Gnaoua: Guinia, The Night Doctor

 

gnawa-studies-may-15002

The great Gnaoua Maalem, singer and ghimbri player Mahmoud Guinia made his last appearance at the festival in Essaouria in 2015,  on 17 May of that year. The picture above, sketched in seconds amidst the huge crowds in Place Moulay Hassan.

This year is the 20th birthday of the Gnaoua Festival and for those who are lucky to be there, come the end of June, his spirit will be experienced, and his presence missed.

I started this poem, Marine Point, in May 2015, returned to it again after returning to Essaouira in 2016, and when Guinia’s sons Houssam and travelled from Essaouira to perform in London, at St Luke’s on 30 September last year as part of the Barbican’s Transcender series.

I walked back down to the port, where the great Chez Sam restaurant at the very end has been demolished, alas. Orson Welles ate here while making his Othello, and I ate here, with many friends over the years and the food and the wine and the staff were immaculate.

So here is Marine Point, for Mahmoud Guinia,  and its followed by a short film uploade to YouTube featuring one of his great performances, from the first year I attended Festival du Gnaoua

Marine Point

IM Mahmoud Guinia, 1951-2015

Boys dive into the channel of water between port
and medina until the sun turns red, the music starts
and you know something is happening tonight
when Maalem Mahmoud Guinia, voice as deep
and wide as a river, turns and hands his gimbri
to his son and it is becoming clear that time
has come for the Night Doctor, playing the songs
of the saints faster than he normally does
as if it is speed that will bring them in focus
and closer, and then it is over, and he is
bowing to us down to the level of the ocean,
a common settling, perpetual rhythm and motion
surging from the whale stream where handled spirits
converge upon the skin of a camel’s neck stretched
across a wooden frame – isn’t a man’s neck stretched
the same? – squatters of scents and penetrating
colours, desert routes and ocean currents rising
through the strings and songs that hang between
the mouth and ear, marine points where spirits
of ceremony stretch themselves around the body
and all the people shake and dance.

 

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Radio Carbon shorts #24

The film poem Radio Carbon was premiered at the Renoir cinema in 2009 as part of the wonderful Zata Banks’ Poetryfilm.org‘s regular screenings, and at Port Eliot Festival in 2010.

The complete 27-minute film comprises 24 numbered sections, and may be viewed as a sequence of separate, interlocking filmpoems with recurring motifs.

For this winter, I have broken up the film into 24 parts and will be posting them day by day as we approach the winter solstice, in the style of an advent calendar. Each one is between 45 and 90 seconds each. So start your day with a few drops of imagery …

Here is the twenty fourth and final film poem, Midwinter Fire

Midwinter Fire

Midwinter Fire burns in
the bushes as I walk with
my daughter Natasha
through fragile blue
and skeins of snow.
So the foetus dreams
twenty four seven
in mother’s womb,
images of heaven
blown across
the back of the cave,
bull, stag, reindeer, horse
running in the mind,
sticky with clay,
dilated awakening,
russet of winter willow
over deep water
looped with the flicker
of the sun’s cascade,
white explosions
of light and cruel air,
the play of thread
between words
and the things
beyond words.

 

Radio Carbon shorts #23

The film poem Radio Carbon was premiered at the Renoir cinema in 2009 as part of the wonderful Zata Banks’ Poetryfilm.org‘s regular screenings, and at Port Eliot Festival in 2010.

The complete 27-minute film comprises 24 numbered sections, and may be viewed as a sequence of separate, interlocking filmpoems with recurring motifs.

For this winter, I have broken up the film into 24 parts and will be posting them day by day as we approach the winter solstice, in the style of an advent calendar. Each one is between 45 and 90 seconds each. So start your day with a few drops of imagery …

Here is the twenty third film poem, Spinney

Spinney

The bare copse looks loaded
with munitions as we follow
the fox-run through wild
spinneys between schemes.
Not much to pick over
for the remote viewer.
The land’s been drained
of its water gods and we’re
hand-winding the day forward
the way it should be done –
straight from the bottle,
the neck, the heart swollen
with pollen, Bourbon and tobacco,
raising the feathers, stirring
sleepers from long abandoned
stations, buddlea heavy with
fresh blossom, obsidian clockface
turning from solid to soft core,
silver catch leaping in the net
tightening at the neck and shouting
new constellations across the sky.

