Things I Found in the Hedge

Things I Found in the Hedge
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Creators

Kathryn Darnell, film-maker, USA
Lucy English, writer, UK

Synopsis

Things I found in the Hedge written by Lucy English, follows the cycle of seasons in terms of what is found in an English countryside hedge. Pastoral details are contrasted with debris from our modern world which has also landed up in the hedge.

This short animated interpretation of the poem is one of 48 films created by 27 collaborators for the poet's online The Book of Hours, a contemporary and secular re-imagining of a Medieval book of hours.

The film uses hand-written calligraphy by the filmmaker, as well as vintage illustrations, to create an animation that manages to be both traditional and contemporary.

Using calligraphic text provides a natural connection to the medieval book of hours. Lines of poetry revolve in regular arcs to convey a sense of time (and seasons) passing. At the same time, translucent layers of words write themselves on and dance across the screen, much like random impressions might move through our thoughts... and like the blowing litter that is often left behind in a landscape.

Although there is no naming of the seasons in this poem, there are clear clues. Calligraphic transitions represent the seasons as they turn.

Antique natural history and botanical drawings visualize many of the natural objects listed in the poem. This sets up a contrast with the list of human-manufactured detritus (things no one would ever think of drawing). These finely detailed illustrations also express nature as once removed from the natural world and place it as part of human creation.

Text

A spider's web pearled with dew.
Hawthorn blossom. A pair of pink underpants.
A flock of sparrows. Always loud.
A thrush's nest with four sea blue eggs.
Walkers Cheese and Onion crisp packets. Two.

A white sports sock with a worn red trim.
A white butterfly on a nettle bloom.
A dead fledgling wren. I tucked it in the leaves.
Meadowsweet and the smell of a fox by the drain.
A green beetle with an iridescent sheen.

A used tampon. Who would put it there?
Hawthorn berries. Crimson. Gritty. Hard.
A string of bryony. Purple, orange, green.
A bus ticket. A coke can crushed.
A Lidl bag. A clump of ginger hair.

A Kit Kat wrapper and a dropped Mars Bar
turned white after a night of frost.
The skeletons of Hogweed. Brittle twigs.
An ankle deep puddle with an oil rainbow.
The blackthorn blossom just begun to flower.

Kathryn Darnell on the project

As a professional illustrator and calligrapher, it is only recently that I realized setting traditional artwork into motion would be an interesting thing to do. It was animating calligraphy that grabbed my attention and introduced me to the genre of poetry film.

I call them "animated calligraphics".

Each film, of course, begins with a poem... or at least some words (it is a fairly firm reality that calligraphers need words). The writing out of the poem is done with traditional pens and inks on paper. Sometimes I am writing out the entire text of a poem, and sometimes I will choose what I think are key ideas to express as single words. Over 30 years as a calligrapher, I never stop being amazed by the letters just forming under a pen. This slow process of writing words by hand has always helped me appreciate both the sound and the meanings in poetry.

Pages of ink on paper are scanned and layered with each other and with other images as I set them moving using Adobe After Effects software. I often use music to support animation, but in this film I chose to use only bird song under the poets reading of the poem. This I feel, created the sense of a leisurely walk through a landscape.

My goal in this piece was to go beyond presenting a text with illustrations. I wanted to conjure up the feel of old books and manuscripts while describing a process of writing, passing time and trains of thought interrupted by observations and questions.

It would be remiss not to thank The Michigan State University Special Collections for access to the antique botanical illustrations in Florigraphia Britannica by Richard Deakin, and Hargissssound for the recorded bird song.

Kathryn Darnell
Kathryn Darnell

Lucy English
Lucy English

Publications

The Book of Hours, UK, 2018
Atticus Review, USA, 2019

Bios

Kathryn (Kate) Darnell is a native of Michigan in the U.S. and a graduate of the University of Michigan School of Art. A professional illustrator and calligrapher for over 30 years, Kate has divided her time between commercial art and fine art practice. In 2005 she designed her first font: Sweeney, a design with both Celtic and Italic attributes. Her "animated calligraphics" are an extension of her passion for letters. Her personal artwork is regularly exhibited in galleries, and she is an adjunct professor of art at Lansing Community College. She lives with her husband in East Lansing, Michigan.

Lucy English was born in Sri Lanka and grew up in London. She is a novelist and spoken word poet, and one of the organizers of 'MIX', the conferences in digital writing, and co-creator of the poetry-film organization, 'Liberated Words', which curates and screens poetry films. She is a Reader in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Her current project 'The Book of Hours' is a re-imagining of a medieval book of Hours in poetry film form. She has been creating this over the last four years and the final project has 48 poetry films made with 27 collaborators.

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For their contributions, advice and assistance, thanks to:
Ari Raijas, Bronwen Manger, Caroline Rumley, Dave Bonta, Eduardo Yagüe, Fiona Tinwei Lam, Helen Dewbery, Jane Glennie, Karen Dawson, Lori Ersolmaz, Lucia Sellars, Lucy English, Maria Vella, Martin Kelly, Matt Hetherington, Matt Mullins, Mike Hoolboom, Nigel Wells, Pam Falkenberg, R.W. Perkins, Sanket Shrestha, the film-makers, writers and their collaborators.