Tag Archives: Sophie Mayer

Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot — Part One: Editors’ Foreword and Introduction by George Szirtes

 
 
 
 
Contributors
are Sascha Aurora Akhtar, Sandra Alland, David Ashford, Tim Atkins, Andrew Bailey, Sirama Bajo, Richard Barrett, Susan Birchenough, Mark Burnhope, Wayne Burrows, David Caddy, John Calvert, Jen Campbell, Theodoros Chiotis, Karen Connelly, Jennifer Cooke, Rebecca Cremin & Ryan Ormonde, Sarah Crewe, Sarah Crewe & Jo Langton, Alison Croggon, Tim Dooley, Betty Doyle, Sasha Dugdale, Laurence Ebersole, Amy Etkins, Chris Emslie, John Ennis, Amy Evans, Gareth Evans, Katy Evans-Bush, SJ Fowler, Kit Fryatt, Lucy Furlong, Charlotte Geater, The Gingerbread Tree, Jay Griffiths, Hel Gurney, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Steven Heighton, Sophie Herxheimer & Alison Winch, Sarah Hesketh, Jeff Hilson, Adam Horovitz, Ray Hsu, Peter Hughes, Philo Ikonya & Helmuth Niederle, Kirsten Irving, Genowefa Jakubowska-Fijalkowska, Maria Jastrzebska, Tom Jenks, Antony John, Phill Jupitus, Amy Key, John Kinsella, Melissa Lee-Houghton, Deborah Levy, Ira Lightman, Francesca Lisette, M Ly-Eliot, Alex MacDonald, Melissa Mack, Christodoulos Makris, Aoife Mannix, Barbara Marsh, Agnes Marton, Sophie Mayer, Sally McAlister, Michelle McGrane, Michael McKimm, Drew Milne, Helen Moore, AF Moritz, Barbara Norden, Redell Olsen, Sandeep Parmar, Anna Percy, Jody Porter, Frances Presley, Karen Press, Katy Price, Ana Pulteney, Chella Quint, Red of The Vaginellas, Selina Robertson, Sophie Robinson, Shelagh M Rowan-Legg, Fathieh Saudi, John Siddique, Adrian Slatcher, Daniel Sluman, Ali Smith, Barbara Smith, Tom Spencer, John Stone, Andrew Taylor, Philip Terry, Sarah Thomasin, Claire Trevien, George Ttoouli, Gareth Twose, Jack Underwood, Steve Waling, Tony Walsh, Michael Weller, Tim Wells, JT Welsch, Ginna Wilkerson, Alison Winch, Andrea Luka Zimmerman and Veronica Zundel.
 
 
 
Translators into Russian are Andrei Aliaksandru, Vladimir Andreev, Marina Brodskaya, Chicago Translation Workshop, Elena Edwards, Tatiana Filimonova, Sophie Gug, Mary Harrah, Masha Karp, Svitlana Kobets, Sergei Korenevskiy, Nokolai Kozin, Maria ozlovskaya, Dasha McLeish, Cat Paronjan, Tatiana Samsonova, Maria Shukurova, Dmitry Simanovsky, James Taylor, Jennifer Wilson and John Wright.
 
 
 
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Editors’ Foreword
 
Red Letter Day: Poetry and Protest for Pussy Riot
 
  
Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot is a communion of the visual and lyrical; rhymed, satirical and experimental poetry in tribute to political prisoners of conscience, Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova. It contains a cornucopia of approaches to freedom and to feminism, from opposing patriarchy to reclaiming pussy from a book of dirty words. It is an offertory for three women whose actions have woken up the need for change, in not just their own authoritarian state, but also in how we address gender politics and all forms of oppression in our own society. Featured poets include Alison Croggon, Amy Evans, Jeff Hilson, Tom Jenks, Amy Key, Agnes Marton, Michelle McGrane, Sophie Robinson, Andrew Taylor and 100 more.
 
