Wild Whispers is a transnational poetry film project that started with one poem and led to 14 versions in 10 languages and 12 poetry films. The films, in different languages, were all ‘whispered’ from the previous one. The project travelled from England to India, Australia, Taiwan, France, South Africa, the Netherlands, Sweden, Wales and the USA, creating poetry films in English, Malayalam, Chinese, French, Afrikaans, Dutch, American Sign Language, Navajo, Spanish, and Welsh.
Chaucer Cameron explains the inspiration behind the project and how it started.
Over the last few years there has been an increasingly intense, international focus on issues of migration, immigration, borders, and freedom of movement. The June 2016 vote by the UK to leave the European Union brought this into focus. The decision has been both difficult and divisive and has given rise to many, sometimes heated debates about the nature of geographical displacement, belonging, identity, connection and disconnection.
On a personal and creative level, the Wild Whispers project began with an email to a potential collaborator a month before the Brexit vote, as a way to enable creative connections after I moved house. This sudden and unexpected move left me feeling temporarily displaced. So the project came into being as an antidote to the disruptive elements of moving.
The original concept behind the use of film poetry was to investigate issues of translation and adaptation through film poetry and text, to explore collaborative process and to examine ideas about connection and disconnection. However, in the face of the unexpected vote to leave Europe and the ensuing political upheaval and unrest, the project seemed to take on a greater sense of urgency and significance. Other issues around the world were reflected in some of the email correspondence I received from various contributors and one in particular stood out:
“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, and 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.”
My own desire to connect was both personal and political and certainly focused on the bigger picture. I am most passionate about film poetry, and consider it to be the perfect vehicle for exciting collaborations and for fostering strong, positive connections between countries and across the world.
One of the initial inspirations behind the Wild Whispers project was a single image of a Buryat Shaman performing a libation – a ritual pouring of liquid, milk or grains, as an offering to the gods or spirits in memory of the dead. I was captivated by the image, and enchanted by an almost physical manifestation of kinetic energy, and spiritual dynamic, which I felt emanated from the image. I felt an instant connection and wanted to find a way of expressing that, and translating or adapting that sense of motion, alongside the spiritual elements that libation engenders.
When I discovered this image I was also in the process of writing a vision statement for my creative work, and came across an article by visual artist Mary Russell and author Gerard Wozek, the collaborative duo of “Mercury in Motion”. I found we shared a belief that visual and literary art carry spiritual, political, and sociological messages. Russell and Wozek suggest that a film poem is like an “illuminated electronic manuscript that records the voice, the spirit and vision of the poet, and frames this technological intersection between visual art and literature”. So in that sense the medium of film poetry can be seen as intrinsically alchemic—magic.
The call-out to poets, translators and poetry filmmakers to be involved in Wild Whispers has resulted in just that: magic.
The films, in different languages, were all ‘whispered’ from the previous one. The project travelled from England to India, Australia, Taiwan, France, South Africa, the Netherlands, Sweden, Wales and the USA, creating poetry films in English, Malayalam, Chinese, French, Afrikaans, Dutch, American Sign Language, Navajo, Spanish, and Welsh.