January 29, 2009

If you can’t see the video, you need to download Flash.

The river gave no sign
of where she might have drifted.
It carried the sky and trees like roots.

Leaves traced hieroglyphics
along the snaking spine of a gravel path
that led to the road. Cars passed

in transit, unwilling to stop
for a vine-draped shadow glimpsed
at the edge of light.

Arney’s girl was seen
near the rubble at the old quarry,
pale limbs twined with weeds,

curls of ivy on crumbling stone.
A fusion of need and air,
we reached for her like

drowning victims emerging
wild to claw the sun.
When the search parties stopped,

the land was changed.
We returned to the river,
its flux her blood.

by Jo Hemmant, Michelle McGrane and Christine Swint

Process notes

We started with a raw video of clips Christine shot while running errands in her town. After Michelle and Jo viewed the video, Michelle suggested a theme of ‘disappearance,’ and came up with a rough outline for a narrative that we all liked. There were a few images and scenes that Jo felt didn’t quite go with our intended poem, which we later deleted. We didn’t know how the lines would turn out, but we did have an idea of where we were going from the start.

Writing line by line, we alternated between the three of us via Facebook, a convenient option since Jo lives in England, Michelle is in South Africa, and Christine is in the US. At times we disclosed what was in our minds as we wrote — this particular aspect of our collaboration is important, because we did not write blindly. The poem is more a result of a merging of minds rather than a serendipitous creation.

Whoever said “three’s a crowd” never collaborated on a poem. Although having three different poets weighing in on each word was at times unwieldy, we came to an agreement about the success of each line fairly quickly.

After brainstorming for titles and reaching a consensus about closing the poem, we recorded the voice, and completed the video.

(Watch more qarrtsiluni videos here. —Eds.)

  1. January 29, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    oh, ladies. this is haunting. it’s magical — a way to describe that odd connection we feel to the missing and the dead (and the discovered).

    i love the process notes, too, of course. and how you worked in a directed manner, not just serendipity.

  2. January 29, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    beautiful. the first stanza took me somewhere else at first as i read the “she” to refer to the river. as if questions were asked of the river: its answers winding.

  3. January 29, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    This is so beautiful! I was tearing up just from reading about the process and then the poem… ah…

  4. January 30, 2009 at 12:46 am

    Beautifully done.

  5. January 30, 2009 at 8:20 am

    Great day in the morning and a superb juncture at Qarrtsiluni as the ends of the earth come together. Nothing draws better.
    Thank you all.

  6. January 31, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    Sheer genius. The poem is excellent, as is the video…and so beautifully done. From the title to the last haunting line and picture, you all have created a fascinating piece. What an awesome trio you are:)

  7. February 1, 2009 at 7:46 am

    Deeply impressive! Three people, three elements, sound, image and poem, so rich and lovely, a haunting narrative.

  8. deb
    February 4, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Haunting, beautiful. I’m a leaf on that river, drifting with the river “she” and then caught in the eddy of a lost girl.

    Appreciate hearing about your process – FB! Did you create a private group so you could all be working on one document?

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