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Merry Christmas!

As it is December 24 today, the night before Christmas, here is the 1905 poetry film “The Night Before Christmas” directed by Edwin S. Porter. It closely follows Clement Clarke Moore’s 1823 poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, and was the first film production of the poem.

Directed by Edwin S. Porter
Based on the poem written by Clement Clarke Moore
Cinematography by Edwin S. Porter
Distributed by Edison Manufacturing Company
1,670 feet of film was shot, with 798 feet used

A panoramic shot of Santa Claus riding his sleigh over hills and the moon was shot using miniatures and a painted backdrop.

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“Separating and combining the senses” – Write Out Loud interviews Zata about the poetry film artform

Have you ever wondered about combining your poetry with film? Frances Spurrier interviews Zata Kitowski, director of PoetryFilm, about the creative possibilities involved in the art form.


Thank you for agreeing to talk to Write Out Loud about your project.  Can you begin by telling us about how PoetryFilm started?

I started PoetryFilm in 2002.  It was quite a niche genre back then as no-one else was really thinking much of combining poetry and film. The project arose also out of my personal practice as an artist and poet. The PoetryFilm project explores semiotics and meaning-making approaches of the art form.

How did the project develop?

Since 2002 there have been over 60 events, including screenings, festivals, live performances and talks. I have also given lectures and presentations at academic and other institutions, and I have judged poetry film competitions. PoetryFilm is now supported by Arts Council funding.

Sounds like you hit the ground running.  So what exactly would be involved for someone thinking of creating a piece of work based on a combination of film and poem?

There are different ways of approaching the art form. There might be a collaboration between a film maker and a poet but this does not have to be the case. An idea can start with a poem or with a film, or a piece of sound design, or a particular typography, or the work can emerge from a different angle.  There can be films based on poems, poems based on films, or material created as a unified artwork from the beginning. There can be text on screen, voiceover, or images can be used as the vocabulary. There can be sound films, there can be silent films. This is not a definitive list of approaches. There are many more.

How would you define the relation of the poem to the film and vice versa?

The question implies that there is a separation between the poem and the film. Some poetry films are created from the outset as a cohesive poetry film so in this way there is no separation. If the artwork did begin with a poem at the start of the creative process, or with a film, then there are various integration approaches. Duplicating the visual, verbal and aural content is a popular obvious interpretation; however, in my opinion, contrasting different elements is more powerful, playing with the presence (or absence of) words, images and sounds. The poetry film art form is a fertile and creative area to explore, and the project celebrates many different approaches, separating the senses and combining the senses.

And your personal practice as an artist?

My personal creative practice explores the creation, perception and experience of emotion and meaning. I have a four-week artist residency coming up in Iceland in January 2015, where I shall be developing new creative projects relating to science and art, inspired by volcanoes, boiling mud, and the Northern Lights. Arts Council England recently funded the cataloguing of the entire PoetryFilm Archive, which at present contains over 500 international artworks, and in March 2015 I shall be contributing a presentation about this archive to an AHRC-funded conference at Leeds University. In March I’m also travelling to CCCB Barcelona to deliver PoetryFilm programmes there.


Zata Kitowski is available to present curated programmes and talks about the PoetryFilm project and about the poetry film art form. If you are inspired to submit a piece of work to the project, or would like further information, please contact Zata at:

Further information about submissions can be found hereThe next event is PoetryFilm Solstice at the ICA in London on Sunday 21 December at 3pm: Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, London SW1Y 5AH. Tickets cost between £7 and £11 and are available from the ICA website

Many thanks to Frances Spurrier at Write Out Loud. Friday 2 January 2015 (first posted 18th December 2014).

“Celebrating Creativity – Twelve Years of PoetryFilm” – ATY interviews Zata

From being a research art project set up to explore “the semiotics and meaning-making approaches of the PoetryFilm artform” established by British artist, writer and filmmaker Zata Kitowski in 2002, PoetryFilm and has since gone on to host over 60 events and exhibitions around the world.

Supported by Arts Council England, the project encompasses a huge and varied range of artwork. The criteria for what constitutes a “poetry film” is broad: art and avant-garde films, text films, sound and silent films, poet-filmmaker collaborations, films based on or inspired by poems and vice versa, and even certain types of performance material may be considered for inclusion in a PoetryFilm event. Speaking about the project, founder Kitowski emphasised that “there is no one single approach to the artform,” nor any simple formula for deciding which pieces are suitable for inclusion.

“I’m particularly interested in work that explores what is possible within the genre and pushes at the limits of the artform,” she said. “Often, events will be tailored around a specific theme, so that is also a factor in the selection process.”

As an example, her next planned event will be the PoetryFilm Solstice, due to take place at London’s ICA this weekend. In acknowledgement of the time of year, a number of the films set to feature at the event take the moon as a key subject. Nevertheless, work has not been selected exclusively on this basis: a range of films examining other, disparate themes will also be displayed.