 
Summing up the work of 110 poets in 110 words is never easy – especially when the poets in question have donated their work rapidly and generously. Our anthology, which includes nearly 100 poems written especially for the band, has come together in under three weeks. What started as a conversation among four friends on Facebook, sparked by a post from EngPussyRiot that provided instructions on how to send letters to the band, has become a transnational conversation of hundreds powered by social media but driven by the same community and generosity among writers that informed the foundation of English PEN, who have supported this project practically and imaginatively from the beginning.
 
 
Both the example set by Pussy Riot – fierce, feminist champions of freedom – and the example being made of them by the Russian judiciary has fired something in writers around the world. The band’s punk prayer uses language precisely and powerfully – and it’s inspired the poets who’ve contributed to do the same. They’ve taken risks in recognition of the real legal and physical dangers facing the Writers at Risk supported by PEN internationally.
 
 
We have been overwhelmed by the wit, passion, elegance and variety of the poetic protests we’ve received. Some are funny, like Phill Jupitus’ puntastic ‘Girl Banned’ and Sophie Herxeimer’s short and sharp ‘Trollops’ Cathedral’. Others are bold and angry, like Sophie Robinson’s vivid ‘Free Pussy’ and Tim Atkin’s extraordinary ‘I Love the Rich’, which adapts a poem by Maria Tsvetaeva. Many poets, including Sirama Bajo, Steve Waling, JT Welsch and Veronica Zundel, have responded to the band’s Punk Prayer with their own new invocations. Sasha Dugdale wrote from Russia, Sally McAlister from France, and John Kinsella from Australia. Philo Ikonya, International PEN member, has been reading his roll call of unriotous dictators at events in Norway.
 
 
The PEN blog, where around 45 of the poems have been posted, along with images of their poets in balaclavas, carried the message further than we could ever have imagined: offers of poems poured in, from poets such as seventeen year old activist Betty Doyle, and feminist performance poets Anna Percy, Ana Pulteney, Barbara Smith, and Sarah Thomasin – often with videos, such as Pulteney’s performance in her church in Totnes, Devon. Twenty-two poets who took part in SJ Fowler’s and Richard Barrett’s Poems for Pussy Riot in London and Manchester shared their poems.
 
 
The book, as you’ll see, even includes cut-out-and-wear poem-balaclava masks created by Mark Burnhope, and a stencil by Chella Quint so you can create your own Pussy Riot protest wherever you are. Please read, share, tweet, translate, remix, and keep our prayers for Pussy Riot’s freedom alive.
 
 
Mark Burnhope, Sarah Crewe and Sophie Mayer
 
 
 
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Introduction
by George Szirtes
 
 
An anthology of poems dedicated to a political purpose is not so much an anthology of poems as a political act in poetic form.
 
 
There is a long history of such anthologies including 100 Poems Against the War, edited by Todd Swift at the time of the Iraq War in 2003, and, about ten years before that, Klaonica: Poems for Bosnia, edited by Ken Smith and Judy Benson. The two were different in that 100 Poems was an act of protest about a war in which the UK and US were the initiators and actors, whereas the second was to raise money for victims of a war faced by others, the contributing poets being helpless observers. The poets in Klaonica were not taking the Serbian or Bosnian or, for that matter, the Croatian side, but donating work to relieve suffering, much as they might donate money.
 
 
There are many other causes in which poets might do the same – hospitals, libraries, celebrations, childhood and so forth – but from the political point of view 100 Poems and Klaonica represent the two main kinds.
 
 
Catechism
is of the second kind. It has been rapidly compiled by its editors to protest – from the outside, as it were – against the two-year sentence imposed on Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich, three members of a much larger (twelve to fifteen members) punk band known  as Pussy Riot, for staging a brief masked performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. The performance, by five members of the band was quickly put up on YouTube and within eleven days, two of the band, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina, were under arrest. Thirteen days later Samutsevich was also arrested. The two remaining members of the performing band have, it is presumed, gone abroad to avoid arrest. The song the band was singing at the time was a raucous prayer asking the Mother of God to chase away President Putin. The two-year sentence is due to be appealed on 1 October, 2012.
 
 
These are the bare facts but the cause of Pussy Riot is more complex than that.
 
