Malcolm Ritchie on 'small lines on the great earth'

Sunday 23 February 2014

In another of our pre-festival guest articles for the StAnza Blog, poet Malcolm Ritchie talks about the making of a film of his poems by filmmaker Edward O'Donnelly:

In January 2012, Ed asked me if I would be interested in making a short film with him, based on a few of my poems. I imagined he meant face-to-camera readings, perhaps in a variety of locations or settings. The weather was wild and stormy for almost the entire duration of January. However, there was one day early in the month which, while the wind persisted, was filled with brilliant laser-like burst of sunlight.

It was early on the morning of this day that we immediately made the decision to set-off and shoot the film. Ed suggested we start in the east of the island and follow the winter sun around to the west coast, filming in short, condensed one-take sequences, echoing the brevity and spontaneity of each poem. He chose to film each take with the camera lens facing nearly directly into the sun, in order to catch the effect of its dramatic, flaring intensity, and then later in the day, its softening incandescent glow.

Initially, on leaving the cottage that morning, I picked up an old anorak to wear, but suddenly decided to change it for my long, black overcoat. This it transpired was the better choice, since it evokes a time when rural life and landscape had a very different resonance compared to today. It also reflects the long history of such apparel in the lanes and tracks of the countryside; and as Ed was quick to appreciate, a long, woollen overcoat can fly with the wind, and dance with the cadence of the walker, in contrast to contemporary synthetic clothing. In addition to this, such an overcoat may conceal a multitude of sundry things – a sawn-off shotgun; contraband; a poacher’s catch; or poetry.

Malcolm Ritchie is a poet who currently lives and works on the island of Arran. He was a founding member of The Falmouth Poetry Group, started by the English poet, Peter Redgrove, and visiting poets included Ted Hughes, D.M. Thomas, and Peter Porter. He has travelled in Asia, and worked and lived in Wales, London, California, New York and for nearly ten years in Japan, where he began writing again after a 25 year hiatus.

'small lines on the great earth' is showing as part of the Poetry Loops free installation of short poetry films in the Byre Theatre from 6-9 March during StAnza 2014.