“What does it mean to die in a movie scene? To exist on the peripheries? James Trevelyan takes twelve cult action films of the 1980s and 90s and gives life where it was extinguished too early.” The Emma Press £5
It’s difficult to not love these poems just because of the subject matter, irrelevant of the quality. I mean, my husband and I talk to each in Aliens quotes (for example, this is how I wake the kids up…drives them mad) and we know and love all the movies in this pamphlet, so I was enthusiastic before I even read it.
Luckily my enthusiasm was not misplaced, they are excellent poems that demonstrate attention to detail, humour and an exhilarating look at the minor characters in these films. Doing this allows Trevelyan to examine cinematic tropes and offer different perspectives on these big, action filled films (populated by larger than life personalities like Cruise, Gibson, Schwarzenegger).
In the opening poem, Lloyd, the character states, ‘They gave me a name/and does that not give me life?’ and he goes on to list characters that were known by their clothes or job, highlighting his significance. Lloyd is not just a redshirt, he was important enough to name and was allowed to live by the Terminator who took his sunglasses. This poem makes you consider the single-line characters, and the ones who stand in the back ground as nameless extras.
The poems bounce from one form to another, the form echoing how the characters are slipping from one voice to a distinctive other. The poet gives them personality, brings them to life on the page in a way they never had the chance in the movie.
I could discuss each poem but I will leave it for the reader to discover when they get this slim but packed pamphlet, and just talk about my favourite: Timmy.
There are twelve poems but it has the weight of all that back story behind each one. The illustrations really enrich the different characters as well. I do think you will enjoy this collection more if you know the movies, it just brings out the inner fan enthusiasm.
In Timmy, a character from Aliens, Trevelyan uses a fragmented poem form, with long lines that use the landscape space on the page. The white space and lack of punctuation makes the poem feel distant, like the far reaches of space perhaps! Sorry, I can’t help bringing in the movie lingo as I think about the poems.
The trope of an innocent child dying is used to emphaise the horror of the aliens in the movie. The battle to save the sister of the murdered brother is the main action of the plot. The brother died off-screen and never developed much character; his job was to be young, innocent and die. In the poem, Timmy has a dark edge to his voice, appropriate for his ending, and the imagery plays with his sister’s nickname, Newt. He talks about her ‘bugeyes and cold blood’ placing her as one with the alien invaders. The brutal image of a newt leg being torn off and regrown echoes the grotesque ability of the Alien species to stay alive and regrow inside human hosts. Timmy says, ‘i bet you dont remember a star that warms you up,’ reminding the reader of the remoteness of the colonists, how they have left civilization far behind and have been rewarded with the most horrific death. Although this is an imagined world, it highlights how powerless children are when parents decide to move to a new world, a new country (especially ones desperate to risk a hostile environment to make a new life for the family).
Trevelyan brings sibling jealousy, as insidious as the alien reproduction, into the narrative. It unsettles the reader and is an entirely human characteristic, once again highlighting this minor character’s humanity in contrast with the alien predator that kills him.
I’ll leave you with this scene, Ripley going to save Newt, Timmy’s sister. It’s the most kick-ass mother power scene ever!
And buy the pamphlet, it’s really entertaining and well-crafted.