Four new May poem films to watch
May 2020 marked the first full month online for us here at the Adrian Brinkerhoff Poetry Foundation, and we celebrated it in style: with four poem films from acclaimed British, Irish, and American voices.
Denice Frohman, Simon Callow, Hannah Lowe, and Martina Evans' powerful readings embrace the personal and political, from explorations of individual histories to broad questions of power and violence. In case you missed them, we've gathered our May offerings here for you to enjoy.
New York poet and teacher Denice Frohman shares with us her "Puertopia," an examination of disaster capitalism in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria from the perspective of the United States mainland:
meanwhile / we
diaspora / separated by sea / peel plátanos & cut them / on the same angle our mothers
taught us to clap / when the plane lands on either shore / now / the beaches are gated &
no one knows the names of the dead
Celebrated UK actor Simon Callow performs a personal favorite: David Gascoyne's "Ecce Homo." In this, perhaps the best-known of Gascoyne's works, the poet laments the destruction and cruelty of war through the ages—from the "Crusaders, Christian warriors / Defending faith and property" through the World War II bloodshed in whose midst the poem was written—as witnessed by the suffering "Christ of Revolution and of Poetry."
From British poet Hannah Lowe comes a reading of her poem "Reggae Story," from her book Chick (Bloodaxe, 2013), an eponymous homage to her late father: a Chinese-Jamaican immigrant to England whose history resists simple narratives of identity. In "Reggae Story," Lowe elegantly navigates these contradictions, juxtaposing her own story ("I used to love a boy who loved / dub reggae") with that of the "silent island man" whose musical tastes transcended stereotype.
Lastly, Irish poet Martina Evans performs "I want to be like Frank O'Hara," a paean to the beloved New York School poet that contrasts the practical, domestic lifestyle that Evans' motherhood requires with O'Hara's avant-garde ways:
I swing in the hammock to the echo of police sirens,
but I’ve never leaned in a club doorway,
my poems in my pocket like Frank.
Come back soon for fresh June films and a new web presence for our at-home series, Words We Share. Our thanks to director Matthew Thompson and partners Poet in the City, 92Y, and Poetry Ireland for making our May films possible!