 
In the first place the performance was about President Putin personally, and articulated a desire to see him leave the political stage.
 
 
Who is Putin? Russians in general have mixed feelings about him. The period straight after the fall of the Soviet Union in President Gorbachev’s time, was followed by a few chaotic years under President Yeltsin. Those years were wounding and humiliating for a people that had felt stable and, in many respects, proud of their role in the Second World War as well as on the international stage afterwards. The Soviet Union with its Warsaw Pact was an equal and opposite force to the United States and NATO.
 
 
A good part of those who remembered the pre-Gorbachev era, before the dismemberment of the Soviet empire, looked back to those times with a certain nostalgia, because, despite the gulags, despite the secret arrests, despite the censorship, despite the increasing corruption, they felt safe. Given Russia’s history, their feelings about authoritarianism were and remain very different from our feelings about individual freedoms in Europe and the West. The ‘strong hand’ – inevitably a patriarchal hand – was something many trusted. When Putin came along offering just that in a new form in a world of oil and oligarchs, he seemed to them welcome. Anything but the madness under Yeltsin!
 
 
But that opinion is clearly not universal in Russia. A good many people have strong fears of the establishing of a new, more corrupt, one-party state in which the state itself is the largest oligarch, a state in which notions of ‘tradition’ are imposed on those who, for very good reason, wish to free themselves from it.
 
 
Putin is an individual, the most powerful individual in the state, but Pussy Riot’s performance, as I read it, was not only about Putin – it was also a protest against the kind of power Putin symbolises.
 
 
This includes the Russian Orthodox church. The church has an important role in maintaining Putin’s power since it represents a very large conservative constituency in Russia, one that somehow survived the officially atheist Soviet period to prosper after it. The church is an alternative embodiment of the ‘strong hand’ Putin can employ to influence and control the Russian electorate, which is why the performance, including the reference to the Mother of God, took place in a major Moscow church closely associated with Putin. The church is, necessarily, patriarchal.
 
 
And the patriarchy – both formal and informal in terms of the family and society generally – is clearly important to a band calling itself Pussy Riot. The performance was, in those terms, a call for female solidarity and rebellion against a state of affairs where Putin’s masculinity is a highly constructed point of appeal. Jack Underwood has a poem in this anthology that comically highlights precisely this aspect of Putin’s power: Putin the macho man, Putin who offers or denies you the power because he not only knows best, but has the means to effect his will. Pussy Riot is a highly intelligent form of resistence to such will: it is a call to disobedience.
 
 
Since Putin seems assured of the power, it is rather surprising that the courts should have decided to act as severely as they did. Intended primarily for home consumption, as a warning, the charge and sentence, has been entirely counter-productive in international terms. The charge of ‘hooliganism’ is rather like the one of ‘parasitism’ that was directed at the Nobel Prize winning poet, Josef Brodsky in 1964. It is broadly seen as a charge of convenience. In that sense Pussy Riot has grown from a minor nuisance to a global cause. They are up there with Brodsky. A crushing and oppressive two-year sentence becomes very big news. The result is that Pussy Riot look, as they actually are, highly intelligent while Russia looks cruel and stupid.
 
 
 
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For people on this side of the equation the issue is not so much with Putin as with what Putin represents and what Pussy Riot represent. The meaning of Pussy Riot, for many, is as evidenced in the poems published here, less a political incident, more a cross-section of contemporary concerns and passions symbolised by the three young women. The meanings of Pussy Riot in this context begin with what the name suggests, that’s to say feminism in its various forms and moods, from assertion of rights, through core issues of identity, down to protest at an inimical, oppressive male world. This meaning – probably the most intense meaning – involves a conception of the world that is the polar opposite of Putin’s.
 
 
Then again, since Pussy Riot calls itself, and performs as, a punk band, the meaning of the group is derived from and invites a punk aesthetic that is partly tribal, partly anarchic, looking to be disruptive of conservative views and manners, in exactly the same way as Pussy Riot were disruptive in the church.
 
