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ZEBRA Interview Filmpoem’s Alastair Cook

The Literaturwerkstatt Berlin and CHASED, an online magazine from Berlin, interviewed Filmpoem founder Alastair Cook for an article on the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival.

How can poetry and film unite?

AC: The very first films had text in them, often poetic texts. They have always united, there has always been a marriage between poetry and film, though I have the come to understand it is really a menage-a-trois, that the composer has a place just as valuable and necessary at the top table. So, no one person really invented the genre and the internal world of such a slim but powerful and international genre splinters and divides by formal nomenclature (poetry-film? video-poems?) and nation-based semantics (film? video? moving image?). I feel that largely due to the genre bursting from the very heart of art and film school teaching and into the world of the internet, we artists seek to distinguish our own particular take.

In answer to the question more directly, how they unite is simple. It’s a matter of respect, of taking something which has been nurtured by another and driving it forward, in essence to create something new from it. Why bother? Liz Lochhead questioned me on this – What’s the point, Alastair, when I’ve already finished the poem? She’s right, but the answer is as old as poetry-film itself – the drive of the artist to create something new – a film, a piece of theatre, a painting. It’s the quiet and modern converse of ekphrasis, the driving out of words by a wordsmith from an existing visual artwork. It is beautiful.

Has poetry-film become our last resort in an increasingly rational world?

AC: The world is not increasingly rational. It is a place of abject chaos, of joy and beauty and of pain and suffering, driven forward by the human being’s innate belief that he is a force for good. The world is not a place for self-indulgence and this is art’s greatest fear – irrelevance. We strive to make bigger better, more distinct work and a so the growth of a genre like this is of little surprise, and our love affairs with sharing has done it all the favours it needs to become accepted into the world of art and film. Perhaps it’s always been simpler for it to be accepted into the world of poetry, as without the poem it is nothing. The poem is everything.

How can poetry-film be of value to us in our modern times?

AC:Poetry-film is only of value if it brings something of value to the extant work itself. It is of value if it elucidates, teaches, educates, if it becomes part of a process of learning. 

Is love still possible in the EU?

AC: As I said to Charlie, my 8 year old son, just yesterday, love takes so many different forms. I love him with a value higher than my own life, and i also love film poetry, though a little less. Quiet motto for me: lead with your heart, your head has been keeping you safe for longer than you can remember.