[ The Ferrovores ] by Ian Gibbins

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Ian Gibbins‘ work is generally the first I mention when making the case for videopoetry as a genre in which “difficult” poems can become highly entertaining, even gripping. In Ian’s case, this has a lot to do with composing a groovy soundtrack. But his filming, text animation, and editing are all top-notch too. My only complaint here is that I wanted more ostrich.

Anyway, this one’s pretty high-concept, so I’d better reproduce the description on Vimeo:

“this time, this place… beyond open circulation closed reciprocity… closed hydration spheres wrought cast smithed… this is what we are what we eat … ”

Iron is the most common metal on earth. Indeed, it forms much of the molten core of the planet which in turn generates the earth’s magnetic poles. The red soils of the world are due to iron. At a biochemical level, iron is essential for human life, amongst other things, making our blood red. In the societal domain, iron is essential for manufacturing, electricity generation, and much more. Certain bacteria can derive energy for life directly from dissolved iron compounds (“rust”) rather than from oxygen as we do. Perhaps, at some time in the future, we, our descendants, the Ferrovores, may need to do the same.

Filmed mostly in the Southern Flinders Ranges, South Australia, in the midst of a multi-year drought.

A remix (2020) of the original version published in the Atticus Review (July, 2020).

Here’s that older version at Atticus Review. And Ian shared the complete text in a blog post.

The Pier by Pat Boran

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Strange to think we might be safe
in the harbour’s strong embrace
but still unable to embrace our friends,
our arms when we meet stiff
by our sides, a new unease
in our movements, our stillness, in our very breath.

This author-made poetry film, by Irish poet Pat Boran, really hit the spot this morning. Which is surprising, because it contains two things that are usually a red flag for me: sentimental soundtracks with piano and strings, and a number of quite literal matches of shot to text. But these are offset, for me, by Boran’s imaginative variety of shots overall, his deft touch with editing, and the quietly powerful effect of the poem/film (his term) as a whole. And it does feel like an organic whole, as if the poem emerged from or together with the filming. All he says about his process is that it was “shot on East Pier, Howth, Co. Dublin, August 2020.” (He made a blog post for it, but go to YouTube for the text.)

We’ve always had a soft spot for author-made videopoems and poetry films here, and it’s great to see a poet of Boran’s stature take the medium so seriously, and recognize poetry film as its own genre. His current author bio concludes like this:

Since 2015, and the publication of Waveforms: Bull Island Haiku, in which the poems are accompanied by the author’s own black and white photographs, he has been increasingly drawn to the possibilities presented by matching photographs and various other graphic forms with text, not only producing an ongoing series of PoemCards, but more recently exploring short poem-films.

The Actual / Fuck by Inua Ellams

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This animated typography film by Jamie MacDonald is a trailer for Inua Ellams‘ forthcoming collection. In a blog post yesterday, he wrote:

It gives me the greatest pleasure to share with you the trailer for The Actual / Fuck. This poem is made up of all the titles in the collection, essentially a list poem in its own right. It was put together by Jamie MacDonald (who created the trailer for An Evening With An Immigrant) and shows his incredible skills and attention to detail.

Don’t forget, you can pre-order the collection right now from Penned In The Margins.

And from that latter link, here’s the publisher’s description:

The Actual is a symphony of personal and political fury — sometimes probing delicately, sometimes burning with raw energy.

In 55 poems that swerve and crackle with a rare music, Inua Ellams unleashes a full-throated assault on empire and its legacies of racism, injustice and toxic masculinity. Written on the author’s phone, in transit, between meetings, before falling asleep and just after waking, this is poetry as polemic, as an act of resistance, but also as dream-vision. At its heart, this book confronts the absolutism and ‘foolish machismo’ of hero culture-from Perseus to Trump, from Batman to Boko Haram.

Through the thick gauze of history, these breathtaking poems look the world square in the face and ask, “What the actual—?”

Sealed Faithful Halls by Anna Fo

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Confidently crossing an imagined border between experimental film and video poetry, Anna Fo‘s Sealed Faithful Halls is an outstanding instance of both. The poetic text is spoken by the film-maker and readable in subtitles. Before the poem arrives there is a two-minute visual introduction with a freely-shifting musical soundscape by Theofanis Avraam. Both of these wordless elements of the film are brilliant as well.

The film was created during lockdown, one of 50 short films selected for the 50 Shorts VS Covid-19 project of the Cyprus Ministry of Education and Culture.

