A High Place

poem by Dawn Gorman, film by Helen Dewbery

I used still photographs in ‘A High Place’ by Dawn Gorman. Dawn describes the poem as a layering of stories within stories: the most obvious traces the ‘weird logic’ of an actual dream. In it, her parents had died, and she was in the garden of her childhood home.

In the garden, everyone asks if I can look after Grandad, suddenly back after all these years: that smell of cardigan pockets, sun on newspaper. I hold the whole story like a packet of seeds.

Inside the house, a 1950s semi in a small market town in the English Midlands, she sees her father on the stairs.

a tall man taking the stairs two at a time to a high place I’ve never noticed. ‘Dad’ I call, and he pauses, almost as if he hears me. Then continues to climb.

As I sat in Dawn’s living room surrounded by framed portraits and family photograph albums, we discussed the poem and her family history. Photographs are a material artefact of a moment captured in another place at another time. Barthes emphasised the having-been-there nature of photographs. It became an obvious choice to use these photographs as the basis of the poetry film for the dream Dawn had described in her poem.

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“I was thrilled when Helen Dewbery and Chaucer Cameron said they would like to make a poetry film of my prose poem A High Place, but was totally unprepared for the emotional impact that the images and music they put together would deliver. Are you allowed to cry at your own voice reading your own poem? I did when I first watched this short but very beautiful film.

Working with Helen and Chaucer on the film also helped me to mine my own content to discover the real emotional and psychological source of this poem, which was the death of my grandad, my rock, my childhood pal, in 1995. The release date of this film, July 30th, was his birthday.”

Dawn Gorman