inVERSE is a collection of five of the world’s oldest surviving poems, reimagined for the 21st century by Jack Jewers. The five short films have been released especially for World Poetry Day, Sunday 21st March 2021.
Until pretty recently, and despite some really quite good English teachers’ best efforts, I’ve found a lot of poetry inaccessible, or unfathomable, or both. I’ve mostly stuck to John Cooper Clarke, or John Hegley, and I also actually managed to quite like John Donne. But it’s not all about the John’s anymore. I am starting to really love poetry. And that’s mostly down to people like Jack Jewers, who have the passion and skill to bring poetry out of the classroom and into our lived lives. Here’s my take on all five of his creations.
Playing a jittery, loved-up woman, actor Joanne Chew tells us, in bite sized, vlogger style sections, how giddy she’s feeling about her current amour. The way the story is told is a reflection particularly of Covid time, where broadcast reactions and online expressions are our main communication routes, but the poem itself is thousands of years old. Technology may be epoch-ridden. We humans most definitely are not.
Live life well in the now, as yesterday is a dream and tomorrow a vision. Applied to the fight for equality, recognition and equity, this reminder to live day by day becomes a call to action against oppression, where a better future is achieved by fighting today to make your “vision of hope” tomorrow’s reality. In The Dawn, manipulated stills regulate your reaction, and show you instead a stream of poignant moments of passionate rebellion in the middle of the war zone. No wafty nod to mindfulness this. It’s a full on battle cry.
Love Song is a divine trio of words, music and images, leaking in through your eyes and ears and directly into your heart. This is 1 minute 38 seconds of condensed romantic love. The poem, narrated by the man with the smoothest voice in the universe, Adam Roche, is an ancient Egyptian declaration of the all-encompassing desire to be near your beloved. One could be a tad base and point out the raunchy fish metaphor and panty sniffing (well, sensual underwear washing), but obviously I won’t do that. The use of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, a song of true love remembered, rearranged for cello and strings, is inspired. And wow, the photography. Like Steve McQueen’s “Lover’s Rock” from the Small axe series, it grants you the gift of inclusion in intensely personal moments of passion, adoration and love.
Long wall is a beautifully shot, emotive film featuring actor Sophia Eleni, whose mother fled the war in Cyprus in the mid 70’s. Much of the archive footage for this film was donated by the charity Refugee Rescue, who save desperate people at sea. It is not an easy watch and leads you to question how a poem about loss and separation and suffering from the Han Dynasty in China in 120 BCE, can be so germane to the Europe’s refugee crisis. It underscores the fundamental, timeless nature of grief and remembrance. At the same time, it’s a stark reminder that, however much we tell ourselves we’ve become more civilised over that enormous timespan, we continue to cause such loss and suffering and separation.
Unadulterated joy in pink, filmed by some sort of god-like human by the name of Guillaume Verstegg. Oh the skin tingles! I’m not sure I heard or saw any of this in isolation – the images and words and music blend together so perfectly that this film would become lesser than its parts if I dissected them. So I won’t. Just watch it, and let the warm fuzzies envelope you, while a voice from the past narrates a vivid, visceral vision of the now.
Review by H J Nicol
- The Flower Song Anon. Egypt, c.1400 BCE. (Abridged).
- He Waters His Horse By A Breach in the Long Wall Anon. China, c.120 BCE
- My Heart Flutters Hastily Anon. Mesopotamia, c.1500 BCE
- Take Care With How You Look from Ars Amarosa by Ovid. Italy, 1st Century CE. (Abridged).
- Salutation to the Dawn by Kālidāsa (attributed) – India, c.400 CE