Crossing the Border - Poetry and Film

Right from the birth of cinema, film-makers have experimented with poetry in film. Matthew Sweet explores this overlooked history.

The Russian pioneer film-maker Dziga Vertov developed his celebrated montage technique out of Mayakovsky's poetry and the GPO Film Unit's 'Night Mail' with W H Auden's closing poem owes a good deal to these Russian experimentalists. Starting at the unlikely site of the studio where scenes from 'Night Mail' were shot and recorded eighty years ago, Matthew establishes this iconic film as an important blueprint for poets and film-makers since.

In recent times, the poets Tony Harrison and Simon Armitage have both made documentary films where their poems replaced conventional commentaries. Matthew hosts a reunion between Tony Harrison and his collaborator, the film director Peter Symes, as they relive the powerful moment of filming of the exhumation of a body in a Neapolitan necropolis. This moment poses core questions about film poems: what does the viewer hear and see, how do word and image relate to each other? With Simon Armitage, Matthew learns how his poetry on film gives a voice to the marginalised. Now, a burgeoning movement of experimental film-makers are creating a new space for the production, curation and distribution of film poems in festivals and in digital media, so as the mainstream media fragment, film poetry is returning to its avant garde roots as was exemplified by early film poem makers such as Germaine Dulac and Maya Deren.

Producer: Emma-Louise Williams
A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 3.

Release date:

Available now

45 minutes

Last on

Tue 22 Aug 2017 22:00

Related topics

Featured in...

Six Secret Smuggled Books

Nelson mandela

Six classic works of literature we wouldn't have read if they hadn't been smuggled...

Grid

Grid

Seven images inspired by the grid

World Music collector, Sir David Attenborough

JS114374909 attenborough large trans K8oq TXSPAJ0t21o ESlo XRk CIv3505 E63j Nj QF1 Hma4

The field recordings Attenborough of music performances around the world.

Attenborough's field recordings

Attenborough's field recordings

The unlikely music performances captured while searching for exotic animals to film.