Skip to content

Cluster index: Simon Collings

Existence and its discontents.

Simon Collings: ‘Capernaum shares with its predecessor a concern with social crisis, but here Labaki employs the conventions of ‘realism’ as the primary means of rendering her subject, though the film is not entirely ‘real’. This is not a ‘true story’. The suing of the parents is a dramatic device Labaki uses to structure her material, and its fictionality has something of the fairy-tale quality of Where do we go from here? There are also comic moments in the film which have an air of the fantastical. ‘

Five poets remark on prose poetry.

Peter Riley: ‘To avoid endless problems of definition, it would help if they were called “short prose pieces”, which is one thing they undeniably are. This was Eliot’s idea (who hated them). ‘

Six very short stories.

Simon Collings: ‘I had no choice but to follow the general advance as I didn’t want to draw attention to myself by trying to force a way through. I could see up ahead a neon sign with the name of my hotel on it, though I didn’t remember the hotel being on this street. Perhaps there were two hotels with the same name, I thought. I was sure mine had been on a side street. I had no means of checking of course, and in fact I was no longer sure what the name of my hotel was.’

Family discounts.

Simon Collings: ‘Some sections of Japanese society were appalled when Kore-eda declined an invitation to meet the Education Minister after “Shoplifters” won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Others applauded his wish to maintain a distance from government. The film does raise complex questions about what constitutes a “family” and what it is the country’s laws are defending and protecting. ‘

Typesetters’ delight.

Simon Collings: ‘So what might be some of the factors which have contributed to recent changes in British prose poetry? One important element, as David Caddy points out in his overview chapter, is that since the 1960s there has been an active community of poets working in prose formats, their practice influenced by developments in American and European poetry. ‘

Agnès Varda’s ‘Faces Places’.

Simon Collings: ‘The people who feature in the documentary are mostly the everyday citizens of France, neither superstars nor the extreme poor – though we do meet an elderly man, called Pony, who lives in a shack and makes art from found objects. But some of Varda’s perennial concerns are still there, and are clearly shared by JR. She notices that goats are having their horns burned off to make them more ‘productive’. We meet a woman with a herd of horned goats who believes animals should be respected and left as they are. Varda and JR like this woman.’

Four prose pieces.

Simon Collings: ‘The doctor turned out to be an ex-lover who I hadn’t seen for some time. She asked me if I was free for dinner, and suggested we continue the consultation at her apartment, to which I readily agreed. The building where she lived was close by. ‘

Three récits by Georges Limbour.

Georges Limbour: ‘However, as soon as the first white-painted houses appeared, as though sensing it would have been dangerous to go further, they stopped and scattered amid the cacti and fig trees. I entered the village. A woman rooted to the spot by the pitcher she carried on her head raised the edge of her cloak to her eyes. ‘

Somewhere else.

Simon Collings: ‘Basildon, or ‘Baz’ as it’s referred to by locals, wasn’t meant to be like this. The vision for Britain’s post-war ‘New Towns’ described prosperous and happy communities – places of architectural and natural beauty which would, it was hoped, create a better type of person. The gap between the political vision, and the reality as recounted by local residents, is huge. This is the focus of New Town Utopia, a new documentary feature by Christopher Ian Smith. ‘

Rrose Sélevy.

Rrose Sélevy: ‘Marcel Duchamp: In the lane there was a blue bull near a white seat. Now explain the motive for the white gloves.’