 
Beyond that, the band is young: there is also the invitation to youth. It is not precisely an old-versus-young battle but, in this case, it is the young, masked and loud, who are in the vanguard. For many they represent the potential for a new and different model of Russia.
 
 
Each of these models and antitheses is crude in itself – life, we know, is more subtle than that – but the antitheses remain. Most importantly, trumping all other concerns, is a conception of justice. It is simply wrong to jail people for that length of time for the minor office of disruption. Three unjustly accused individuals stand against a state led by a former operative of the KGB, a state that has seen the arrest and assassination of vocal opponents. In many ways it is like the old days: the repressive state against its dissidents. The corrupt system against those who protest its corruption.
 
 
 
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The anthology contains a variety of poems, some, like Andrew Bailey’s, the second of Mark Burnhope’s, Rebecca Cremin and Ryan Ormonde’s, Tim Dooley’s, John Ennis’s, Charlotte Geater’s, Jay Griffith’s and others (the list is too long and I am going alphabetically) address the case directly or refer to it obliquely. More numerous are poems that are born out of a sympathetic feeling, identifying something in Pussy Riot that corresponds with the feeling of the poet in respect of feminism or authority or sheer voice quality. There may be earlier poems now grown particularly relevant. There are poems that appear on a larger map of concerns that happen to find themselves here.
 
 
There are poems of various styles including Alison Croggon’s ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’, Sasha Dugdale’s ‘Perpetual’, SJ Fowler’s ‘They’, Kit Fryatt’s ‘Sounds Like Sense’, Sarah Hesketh’s sharp ‘Some Protest Stones’, Philo Ikonya and Helmuth A. Niederle’s ‘Pussy Riot For Ever: The Body’, Amy Key’s ‘Cat Power’, John Kinsella’s ‘Penillion for Pussy Riot’, Aoife Mannix’s ‘The Eye of the Needle’, and so on. I don’t pick these out because I think they are the best poems, only because they are broadly different. I could pick many others.
 
 
Like any contributor to such anthologies, I am fully aware that it is unlikely to affect the course of events in any measurable way, though it may perhaps add to the weight of protest that hopes, at some stage, on some level, to influence the Russian court and indeed that part of the Russian people who support the sentence. It might be a consolation to Pussy Riot, and to those for whom they speak, that there are many people – including poets – who listen to them and talk back in support. A book of poems in a foreign language published in a foreign place is rarely a factor in the decisions of a hostile administration, but this is downloadable. It may be a factor somewhere, somehow. Who can tell? One has hope or one has nothing.
 
 
Speaking personally it is quite odd for me as an almost sixty-four year old male poet to be writing this introduction. It was odd, but rather nice to be asked on the spur of the moment and to say: yes. Of course I wondered if I was out of place. I am not looking to be cool with those younger than me or of a different gender. I have been on a few demonstrations but never felt it to be my natural place.
 
 
I ask myself this: if the world were arrayed into forces represented by President Putin on the one side and Pussy Riot on the other I know which side I’d be on and it wouldn’t be Putin’s. That’s where we are, and that’s where this is. And that is why it is a privilege to write this introduction.
 
 
– George Szirtes
 
 
 
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All profits from both the Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot e-book and print on demand copies will go to the Pussy Riot Legal fund and the English PEN Writers at Risk Programme.
 

Order Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot.
 
Download the Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot e-book

Visit English PEN’s website.

Visit English PEN’s Poems for Pussy Riot project page.

Read some of the Pussy Riot poems on English PEN’s website.

Visit EngPussyRiot’s live journal.

Visit George Szirte’s website and blog.
 
 
 
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Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by UK Women Poets

 
  
Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by UK Women Poets
(edited by Carrie Etter) (Shearsman, 2010)
   
 
An anthology of radical new women’s poetry from the UK, featuring work by:  Sascha Akhtar, Isobel Armstrong, Caroline Bergvall, Elisabeth Bletsoe, Anne Blonstein, Andrea Brady, Emily Critchley, Claire Crowther, Carrie Etter, Catherine Hales, Frances Kruk, Rachel Lehrman, Sophie Mayer, Marianne Morris, Wendy Mulford, Redell Olsen, Frances Presley, Anna Reckin, Carlyle Reedy, Denise Riley, Sophie Robinson, Lucy Sheerman, Zoë Skoulding, Harriet Tarlo, Carol Watts.
   
