The Canal & River Trust Film Poems

The Poetry Society has commissioned four new filmpoems from poets Jo Bell, Liz Berry, Ian Duhig and Ian McMillan for National Poetry Day. Produced in partnership with the Canal & River Trust as part of the Canal Laureate 2013 project, the canal-themed filmpoems have all been produced by filmmaker and photographer Alastair Cook, and were premiered at National Poetry Day Live at the Southbank Centre in London on 3 October 2013.

Jo Bell, who was also appointed Canal Laureate for the duration of 2013, chose Stone in Staffordshire as the location for her piece, Lifted; while Ian McMillan went to Stanley Ferry, Wakefield to make The Water Doesn’t Move: The Past Does. “The aqueduct speaks / In the voice of round here: vowels / Flattened by hammers, words / Shortened like collier’s breath” writes McMillan.

Ian Duhig’s Grand Union Bridge returns to Paddington Basin, and the ‘old black canal’ of the poet’s adolescence. ‘I wanted my poem for Alastair’s film to suggest a place of transgressive glamour, including glamour in its own magical sense; a place where lines were crossed, even between the living and the dead,’ says Duhig, who draws on references from 1950s crime movie The Blue Lamp and the Irish mythical otherworld Tir na nOg.

Liz Berry’s ‘The Black Delph Bride’ took her back to Dudley in the Black Country, after the discovery of an original Victorian canal map, with its dark and sinister-sounding placenames. ‘Enchanted by the feeling of ghostliness that lingers across the network’, Berry was ‘inspired by canal songs and murder ballads where a beloved girl all too often meets a sorrowful end in water.’

Lifted by Jo Bell


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The Black Delph Bride by Liz Berry


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Grand Union Bridge by Ian Duhig


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The Water Doesn't Move, the Past Does by Ian McMillan

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