Ancient Mariner/Du Fu Documentary – Poetry News Roundup April 20th

We begin another week here on My Poetic Side with a look at the re-imagining of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and a BBC documentary on the Chinese poet Du Fu.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Revisited

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, one of the most celebrated poems in English Literature, is getting something of a makeover for 2020. The poem, which is an epic tale of fear, fascination and adventure, is to be re-imagined online thanks to a project commissioned by the University of Plymouth’s Arts Institute.

Well-known stars from the arts, music, stage, and screen will be lending their voices to the project. The likes of Tilda Swinton, Jeremy Irons, Hilary Mantel and Lemm Sissay will each be reading a portion of the poem.

The 150-verse poem which was written in the 18th century and looks at the subjects of loneliness and isolation has been divided into 40 parts, each consisting of 3 to 4 verses. Starting on 18th April there will be a daily broadcast over the internet. Once the poem has been completed, it will then be available to listen to in its entirety as “one symphonic piece” accompanied by a special soundtrack written by Jay Auborn.

The segments of the poem will be free to access and will be accompanied by pieces of work from artists who are internationally known. There will also be relevant scientific research in appropriate fields including climate breakdown and marine science alongside the readings.

The project is the work of the author Philip Hoare, Dr Sarah Chapman who is the Director of the Arts Institute and the artist Angela Cockayne. The three worked together on Moby-Dick Big Read in 2012, a successful project which has had over 10 million hits.

Du Fu Documentary

The BBC has launched its first documentary on Du Fu, the Chinese poet, following the redesign of his image for Chinese textbooks which trended on social media last year, creating an increase in interest in the poet.

The documentary, which aired on April 6th on BBC 4 under the title Du Fu: China’s Greatest Poet, saw Ian McKellan the British actor who is well known for playing the part of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy reading 15 of the poet’s works which had been translated into English. The idea behind the documentary was to introduce the beauty and charm of traditional Chinese literature to an audience all over the world.

The documentary has served as inspiration to several netizens living outside China, who have taken to Twitter with their own translations of Du’s poems.

Du lived from 712 to 770 and had a desire to be of service to his country. He spent many years as a civil servant. However, the An Lushan Rebellion in 755 altered all that. He spent the last 15 years of his life writing poetry; 500 of his poems have over the ages been preserved.

The documentary has shown Du and his life in a more global context and familiarized people with the poet who is well known in China but about whom less is known in Western countries. In order to help create more understanding of the importance that Du has for Chinese literature the documentary compares him to William Shakespeare and his literary achievements.

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