  
“Here’s a new anthology with a job to do, which introduces a whole range of committed writing at the intersection of the personal and political. Here is the text of war, nature after ecological threat, ID in the information age, autobiography and displaced language turned into poetics, sexuality, anger and love. It’s a beautiful sampler, a way in, and a report from the front: very soon now it will be indispensable.”
 
—Tony Lopez
 
 
“A dearth of experimental women writers in the UK? Here is proof to the contrary: 25 articulate voices explore ‘other’ poetries. This is where the energy is. Get with it.”
 
—Rosmarie Waldrop
  
  
Order Infinite Difference from the Shearsman online store.
  
Visit Carrie Etter’s blog for launch details and sample poems from the anthology.
   
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About the editor
  

Carrie Etter

    
Carrie Etter is an American poet resident in England since 2001. Previously she lived in Normal, Illinois (until age 19) and southern California (from age 19 to 32). In the UK, her poems have appeared in, amongst others, New Welsh Review, Poetry Wales, Poetry Review, PN Review, Shearsman, Stand and TLS, while in the US her poems have appeared in magazines such as Aufgabe, Columbia, Court Green, The Iowa Review, The New Republic, Seneca Review. Her first collection, The Tethers, was published by Seren in June 2009, and her second, Divining for Starters, containing more experimental work, is due for publication by Shearsman Books in 2011. She is also the author of two recent chapbooks: Yet (Leafe Press, 2008) and The Son (Oystercatcher Press, 2009). She is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing for Bath Spa University and has been a tutor for The Poetry School since 2005.

There She Goes: Feminist Filmmaking and Beyond

There She Goes

  
Following in the footsteps of the filmmakers whose work it features — including Miranda July, Janie Geiser, Tracey Moffatt, Sally Potter, Cindy Sherman, Samira Makhmalbaf, Sadie Benning, Agnès Varda, Kim Longinotto, and Michelle Citron — There She Goes: Feminist Filmmaking and Beyond seeks to make trouble not only in the archives but also at the boundaries between artistic, industrial, political, critical, and disciplinary practices. Editors Corinn Columpar and Sophie Mayer have assembled scholarship that responds to women’s work in the interstices between different branches of the film industry, modes of filmmaking, national or transnational contexts, exhibition media, and varieties of visual representation in order to assess the exchanges such work enables.
  
Essays in the first three sections of There She Goes explore connections at the level of curation and exhibition, while the subsequent four consider local connections such as those between the film and the audience or between works within an oeuvre, down to those occurring on the surface of the film. Contributors reach beyond traditional screen cinema to interact with a larger field of artistic production, including still photography, music videos, installation art, digital media, performance art, and dance. Essays also pay particular attention to a variety of contextual factors that have shaped women’s filmmaking, from the conditions of production and circulation to engagement with various social movements and critical traditions, including, but not limited to, feminism.
  
By foregrounding fluidity, There She Goes presents a an exciting new appraisal of feminist film culture, as well as the intellectual and affective potential it holds for filmmakers and filmgoers alike. Scholars of film and television studies and gender studies will appreciate the fresh outlook of There She Goes
  
