Published: a poem & filmpoem for Khadija Ismayilova for English PEN #penfestuk

My first poem to celebrate the extraordinary courage and life of Khadija Ismayilova, to just evidence her immense commitment to her profession and a fundamental notion of truthfulness. You can read more about her case on my English PEN dedicated page, which has my blog on curating the English PEN Modern Literature Festival too (which takes place April 2nd). In the meantime, my poem, the Club, and beautiful filmpoem generously made by Joshua Alexander, which features the poem.

The Club for Khadija Ismayilova

To be too loud like a bulletclub that cannot touch us. Keep quiet.

They are like snakes, beasts, gorillas – masters. 
Very brave, at the top of the trees, but a matter of death and life on the jungle floor.

That is just how it is – surround, surrender, our family - livers swelled, keeping us afloat.

Where we sleep, we’re the same. Where we sleep, you may sleep too,
benefiting the world, a world war bonus. Secret trade of arms, you will receive what is given.

There is light beyond the end of tunnel. That is the soundtrack of cloth burning,
but the light that creates, but the smell it causes,
           one fades quietly, the other stays in the curtains,
but the letters that stand, that will stay
but the fear, but the fog, solid
but the washing of resources, people, stamps, houses in Hampstead,
            which is bearable, is possible, to know
something more than nothing, spraying on the free.

I need not money, but people.
Knowing, the young, hungry hanging, I want you to return here
to see you come back, without the top of boots and bottom of swords.

A low level pedestal,
towering above us, sleeping through.

Something in sense has happened. Give us papers, allow her in.
I can’t imagine the place, and it being strange as storage,
             as a future contribution against nations doing terrible things.

Always later than is thought, food as manners, love as club,
parents as the waiting good, courage as the hospitality
to further good that deserves gratitude
                 and means something.

Joshua is an immense talent, he said of the film: "My immediate idea was to film light prisms in broken glass and water with my camera obscura, extremely up-close so it was abstract and claustrophobic. The idea was to create a feeling of thoughts/memories... and when the poem starts it becomes very still so the words have space. The introduction of birds towards the end is intended as peculiar, but I hope it brings about a feeling of hope, as the piece begins in darkness."

Animal Drum : a cinepoem collaboration with Joshua Alexander

ANIMAL DRUM from Josh Alexander on Vimeo.
JOSHUA ALEXANDER & SJ FOWLER

ANIMAL DRUM is a short, conceptual poetic film about disease, menial work and the remnants of the British Empire. It was born out of a collaboration between two fellow and former employees of a major British Museum institution, and draws on shared experiences of the potential, and actual, vapidity of assumptions of improvement and beneficial pedagogy in such institutions, as well as shared negative experiences of a vast, global tourist deluge. In that sense, the film was born mutually, conceived by the two artists at the same time, and created without much dialogue yet with a certain sense of synchronicity.
Animal Drum calls on the miserabalist, absurdist traditions of post-war European avant garde theatre and poetry. By employing the red herring of the Comedia Dell Arte ‘plague doctor’ mask, as a juxtaposition to the glossed over friendliness of a contemporary ‘happy’ urban landscape it invokes deliberate absurdity in its visuals as well as its text. It is London shot, environment specific and includes performance footage from the Science Museum late where SJ Fowler was invited to create a new work in response to the Exponential Horn installation.
Animal Drum is the first in a series of films that explore the sad, macabre, abstract threat of contemporary London culture and psychological geography.

Performing at the Science Museum

I took Josh Alexander, the filmmaker, my friend, along to this strange evening at the Science Museum. He and I are going to make a film/poem together. He is quite brilliant, and wonderful company, very dry, very gentle mannered. We were kindly invited by the equally wonderful Sophie Mayer, as I am part of her anthology (ed with Sarah Crewe) called Glitter as a gender, which was being celebrated as part of a Late Night opening at the museum, about sex. I performed in front of the amazing Exponential Horn installation. A massive 30 foot amplification horn. In a dark room. It was an atmosphere of speed dating and champers in the museum, and I went on at 7, so the people were in and out, of staying and going, and of listening. I wore a Plague Doctor mask and a hoodie. I mumbled some weird stuff about speed dating in between humming like Glenn Gould. I got told off for shouting into the horn. No one really listened to me. All the better, perhaps, as Josh filmed me, they seemed not to know I was performing, and slouched, undefended as I went on. Josh and I both work in a museum. The event briefing we had to attend early on, with its false happiness and energy and air of strange bovine threat lingered in the strange ursine nature of my performance. This will be a night that gives something for the film, but weird to live in. Nice to be asked though.