PoetryFilm Archive: “Proem” by Suzie Hanna – first screened at PoetryFilm at Laugharne Castle in June 2014
Directed by Suzie Hanna © Dec 2013
Animation by Suzie Hanna
Sound Design by Tom Simmons
Poem by Harold Hart Crane (1930)
Voice by Tennessee Williams (1960)
(Permission for use given by HarperCollins)
This short film illustrates and interprets Hart Crane’s ‘Proem To Brooklyn Bridge’ (1930) using a direct animated stencil technique reflecting graphic styles of the period, the evocative voice of Tennessee Williams (a great admirer of Hart Crane’s work) and original sound design. This is an interdisciplinary contribution to research into cultural representations of literature and literary figures through animation and sound design, underpinned by study of Hart Crane’s creative process and his use of metaphor.
This Poetry Animation is a representation of Hart Crane’s iconic ‘Proem’ from his epic work ‘The Bridge’. Suzie Hanna animated the film using hand cut stencils imitating some graphic aspects of contemporaneous 1920s New York artists who were in Hart Crane’s coterie, such as Joseph Stella and Marsden Hartley. She also referenced Vorticism to capture vertiginous aspects of the verse. The voice of Tennessee Williams, who was an ardent admirer of Crane, is taken from a 1960 recording. Tom Simmons has built this into a resonant dramatic soundscape which interprets the materiality of the bridge, the surrounding land and waterscape and the ‘prayerful’ qualities of the Proem. He embeds sonic references to Hart Crane’s ‘shamanic process’ in which the poet played records on his Victrola, including Ravel’s ‘Bolero’, loudly and repeatedly, whilst drinking heavily and typing phrases in manic bursts. The film is part of ongoing research into representation of poetic metaphor, between Sally Bayley, Tom Simmons and Suzie Hanna: their recent article ‘Thinking Metaphorically and Allegorically: A Conversation between the fields of Poetry, Animation and Sound’ was published in Autumn 2013 in the Journal of American Studies. A further installment has been commissioned for publication in Spring 2014.
Director’s biography and filmography
Professor Suzie Hanna teaches at Norwich University of the Arts. She is an animator working with mixed media across analogue and digital interfaces, who collaborates with other academics and artists, and whose research interests include animation, poetry, puppetry and sound design. She has made numerous short films all of which have been commissioned, selected for international festival screenings, TV broadcast or exhibited in curated shows. She contributes to journals, books and conferences, and has led several innovative projects including animated online international student collaborations and digital exhibitions of art and poetry on Europe’s largest public HiDef screen.
Recent animations include a book trailer ‘Spells’ for American poet Annie Finch, ‘Letter to the World’, commissioned by the Emily Dickinson International Society, animated theatrical scenery for a production of The Tinderbox, an animated Madonna figure for a 30 foot high projection commissioned by Norwich Cathedral, ‘The Girl who would be God’ commissioned for Sylvia Plath Conference at Oxford University and ‘Man-Moth Merz’ for screening at poet Elisabeth Bishop centenary celebrations in Nova Scotia.
The ‘Proem’ film is part of ongoing research into representation of poetic metaphor, between Sally Bayley, Tom Simmons and Suzie Hanna: their recent article ‘Thinking Metaphorically and Allegorically: A Conversation between the fields of Poetry, Animation and Sound’ was published in Autumn 2013 in the Journal of American Studies. A further instalment has been commissioned for publication in Spring 2014.
Harold Hart Crane was a Modernist American poet, most famous for his epic work ‘The Bridge’. He was born in 1899, and after his tragic early suicide in 1932 he became recognised as a legendary figure in American poetry. He indulged in frequent bouts of serious alcohol abuse and risked casual sex with sailors, but despite suffering from low self-esteem, he wrote optimistic poetry. He was a follower of Whitman’s American Romanticism, and was concerned with themes of redemption and damnation. He was in a coterie of active, and later influential, artists and writers in 1920s New York, and the archive of his considerable correspondence is held at Columbia University.