"I sit here immobile"

The journey of a poem into song and video.

Screen Shot 2023-02-15 at 6 14 14 PM

Picture from Blue Ridge Botanic.

Released as a poem in Derek Jarman's Garden (1995), a book by Derek Jarman, was then turned into a song in the album Translucence by Donna McKevitt in 2004. Five years later in 2009, Chris Briggs takes the song and makes a visual experience to go along with it. These annotations will provide you with the ability to compare and contrast the changes made in between the different mediums. My commentary will then discuss how these changes can aid, or sometimes call for concern, the original essence of the art. However, an atmosphere of creation and the extension of the original concepts allows for the adaptations to not only have their own beauty, but also enhance and remind us of the original's aesthetic value. The colors represent the actual transcription of the original poem in red, the lyrics of Donna McKevitt's song in blue, and the words that appear on screen in Briggs' video in green.

Time Annotation Layer
0:13 - 0:18 across the darkening waves, Original poem, changed
0:19 - 0:21 your dreaming laughter Original poem, changed
0:26 - 0:30 The heavens have stolen your smile, Original poem, changed
0:39 - 0:44 all our memories are wasted. Original poem, changed
0:46 - 0:53 Salt tears wound my blinded eyes Original poem, changed
0:54 - 0:56 as I write this, Original poem, changed
1:19 - 1:21 the day Original poem, changed
1:27 - 1:38 That I would be left to bear witness to our friendship? Original poem, changed
0:02 - 0:07 I sit here immobile, Original poem
0:08 - 0:12 The winter sun luminous Original poem
0:22 - 0:25 lost in the wind. Original poem
0:31 - 0:33 the closed gates rust, Original poem
0:34 - 0:38 the rainbow is broken. Original poem
0:57 - 1:01 fires stoked by strangers Original poem
1:02 - 1:06 consume your heart. Original poem
1:07 - 1:15 I stumble through the day of your passion. Original poem
1:16 - 1:19 Did you imagine Original poem
1:21 - 1:26 the sun would not rise Original poem
0:03 - 0:08 Both the video captions as well as the music lyrics leave out the comma that was used in the original poem, and this seems to hint at a large point in the argument that the essence or meaning of the original poetry is left changed when we adapt it to different mediums. Overall, punctuation is a literary device that aids in understanding the flow of sentences due to the lack of voice, visuals, or body language. One could argue that including punctuation in the lyrics of a song isn't necessary due to the ability to use your voice to indicate the flow of the sentence. Commentary
0:03 - 0:08 The ability to see the words on a screen with visual aspects, which in this video are heavily influenced by some of the chaos-oriented details of Jarman's films, can add to our understanding of the poem's concepts. Ultimately, this technique aids in guiding the imagination of the viewer by providing them with foundational imagery; the feeling of sitting in a quiet room, looking out in retrospect of the horizon and landscape around you. This imagery sets you in a reflective tone to, in the creator, Chris Briggs' view, interpret the poem in a fruitful way. Commentary
0:20 - 0:21 We see here, in the original poem, there is the word "dreaming", whereas for both the video and music, they use the word "dream". This can be read differently in comparison to the original, as without the original words, we would emphasize that the author chose "your dream laughter" as a laughter that is a dream. In comparison to the original, this changes the meaning of the line as "your dreaming laughter" emphasizes the importance and authority of the laughter having the ability to dream, not being a dream itself. Commentary
0:20 - 0:21 The second way it could be read is through the comparison of the two renditions "your dream laughter" and "your dreaming laughter" all together (like done through this project). This allows us to see the subtraction, immediately, of the "ing" at the end of "dreaming". This initially leads us to believe there might be a change, in time, of the two renditions. Dreaming can also, independent of being an adjective, be a state. The state of being in a dream. This means that this change goes from an active, living state, to a conceptual, timeless state. Commentary
0:27 - 0:30 There is an omission of the original poem here. We lose Jarman's "stolen your smile" and it is replaced in both the video captions and musical lyrics with "are fallen". This is a trend we see throughout the change in the poem: the removal of the other person that Jarman is referring to. Commentary
0:27 - 0:30 The change here also adds and subtracts different meanings from the original poem. "The heavens have fallen" completely changes the meaning as it provides an apocalyptic or tragic story of the divine ending, whereas the original sees no end in the divine and simply points out the lack of divineness in 'the heavens', as we wouldn't normally associate something God-like as doing something stereotypically frowned upon or immoral like 'stealing' or making someone 'frown'. Commentary
0:27 - 0:30 However, there seems to be a connective thread to pull through the differences. There seems to be a "fall" of the divine. For the music and video, they point it out very blatantly by saying directly "the heavens have fallen". This also speaks in the same tense as the change, implying that the heavens have already fallen, maybe to some example-- maybe even alluding to the heavens have fallen due to the example Jarman gives, but in a more general way. Commentary
0:34 - 0:39 In this sequence, we see both a punctuation change as well as a seeming mistake done in the video. Instead of using the word "broken" we see the word "fallen" appear again in the poem written on screen. This highlights a difficulty and common occurrence in the transformation or adaptation of art, as there can many times be a 'bad' or simple mistake in them (like undoubtedly in this project). The question we have to ask is whether or not this new interpretation, this new analysis, or new medium, should pay the price and be written-off as completely unhelpful or lacking meaning. Commentary
0:39 - 0:39 The annotation above is a direct omission from the original poem, and it completely changes the tone of the work in Jarman's version compared to the video/music. Without knowledge or looking at the original poem you would not get this sexual tone, and that seems to be something that was specifically chosen by Donna McKevitt to exclude, as she seems to be making the poem as general as possible-- removing the specifics of and relationship between Jarman and the other person he includes in the poem-- to make it about a collective or personal discussion. Commentary
