described on Vimeo as an “Ironic dialogue between poetry and video art. Self escape becomes hyper presence.” The music is by Luca Losacco.

Quattro Ottobre was a finalist at the Doctorclip poetry film festival as well as in the Carbon Culture Review Poetry Film Competition 2016, judged by Zata Banks, who describes it as “A strong example of a dance-led poetry film incorporating sound design, visual layering and a voiceover poem about the self.” (Click through for biographies for Gironi, Daverio and Losacco.)

Call for submissions: Carbon Culture’s $1000 poetry film prize

April 1 is the deadline to submit to this uniquely generous poetry film prize from Carbon Culture with judge Zata Banks from the UK-based PoetryFilm project. Here are the details.

Poetry Film Prize

We want to integrate film and literary culture. Carbon Culture will award a $1,000.00 prize for the best poetry film. Zata Kitowski, director of PoetryFilm, will pick the grand prize winner and finalists. The winning entry will receive $1,000.00. The top five entries will receive high-profile placements across our social media networks, a one page note alongside honorable mentions in our newsstand print and device editions. Deadline for submissions is April 1, 2016.

By submitting, you grant CCR the right to publish selected poetry films in our online issue as well as recognition in our print issue. All rights revert to the film creator(s) and/or submitter.

Rules for Submission

  1. Create a video adaptation of your original, unpublished poem.
  2. Post the video to a Youtube or Vimeo account and make it live.
  3. Submit the piece as an .Mp4 alongside your bio or team member’s bios to us.
  4. One submission per poet, please. If you previously created a poetry film for our initial guidelines listed in early 2015 for John Gosslee’s poem before we opened the contest to any original poem, you may submit this and one other poetry film for consideration.

Prize Announcements will be made in July 2016. Payment will be made via Paypal.

Film Types

All visual and textual interpretations of any contemporary poem written by you or someone on your team are welcome. Animation (digital or cartoon,) live action, kinetic poems, stop motion, anything you can imagine. We are looking for literal and non-literal interpretations of the poem. How long should it be? That is up to you. Poetry is meant to be heard and we encourage audio.


The prize is open to poets, students, individuals and teams.

Click Here to Submit Your Film.

Call for submissions: poetry films about love

The UK-based PoetryFilm art project welcomes general submissions throughout the year, but director Zata Banks has just issued a special invitation to submit poetry films about love:

All topics and themes are welcome, and material exploring LOVE is invited specifically for an event in December 2015.

Work welcome: poetry films, art films, text films, sound films, silent films, collaborations, auteur films, films based on poems, poems based on films, and other experimental text/image/sound screening and performance material. Submissions will be catalogued in the PoetryFilm Archive and will be considered for all future PoetryFilm projects.

Please send hard copies of film submissions in the post (e.g. DVD, USB stick). If you are sending a DVD, please make sure that your DVD is properly formatted and that it will play correctly.

Submission Form

Please click here to download the PoetryFilm Submission Form 2015.

Please send your work together with the form to: PoetryFilm, First Floor, 85 Harwood Road, Fulham, London SW6 4QL.

– A fully completed Submission Form must accompany all submissions

– Please print out and include hard copies of all the additional material you would like to have considered as part of your submission

– Please do not write website links or “see website” on the form

– Please do not submit links by e-mail or through social media


The event featuring poetry films about LOVE will take place in December 2015; however, all submissions will be catalogued in the PoetryFilm Archive and will be considered for all future events.


Please email info@poetryfilm.org if you have any questions. Thanks.

If you’d like to attend a PoetryFilm screening to see what it’s like, there’s one coming up in London in just three weeks: PoetryFilm Parallax, ICA Cinema, Sunday 16 August, 4pm, and another one the following month, also in London: the PoetryFilm Equinox event at The Groucho Club Cinema on Sunday 27 September.

Upcoming poetry-film and videopoetry events

June 27 in Berlin

Lyrikmarkt (Poesiefestival Berlin)

Darüber hinaus werden die besten historischen und internationalen Poesiefilme, unter anderem von Paul Bogaert, Kristian Pedersen, John Albert Jansen, Marie Silkeberg, Ghayath Almadhoun, Eleni Gioti, Hubert Sielecki, Man Ray, Paul Desnos und Gerhard Rühm zu sehen sein.

July 6-11 in London

Ross Sutherland’s “Standby For Tape Back-Up” at the Soho Theatre

After a hard-drive crash and a near death experience, Ross Sutherland found himself house-bound with only one thing for company: an old videotape that once belonged to his granddad.

Over the months that followed, Ross memorised every second of the tape. Slowly, he learnt how to manipulate the images into telling the story of his life. The videotape allowed Ross to open a dialogue with his late grandfather, and eventually helped him confront the illness that had nearly ended his life.

The true story of one man’s journey into synchronicity and madness.

July 11 in Penzance, UK

PoetryFilm Penzance
“A screening of poetry films curated and presented by Zata Banks” at the Penzance Literary Festival in Cornwall.

July 16 in Reykjavik

PoetryFilm Reykjavik
“A screening of poetry films and live performances curated and presented by Zata Banks” at Mengi.