Poetry News

Crow: The Life and Songs (and Found Photos) of the Crow

By Harriet Staff

Mark Asch of The L Magazine talks with artist Simon Lee and musician Algis Kizys about their new film project, an interpretation of Ted Hughes's poetry collection Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow. To make the film, Lee collected found photographs, mostly snapshots, from junk stores and flea markets and narrowed his selections to fit each poem only after amassing hundreds of images. He considers it a collaboration with each photographer, though most will never know that their photos have become part of the piece or that they have anything to do with Ted Hughes. Lee felt the collection, in part originally inspired by the drawings of Leonard Baskin, was ripe for a visual treatment. This is, in fact, his second attempt at making a film version of Crow.

Cinematic metaphors proliferate in the poetry and the mechanics of the rhythm of images suggest making a film:

And when the seamonster surfaced and stared at the rowboat
Somehow his eyes failed to click
Leonard Baskin’s drawings, that accompany the first edition, are fantastic depictions of an obdurate crow fixed solidly to the ground, part overgrown chick waiting to be fed, part malevolent muscled bird brain—hubris reigns. These drawings were part of Hughes's inspiration for Crow and are iconic images associated with the work. I wanted to take the poetry and metamorphise it back into visual language. Film seemed both obvious and challenging and as far as I know an untried media.

Besides the many anonymous photographers, different readers were chosen for each poem and Kizys composed his music to fit not only the text and imagery but also the vocal qualities of each reader.

As to the music, I found that I would write backgrounds for the poems read to myself in my head first, then to the particular read performances second. Third would be to hear the reader, then pick a backdrop suitable to that performance from a collection of possibilities I had recorded earlier. The third option would also tend to put the reader in an atmosphere that often would enhance their interpretation by taking the nakedness of voice out of their mind.

Originally Published: December 17th, 2010