If bouquets are poems and poems are bouquets, Tate Fountain is a fine florist. Swaths of flowers and colours adorn the nooks and crannies of Short Films, the debut poetry collection by writer / director / theatremaker / editor, Tate Fountain. Published by We Are Babies Press, this book is playful, earnest, and awash with love.
Fountain’s passion for film, art, and literature is palpable. Individuals such as John Keats, Hilma af Klint, Georges Seurat, Shakespeare, you, and me, are all mentioned. In this interconnected world we exist in, these references speak to shared experiences and emotions. They bring forth a lens to reflect on the self, as Fountain writes in ‘COLOUR THEORY (SECONDARY),’ “you are in a hall of funhouse mirrors.” While this book is full of people and connection, it is also full of puns, codes, revisions, erasures, brackets, and blackouts. A skilled writer, Fountain’s language remains evocative, intelligent, and intimate throughout.
I haven’t read a collection quite like Short Films. Some poems read like film scripts, others as letters, revised notes, or vignettes. It will have you switching between portrait and landscape to devour each poem. At the back of the book, you’ll find the ‘Special Features’ section with the director’s commentary, a HEX index and the credits. A witty and helpful sliver of the book. This section is an invaluable feature to further one’s understanding of the poems if you are not well-versed with the references to classical literature, film, art history, or if you’re just not quite sure if FF7722 is the HEX code for Pomelo Pulp or if it’s Oregon Salmon (hint, it’s the latter). Otherwise, a quick google can fill in any missing gaps but it’s not nearly as fun.
Colour is an integral motif. There are three ‘COLOUR THEORY’ poems: ‘(PRIMARY),’ ‘(SECONDARY),’ ‘(TERTIARY) / REPRISE,’ respectively. Fountain uses colour to guide the reader from stanza to stanza, hopping through different HEX codes, sometimes clustered, to preface her poetry.
B43757, B80F0A, C10A36
Springtime crimson lines my great-grandparents’ driveway
we sell the house; we leave the coastsomeone, somewhere, does floral baking / hibiscuits
The colours hibiscus, crimson, and shiraz evoke the deep cuts of this excerpt; the prickle of pain contrasted with the punny, “hibiscuits”. With these codes come the imagery, meaning, and emotion each colour lends. Outside of these three ‘COLOUR THEORY’ poems, colour is dispersed throughout the collection, offering the lush creation of imagery Fountain excels at.
—and the light inside feels hollow, a buttery, synthetic orange
The poem ‘SHOT FROM A QUIET GALLERY’ is loudly one of my favourites. In my opinion, it is a culmination of Fountain’s talents. Her playfulness with form; how she uses words to paint a picture, to capture a moment, all on a single page. She uses a square border in the centre of the page to contain the lines describing the painting in this gallery. An excerpt:
large fibrous sheet pulled tautish
and freckled then by dye:
by a soft blush by a jawline
lashes glinting copper-bright
The other sentences are positioned around this bordered painting. For example, above sits the sentence, “rain ringing xylophonic through the grouting just outside.” Every sentence describes both the area of the gallery, what is occurring there at the time, and different perspectives of gallery attendees are offered. There is so much heart packed into this short, sweet poem observing a quiet moment.
Short Films offers a read that keeps on giving. Each time I come back to this book I gather more flowers for my bouquet. I piece together more meaning, or completely reimagine it, I read between (and outside) the lines / codes / references / blackouts / brackets, I fall in and out of love and back in again. In short, I recommend adding this book to your collection. Leave it on your bedside table next to some $9.99 flowers and thumb through it at your leisure. Take it on a picnic with your loved ones and read it aloud to them. Allocate this book to be the one peeking out of your We Are Babies tote bag. Take it out when you’re at the beach when your toes have just submerged in the sand. Buy it for your Secret Santa. My advice: read it while basking in the sweet orange glow of the approaching summer.
Featured image courtesy of Tate Fountain and We Are Babies.