Short Films, Tate Fountain, We Are Babies, 2022
and I, well, I have had practice at this; I am far
better attuned to wanting things than I have ever
been to having them, and the day is clear, and the
scent of the kitchen of each nearby restaurant is
carrying. I am alive, and I am settling in, and I have
in my hand at last something I could not bear to lose,
some fibrous imperfect gift of a life in the place of
theoretical triumph: blistered heels and my mother’s
old dress and a self I can face in the mirror; three
long-stemmed lilies wrapped in cellophane, an
unripe blushing hydra, five dust-pink tongues
unfurled to catch the light.
from ‘SUNDAY, 7 NOVEMBER’
Love the idea of a poetry collection called Short Films, especially when it isn’t lifted from a poem title in the book. At the back is the director’s commentary, a HEX index and credits. Rhythm is a vital ingredient in the collection as a whole, the poet’s editing suite has resisted long slow panning camerawork. Instead there are jumpcuts and oblique camera angles, fascinating montage and hypnotic soundtracks. It is an opulent surprising reading experience, that depends upon the visual as much as the aural.
For some reason I made a leap from activated hazelnuts to activated language. Tate’s linguistic agility is spellbinding. Her language is alive, mobile, playful, inventive, active. The word activate is counterbalanced by bracketed space that is rich in possibility. At times it is a blank slate for the reader to scrawl upon, a foyer for musing points, a series of silent beats, a signpost to the unsayable, the unsaid, the gaps in the telling. They strike the eye and they resonate in the ear.
Colour is ubiquitous. Colour pops on the line, sparks across the wider scope of the book. There are individual colour poem clusters. You move from yellow-rayed blossoms to summer to pineapple, and housed in that yellow embrace is ‘a riverside lunch with my mother / We are learning again / / how to be around each other’ (from ‘Yellow’). It is the heightened power of metonymy where you place this shot next to that shot next to this shot. This frame next to that frame next to this frame. Feeling, experience, reaction is heightened.
A stripped back blackout poem uses a prose poem we have just read. I was reminded of how certain words pierced and stuck as I read. And there they were, isolated in the dark black shapes. Tate is taking a form, a convention and then playing with it, pushing it further.
In the inside blurb, the book is aptly compared to ‘a lush bouquet of poems’. I step from the flowers and the fruit, like brocaded still life, like kinetic life, finding mouth and heart, finding float and drift, the light and dark of chiaroscuro. The poetry is bouquet, held out to ignite the senses, but it is also mirror, looking glass for both reader and writer. Love is paramount. YES! These are love poems, heart poems, little outings with glints of self exposure. One poem, ‘LOVE POEM’, plays with ‘I want’, think light and serious, and you move to and fro, between need and desire.
Short films is, as Anna Jackson and Emma Barnes say on the back of the book, wonderful. It is a terrific cinematic experience, Maya Deren flashed in my head, where rhyme feeds motifs and subject matter, and rhythm performs the syncopation of daily life, of love life, of heart life. Utterly wonderful.
stop looking for me in my work /
I am not there /
you are in a hall of funhouse mirrors
Tate Fountain is a writer, theatremaker, and DVD Special Features advocate splitting her time between Tāmaki Makaurau and Tauranga. She is a current member of the Starlingeditorial committee, and also works as the coordinator for samesame but different, Aotearoa New Zealand’s LGBTQIA+ Writers and Readers Festival. As an assistant director, actor, and stage manager, she’s worked with Auckland Theatre Company, Binge Culture, and the Pop-up Globe, as well as at Basement Theatre. Her poetry has been published in eel, Aniko Press Magazine, and Min-a-rets (Annexe), among others, and her screenwriting has been recognised by several feature development initiatives. She completed her Master of Arts (First Class Honours) at the University of Auckland, with a thesis on appropriations of the Eurydice myth by H.D., Carol Ann Duffy, and Céline Sciamma. Each month, she releases a new bouquet on Substack. She’s pretty much always thinking about films.
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