Setting down boundaries for the “PoetryFilm artform” is far from easy: in a way, the fluid and indefinite nature of the form are essential to its appeal. Kitowski’s goal for the project is for it to serve as “a celebration and exploration of creativity,” bringing together different means of artistic expression to challenge our perceptions and increase our understanding.

“The idea evolved out of my personal practice as a writer and artist,” she explained. “I’ve always been interested in both [poetry and film], but other artists come to the form in different ways. Some start with a poem which they then turn into a film. Some start with an idea for a film and bring poetry into that. Others have a strong idea for a cohesive poetry film from the beginning – it really just depends on the individual.”

If the artform and its practitioners are so diverse, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the audience for the work reflects this heterogeneity.

“We have a really diverse audience,” said Kitowksi. “People come from poetic and literary spheres, as well as from film and artistic circles. I think this diversity is partly influenced by where we hold events – so we might exhibit work at a cinema or film festival, in an art gallery, or at a literary festival. The response from audiences has been very positive both in the UK and abroad.”

Many of the events PoetryFilm has hosted have taken place internationally, with Kitowski having attended the renowned Cannes Film Festival and the O Miami Poetry Festival. Next year, she’ll be appearing at the CCCB Barcelona, shortly after completing a five-week residency in Iceland.

“I’ll be working on the north coast of Iceland, which is home to lots of sulphuric volcanoes, boiling mud and the most powerful waterfall in Europe. You can also see the northern lights there,” she said “I’ll be spending the time writing poems and developing my art in response to the surroundings. I’m especially interested in exploring the themes of science and nature, and their relationship with art.”

Closer to home, Kitowski’s recent commissions having included the PoetryFilm Blackboard, an interactive installation featured in the Southbank Centre’s Festival of Love this summer which she describes as a “participatory, co-creative text/art project”. The finished work was a montage that compiled the things that people had written on the blackboard. Next year, soon after returning from her residency, Kitowski will also be presenting an academic talk at an AHRC-funded conference at Leeds University on the cataloguing of the PoetryFilm Archive, which is being funded by the Arts Council.

Since its inception in 2002, the PoetryFilm project has steadily expanded, building up a large archive. As such, cataloguing the collection will be no easy task, but Kitowski is pleased with how things are going, looking forward to the “new opportunities” that will be opened up by the archiving process.

“PoetryFilm has been going for twelve years now and it’s been really interesting to see how the projects it encompasses have developed during that time,” she said. “It’s great to see more people engaging with the artform, and it’s definitely something that’s continuing to grow and develop.”

Those looking to find out more about PoetryFilm can find additional details on the website, which also includes an online form for those looking to submit work for consideration.


Many thanks to Heather Kincaid at ATY. First published in December 2014.

PoetryFilm Solstice: Comments Book

Below is a selection of comments from the sold out PoetryFilm Solstice event at the ICA Cinema on 21 December 2014.

“Just a short word to say how much I enjoyed the poetry film winter solstice. It was wonderful, stimulating and great to see it got a full house too, lots of interesting brilliant people.”

“Really good to see something so unique and thought-provoking”

“Wonderful creative poetry films screened and excellently hosted/presented”

“Very unique and thought-provoking”

“Wonderful films, stimulating. Loved Sandpiper, Genet, Solstice”

“Great project – well produced. Dann Casswell’s film was great as was Sandpiper and Turbines”

“Some lovely inspirational creativity and all beautifully presented / hosted”

“Following PoetryFilm since my film was selected for Shot Through the Heart (Southbank) – lovely to come to an event – enjoyed the selection”

“Really enjoyed – thank you”

“Great programme”

“Fantastic films”

“Great selection of films! Love the connection between poetry and science in an experimental medium”

“Thank you really much!! That was hypnotic and poetic. Great time”

“Thank you for a fine afternoon. Enjoyed the turbine the most! :-)”

“Really enjoyed it, thought-provoking for a Sunday afternoon. Lovely venue”

“It’s the best poetry event that I’ve missed, yet!”

“Solstice screening today was cool. Lots of great stuff”

“Perfect way to spend the Winter Solstice. Keep up the good work and roll on the next event”

PoetryFilm Solstice at The ICA Cinema is sold out

PoetryFilm Solstice sold out in record time. Please email to be added to the priority list for future events.

PoetryFilm Solstice: Programme (ICA Cinema, December 2014)

Programme for PoetryFilm Solstice on Sunday 21 December at the ICA Cinema in London. 

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“Blood Types” exhibit at The Science Gallery, Trinity College Dublin

A photograph of the “Blood Types” participatory art exhibit at The Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin. Visitors were invited to have their blood type tested (by having a finger pricked) and the test cards were displayed by blood type.

blood types