Marie Craven, Australia

Marie: ” ‘Shadow Lullaby’ was a fascinating challenge to undertake. The first step in the process was receiving a poem in the Urdu language. This was a translation of Chaucer’s original poem, but I did not receive it in English, so had no way of understanding it at this stage. Thus my first task was to find a translator in Australia. I had difficulty finding someone who had skills in the Urdu language, English and a feeling for poetry. So, in discussion with Chaucer, we elected to go with a ‘technical’ translation of the Urdu text into English, and find a poet in Australia who could ‘reinterpret’ this into a poetic form. For this part of the process I approached Candida Baker, with whom I’d already made two previous poetry films, and had established a working relationship and understanding of each other’s sensibilities.”

Candida: “To begin with I took a personal approach to this poem. I’d spent a lot of my life in London and Sydney, but I’d also lived my formative years in the country and these days I live in the hills behind Byron Bay surrounded by Macadamia Forests – green tree frogs are a small but constant presence in my life. I imagined these two very different landscapes, and how I felt in them both. On my daily walks I’ve often stopped to listen to the wind in the trees, to touch the leaves of the stag ferns growing on the trunks of the macadamia trees. I’ve ridden, walked and played in these forests for over a decade. What it would be like if, because of war, I had to flee the forest for the cities – if I had to lose the presence of the frogs, the lakes, the woods? I let the words of the poem in their original form wash over me; they spoke to me of loss, war, death – of the terrible, pointless ongoing tragedy that is Syria. The poem became global rather than personal. For me, however, it still held the hint of regeneration (although the wonderful videographer I worked with, Marie Craven, had her own interpretation which was perhaps not quite as ‘Pollyanna’ as mine). Gradually a mutual interpretation began to emerge, and Marie and I began the process of refining until we reached our final version. I find the words and images we’ve created haunting and I hope that the person, whoever he/she is in the poem, finds the forests again one day.”

Shadow Lullaby

In the forest
I walk through wild garlic
I see green and golden shadows
As frogs jump here and there
Sometimes I lie down
Rest my cheek on the damp ground
And listen to the earth’s heartbeat

In the colour of crushed leaves
A sudden glimpse of urban concrete

In the children’s deepest sleep
Their teeth shiver with nightmares
Tiny shudders echoing collisions
Of bricks and mortar and blood

My days are filled
With colourless daydreams
Of dark symmetry

They used to walk
Day and night I see them
I mourn their loss
The disappearance of a generation
As simple and complete
As the sudden vanishing of frogs
Into the watery shadows

Candida Baker