Kicking off tomorrow night, QLD Poetry Festival 2011 takes centre stage at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts for three days of the best live poetry you could hope to experience. A festival highlight will be the announcement of the QPF Filmmakers Award on Sunday as part of the session, That Profound Machine (5:00pm, Theatre Space). Last year’s winner was Sara Moss, who is a founding member of the Synaptic Graffiti Collective. Earlier this year, SGC released their second work, a collection of video poems titled Memory.
The delightful Mark William Jackson has spent some time curled up in front of it and has emerged with this to say…
Synaptic Graffiti Collective’s Memory: Video Poetry, A Review
One of my favourite exclamations is “poetry is dead”. It’s not new, it’s been said for over two thousand years, Plato denounced the form around 400 BCE as being evil and encouraging vice in children. Aristotle delineated poetry from rhetoric, and, due to rhetoric’s direct relevance to law and politics, poetry was overshadowed. With each generation it is proclaimed that poetry died with the previous generation.
However, poetry refuses to die; it morphs and moulds into new shapes, takes on the characteristics of current trends, disguises itself like an addiction, and, like the addicted, people refuse to acknowledge its existence until they realise they need help.
Epic narrative poems told tales of war and conquest, which now rate as some of the highest grossing movies. Lyric poetry hid itself in music, anything from ‘Greensleeves’ and Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’ through Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan to Grandmaster Flash’s ‘The Message’. But, where am I going with this?
Multimedia. Poetry can sit alone on a page; it can be spoken on a silent backing; pianos, drum machines, kazoos can come behind to add emphasis; and you can throw it all onto a video screen.
Memory is a DVD Anthology produced by Synaptic Graffiti Collective, who are poet Sara Moss and Digital Artist / Musician SCART. SCG provided the canvases and poets Sara, Jayne Fenton Keyne, Stefanie Petrik, Sharmy Pandy, Deb Matthews-Zott, Komninos Zervos, Alana Hicks, Magdalena Ball & Halil I. Karatas covered them in floating images and shook them with powerful words.
The collection offers a variety of sounds and styles of poetry, music and visual stimuli. The common thread being ‘memory’, we are taken through the minds of the poets, their images, what formed and what still haunts them.
The collection opens with ‘Returning’ by Sara Moss & SCART, an almost classical piece, free verse yet balanced. We are asked to question what we have lost, where we have gone after we have given up the hope of returning, what is the cost of a dream? Heart wrenching images accompany the poem, mournful violin lets you know you’re in for a deep ride.
Jayne Fenton Keane’s ‘Blood Sonnet’ takes you through a Matrix stylised, technophilic dream that bruises your retinas with rapid eye movement responses, and teaches you that “hope is the colour of daydreams”.
Sharmy Pandy questions her home in ‘My Home’, is it the memory of childhood, the unknown desires, empty rooms, memories as real as dreams. The images of a young girl playing with her ‘father’ on a lounge, until a grown woman collapses on the same lounge, but empty. The poet admonishes “don’t ask me about home, I’ve never had one”, unless you’re asking about walls, houses. But no, home is the poet’s father, home was lost February 23, 1990.
Kominos Zervos’ first of two appearances at track 7 is ‘Childhood in Richmond’, which takes us back to the memory of a father, a newly arrived immigrant to Australia who works in a fish and chip shop in Richmond, Victoria. Intermittent rhyme adds to the flow of the poem which has a music without musical background. The toughness of growing up in 1950’s Australia beats along like an elevated heart rate.
‘Sorrow Follows Terror’ is hip and hop, but not clichéd hip hop. This piece is one of the absolute standouts of the collection for me. A short piece at just on one minute that speaks of ghetto imagery, “the sky will never know what you know… the past is dead… sorrow follows terror always into never.”
Deb Matthews-Zott features twice on the DVD. Her second piece ‘Backwards’ is quick flashes of memory, images from across Australia support the memories, soft piano takes you backwards by the hand and Deb’s words gently guide you into memories so generic they are personal to all.
Tracks 12 and 14 are more Sara Moss / SCART poems, though both very different from their initial offering of ‘Returning’. ‘Always Be Running’ screams a protest at the end of the Howard years, the Pacific ‘Solution’, the stitched mouths of refugees, the invasion of Iraq – “this history will not be revised because this is how I remember”, angry driven guitar by SCART supports the protest.
“The Unfolding Night” closes the DVD, but, with its heavy techno beat, opens your eyes, “she burns poetry to the skin of all she touches, she is Stanza, she is fire, follow her as she tattoos the unfolding night.” Speed motion trip images of the urban night leave you both exhausted and ready to rage.
But it is track 13, ‘To Live’ by Halil I. Karatas, with Sara Moss & SCART, that offers the most vivid, wicked memory. Halil recalls his childhood in Turkey, he tells of the disappearance of his father because the father supported unionism, tells of the torture Halil suffered because he spoke out against the military government, tells of his years in jail only to be let out into a mandatory two year military service. Once out of Turkey Halil made it to Australia only to be separated from his family for another two years during his ‘processing’. This video should be compulsory viewing for anyone with a vote.
The only thing I think would add to the experience of the DVD is to be able to hold a copy of the poems, to be able to look back and have the words echo in a reader’s head. I understand that without the support of a grant of some sort, and because the cost of the DVD is at near cost level, that a booklet could not be provided with the DVD, but maybe a downloadable PDF on the Synaptic website?
And now I’ll return to my original point; let them say poetry is dead, because thanks to projects like ‘Memory’ it has morphed again, rebirthed and exciting, it has never been more alive – these are the contemporary equivalent of the Beat Generation’s mimeographed zines.
Memory is available from http://www.scart69.net/synapticgraffiti/Pages/memorydvd.html