Thursday, April 22, 2010

Having a Blast Furnace with Greek Surrealist poetry

Last night the actor and writer Ray Brewer pulled together a preproduction meeting for the next Poetry Scores movie, "Go South for Animal Index" (from the poem by Stefene Russell). Ray invited a hobbyist animator, a professional lighting guy with green screen experience, and Nancy Exarhu.

Nancy Exarhu had crossed our paths once before. Poetry Scores board president Dianna Lucas invited her to show in our 2009 Art Invitational, to "Sydney Highrise Variations". Ray asked her to the movie meeting as badly needed visual firepower, a potential director of photography. She fit right in.

I described to all these guys the way we make movies. We score a long poem, as one would score a film; and then we write, shoot, and edit a silent movie to that score. I explained that we had completed just one movie, "Blind Cat Black," a 58-minute feature; it opened at the 2007 St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase to mixed and on average negative reviews.

But lately it is starting to take on a little life of its own, rising from the dead like the zombies that people the movie for Surrealist effect. We scored a long poem by the Turkish poet Ece Ayhan (in Murat Nemet-Nejat's translation); and the poet, now dead, is enjoying something of a renaissance in Istanbul. Twice now we have been asked to screen "Blind Cat Black" in Istanbul, and this year it looks as if we actually will get off our duffs and send them a DVD to play on July 12.

Nancy said she could be there! She would be in Greece at the time. Istanbul will not be far away. I asked her what she would be doing in Greece (as I remembered, she was Spanish). She said, "I am Greek! I am from Greece."

After the meeting broke up, I told her that I had just finished reading an anthology of Greek Surrealist poetry, in translation by Nikos Stabakis. Amazing stuff. I was in touch with Stabakis. I blabbed on about how much I liked this book and how I wanted to score something from it.

Nancy looked at me, struck dumb. I think she made me repeat some of that back to her. She was not believing her ears. Eventually she came back around to he senses and explained that what I was blabbing about was, precisely, her artistic context, her creative world, her personal reality. She had edited and published Greek Surrealist poets. Greek Surrealist poets were here friends, her confidantes. She nearly had married one.

After I freaked out right back at her, I told her which poem I wanted to score from the anthology, Blast Furnace by ... I didn't know the poet's name. It took her just a moment to connect up with the title in translation. "Ypsikaminos, she blurted. "By Embirikos. Andreas Embirikos. I knew him. I have been to his house. We published him."

We both walked around dazed. Pretty unlikely connections! As Stefene Russell said - she overheard this exchange and cheered it on - "It's this stuff that shows us that we are supposed to be doing this."

A funny little post-script. A comment I made on social media, after driving home from this movie meeting, generated a few comments. In trying to back down from what might have been mistaken as an insult to someone who had been there at the meeting, I said in fact the only irritating person had been me, with my ill-received Granite City humor.

What I meant was a blunt, crude remark I had made about one of my Granite City girl friends, who came by the bar where we were meeting with her sister, to see me and to catch up. But reading "ill-received Granite City humor" in a comment thread, devoid of any other details, my friend Michael R. Allen chipped in with:

CK: "Did you hear the one about the blast furnace?"

Others: (Blank faces)

Michael is an architectural historian and reveler in the post-industrial landscapes of my hometown. How very odd, though, that he would independently think of a "blast furnace" in connection to this incident. And guess what? Michael plays the zombie bar bartender in the movie we made that is screening in Istanbul in July - the only reason we ever got around to talking about Greece, Greek Surrealist poetry, and Blast Furnace.



Blast furnace photo by Stuart100.

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