This time last year I worked with poet Maya Chowdhry on her first collection, The Seamstress and the Global Garment. I had crossed paths with Maya for years, this being the north west and us both being literature passionistas, but it was when Flax published her work that I began to get to know her properly. She's fiercely ethical and open-minded and someone I find highly inspirational in how she views her work as a poet and artist. More about that another time.
The editing I undertook for The Seamstress was one side of a trade. It took me a while to work out what I'd like in return, but as Maya talked more and more about her work for a degree in art, I got to thinking how a film of a poem in Host might be a very lovely thing to have. I had seen a couple of Maya's film and liked their richness and simplicity. And I love the possibility of poetry films. Flax had commissioned one last year, Finding a Language, which was a great merging of two extremely different creative people and a joy (if a little frustrating) to be witness and manager of.
So I presented Maya with four different poems from my forthcoming book, and we talked about the images within them and which we'd be most excited to work with. We settled eventually with Nothing as Quiet as a House, which is a calmer version of a rant about an abandoned house, the first in a sequence of poems spanning a hundred years of a family, its home and business.
Last week we story-boarded the film (far more pleasant than waterboarding). And did I get excited. I did. I did.
Maya had located a house - offered to us by a kindred spirit - and taken some pics to show me. And after some playing about with completely unrelated images we started talking about the potential thrown up by her images. I love the geometric play in this one.
What was so great about our day was that as we worked and discussed the translation of the poem's narrative, we moved seamlessly and energetically from one idea to another, from one brain to another (although there were only the two in the room, it felt like more). There was no huge discrepancy of vision, or even of how we might go about structuring the day or the the film, and when plans were dropped or changed, I can't honestly remember who suggested to do so. It felt like a wonderful expansion of experience.
I was given blank squares in which to sketch (badly) what we decided to include in each scene, how the pace panned out, and how to evoke and suggest echoes rather than literally work off line by line or word by word.
This picture threw up the idea of entrances and exits, mirrors being portals (reminding me of Jonathan Strange and Mr Morrell), and since the poem is about ghosts, or at least memories, this seemed totally apt. I was running with it.
The trick will be to translate the still images of these pictures and others and my badly sketched storyboard into a pacy (or slow) motion picture. But I don't have to worry about that too much. That's Maya's job.
I just have to find all the props we've agreed on: moss, a tea set, a vase, an old chair, a custom molded cushion cover.
And remember to bring my watch next week. I've be given the grand title of Production Assistant. It sounds terribly responsible. Hope I'm up for the job and don't get too giddy.