Extermination by Donna Vorreyer

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This should be played in HD on the largest screen available.

Rarely a week goes by when I don’t post another video by the Belgian filmmaker Swoon, A.K.A. Marc Neys, but even still I barely keep up with all he’s doing. What’s even more surprising is that despite his great rate of production his poetry films continue to feel fresh, and he doesn’t cut corners in their production, sitting on each project for at least a couple of weeks before releasing it. This film is a case in point. It was already almost in the can (Do filmmakers still say that?) when I visited him back in early July, but he continued to sit with it for another month before releasing it. And he’s taking plenty of risks here. This represents, I think, his most ambitious attempt yet to develop text-on-screen as a compelling alternative to the tried-and-true voiceover approach.

Marc blogged his process notes. Some snippets:

Another episode in my explorations in combining film compositions with text on screen (see my other efforts)
This time it was a poem by Donna Vorreyer I used.
It’s not the first time I work with Donna’s words. She’s a fantastic poet with a very inspiring choice of words. Her work is perfect for these kind of works.

I picked out ‘Extermination’ from her collection ‘a house of many windows’, Sundress Publications, 2013.


Once I was sure this was going to be the poem I started searching for, filming and selecting suitable visuals. When I had about 10 minutes of material I created a soundscape with the visuals and the poem in mind:


Then came the puzzling part. Matching lines from the poem with the right footage, trying out different fonts ans sizes, placement of words… It’s a completely different way of editing.
You’re not only editing film, you’re carefully trying to blend sound, image and text in one cut. It feels more like composing.  It makes me rethink the way I worked (and still work) with audible videopoems.

Click through for the text of the poem and the audio file from SoundCloud. Donna Vorreyer may be found at her website, or more often at her blog.

The First Hour of Being Buried Alive in the Walls of a Half-Built Cathedral by Nicelle Davis

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Like Betsy Newman’s video for Ed Madden’s “Red Star”, or film interpretations of Jade Anouka’s poems by Mickael Dickes and Sabrina Grant, this collaborative effort from filmmaker Anita Clearfield and poet Nicelle Davis shows how to include the poet as an actor while still keeping the main focus on the poem. I was alerted to its existence by a post at Davis’ blog, The Bee’s Knees: “Collaboration: The Walled Wife.”

The Walled Wife is a project that has haunted me for the past six years; it is my retelling of a story about a woman who is buried alive in hopes that her soul will hold up the walls of a church. “The Ballad of the Walled-Up Wife” is a folk song at least 1,000 years old; it is one of the most famous in the world, according to folklorist Alan Dundes. In an interview Dundes explains, “the song has inspired more than 700 versions — mainly throughout eastern Europe and India — as well as countless essays by scholars.”

Countless, he says.

Countless, I questioned, and so began exploring the many cases of women being buried alive. I compared variations of a song sung across the globe. The lyrics go: a wife is buried so a structure can rise—it implies a room is worth more than a woman, and as a place she approximates value.

I started to wonder if the architecture of intimacy is dependent on violence—if art is the ultimate form of violence—if women, especially in the role of wife, are worth anything (or nothing) at all? Countless being the inverse of priceless, it would seem that this ballad proves that we are not worth much at all. It shows that the easiest thing in the world to replace is a wife—it says a woman is a thing.

Read the rest to learn how Davis attempted over the years to re-create the experience of being walled up or buried alive, what she learned from it, and how she came to collaborate with Clearfield and composer Silke Matzpohl. The post also includes the text of the poem, which first appeared in Manor House Quarterly.

The Gun by Vicki Feaver

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A terrific poem and film that should appeal to gun-toting meat-eaters and vegan gun-control advocates alike. (And what else but art or poetry could bridge such a chasm?) Director Alastair Cook writes,

I have admired Vicki Feaver and her words for some time. I recorded this in 2011 and kept it safe, finally entrusting the sound to Luca Nasciuti and the cinematography to James William Norton, our core Filmpoem team. I’ve worked with Vicki on the amazing community arts project in Greenock, Absent Voices and also Empire Cafe, Louise Welsh and Jude Barber’s Commonwealth 2014 project, looking at the unbearable links between slavery and Scotland.

