Among Barmaids is a film by Idil Sukan for Paula Bohince’s second placed poem in the National Poetry Competition 2013, commissioned by Filmpoem and Felix Poetry Festival in association with the Poetry Society.

From the National Poetry Competition judges: 'There was a metal door that took both hands/ of a strong man to open’ – so begins this taut, impressive poem, going on to say that the barmaids did this daily, then ruled benignly the enclosed world ‘sealed in submarine darkness’ behind the door. With remarkable economy, the poem manages to construct an extremely detailed picture of the rituals of the bar-room, the lives of the barmaids - whose tattooed skin bears the history of ex-lovers and drugged-out children – and the lives of the drinkers ‘who wore their trade on their fingers – coal or dirt or grease’, and who played songs on the jukebox about cheating women. The voice of the poem speaks in the first person plural, like a Greek chorus. Perhaps this is what lends the poem its power – the directness of the choral tone, the precision of the detail, the staccato delivery. The choral voice delivers an incantation of great warmth in a cold place. This is brought home in the final image of the children brought to the bar by the men, when their wives needed peace, to be spun on a make-believe dance-floor by the ministering barmaids, trying to turn ‘despair into a party’. {Matthew Sweeney}

Idil Sukan's website is idilsukan.com

Please do consider taking the time to watch the other films in this series at filmpoem.com and poetrysociety.org.uk

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