In line with the festive cheer that the anticipation of Christmas brings, the Scottish Poetry Library hosts Katie Ailes, Carly Brown, Nick E. Melville, Calum Rodger, and Andrew Blair to perform their different takes on the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life. The smell of spices from mulled wine and mince pies, as well as the animated fireplace, create a sense of warmth to ease the audience into the tone of the night.
The array of speakers is highly impressive, each showcasing their unique interpretation of different aspects of the film as well as their distinct poetic styles. The first rendition sets an atmospheric tone to the reading, whisking the audience away to a ‘Coca-Cola daydream’ in which “the moon is still a virgin pearl.” The mellow tone of the piece and the imagery cast the audience to a sea of serenity which is highly contrasted by the following poem, in which the soya bean plastic industry was the main star. The political undertones of the mass and unsustainable production and consumption of plastic were presented as a reminder of the issues we face in this world, unable to be ignored in spite of the festive season. Despite being a sombre theme, it was tactfully uplifted and made comical by the poet’s wit and personal anecdotes from watching the film.
The next rendition comes from the perspective of Clarence the angel. By starting off in a light-hearted manner, amusing the audience with visions of finally having a set of wings and being able to play “Astro-volleyball with the other angels,” the scene in which Clarence witnesses Bailey’s suicide attempt is made even more poignant as the poet passionately cries, “you are so loved!” in a sudden realisation of the beauty of humanity.
The order of poets continues to amaze. After the immense passion of such an ending to Clarence’s poem, a poetic dissertation is presented on why Bailey is, in fact, a “fatal narcissist” in the film, which the poet refers to as a documentary. More impressive still is the final poet’s not having seen the film, and his immense luck in just passing a man on the street who happened to hand him a beautiful poem from the point in It’s a Wonderful Life in which George is about to jump in the hope of heaven being “somewhere to rest and live again.”
If you’re looking for a traditional rendition of It’s a Wonderful Life then this event is not for you. But in seeking tradition, why not just watch the film? It’s a Wonderful Life: In Poetry gives five poets the opportunity to personalise a universally loved story, which when considering the popularity of the film is a highly daring and admirable thing to do. In this instance, the rewards far outweigh the risks.
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