Me, Dylan Thomas and some mad birds

I’ve just made my first Vine, which for those of you that don’t know, is the current latest social media thing. A vine is a six second video, I’d have thought Vix would have made more sense as a name but hey ho. I’m still waiting for someone to come and ask me to rule the world so until they do we shall have to endure Vines over Vixes and toothpastes ads filmed on the huh. The reason for the Vine was to celebrate Dylan Thomas’s birthday.  Anyone can join in and ask for a line of poetry, the organisers then send you a short line that you present as a video and return it to them. they will then stitch them together and they will have a nation re-telling all of Dylan Thomas’s poems.  My sister put me onto it and it sounded like a fun thing to do.

I’ll ‘fess up and declare that my knowledge of Dylan Thomas’s works is poor. I know the first bits of Milk Wood and of course Do Not Go Gentle but that is pretty much it and so I waited eagerly for my e-mail to see what randomly generated line I might get. Of course I secretly hoped for Bible Black and then feared getting it. In fact who could possibly do that line better than Richard Burton?

Millinery by Ellsewhere

The e-mail pinged and lo “A girl mad as birds bolting the night of the door with her arm her plume.”  I was thrilled! The line meant nothing to me, I had never heard or read it before but birds and madness? How wonderful! I have always been fascinated with the connection between birds and insanity and I’m not alone, our language is littered with references to bird like behaviour, cloud cuckoo land, bird brain, all of a twitter. Currently I love the work of Ellsewhere and Suzy Sharpe and this line of poetry made me realise that I have always loved this type of imagery so I tried to trace it back. I thought I had found the root with Angela Carter’s mesmerising Fevvers, the protagonist in Nights at the Circle but no, I read  Poe’s Raven before that, however even before that old sage, I grew up listening to the tales of Baba Yaga and her hut that moved on chicken’s legs. But maybe it’s more fundamental than that, quite simply who hasn’t looked at a bird and wished that they to could fly. Escape, soar, loop the loop (not sure how many birds loop the loop but I would).

Sketch by Suzy Sharpe

Anyway, thrilled, I went to seek out the poem to get a better grip on the sentence, the e-mail appeared to have failed to send over the right amount of commas. Now it seems the Dylan and I have something in common, whilst we both know that grammar is a useful thing, our teachers told us so, we often forget to use it. In fact Mr Thomas is well known for his grammatical laissez faire. I wish I had known him in school, I might have tried to plead Dylan Thomas when my red scrawled homeworks were returned to me. So whilst I was sympathetic to him, I was a bit stuck as to how I should read this poem.  This is how it is laid out.

A stranger has come
To share my room in the house not right in the head,
A girl mad as birds

Bolting the night of the door with her arm her plume.
Strait in the mazed bed
She deludes the heaven-proof house with entering clouds

Right then, A girl mad as birds – easy, rat ta ta tat. Love it. Next? Bolting the night of the door with her arm her plume. Huh? OK So not only do I not understand it, I don’t understand it even if I try to put commas in. Who is bolting the night, the girl or the birds? I could cope with that ambiguity if there was a full stop after night but there isn’t, it’s night of the door. What is the night of the door? The door of the night makes more sense. Moving on, if we ignore night, I can understand bolting a door with an arm but her plume? A birds wing? Water? A head dress?  I am envisaging a pale white arm thrown up to throw the bolt at the top of an oak door.

So; A girl, mad, as birds bolting the night of the door, with her arm her plume.
or A girl, mad as birds, bolting the night of the door with her arm, her plume.
or any other variety of randomly strewn commas.

Hmm.  Despite this unexpected challenge I downloaded the Vine software and me and my son tried to film 6 seconds. At this point can I just say bravo to all the directors out there, and the sound engineers, the lighting gaffa, even the best boy.  It took Thomas and I over half an hour and we still didn’t get it right but rain stopped play.  I wanted the shot to look a little dishevelled and arty (I got scruffy school girl project) but transferring what is in your head onto a screen is sooo hard.  We had some great ideas including throwing feathers in the air, this was great fun and included stabbing a pillow and a lot of laughter, I also tried to make my clothes look messed up but Thomas though I looked like a prozzie – his words. Take, after take, after take 🙂 Finally we gave in and figured that something had to be right. Only to discover that we hadn’t actually saved any of the shots! Dear god. Back to fumbled lines – could not get door and night in the right order, swinging lights, dying batteries, backcombed hair, chewed off lipstick, so it went on until finally the rain put us out of our misery. Actually we had had a hell of a lot of fun doing it and although the finished item is not what I wanted, the project was great fun and in my mind  total success. Below is the clip that Thomas and I decided on. When the whole poem is stitched together I’ll add that link as well. God just realised that I may have messed up other people’s efforts by screwing mine up and reading it all wrong. Bugger. I do hope I’m surrounded by fun loving, amateur, idiots, not actual clever artists. Still I’ll make them look good. 

Bravo Dylan, you mad old bugger.

Love in the Asylum
A stranger has come
To share my room in the house not right in the head,
A girl mad as birds

Bolting the night of the door with her arm her plume.
Strait in the mazed bed
She deludes the heaven-proof house with entering clouds

Yet she deludes with walking the nightmarish room,
At large as the dead,
Or rides the imagined oceans of the male wards.

She has come possessed
Who admits the delusive light through the bouncing wall,
Possessed by the skies

She sleeps in the narrow trough yet she walks the dust
Yet raves at her will
On the madhouse boards worn thin by my walking tears.

And taken by light in her arms at long and dear last
I may without fail
Suffer the first vision that set fire to the stars.

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