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Cellulose nitrate was introduced in 1889, and used until the 1950s as the – frighteningly flammable – basis of film stock. Simon Perril’s new book of poems is a meditation upon the birth of the moving picture, the allure of the film still, the aesthetics of the early horror film, and the contemporary ‘intermission’ that moors us out of time. Its touchstones are the chronophotographs of E.J. Marey and the cinematic ‘essays’ of film-maker Chris Marker. Marey’s experiments in understanding motion inadvertently contributed to the origins of film, but also, more darkly, to the industrial management of work and time. In a book of three markedly different sections, Perril explores these connections in poems as luminous and flammable as the films to which they pay homage.
‘The booming Odeons are converted, the vast screens allowed to sit in the palm of the reader’s hand so we can finally see or feel through Perril’s words the luminous gnosis of the space between the frames. The light haloes around all the actions and narratives where the syntax of cinema lives, bright as salt and twice as sharp.’ —Brian Catling
‘Simon Perril listens to what movement is: syllable to rhyme, image to ear, caesura to dream. In Nitrate the paradox of earliest cinema, that death and the representation of motion share a material history, becomes, with Perril's intelligent craft, a contingent prosody that brings the gratefully suspended reader not to the object but to its light, not to knowing but to hazardous magnetism. These poems, in the tradition of critical utopianism, where time itself is the plastic resource, locate themselves "upstream" where "the source of the now / awaits glad invention", and in this way exhilaratingly overleap the dystopian conflict between reality and value.’ —Lisa Robertson
‘Though the dead can still wave to us in films, the stress of keeping it so proves too much for nitrate film stock – it remembers it’s an organ like any other and rots or burns, as they do. Simon Perril’s Nitrate traces the path from moment to movement, from still to still, through the dark, silent gap imposed by the shutter of E.J. Marey’s chronophotographic gun – the gun’s name is death but its work is reanimation.’ —Peter Manson