The American-British poet and poetry-filmmaker Robert Peake is the author of this week’s essay at Poetryfilmkanal: “Mnemosyne’s Tango: Poetry, Film, and the Dance of Memory.” I thought it was one of the most original things I’ve read about the the genre.
The relationship between art and memory has long been a family affair, since Mnemosyne is the mother of the Muses. In fact, some of the earliest uses of both poetry and film were for recording cultural history – either by compressing an epic tale into alliteration and rhyme to facilitate memorisation, or by compressing light and sound into physical media. Compression leads to portability and potency, but also imposes unique constraints, which have evolved into our current understanding of the distinct artistic possibilities of each discipline.
In format, the auditory and visual natures of film and poetry are clearly different. Yet a flickering screen can be viewed like a page, and a poem can be read like a script. The cæsura, line break, and stanza break in poetry mirror film’s range of visual transitions. Clearly, they have some fundamental moves in common. How, then, does the poetryfilm best come together to fascinate, transport, and change us?
Peake’s essay is the latest addition to the Magazin section of Poetryfilmkanal. Previous installments in this series of short essays have included “Poetryfilms: when poetry and film have a flirt,” by Eleni Cay; “CINEPOEM – or – Take a Walk on the Wild Side,” by Cathy de Haan (in German); my own essay, “The Discovery of Fire: One Poet’s Journey into Poetry-Film“; and “Redefining poetry in the age of the screen,” by Tom Konyves.