Everything But the Sky: poems by David Tomaloff and Meg Tuite

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If I post a lot of films by Marc Neys A.K.A. Swoon (while still failing to quite keep up with his output), it’s because he’s continually trying new things and not falling into a groove. This is an especially good example of that, blending two poems by two different poets, Meg Tuite and David Tomaloff, into a new whole, and taking its title from an unpublished chapbook they’ve co-authored, Everything But the Sky. It appeared at Gnarled Oak on April 10, along with some explanatory text:

Poem “No Code” & voice by David Tomaloff
Poem “I am walking beside me” by Meg Tuite

Essentially, EVERYTHING BUT THE SKY explores the way that dream logic and interpretation often work in context to ordinary events taking place within our daily lives. Think of it as reverse dream interpretation–each of David Tomaloff’s poems is a dream poem whose images might have been the manifestation of the thoughts, emotions, and events that each of Meg Tuite’s flash pieces describe before it. In this way, each pair of poems is a complete set, and, likely, one could begin to see a greater narrative as one begins joining these sets. –David Tomaloff

I created a soundtrack around David’s own narration of his poem and presented that scape with a (horizontal split screen) film composition with Meg’s poem appearing as text on screen. –Swoon

Having one text appear on-screen while another is delivered via voiceover is an interesting and I think effective way to translate a collaborative poetry project into film. There are some additional process notes on Swoon’s blog, as well as the text of both poems.

Los Nadies (The Nobodies) by Eduardo Galeano

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Spanish director and designer Carlos Salgado made this film for the NGO Africa Directo, evidence of the nearly universal appeal of Eduardo Galeano‘s writing. (Judging at least from my Facebook feed, Galeano’s death on April 13 occasioned much more widespread mourning than the death the same day of the Nobel prizewinner Günter Grass.) “Los Nadies” appears in Galeano’s 1989 collection El libro de los abrazos, translated by Cedric Belfrage and Mark Schafer as The Book of Embraces and described by Library Journal as a “literary scrapbook, mixing memoir, documentary, essay, and prose poem, [which] defies clear-cut genre classification.”

Salgado notes, “The project came through the agency Sra Rushmore to USER T38, which was where we did the animation and post production.” The credits given in the Vimeo description include 2D Animation: Raúl Echegaray and Alberto Sánchez; Additional 2D Animators: Rubén Fernández and Raúl Monge; 3D Artist: Alex Baqué; Compositing: Ezequiel Bluvstein, Eloy Gazol and Roi Prada; Sound: Sonomedia; and Music: José Battaglio.

This take on the poem by German animator Laura Saenger was much more simply produced (“Animation in After Effects, Music editing in Logic Pro”) but is equally beautiful and imaginative, I think.

Árbol de Diana (Diana’s Tree) by Alejandra Pizarnik: three poems

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Piedras Verdes en la Casa de la Noche and Green Stones in the House of Night are Spanish and English versions of the same poetry film by Spanish director Eduardo Yagüe, which includes and responds to three poems from Alejandra Pizarnik‘s brief but epoch-making collection Árbol de Diana (Diana’s Tree). I’ve just been reading and re-reading the marvelous new translation by Yvette Siegert, which was longlisted for the 2015 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. I went back and watched this film with fresh appreciation, having read the verses Yagüe includes in their original context (where they are nos. 6, 8, and 20, with a line from no. 35 supplying the title). The translations by Luis Yagüe in Green Stones in the House of Night are serviceable enough, but if you’re not fluent in Spanish, do get Siegert’s translation to experience the whole collection in its full, luminous intensity.

No volverás / You won’t come back by Alfonsina Storni

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Spanish filmmaker Hernán Talavera‘s interpretation of a text by the great 20th-century Argentinian poet Alfonsina Storni. The description for the English version reads:

“You won’t come back” starts from a poem of Alfonsina Storni, of [her] book “Poems of love” written in 1926 immediately after an unhappy love affair. In the beginning of the book, the poet warns: “These poems are simple phrases of love states written in a few days, some time ago. This small work is neither a literary work nor claims it”. After “Poems of love”, Storni kept silence during nine years.

And here’s the same description in Spanish, from Talavera’s website:

No volverás parte del poema LXVII de Alfonsina Storni extraído de su libro Poemas de amor, escrito en 1926 a raíz de una decepción amorosa. Al inicio del libro, la poeta advierte: “Estos poemas son simples frases de estados de amor escritos en pocos días hace ya algún tiempo. No es pues tan pequeño volumen obra literaria ni lo pretende”. Después de Poemas de amor, Storni estaría nueve años en silencio.

Solar Therapy by Michele S. Cornelius

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This nearly perfect video remix of a poem by Michele S. Cornelius comes to us from Marie Craven, who writes,

Just a few days ago I read a lovely poem called ‘Solar Therapy’ by Alaska-based artist and writer, Michele S. Cornelius and published in the multi-media literary journal, Gnarled Oak. As it happened, I already had images and music on hand, edited together and waiting for a poem that would mix well with them. I recognised the potential in Michele’s piece straight away and completed this video in the 24 hours following the poem’s first public appearance. The music is by Western Australian ensemble, Masonik, whose soundscapes I’ve appreciated over a number of years. This track is called ‘Bending Light For The Magi‘. I sourced it at the Pool group on Facebook, where it was posted on offer for remix. The images are from the royalty-free stock footage site, VideoBlocks. With a minimal piece like this the small details become magnified. I spent a surprising amount of time on minutiae in the editing, especially deciding how to present the phrases of the poem on the screen and where and when the text should best be placed. In the end, as is often the case, simple seemed best.

