A Finger in the Fishes Mouth: The Legacy of Derek Jarman

by ohshillings


I’ve reported on the launch of A Finger in the Fishes Mouth, Derek Jarman’s sole poetry collection which has recently been republished by the wonderful Test Centre.

If Jarman’s cinema is devoutly poetic, tonight’s panel are in agreement that his poetry is singularly cinematic. The collection is extremely visual, from Wilhelm von Gloeden’s photo of a prepubescent boy adorning the front cover, to the postcard images printed alongside all but one of these short poems (the missing postcard depicted a nun pleasuring a priest, which the original printers refused to include). These images, washed in green, come from Jarman’s personal collection, mementoes from places he visited and places he would have liked to visit. In some instances, they complement the poems; in others – such as the Black Madonna or the card divining the ‘feminine virtues’ of ‘Your Ideal Love Mate’ – they wilfully disrupt, they answer back.  In poetry as in film, word and image are inextricably intertwined for Jarman. However, this conjunction of poetry and cinema still ‘upsets people’ in this country; British audiences, Mayer maintains, are terrified by ‘the dangerous inversions and hallucinations that word and image can effect on each other’. As such, experiments in this vein have more commonly been continental (take Cocteau or Pasolini, filmmakers and poets both). In Britain, perhaps Jarman’s only identifiable comrades-in-arms are Margaret Tait and Sally Potter.

Read the full report here.