In the following article, poets Stav Poleg (Magma) and Jennifer Williams (University of Edinburgh) introduce the collaboration of Magma Poetry with the University of Edinburgh and the Festival of Creative Learning.
What better place and time to contemplate a collaboration? It was the peak of the Edinburgh festival season. We met for a coffee at Dovecot Studios, discussing ways of bringing poets and filmmakers together.
We both have had our own experience of collaboration and cross-form work. Jennifer has worked with choreographers, dancers, musicians, composers and opera singers and Stav has worked with visual artists, actors and dramaturges. We discussed how meaningful it can be for collaborators to work in artistic partnership, and how the interaction between myriad intellects and their creative energies can influence the way we enter into the pact of creation.
Collaborations can also make this delicate, potent work harder. We reminisced about collaborations that went so smoothly it felt as if we shared a brain with our partner, and others that felt more like sacrifice than expansion. But we knew that the successful ones mattered greatly. They affected our work to the extent that even when we later wrote on our own, the hand of the illustrator and the eye of the filmmaker were inside us as we laid words on the page and sculpted image through sound in space.
We also remarked on the concern that is often raised that poetry is isolated, read too often only by poets and not by the general public. Film poems, and other collaborations that bring poetry out from between the covers of a book, can open a door to the world of poetry for those who are more accustomed to encountering complex images on screen or in the flesh than on the page. The delighted response we have received from poets, filmmakers and viewers of the work produced in the project that emerged from this conversation has confirmed our belief that this merging of forms can diversify and expand audiences and spark a new interest in poetry where before there was fear or disdain.
As for how the project worked in practise, Magma invited poets who were willing to let their poems be open to cinematic interpretation to submit contributions. We received over 400 submissions in the course of a few weeks from poets who were keen to be linked with filmmakers and shortlisted a selection of these poems. In the meantime, four students from the prestigious Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) Film Directing MFA/MA and teams of students from the Edinburgh Movie Production Society (EMPS) at the University of Edinburgh were recruited. The ECA students were given the shortlist and asked to each select a poem to use as a starting point for a film poem. The EMPS student teams were given one poem, and each individual/group responded to that particular poem.
The poets and filmmakers were encouraged to view the project as a collaboration and worked together via Skype, email or in person. The filmmakers were the creative drivers in terms of making the films, but we asked that they consult with the poets throughout the process and confirm with them that they were happy with the final cut. At the University, the project team delivered a workshop for the filmmakers at which we showed a variety of film poems to help convey the vast spectrum of possible styles from documentary to experimental and abstract, and encouraged the filmmakers to think of their film poems not as representations of the poems in film but as completely new works inspired by the original poems. We have been awed by the results.
We want to thank Lucy Kendra (project co-producer), the Festival of Creative Learning, Charlie Farley, Emma Davie and Juro Oravec from the University of Edinburgh, and the Magma Poetry board. Most importantly, we want to celebrate the poets and filmmakers who engaged with their collaborations with such energy and artistic integrity. We hope this will be the first film poems of many for the poets and filmmakers involved.
Please scroll down to read more about the project, and go here to read more about the filmmakers and poets, and watch a selection of the films. We hope you enjoy them and that it inspires your own exploration of the rich and creative terrain offered by collaborative practise.
Stav Poleg, co-editor, Magma 71, The Film Issue
Jennifer Williams, Projects & Engagement Coordinator, Institute for Academic Development, University of Edinburgh
Magma Poetry in Collaboration with the University of Edinburgh
and the Festival of Creative Learning
Read more about each film here
Pegasus in the Lab
Film-poem by Marios Lizides after a poem by Ginny Saunders
Of the Daughter who Spoke
Film-Poem by Simon Ray after a poem by Kristi Carter
Anyone Can Buy a Seat in the Cinema
Film Poem by Maggie Clark after a poem by Laura Seymore
Film Poem by Ted Fisher after a poem by Aoife Lyall
Ode to Summer
Film Poems by students from the Edinburgh Movie Production Society after a poem by Carrie Etter
Magma Poetry in Collaboration with the University of Edinburgh and the Festival of Creative Learning
Edinburgh College of Art
Maggie Clark, Theodore Fisher, Marios Lizides, Simon Ray
Edinburgh Media Production Society
Miriam Khenissi, Laura Pennycook, Jeremy Pestle, Louis Caro, Nancy Nighting, Sarema Shorr
Aoife Lyall, Kristi Carter, Ginny Saunders, Laura Seymour, Carrie Etter
Stav Poleg, Co-Editor, Magma 71, The Film Issue
The University of Edinburgh
Institute of Academic Development:
Jennifer Williams and Lucy Ridley, Festival of Creative Learning
Learning Teaching and Web Services:
Lucy Kendra, Open Media Project
Charlie Farley, Open Education Resources Advisor – open.ed.ac.uk
Emma Davie, Programme Director – Postgraduate Film, Edinburgh College of Art
Juro Oravec, President 2017-2018 – Edinburgh Movie Production Society