So, the Gun. I may stop now, because (forgive the immodesty) I love this one. Love it. The timbre in Vicki’s voice is dry, broken, words delivered with such a punch. I enjoyed editing this one, it’s why I do this, it was so very difficult to get right, but I do hope you enjoy it. The Gun has now screened at Felix (Antwerp), Poetry International (London) and will screen at ZEBRA (Berlin). [links added]

Red Star by Ed Madden

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Betsy Newman explains how she came to make this film in the YouTube description:

This video was created for the event “Saint Sebastian: From Martyr to Gay Starlet,” which was on display in fall 2011 at Friday Cottage Art Space in Columbia, South Carolina. Those who collaborated on the show, which was part of a series of events leading up to Gay Pride week in Columbia, included visual artists Leslie Pierce and Alejandro Garcia-Lemos, the poet Ed Madden, Florida-based video artist Santiago Echeverry and me, Betsy Newman. The text and inspiration for this video come from South Carolina poet Ed Madden and his poem “Red Star,” which in turn was based on [a] print by Garcia-Lemos that can be seen in the video. I think Ed described the video well when he called it “a feverish meditation on penetration” in his essay on the show in the January-February 2012 issue of The Gay and Lesbian Review.

For more about Madden, visit his page on the University of South Carolina website, and see also his Wikipedia page (which needs a bit of updating, I think).

Dark City by Howie Good

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Marc Neys, AKA Swoon, has turned a quintessential Howie Good poem, dark and surreal, into a noirish film with two narrators, one male and one female. Neys writes:

It’s been a while since I last made a video for a Howie Good poem. When I made  ‘The Killing’ last year I worked with Michael Dickes for voicing the poem. This time I wanted to work with 2 voices, so I asked Michael again and I also knocked on Nic Sebastian‘s virtual door for a reading. Both of them were willing to do a reading. Both delivered a great one.

The poem(s) I picked out for this project come from Howie Good’s book ‘The complete absence of twilight’ (MadHat Press, 2014)


I had this footage (by cinetrove) lying around for months waiting for the right words to come by. A sequence of repeated actions… You see a guy running around, being busy and mysterious but without purpose. Senseless actions, repetition, paranoia… It’s Dark City.

I combined parts of this footage (that I turned blue for a darker feel) with more colourful footage to chafe along the blue footage. I think the combination of the 2 voices and the 2 ‘storylines’ work well together.

Read the rest.

For more about The Complete Absence of Twilight, or to order, see the publisher’s page.

Miss Flora Looks in Her Mirror by Martha McCollough

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A new film from Massachusetts-based videopoet Martha McCollough, one of three she’s placed so far in TriQuarterly. This one appears in their Summer/Fall 2014 issue. Kudos to their editors for changing their policy and allowing their videos to be embedded elsewhere.

McCollough continues to chart an independent course. Her work is like nobody else’s, mesmerizing and disturbing in equal measures — and always gorgeous.

Buttons by Robert Peake

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Husband-and-wife team Robert Peake and Valerie Kampmeier won the children’s prize in Southbank Centre’s inaugural Shot Through the Heart Poetry Film Competition with this film. Peake wrote about the composition process on his writer’s blog:

When Valerie and I read the call-out for a film-poem competition with a children’s category happening here in London, we had to give it a try.

I wrote and recorded the poem, and then began playing with stop-motion animation. I used Christmas ornaments made of teasel, blue tack, coloured paper, a Raspberry Pi with LEGO-mounted camera arm (my own creation, at right), and of course lots of buttons. Valerie wrote and recorded the music at the end.

After more than forty hours of painstaking animation work, it was so gratifying to discover that the judges–a group of London school children–really liked the result.

Peake has also created a free storybook from the poem, available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices.

While it may seem surprising that someone could meet with such success on their first foray into the world of children’s poetry film, Peake appears to have thoroughly immersed himself in the genre, judging from his survey at the Huffington Post, “Combining Film and Poetry Is Child’s Play.”

The film-poem genre is a slim but highly enthusiastic and truly international one. It is largely comprised of serious filmmakers and equally serious musicians and poets. As a result, the sub-genre of film-poems made specifically for children is something of a subset within a subset. Yet this kind of thing has been going on successfully for some time, from cartoons of Dr. Seuss books made in the 1970s to the recent Emmy-Award-winning “A Child’s Garden of Poetry” produced by HBO in cooperation with the US Poetry Foundation. There are also many fine examples from all over the world, in different languages, of filmmakers setting poetry to film with children in mind.

Click through to watch the selection of seven films that Peake also screened at a live event in the Southbank Centre’s festival in mid-July. He includes some real gems.

Last and probably least, I see from Facebook that Robert Peake has just gotten British citizenship, in case anyone is wondering why there are now two nationalities identified with his poems here. Like T.S. Eliot, he has now become a major headache for book catalogers using the Library of Congress system. Fortunately, the same post can appear on multiple virtual shelves on a website, thanks to the wonders of modern content management systems (WordPress, in Moving Poems’ case). At any rate, congratulations to Robert for coming out of the closet as fully bi-national.