Saturday, 16 January 2010

Marxist Leninism on the silver screen

During the communist period, the Albanian state produced a wide range of propaganda, for both internal and external consumption. The link below is to a clip on YouTube from an Italian documentary called 'Albania - il paese di fronte' ('Albania - the country opposite') which includes several examples, including a Radio Tirana broadcast, a particularly peculiar film about WW2 partisans (a variant on the 'Valkyrie' sequence from 'Apocalypse Now' involving a loudspeaker strapped to a bus and some dancing Italians), some 'racy' communist-era jazz and a ballet written for Enver Hoxha's atheism campaign. It's quite tricky to follow if you don't speak Italian but the images speak pretty much for themselves.

Should this whet your appetite, the remaining ten parts of the documentary are also on YouTube and include footage of, amongst other things, King Zog and his wedding, the Italian invasion in 1939, Mayday parades, Khruschev planting a tree in Tirana, Enver Hoxha dancing with a Chinese delegation and, in the final instalment, the toppling of Hoxha's statue during the anti-communist revolution in 1991.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Two revised poems

The Air Display

Jetstream mirage and the taste of kerosene
is how it might start across the field,
or a Hawker Hunter hanging on a stall turn,
its chevron tailfin roundel against clouds.
Armed with bulbous candyfloss,
we’re walking between disputes,
provenance issues, these tanks
too often repaired, no longer ‘authentic’.
Redundant fighters’ afterburners sear
the early afternoon like rough nostalgia,
aerobatics over middle England.

And still it is easier to find a name
for Venom, Tempest, Fury
or how we might be expected to feel
about splintered tree-lines,
sand-bursts across that combat zone,
than for patterns of thought
in these actually occurring vapour trails
which backdrop one last fly-past:
impervious Spitfire, engine growling,
over woods and out of the sun.

Beginning with Palma

This is where a poem might start out,
here, on this terrace curtained with rain,
a Mediterranean afternoon
stifling with sweat and Ducados.
The cathedral’s too drab for a ticket
(history priced out of the market)
and you won’t find time to trace
intermittent carnival noise
to its roiling, gaudy source.

So never mind that you can’t recall
the word for it or put a name
to that face which insolently
stares from each window you look in.
Those booted boys – or others –
will be there the same tomorrow,
conveniently just out of focus,
details for your composition,
sketches for your Hemingway phase.

Is this boredom or fear? On the far side
of the rain, the Guardia Civil
patrol a cobbled, almost-empty street.
Keep your eyes peeled, they’d suggest.
You have, of course, and found them wanting.
The carnival’s moved on. Would you reach
for coins left lying on the ground?
You might do, if it didn’t mean
leaning over, wetting your hand.

Tom Phillips

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Poem: Catching the Drift

Catching the Drift

Collared by its spectral bridge, the bay’s incursion
narrows to a creek, these tongues of sand
where mist-wreathed skiff masts lie at odds
among the trees. “The well-to-do,” you say
and point at the far shore’s terraced villas.
What else to add? It wasn’t to be
that you’d put your name to such deeds
would allow you such possession.

Only here, on this shack’s uneven planks,
the morning’s steeped in diesel fumes,
or whatever else that smell might be,
and flies, perplexed by angling lures,
are seething on lopped fish-heads,
grounds for some complaint, perhaps,
were that your way. We push out
the boat instead, catching the drift

which squirls at fallen branches,
knots of weed, the sure-footed bridge’s
concrete stanchions, then thickens
to an estuary. If the jetstreams
unfurling north and east
register as promises, promises
made at one time to yourself,
there’s not a sign in your straight gaze.

Tom Philliips