by Astra Papachristodoulou
A Journey To Remember
Since lockdown, the way I experience books and films has changed; scenes of group gatherings, social touch and travel exploration seem oddly unfamiliar at the moment. The sea is spread and cleaved and furled by Ahren Warner, an interdisciplinary book and film-work, was no exception – it was a delightfully disorienting exchange. It’s akin to being tipped into a vulnerable, curious, toxic chaos that destabilises its status as a subjective narrative into a collective experience.
With an opening epigraph by Vahni Capildeo, “thalassa cannot lose her glitter, cannot lose”, Warner sets the scene for his theatrical exploration in wild nightclub and seaside settings – a familiar sight to someone who grew up near the sea in Rhodes. Written and filmed across thirteen countries, from the Greek Islands to South East Asia to the Black Sea, the Balkans and the Baltic, the narrative fuses poetry and videography to produce fragments of social observation.
I decided to watch the film prior to reading the book which, I should point out, is made beautifully by Prototype Publishing. The juxtaposition of various settings and their interaction with instrumental musical fragments, often interrupted, produce a testament to Warner’s skill in film collaging – his ability to merge scenes of both ecstasy and calm to form a whole.
The text, although bold and fresh, didn’t quite live up to the same level of formal experimentation that I was expecting, which I think would have interacted more effectively with the accompanying film. Its lyrical form unfolds in two-lined couplets and maintains the tone of an internal monologue. The use of lowercase, lack of titles, repetition and conversational tone, all help to emphasise thought, subjectivity and rhythm:
“This is what i want, i say. What she asks. To watch you blush, I say.
The sea is cold, and we
Are so very drunk. The sea is cold and she is not here. The sea is
cold and we are spread out on a hot rock.”
This work is to be cherished for its honesty. Both film and text exude vulnerability in the best sense of the word; they expose familiar and voluptuous worlds that seem distant for now, in a time when “we are not moving these words from lockdown / quarantined with truefalse pinkblue pleasures” (page ii). The self becomes a sea blanket which slowly reveals an idiosyncratic ecosystem beneath each wave.
Astra Papachristodoulou is a poet and artist with focus in the experimental tradition. She has published several poetry books including Stargazing (Guillemot Press) and Astropolis (Hesterglock Press), and her work has been exhibited at contemporary visual poetry shows at the National Poetry Library and The Poetry Café in London. She is the founder of visual poetry platform Poem Atlas which showcases the work of visual poets from around the world in physical and online exhibitions.
Astra can be found online at astranaut.co.uk and poematlas.co.uk or on instagram and twitter @heyastranaut
'The sea is spread and cleaved and furled' by Ahren Warner was published in 2020 by Prototype Press.