A little pair of poems, one just a fragment, a delighted thought. January, another midwinter poem, maybe a midwinter of the soul, but it’s all right somehow, ‘There’ll be something stirring / under the snow’. Learning to be alone, and then not alone. There are two bits of film magic here: the slow penetration of the wood under deep snow; and then a magical transition to a still in black and white, far, far, back, to that little boy on the beach, to the distant, evocative piano of old friend and composer John Hywel. So understated, all of it, how it comes together. And the extreme closeup, of a man not young, but alive.
‘Padding back from a wintry bathroom’, a love poem for midwinter. You know that feeling of cold tiles under your feet, the landscape of sheets when you return, and that form, half-asleep, welcoming you. The warmth. And you realise, again, that you’re blessed, you’re not young, but you’re blessed. The film runs over the landscape of crumpled sheets, to another evocative music track by Ivan ‘Ogmios’ Owen. Oh, and the book’s out, from Cinnamon Press, maybe one for Valentine Day.
One of the scariest of the Late Love Poems, it’s almost unmitigated joy from here on in: but how affirming too. You know when everything’s going wrong and you’re at the limits of your strength, and you survive – perhaps because you’re not alone. And you’re grateful, no limit to the depth of that feeling. So in this shed I’m at the end of my tether, sunken-eyed, and the wind is a forceful backdrop in film and poem – there’s that moment when it drops. Readers of the Mabinogion will recognise ‘the sudden glare of the opening door / of all the griefs’.
Another of those scary poems about love and illness: in a sense, about devotion and anger, defiance, almost incredulity: this strange landscape was not supposed to happen to me. Travelling a hard road, profoundly together, through trials, searching, with a love that’s a continual victory – but we end a little at a loss. The filming and delivery underlines the ‘protective rage’. The poet wrapped up against hostile elements: and then there’s that wall, a major presence in the film. The music, again by Ivan ‘Ogmios’ Owen, taking the film to another level.
Anniversary is just twelve lines that convey another moment of astonishment, stumbling on an apple tree in a place where it really shouldn’t be. We found a miracle. I speak through the apple tree. Filmed simply in extreme closeup.
This week another rollicking poem about illness, before we turn to a delicious anticipation of moving in together. I would never have imagined that having a skin cancer would bring out the surreal, the joker, to empower a profound and joyful affirmation of life. But this is what ‘The Harrowing of the Squamous Cell Carcinoma’ does; and it was love that enabled me to confront what might have been a tragedy, and to try on a series of extravagant role-changes before a moment of transcendent celebration, almost accidentally. Filmed simply in bluebell light: the kaleidoscope is in the poem.
One of the things about late love poems is that you can’t deny that bits start falling off. So is there still something to celebrate in The Mistake, and where and how do you find the means? When I had a skin cancer, I chose mocking defiance, always self-mocking, a kind of haka performed at this invading alien that (dammit) was a part of me. It’s an affirmation of a life-force with all its weaknesses in plain sight. So how’s it a love poem? Just hear the last line.
To mark this halfway point in the uploading of the Late Love Poems on film, we’ve taken a deep breath, looked back and made a compilation of 6 of the films we’ve liked best. It’s a different feel, stitching six poems together. Does it gather strength? There’s certainly variety. Are there some films you’re surprised not to see here? Do the separate films talk to each other? What do you think?
Missing double maths with you packs quite a bit of mischief into 9 lines; and the film takes off in that mood, leaping into a dream world that has a bird-like poet perched among the lost lives of a pollarded tree, chuckling about a branch of another dreamworld lost long ago, if it ever did exist. Maybe it didn’t, because it’s a stolen dream, and we didn’t go to school together – but the poem is as true as the film, and the music by Ogmios brings an atmospheric charge.
‘In Sickness’ marks the introduction of a dark note in the Late Love Poems, as ill health pays a visit, and will again. And yet the second part of the poem is deeply celebratory. No matter how dark, there’s at least a moment where all these poems are bathed in light, sometimes months and years of light. Eamon Bourke’s film takes these themes on brilliantly and makes them his own in a way that meets and enhances what’s happening in the poem. Music by A.Taylor from The Musicbed.