Review of 'Poetry + Film / Hack - Spirited Away'

I can't say I am a huge fan of poetry but I can say I am a huge fan of Japanese Animation and, in particular, the films of “Hayao Miyazaki”. This virtual event from the London Barbican Centre attempted to take in both elements beginning with a watch of the film followed by several poets providing their artistic interpretation of some aspects of it.

On the day of the performance all attendees (it was a full house with about 100 people total) were sent a link to a “Zoom” call to use for the performance. Joining we were given a count down clock to begin watching the film on Netflix (a detail hidden at the bottom of the event description) so we were all taking it in at the same time. After the film we had a bit of a break before the poetry readings got underway at 9:30 pm with each of the poets taken in turn to perform live. The event was hosted by touring poet “Inua Ellams” with performers introduced by fellow poet “Michelle Tiwo” (whose audio was slightly faint during the call making it a bit hard to hear what she had to say). Both provided some much-needed questions to the performers as well as giving the audience an understanding of who the people were.

Zaffar Kunial

Raheela Sulemaan

Amy Key

Andy Craven-Griffiths

Belinda Zhawi

The only major technical issues were with Amy's video and audio but after she turned off her video her performance came through loud and clear.

For the most part the poets picked up on different scenes from the film rather than more general themes. This included the view of the water from the bathhouse and the transition from reality through the tunnel into the world of the spirits. The poems were quite short and very evocative with massive amounts of detail and wordplay that I have to admit I had a hard time following. I found that both Andy Craven-Griffiths and Belinda Zhawi chose to keep the words a bit simpler so I found it much easier to follow, particularly Andy whose voice was extremely pleasant to listen to with an easy cadence that closely matched his words.

All in all, an interesting event that provided a glimpse of some of the ideas evoked by “Spirited Away” but, perhaps, never really had me fully engaged, perhaps due in part to the shortness of the performances. I was also slightly disappointed with the lack of the poets to pick up on some of the more obvious themes from the film involving greed and, well, mysticism which would seem to me to be fertile ground for a poet. All of this would not deter me from giving such an event a try again in the future…

Rating: “It is OK but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2020-09-17

Barbican Centre

Location: London (England)

Address: Silk St, London EC2Y 8DS, UK

Public Transport: TUBE Barbican TUBE Moorgate NRLOGO Moorgate

Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7638 8891


The Barbican Centre is in the middle of the brutalist Barbican housing complex. The centre is a mixed-use arts venue with theatres, cinemas (in the basement), galleries and library as well as dining facility (both cafe, buffet and fine). The facilities are quite good and there is always something going on.

Regardless of how you get here you will probably end up walking through the Barbican so watch for the signs directing you to the Barbican Centre itself as the complex is quite large.