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Charles Olsen

Artist, Poet & Filmmaker | APFF Jury 2023

Charles' Story

Son of an Anglican priest and an opera singer, Charles moved from Wellington to England in 1981. After graduating in 1994 with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art at Middlesex University, London, and exhibiting widely, he travelled to Spain in 2003 because of his interest in the Spanish painters Velasquez and Goya, and to study flamenco guitar. He combined flamenco and art in his first short film The dance of the brushes which was awarded second prize in the I Festival Flamenco de Cortometrajes, 2010. Together with Colombian poet Lilián Pallares, the flamenco pianist Pablo Rubén Maldonado and flamenco dancer Selene Muñoz, he created the performance Agita Flamenco which was presented in the New Zealand pavilion of the Venice Biennale in 2011 and the Sala Manuel de Falla of the SGAE, Madrid, 2012. In Madrid he began participating in poetry readings and this led to the publication of three poetry collections, Sr Citizen (2011, with a foreword by New Zealand poet Pat White), Antípodas (2016) and La rebeldía del sol (Rebellious Sun, 2022). His writings and translations have appeared in Landfall, Poetry NZ Yearbook, Cordite Poetry Review, Blackmail Press, Neke, El País and Trasdemar. He set up the poetry competition in Spanish Palabras Prestadas in 2011 and has run Given Words for National Poetry Day
since 2016. His award-winning poetry films have been included in international festivals and featured in the online magazines Moving Poems, Poetry Film Live, and Atticus Review. He has contributed to the book The Poetics of Poetry Film (Intellect Books, 2021), an essay he wrote on the videopoetry of Colombia was published in The London Magazine and in Spanish in WMagazín, 2022, and his article on poetry film in Aotearoa How to Film a
Poem was published on Readingroom in 2023. Normally behind the camera Charles had his first acting role in a film written and directed by the Spanish director Jesús Pulpón, filmed in Munich in 2022. With Lilián Pallares he has facilitated writing and filmmaking workshops for children through to residents of Llar d'Avis Geriatric Residency in Barcelona. In 2020/21 they received an Artists’ Residency at the Centre for Artists’ Residencies Matadero Madrid on the theme of ‘Childhood, Play and Public Space’, during which they carried out a number of workshops for children and adults and created the award-winning te reo Māori poetry film Noho Mai. In 2023 they ran a poetry film workshop with the ONCE Foundation as part of their Biennale of Contemporary Art on the theme of Woman and Disability, producing the piece A-Dentro (In-Side). In 2022/23 they received the Our Little Roses Poetry Fellowship to give creative poetry classes at an orphanage for girls in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, during which they made silencio gris (Grey Silence, selected for the ZEBRINO Award for the Best Poetry Film for Children and Youth, ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival, Berlin, 2023).


(2023) Silencio gris / Grey Silence, poet: Gissel Orellana
(2023) A-Dentro / In-Side, poet: Dayana Jiménez
(2022) Mom Asks Me to Write Her a Poem About the Sky, poet: Christine Jones
(2021) La exposición / The Exhibition, poet: Charles Olsen
(2021) The Calm Sea, poet: Mia Gill

(2020) Noho Mai, poet: Peta-Maria Tunui, directors: Peta-Maria Tunui, Waitahi Aniwaniwa
McGee, Shania Bailey-Edmonds, Jesse-Ana Harris Lilián Pallares, and Charles Olsen
(2020) Llanto Congelado / Frozen Cry, poet: Lilián Pallares
(2020) Ice on the Water, lyrics/song: Mykl O, Dempsey
(2020) Urban Landscape/Paisaje Urbano, poet: Charles Olsen
(2019) Catarsis / Catharsis, poet: Lilián Pallares
(2019) Vértigo / Vertigo, poet: Charles Olsen
(2019) Viento Soplao / Whispering Wind, poet: Lilián Pallares
(2017) Cuerpos de Agua / Water Bodies, poet: Lilián Pallares
(2017) Lucas, poet: Charles Olsen
(2017) Mañana de Pesca / Morning’s Fishing, poet: Charles Olsen
(2015) La Tarde / The Afternoon, poet: Charles Olsen
(2015) Alba / Dawn, poet: Lilián Pallares
(2014) Pequeña Muerte / A Little Death, poet: Lilián Pallares
(2014) Libro de Huellas / Book of Traces, poet: Ángel Guinda
(2014) Y Sonó la Alarma / And the Alarm Rang , poet: Lilián Pallares
(2013) Memoria de un Hijo Surgido , poet: Juan Guillermo Monsalve Vergara
(2012) Besos Rotos / Broken Kisses, poet: Lilián Pallares
(2011) Kimono Rojo / Red Kimono, poet: Charles Olsen
(2010) En Silencio / In Silence, poet: Charles Olsen

About Charles

Why you are interested in judging the film festival?

I run the Given Words competition for National Poetry Day and have received over a thousand poems over the last eight years, and I was a judge of the ekphrastic poetry film competition Frame to Frames: Your Eyes Follow in 2022. I love discovering wonderful poems and poetry films, delving into them and seeing what they reveal. Then comes the fascinating process of comparing notes with the other judges.

Your favourite poetry film of all time?

I’m not one for favourites. There are so many ways of approaching poetry film and I love exploring what people are doing around the world. The first ever presentation of poetry film I saw in Madrid by the directors of the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival included the piece Nach grauen Tagen (After Grey Days) directed by Ralf Schmerberg with a poem by Ingeborg Bachmann. It is exasperating and moving at the same time and I love the unexpected way the poem is placed in the film.

Your current favourite poetry film or anything you are currently working on:

For me the collaborative te reo Māori poetry film Noho Mai was a very special piece to work on. I had been wanting to do something with the Māori community for a while and with the poet and performer Peta-Maria Tunui we were in the process of setting up a workshop when the pandemic came along. We found a way to make it happen online during the first lockdown and both Peta-Maria’s poem and the film we made together ended up flying around the world to festivals and online. Being in Spain at the antipodes of Aotearoa it was a beautiful way to feel a connection with home - Article and film on Love in the Time of Covid. And talking of home, I am currently developing a piece using images I filmed in my partner Lilián Pallares’ home in Barranquilla, Colombia, which will be combined with one of her poems, La cama de mamá (Mother’s Bed).

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