Click through to read Marie’s process notes on three of her other recent videopoems, as well.

Karawane by Hugo Ball (2)

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When is a sound poem a found poem? When it’s Marie Osmond Explains Dadaism with Auto-Subtitles, one of the latest uploads by UK videopoet Ross Sutherland as past of his 30 Videos/30 Poems project for the Poetry School. He’s been doing some really interesting stuff with remix, swapping in his own voice-overs for existing videos, but in this case all he’s done is share the results of turning on the auto-subtitling function for a YouTube video of Marie Osmund explaining Dada and reciting Hugo Ball‘s “Karawane.” The software’s “misreadings” are at times wonderfully apropos. And then there’s Marie, in her yellow bathrobe and 80s hair… I don’t think I’ve gotten this much joy from a web video since Cat Wearing A Shark Costume Cleans The Kitchen On A Roomba.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, why in the heck was Marie Osmond holding forth on Dada and and sound poetry? It turns out she was a regular host of the TV show Ripley’s Believe It or Not! in its 2nd series, which ran from 1982-86 on the American ABC Network. The TV show derived from a long-running syndicated feature in American newspapers—kind of the original “news of the weird.” According to the Wikipedia article,

Character actor Jack Palance hosted the popular series throughout its run, while three different co-hosts appeared from season to season, including Palance’s daughter, Holly Palance, actress Catherine Shirriff, and singer Marie Osmond. The 1980s series reran on the Sci-fi Channel (UK) and Sci-fi Channel (US) during the 1990s.

Six of the segments hosted by Osmond have been uploaded to YouTube, including another one about a poet, Renée Vivien. I’m not sure who the director was for this particular show (which apparently aired on 29 September 1985), but it didn’t go unnoticed. According to a post at Dangerous Minds,

In 1993, Rough Trade records put out Lipstick Traces, a “soundtrack” to the book by Greil Marcus. It’s one of my favorite CDs of all time, with tracks by The Slits, Essential Logic, The Raincoats, The Mekons, Buzzcocks, The Gang of Four, Jonathan Richmond and the Modern Lovers, Situationist philosopher Guy Debord and others. It’s an amazing collection, but one track in particular stands out from the rest, a recitation by none other than Marie Osmond, of Dada poet Hugo Ball’s nonsensical gibberish piece from 1916, “Karawane.”

The post goes on to quote the liner notes from Lipstick Traces:

As host of a special (Ripley’s Believe It or Not) show on sound poetry, Osmond was asked by the producer to recite only the first line of Ball’s work; incensed at being thought too dumb for art, she memorized the lot and delivered it whole in a rare “glimpse of freedom.”

In a YouTube comment on a different upload of the segment, art-video maker Ethan Bates does throw a bit of cold water on Marie’s performance:

Great upload and interesting video, but Ripley didn’t appear to get their dada facts quite right…
‘Karawane’ was performed and written by Hugo Ball, and was also performed in 1916 at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich as the video says. But his costume for that show was a kind of ‘Cubist’ tube-esque costume made from different coloured sheets. It can be easily found in images online.
The ’13’ costume discussed in the video was worn by Theo Van Doesburg, not Hugo Ball, in 1922 when he performed ‘Does At Mid-Lent’ at the Bauhaus.

This info is from the book ‘Dada’ edited by Rudolf Kuenzli. As a product of its time, though, this clip is fascinating.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that this is not quite the strangest video of “Karawane” on the web. That honor belongs to Lucas Battich’s binary code translation. Still, kudos to Ross Sutherland for recognizing the re-Dadaifying potential of YouTube auto-subtitling.

Sonnet on Time by John Poch

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A poem from John Poch‘s new book Fix Quiet, winner of the 2014 New Criterion Poetry Prize, turned into a film by Alex Henery. The Vimeo description notes that it was “Shot in Lubbock Texas over the Thanksgiving weekend.”

This is the second Poch-Henery videopoem I’ve posted (Shrike was the the first). I reached out to Poch by email for more information about their working relationship. He told me that Henery is his nephew, and that he makes rock videos for Run for Cover Records, as well as playing in the UK-based melodic hardcore band Basement. (The guitar music in the soundtrack is his work, played on the $30 toy guitar shown in the video.) I asked to what extent they collaborated on the video, and Poch replied,

We definitely worked together a lot on this, and I made a lot of suggestions for changes toward this final project. I took him around in my red truck to a lot of the scenic sites in Lubbock, and he just shot the footage. And some around our house of my girls. Nevertheless, but for the poem, it’s all his work.

It’s kind of cool that even though the poet is not foregrounded in the way he might be in a spoken-word-style poetry video, he still appears in profile, unidentified, as the driver of the truck. Also, given the general influence of music videos on contemporary videopoetry, it’s fascinating to see what someone who makes rock videos for a living does with a poem. The relationship between the text and the accompanying shots is as elliptical and allusive as it gets, even as the shots themselves are sharply focused and charismatic. As with the work of such filmmakers as R.W. Perkins or Marie Craven, the populist/accessible and the experimental happily co-exist.

I see that in a tweet from 5 April, Poch mentions “a huge video project with TTU grads” in the works for next year, so it sounds as if we can expect much more from him. As he says in a follow-up tweet: “Video poems are probably a huge part of the future of poetry.”

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