Yesterday was a Bank Holiday in the UK. This is a day we occasionally grant to our banks so that they can take a breather from refusing to lend to businesses, insisting on unnecessary payment protection schemes, finding ways to turn public bailout money into private bonuses, and so on. They need to replenish their batteries.
And the rest of us need to go have lunch in cafés attached to museums and galleries. For a freelancer, depending on one's success or commitment, either every day is a Bank Holiday or Bank Holidays remain something that only other people enjoy. I must confess, I bunked off and practised my F major scale.
I also had time to reflect on a recent event I organised for the BFI (British Film Institute). The BFI has a generous and welcoming attitude to poets and it enjoys exploring the links between poetry and cinema. Over the last few years I've been involved in their poetry/film crossover event 'O Dreamland', which invited poets to write about their digital archive (The Mediatheque); I launched my collaborative Hitchcock homage Psycho Poetica at the BFI in 2010; and last year Isobel Dixon, Chris McCabe and I premiered The Debris Field there.
This year I was asked to organise something for their recent epic Pasolini retrospective and I considered various approaches. I thought of poetically 're-staging' Theorem using six poets playing each of the main characters, and I also toyed with comparing the 'swinging Sixties' of Pasolini, Antonioni and Bertolucci.
But in the end I took my lead from Pier Paolo himself and his love of the literary portmanteau movie, so I suggested A New Decameron: ten films, ten poets, ten film clips, one evening of poetic and filmic enthusiasm.
I asked nine other poets and writers to join me: Jane Draycott, Charles Lambert, Glyn Maxwell, John McCullough, Valeria Melchioretto, Luca Paci, Cristina Viti, Stephen Watts and Chrissy Williams. We were also lucky enough to have Rosa Mucignat of King's College London reading some of Pasolini's poetry in the Friulian language, with translations by Cristina Viti.
The sold-out show was funny, moving and powerful by turns and I wanted to give you a little taster by posting Chrissy Williams's poem and a film clip here. Chrissy freely admits to being obsessed with Pasolini's clownish muse, the great Ninetto Davoli. I'm currently talking to the BFI and the poets about getting all the work online in the near future.
First a small sample of the irrepressible Davoli from Chrissy's chosen film The Canterbury Tales.
And now her poem.
for Davoli in The Canterbury Tales
"col tuo sorriso, fulmineo e buffo" — Pasolini
"My only enemy is time" — Chaplin
I step to the screen
with your face so big, a kiss
with my arms reached up
would wrap around me whole.
Slip tongue, slip lip to the camera.
I fell in love with a face once
until it swallowed me.
And all him loved that looked upon his face
That each him loved who looked upon his face
No length of time or death may this deface
Step, nod to the screen and wink the bride.
You, happy as a goldfish in a glade.
You, little tramp with laughter for a face.
The bride winks back, slips back into a stolen moment.
Slip tongue to the world and hope for many moments.
and your face is a song, fool
your eyes light a dance, fool
lip-tight on the laugh of language
on the laughter
Step hip to dance with shadows till it's time
and it's always time to dance with shadows.
We dance against the day the music slips.
We dance the laugh of lips in bandages.
Thy face is turned in a new array
Your face is mottled in a new array
No step is left behind,
just kicked in a new way.
Stories shift, dreamed high,
kicked about in an angel's face
which changes, because
everything is always changing
although it stays the same.
No story is left behind,
just slipped on in a new way.
and I'll see you here again and again.
I'll love you here again again.
I'll fall and catch my heart in your constant face.
I fell in love with a clown once,
with a fool. Now I am the new clown
of no good, who falls with a cane
as time rearranges the stories of your face.
Is the face enough?
Is any one face ever enough?
In all his face there was no drop of blood
With his face pale and with a heavy cheer
Now list you down with face all pale of hue
I fell in love with your face once,
with the face I found, and I will follow it,
love, through all our familiar stories.
More about Chrissy Williams here.