0:39 - 0:44 Here we see the end of a sentence within the original poem, and this creates a new problem concerning the original essence of the poem that hasn't happened yet. Not an omission, not only a change in words, but the inclusion of part of a sentence. The music and then video only uses the end of the sentence "all our memories are wasted". This creates a question of whether the essence of the sentence and meaning can hold any of its original form if there is a manipulation of the words. Ultimately, not many would argue that the music or video carries the original essence of Jarman's poem, but allows the musician and video creator to shift and expand their interpretation on Jarman's original art. How much of what we consider "common knowledge" about our understanding of language, metaphor, or literary devices are extensions of previous artwork, and can Jarman's poem be authentic or unique in essence to his inspiration? Commentary
0:47 - 0:53 In this annotation we see the change of tense going from "blinded" to "blind", past tense to present. This could be a choice by Donna McKevitt to make it more generalized due to the use of the present tense. We see this change in tense multiple times throughout the poem. There is a stark difference between having experienced something and being within the experience, as well as being told about going through something in the past versus going through something now. Another choice to evoke a more direct emotional or aesthetic response. Commentary
0:54 - 0:56 This use of capitalization is also relevant, as the question of phrasing comes to the forefront of discussion. In the video captions, each line we see has been capitalized in the beginning, whereas in the poem, only the beginning of sentences are capitalized. Could this affect people reading the screen and interpreting the phrases of the poem, or is the phrasing question completely answered through the use of the song and voice. Commentary
1:07 - 1:15 This statement, as seen above and in the video, makes for an unusual initial interpretation. The big question lies in what does "the day of your passion" mean? Ultimately, a very intimate understanding of time. The idea of a day is used throughout the poem to create a very intimate timeframe where Jarman and the person he is talking to are able to exist together. At the end of the poem, this specificity is answered. In this sense, time is seen as a valuable place and commitment to another person. Commentary
1:20 - 1:21 Another mention of the 'day' and an emphasis on how time can define one's relationship and serve even as the ultimate fear or the looming death of the relationship. Commentary
1:20 - 1:21 There was also a change between the music and the original poem, once again, as we go from "the day" to "one morning" and this can be a problem as it seems, as in the day, to be a reoccuring theme in the original poem, and Donna McKevitt would've had to make a very cautious decision to change a theme of that importance. Commentary
1:28 - 1:38 Here we see the final omission and change of the original poem and the work, but it happens to be the last words and line of the music themselves, so that might not mean much. It means a lot, however, to the essence and meaning of the poem itself. One change is the omission of "to our friendship" which ties into the theme we've seen throughout in which Donna McKevitt is erasing the relationship Jarman has with the person in the original poem. Commentary
1:28 - 1:38 The original also uses "would be left" whereas the music uses "would have". The seeming difference between how one would read these is that for "be left", you are seemingly being alone in comparison to being with someone before, and in the original poem we see that this loss of the day not rising would require Jarman to remove the active aspect of his relationship with the other person and look at it, rather, in retrospect. Again, the reason it was changed to "would have" is related to removing that relationship from the artwork. Commentary
0:34 - 0:39 The rainbow is fallen Video captions, mistake
0:03 - 0:08 I sit here immobile Video captions
0:09 - 0:13 The winter sun luminous Video captions
0:14 - 0:19 Over the darkening waves Video captions
0:20 - 0:22 Your dream laughter Video captions
0:23 - 0:26 Lost in the wind Video captions
0:27 - 0:31 The heavens are fallen Video captions
0:31 - 0:34 The closed gates rust Video captions
0:39 - 0:45 All our memories wasted Video captions
0:47 - 0:54 Salt tears wound my blind eyes Video captions
0:54 - 0:57 As I write these words Video captions
0:57 - 1:02 Fires stoked by strangers Video captions
1:03 - 1:07 Consume your heart Video captions
1:07 - 1:45 The video seemed to end the captions after the line "Consume your heart", and the front page for the album "Translucence" appears. Video captions
0:39 - 0:39 [All our memories— the wild night fucking you on the floor of Heaven—] Original poem, omitted
0:01 - 0:01 My friend Howard Brookner dies in New York. A letter falls through the door. Words forget their sweet meaning, drowned by time, no one remembers the old story. How can anything endure the terrible rising of the sun, the death of a thousand summers? Original poem, omitted
0:02 - 0:07 I sit here immobile Music script
0:08 - 0:12 The winter sun luminous Music script
0:13 - 0:18 Over the darkening waves Music script
0:19 - 0:21 Your dream laughter Music script
0:22 - 0:25 Lost in the wind Music script
0:26 - 0:30 The heavens are fallen Music script
0:31 - 0:33 The closed gates rust Music script
0:34 - 0:38 The rainbow is broken Music script
0:39 - 0:44 All our memories wasted Music script
0:46 - 0:53 Salt tears wound my blind eyes Music script
0:54 - 0:56 As I write these words Music script
0:57 - 1:01 fires stoked by strangers Music script
1:02 - 1:06 Consume your heart Music script
1:07 - 1:15 I stumble through the day of your passion Music script
1:16 - 1:19 Did you imagine Music script
1:19 - 1:21 One morning Music script
1:21 - 1:26 The sun would not rise Music script
1:27 - 1:38 That I would have to bear witness? Music script

VIII. Jarman and McKevitt at Internet Archive.

IIIF manifest: https://lgsump.github.io/digital-florilegium/viii-jarman-and-mckevitt/manifest.json