 

Radio Carbon shorts #22

The film poem Radio Carbon was premiered at the Renoir cinema in 2009 as part of the wonderful Zata Banks’ Poetryfilm.org‘s regular screenings, and at Port Eliot Festival in 2010.

The complete 27-minute film comprises 24 numbered sections, and may be viewed as a sequence of separate, interlocking filmpoems with recurring motifs.

For this winter, I have broken up the film into 24 parts and will be posting them day by day as we approach the winter solstice, in the style of an advent calendar. Each one is between 45 and 90 seconds each. So start your day with a few drops of imagery …

Here is the twenty second film poem, First Words

 

First words

like spring flowers
coaxed from their centre,
the roof of the mouth
is that point two inches
below the navel where
humanity dukes it out
with God’s geometry
fastening to your face
before sleep, heavy
feathered images
frosting to the mind’s eye,
the rock n roll beat
of the bicameral mind…
hard to remember
learning the lingo,
foundations sunk
through centuries
of matter to the
lower interglacial,
cold explosion
of air in the lungs,
words pinned
to the impenetrable
like a veteran’s medal.
This train is being held
at a red signal.

Radio Carbon shorts #21

The film poem Radio Carbon was premiered at the Renoir cinema in 2009 as part of the wonderful Zata Banks’ Poetryfilm.org‘s regular screenings, and at Port Eliot Festival in 2010.

The complete 27-minute film comprises 24 numbered sections, and may be viewed as a sequence of separate, interlocking filmpoems with recurring motifs.

For this winter, I have broken up the film into 24 parts and will be posting them day by day as we approach the winter solstice, in the style of an advent calendar. Each one is between 45 and 90 seconds each. So start your day with a few drops of imagery …

Here is the twenty first film poem, Afterburn

Afterburn

Smoking underneath
the apple tree heavy with
smoke and blue blossom,
whistling an old tune
to bring the dogs home,
and here they come
along the unpaved road,
the sagging fall to earth
of wild and distant fruits
fermenting the mind,
alcoholic sugars rolling
around the bell of your tongue.
It’s January in East Berlin,
sky filled with Zeppelin
and space dust, the passage
of cumulus and cuineform
setting the clocks back
to basics: first clearing,
signal and spark, pigment in
a bowl ready to run into depth
and distance, pubescent dancers
breaking step from Eden into
settlement, accumulation, account.

Radio Carbon shorts #20

The film poem Radio Carbon was premiered at the Renoir cinema in 2009 as part of the wonderful Zata Banks’ Poetryfilm.org‘s regular screenings, and at Port Eliot Festival in 2010.

The complete 27-minute film comprises 24 numbered sections, and may be viewed as a sequence of separate, interlocking filmpoems with recurring motifs.

For this winter, I have broken up the film into 24 parts and will be posting them day by day as we approach the winter solstice, in the style of an advent calendar. Each one is between 45 and 90 seconds each. So start your day with a few drops of imagery …

Here is the twentieth film poem, Vapour

 

Vapour

The passage of time
had been broken,
as if a hidden drawer
in a traveller’s chest had
been sprung open
releasing perfumed
scent of an older order,
tiny stitching for a faded
empire, sinking through
solid matter as if it
was vapour, the hard facts
frosting on the glass.
This sky looks cursed.
Sleep sets you like a glaze.

Radio Carbon shorts #19

The film poem Radio Carbon was premiered at the Renoir cinema in 2009 as part of the wonderful Zata Banks’ Poetryfilm.org‘s regular screenings, and at Port Eliot Festival in 2010.

The complete 27-minute film comprises 24 numbered sections, and may be viewed as a sequence of separate, interlocking filmpoems with recurring motifs.

For this winter, I have broken up the film into 24 parts and will be posting them day by day as we approach the winter solstice, in the style of an advent calendar. Each one is between 45 and 90 seconds each. So start your day with a few drops of imagery …

Here is the eighteenth film poem, Explosive

 

Explosive

Love’s weightless
origami carries the body
to forbidden places,
the heart packed tight
like explosive in a bomber’s
vest, a one man army
travelling west, the road
filled with fallen wings,
heavy buds on the lips
of the faithful, the long
dark thread in the blood
unravelling from
the first exploded atoms
of our coming.