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Poem-film: Sod's Law

'Sod's Law' is the sixth and final poem-film from a series I've made during lock down for the Arts Council England-funded walking, writing and drawing collaboration Outlandish. Damian Le Bas' poem is illuminated by W. John Hewitt. He depicts Damian taking in the Lindisfarne landscape: beyond the margin is the vast distance of mud flats marked by long poles of wood, the far ruins of the medieval monastery and the fat seals piled together, lounging against a sun-warm glinting sea. We were all limbering up mentally and physically for the final furlong of our pilgrimage.

In this short poem-film I wanted to capture the Ford Transit as the stalwart vehicle for many a Traveller, reliable and practical. A horse emblem on the front grate is worn like a badge of honour on a chest. By horse or engine, it proudly affirms the personal and political power of free movement.

As with the other poem-films, I made the decision to bring John's notebook closer to the viewer, so every delicate mark he made could be seen as if held close to the nose. Those distant bird silhouettes honed in on could, of course, be any of the many birds that pass through Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve. Travellers, all. What footprints are we leaving behind on our journeys through this life? Not just those bare pilgrim footprints we saw pressed into sand but our carbon footprints. What are impressions and implications for the future?

These far off birds and Damian's use of the term hawking conjure up something else for me. Something very particular. The composition of this in media res image places the birds gliding above the furzy bush in opposition to the man, the truck, the road. Damian's Transit door spills out onto the ancient Lindisfarne vista. Engine off. A stopping place. Leave in the keys. The quotidian hand and arm push the creaky door it to its limit. Bird calls spill in. Parked on the tarmacked causeway, the truck bridges past and present. An older hand and arm extends to slide a polished gauntlet over the wrist bone. Within, a buckskin glove creaks with each closing finger. The falconer looks out and so, I look in. Hawkers both. We wait for the words to come back, carried by trained, unhooded birds. Our trade is language. It is our armour.

Gauntlet of the Third Earl of Cumberland, (1558–1605).



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