  
“The agenda of this volume is to examine the flows within and through feminist film culture by both foregrounding contemporary figures that embody the polymorphous potential of the present and revisiting, in order to re-vision, the past through a newly ground lens. The result is a collection of essays that draws attention to practices, texts, and producers whose interstitial nature makes them difficult to recognize in a discursive field conditioned by disciplinary divisions. Following in the footsteps of the filmmakers whose work it features, There She Goes seeks to make trouble not only in the archives but also at the boundaries — be they drawn around artistic, industrial, political, or critical practices. When Rachel Kushner asked Miranda July what kind of project she intended to tackle in the wake of the success of her first feature-length film, Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005), July replied, with characteristic whimsy and sharp insight, “I have a gigantic plan, Rachel, and it involves performance, and fiction, and radio, and the WWW, and TV and features that are both ‘conventional’ and totally not. And when I’m done with my plan, when I’m very old, hopefully there will be a little more space for people living with profound doubt to tell their stories in all different mediums. Also Hollywood won’t be so sexist.” Locating her work as a commercial filmmaker within a much larger field of cultural production and social change, July functions as exemplar of a contemporary film culture wherein people and products are moving with increasing frequency among venues (gallery, theater, festival, and online), materials (celluloid and digital video), locales (including those in both the “First” and “Third” Worlds), modes of production (studio-financed and “independent,” auteurist and collaborative), and artistic roles (actor, director, producer, and writer) … There She Goes announces a new appraisal of filmmaking that is tied to and celebratory of feminist notions of fluidity and reinvention, as well as their intellectual and affective potential for filmmakers and filmgoers alike.”
   
from There She Goes: Feminist Filmmaking and Beyond, Editors: Sophie Mayer and Corinn Columpar (Wayne State University Press, 2009)
  
Buy There She Goes: Feminist Filmmaking and Beyond.

‘Augusta Fabergé’ in Ouroboros Review

ouroboros four

Cover art by Jennifer Delaney

    
I’m very pleased to have a new poem, ‘Augusta Fabergé’, included in the fourth issue of ouroboros review alongside wonderful work by fellow bloggers: Sophie Mayer, Annie Clarkson, Matt Merritt, Arlene Ang and Deb Scott, among many others.
  
Collin Kelley conducts an absorbing and candid interview with Cecilia Woloch, author of Sacrifice, Tsigan: The Gypsy Poem, Late, Narcissus and Carpathia (BOA Editions, 2009), while Louisa Adjoa Parker asks important questions about black and minority ethnic publishing in the United Kingdom.
  
This issue also contains arresting visual art by Jennifer Delaney, Tammy Ho Lai-ming, Julie E. Bloemeke, Deb Scott and Jéanpaul Ferro.
  
Read it here.

The Cinema of Sally Potter: A Politics of Love

The Cinema of Sally Potter

     
Internationally renowned as a filmmaker, writer and composer, Sally Potter has always been a provocateur: as a feminist filmmaker and performer, a leading light of the BFI Production Board generation, a British filmmaker Oscar-nominated for a low-budget costume drama, and a pioneer of digital cinema. Drawing on exclusive access to archival materials and in-depth interviews with Britain’s most independent director, The Cinema of Sally Potter: A Politics of Love opens up vivid historical, political, and cultural vistas to give the first full account of this extraordinary career.
            
“It seems only fitting that Sally Potter’s interactive digital archive is called SP-ARK. Fire is at the heart of her work, both visually and metaphysically. Onscreen, it signals the intensity of artistic labour that her films record, metaphorising both the ‘spark’ of inspiration and the energy of work. Fire’s meaning alters to trace the progress of empire in Orlando, from the burning torches that herald Elizabeth I to the burning trenches that mark Orlando’s passage into the reign of Elizabeth II. Fire burns on ice in the reign of King James, as Orlando falls in love. Fire makes steam in the hammam in Khiva. It burns in the hearths of the Great House in contrast to the damp green of the Victorian era as Orlando tends to Shelmerdine’s ankle. In early drafts of the screenplay, fire burnt the house to the ground as Orlando’s class rage turned her into the first Mrs. Rochester. In the finished film, torches burn in the Khan’s courtyard just before war breaks out, but fire is never simply associated with danger or madness. It marks moments of transformation. When fire meets ice, it is an elemental reflection of Orlando’s divided self. Flames burn on water at the opening of The Man Who Cried. They are like a screen of ‘reverie’ in which Suzie sees her memories unfolding.”
    
from The Cinema of Sally Potter: A Politics of Love by Sophie Mayer (Wallflower Press, 2009)
      

