Verses in the celluloid : poetry in film from 1910-2002, with special attention to the development of the film-poem
Poetry is not a new phenomenon in film and television. It is consistently treated as such because its presence is not common; poetry is repeatedly viewed as a 'special element' in a production. However, visual poetry is becoming less and less of an oddity in modern-day films. This thesis, which surveys multiple intersections of poetry and cinema, places particular emphasis on the most specific and direct use of poetry within film: 'film-poems'. Numerous poets and filmmakers today have made film-poems, particularly poet Tony Harrison. These works are important because they are revolutionary in their combination and application of the two media: a film-poem is a simultaneous collaboration of writing, shooting and cutting, which makes for extraordinary, sense-inundating viewing. Their qualities, not to mention their evolution, have escaped formal study for the most part, and fully deserve critical exploration. The Harrisonian film-poem heavily involves both filmmaker and poet in most aspects of production. Yet there are discrepancies that emerge when using the term 'film poem'. Other classifications link the words to the arena of avant-garde cinema. Avant-garde films might contain some verse, but mainly they depict a theme or story through a cinematically metaphorical means, using images as those metaphors, using cinematic devices as poetic devices. A study of the avant-garde and a language of cinema that is called 'poetry'itself (by some)is another focus of this thesis. I also concentrate on the cinematic placement of poetry in feature films. When films cite poetry, they immediately take on a new dimension, a significant deeper layer to their own story lines. Similarly, the poem also gains a significance that will link it with a scene and theme in the film, and the film's specific images. I begin this thesis with a study of this kind of citation, discussing the prospect of poetic presence in film, and proceed to discuss the development of film and poetry, which inevitably leads to its most significant intersection: the film-poem.