In Person: World Poets, DVD-anthology, Bloodaxe
A festival of poetry is how publisher Bloodaxe describes this DVD-anthology, of poems on the page plus a quartet of films of poets reading their work. It’s sensational.
Launched at Manchester Central Library as part of the city’s literature festival by Bloodaxe editor Neil Astley and filmmaker Pamela Robertson-Pearce, it’s a sequel to the more modest first collection (In Person: 30 Poets) produced in 2008.
There is nothing like seeing and hearing poets talking about their inspirations and then reading the words (sometimes assisted by translators and/or sub-titles). One of the DVDs was shown at the launch but I then went home and spent a day watching it again and all the rest, one after the other - and loved it all.
There are 59 poets included from all over the world, talking and reading to you. Some have died since they were recorded, others go from strength to strength. Some I knew well, others I’d never heard of, all were utterly fascinating. The filming is unobtrusive but warm and intimate and personal. Many poets were filmed at their home, some are shy, others confident, but all invite the viewer/listener to share their work. I love hearing poetry read with the words in front of me. And so much of this work is just meant to be read aloud, not only inside your own head.
I’m not picking out one writer or quoting from any poems. But I will say that one of the most moving films showed the announcement that Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer had finally been awarded the Nobel prize - and seeing him, undefeated by a terrible stroke, playing his piano one-handedly and smiling happily as his wife explained how thrilled he was. I shed a tear over that bit before watching his younger self reading. He is one of the writers who have since died and this project does him and all the featured poets proud. (And it’s the most incredible value at £15).