Sally Potter

Sally Potter

  
More about Sally Potter
  
Sally Potter’s work has, from the early 1970’s, embraced dance, performance, theatre, music and film. Since her first cult hit with Thriller (1979), Potter has concentrated on film and directed her first feature, The Gold Diggers, starring Julie Christie, in 1983. Potter then made a short, The London Story, and several documentaries before the internationally acclaimed and multi-award winning Orlando, starring Tilda Swinton. This was followed by The Tango Lesson (1996) and The Man Who Cried (2000), starring Christina Ricci, Johnny Depp, Cate Blanchett and John Turturro. In 2004 Potter made Yes, starring Joan Allen, Simon Abkarian, and Sam Neill. Potter then directed Carmen for English National Opera in Autumn 2007. Potter’s new film, Rage, starring Judi Dench, Jude Law, Steve Buscemi, Simon Abkarian and Dianne Wiest is released in 2009.
  
Visit Sally’s website and blog.
   
Book for the forthcoming Sally Potter showcase at the
British Film Institute.

Sophie Mayer’s Her Various Scalpels

Sophie Mayer

Sophie Mayer by Lady Vervaine

      
Sophie Mayer writes passionately and politically about poetry and film anywhere and everywhere she can, including Horizon Review, Esprit de Corps, Blackbox Manifold, Sight & Sound, Little White Lies and Artesian. She blogs about reading as Delirium’s Librarian, and is a regular contributor to the review blog for Chroma journal, where she is commissioning editor. Her Various Scalpels (Shearsman, 2009), her first solo poetry collection, was the auspicious start to a very exciting three-book year, followed by The Cinema of Sally Potter: A Politics of Love (Wallflower, 2009)and (as co-editor) There She Goes: Feminist Filmmaking and Beyond (Wayne State University Press, 2009). Her next collection, The Private Parts of Girls, will be published by Salt in 2011, and she has future plans for encounters between poetry and film. Visit Sophie’s website.
   
   
Rearranging the Stars
Sophie Mayer
  
after Anthony Minghella’s The English Patient
  
Lost you. Out here, where a call to prayer shivers
stone into song, where night falls like knives,
  
there’s a trick to the sky, how you see it, smell
what’s coming. It is like reading. It’s so small
  
at first, and granular, then overwhelms: eyes,
mouth, hands, hair. You cannot possibly sleep.
  
But you do, lulled by wind and waking. Stories –
his stories, more stories than there could be stars –
   
breathe around you with their shine, draw hearts
on dirty glass. You know what they find in deserts:
   
fragments. Texts under sand winds, brilliant disasters.
And you, in secret, on fire with new constellations.
   
   
Previously published in Staple 71: The Art Issue (Summer 2009).
  
  
Her Various Scalpels

  
pieuvres / lèvres (lilies / lips)
Sophie Mayer
  
Did I realise then that I would spend my whole life
with their lipstick on my face. Other girls and their kisses
 
goodbye. I know that now, having watched soft asses
walk away from me, having been paid my tithe
 
for watchful quiet. For the flattery of desire. Ingrown
hair, that’s what it’s like: turning against the razor
 
blade and on itself. Like my toes, curled mazily
through each other with waiting, waiting that flows
 
up my calves and out my mouth. A shower in reverse:
a fountain, inwards out: And what was in her,
 
I felt that too. All her hardness in my fingers
rattling her stem. All those flower words, perverse
 
euphemisms for a force like an ocean
in a swimming pool. Did she not see
 
what poured out of (her into) me? Salt of her sea,
stick of her sap. And it’s not the explosion
 
that I’m talking about, her wet cunt a concrete
underpass around my hand. It’s the light that thrums
 
from her lily-mouth, her pollinated tongue
extended like a stamen. Like a beesting hot-sweet
 
under the skin, a tear oozing from an eye. An ingrown
hair turning outwards against skin tough as petals
 
under drops of rain. The pain of it like cold metal,
like waiting. The stem of spit plunges down
 
and you wonder that such softness does such hurt.
No softness in the doing: spit’s active as a limb,
  
a cock, a race, a city street. It dances itself thin.
The stem of things. Wet birth. My first.
 
 
Buy Her Various Scalpels (Shearsman, 2009) here.