“Bermudian Poet. I am he. Bermudian Poet. I am we.” This is the opening declaration of Stephan Johnstone and Marq Rodriguez’s newest endeavour – Bermudian Poet.
The project premiered at the Bermuda Society of the Arts (BSoA) on February 10th, and will be on display until March 7th. Poet Stephan Johnstone (Founder, Creative Director, and Accounts Manager at SJD World) is continually cementing himself as the carrier of the torch when it comes to Bermudian culture in his work.
Bermudian Poet is a short film collaboration between himself and Marq Rodriguez (Director, Cinematographer, and Editor), which was sponsored by the Bermuda Arts Council. Seven months in the making, the project features narrated words from Stephan’s original poem, Bermudian Poet, which merge seamlessly with Marq’s visuals, cameos by featured Bermudian poets, and images of cultural landmarks, on our lovely island home. Although the project was delayed for a variety of reasons, both artists wanted to make sure, “it was right.”
It can be challenging for one artist to trust their work to another. Not every cover, or interpretation, encapsulates the original artist’s meaning or intention. However, these gents seem to share a symbiotic mind, trusting each other with both the vital, minute details, and the overall project as a whole.
If you were to enter the Somers Building on Front Street, and make your way up the stairs to SJD World, you would find yourself immersed in a sea of creative minds. They used to say Bermuda is another world, but this space – like Narnia – feels like a magical place hidden within Bermuda. The colours, the ideas, the energy that flows around the room while talking to Marq and Stephan, is intoxicating. I find myself with no desire to leave. I can see why SJD World has been so successful in their 20 years of business, winning awards as one of Bermuda’s top Graphic Design Studios.
So, what birthed this project? Well, according to these gentlemen, it was a project borne of love and respect, slowly built up over time – a vivid, visual, list of poems.
“Stephan and I had a history from Chewstick and Brave New Voices,” explains Marq. “I was drawn to Bermudian Poet, and I wanted to put my own visual spin on it.”
Stephan, who released 3 poetry albums during a time when he was living between Bermuda and Toronto, proudly acknowledges his spoken word, and performance, roots; coming home to perform at Chewstick during the Champions Night Club days.
“When I came back home to Bermuda, Chewstick was the only place where I could share my work with like-minded people. I have had some amazing experiences performing at Chewstick and with the Chewstick crew; that will forever be part of who I am today.”
So, how does he feel when re-recording Bermudian Poet for the film? “It’s been interesting and challenging,” Stephan laughs, “This piece is originally fast, strong, and aggressive, but Marq wanted me to slow it down! I’m used to doing it with a certain cadence and speed so Marq had to coach me to fit his vision for the film.”
Marq says that Stephan is his mentor, so, for this project, the “script was flipped!”
They both feel honoured to have reconnected with a lot of people through this project and say that being able to get so may Bermudian voices involved is, “exceptional – it means more than words.”
Stephan says that the final result is exactly what he wanted – built in a new light. When I ask him what he wants people to get from it, he reflects, and asserts: “Bermudian poets are here! Be proud of us.”
Marq shares his desires for the project to be viewed as a snapshot in time, especially for youth. “We as a people, we’re all connected. Editing involves ‘stitching visions’ … I hope it comes across that we’re all [in this] together.”
The stunning visuals in the film include family members, cricket players, icons who are culturally associated with Bermuda’s poetry scene, Bermuda’s history, and more. “We want it to represent the present, and future.” Stephan explains.
You’ll also note that the creators pay homage to Bermudian words throughout the piece. Stephan’s whole vibe seems rooted in Bermuda, which is evident in the fact that he is an active board member of the BSoA, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Bermuda – and he has served on the Smith’s Parish Council for a number of years. It’s eminently easy to see that community is important to him.
Meanwhile, Marq’s talents have enabled him to produce storytelling projects for everyone from individual artists to high-profile organizations. His “highly specialized style of capturing movement,” – according to his website – makes him the perfect collaborator for this project (and many others, I’m sure).
Seeing that the creators want this project to be a time capsule, chronicling the people and history of Bermuda, and not just a music video, it’s no wonder that the film features some of Bermuda’s prominent spoken word artists, such as: Vejay Steede, Ras Mykkal, Joy T. Barnum, Live Wires, Mike Hind, and more. If you’re in the loop, you know who these amazing people are. If you’re not in the loop, you’re missing the pulse of Bermuda. With audio engineer KASE on the docket, this piece of work will undoubtedly come to define a special moment in Bermuda’s history.
These aren’t the kind of people who keep still – there’s always something in the works. Upcoming projects for Stephan, and SJD World, include a Graphic Design Showcase in partnership with the BSoA, Bermuda Blue Printing, and Cosmic, a possible collaboration album with Joy T. Barnum, and a few other collaborations are also on the way.
Both Stephan and Marq urged me to share how grateful they are for the opportunities given to them. They send a big THANK YOU to the Bermuda Arts Council, and all who have supported them, took time to participate, and those who spread the word.
One last word for Bermudian Poet – Bravo!