I, Sheep by Jack Thacker

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The Museum of English Rural Life in Reading has a legendary, frequently hilarious Twitter account, so like many of their followers, I guess I was expecting something a bit Monty Pythonesque when they first announced the upcoming YouTube premiere of a filmpoem called I, Sheep, “the profound story of a single ewe and her links to the lives of a farm and farming family.” It turned out however to be a deeply serious, moving, and brilliantly conceived film, influenced by Susannah Ramsay’s conception of the filmpoem as “a poetic composition that interweaves experimental film practices with film-phenomenological concepts and creative self-expression.” Poet Jack Thacker worked closely with the filmmakers—Teresa Murjas, a professor of theater and performance, director James Rattee—and a sheep named Jess, whose POV shots do lend a certain droll charm in character with The MERL’s online profile. As the webpage for the project explains,

One hot summer’s day in 2018, following a workshop at The MERL, Teresa Murjas (Professor of Theatre & Performance at the University of Reading) and filmmaker James Rattee travelled to see Jack and Jess on their remote farm. They brought with them a range of cameras, one of which Jess wore during filming. Multiple perspectives on their interlinking lives and rural environments were captured in the varied gimbal, go-pro and drone footage that was collected.

As the months passed, one creative act would generate another. Roles were performed, film footage was collated, poetry written, and footage edited. Readings were performed, recorded, footage was reshaped, and audio material collated. Sound, imagery and words were progressively layered and synthesised until now, in July 2020, when the filmpoem is about to be shown very for the first time.

It’s no surprise that this kind of prolonged, intensive collaboration should produce such a varied and satisfying film. I imagine it will do well on the film festival circuit, if and when film festivals ever resume. But I’m grateful they chose to release it on the web first.

One minor point of interest to those of us who struggle to connect audiences with poetry: Despite The MERL’s well-executed promotional campaign, and despite more than 153,000 followers on Twitter, the video unfortunately did not go viral, though it has garnered a respectable 1,227 views. But getting people to watch a 16-minute poetry film was never going to be easy. And merely creating viral content is not why they made the film in the first place:

I, Sheep is one of a cluster of creative works generated for a project at The MERL entitled Making, Using and Enjoying: The Museum of the Intangible (funded by Arts Council England). This explored intersections between the Museum’s tangible holdings, the idea of intangible cultural heritage (ICH) and creative and digital practices. As outlined by UNESCO, ‘cultural heritage does not end at monuments and collections of objects. It also includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.’ Responsively, The Museum of the Intangible project began by bringing people together around things, and then drew on their living experiences and relationships to explore, through creative practice, the significance of ICH within a museum context.

sex & violence #2 | honey machine by Kristy Bowen

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It’s always great to see a poet making her own book trailers — I mean, it’s even better to see poetry presses doing that for their poets, but for most, that’s not part of the deal, I guess. What’s cool about Kristy Bowen is that she’s also a publisher, running the chapbook press Dancing Girl Press, and skills she’s honed there as an artist and graphic designer stand her in very good stead on her first foray into videopoetry production. Let me just paste in the YouTube description:

sex & violence
by Kristy Bowen
(Black Lawrence Press, 2020)
https://blacklawrencepress.com/books/

A writer and book artist working in both text and image, Kristy Bowen is the author of a number of chapbook, zine, and artists book projects, as well as several full-length collections of poetry/prose/hybrid work, including the recent salvage (Black Lawrence Press, 2016), major characters in minor films (Sundress Publications, 2015) and girl show (Black Lawrence, 2014). She lives in Chicago, where she runs dancing girl press & studio

This is the second of three videos so far that Kristy has made based on excerpts from sex & violence; you can watch them all on her YouTube channel. As she noted in her blog, for honey machine, “I’ve been playing a bit more with public domain footage and my own words..this time, a little more text oriented and without the distraction of my own voice.”

White Clouds by Lo Lang

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White Clouds is a musical poetry video that was filmed, directed and edited by the outstanding Taiwanese film-maker and poet, Ye Mimi, who released it to the web just two weeks ago. The story of the film…

This song is an adaptation of the poem “White Clouds” by Taiwanese poet Lo Lang (1927-2015). The recording was made by Lo’s daughter Sirong, a renowned, award-winning singer-songwriter in Taiwan. When Lo Lang wrote the poem in 1950, he was expressing his deep desire for freedom. At that time, many Taiwanese were suffering from extreme violence and political repression at the hands of the ruling Kuomingtang, which took over Taiwan after losing the Chinese Civil War to the Chinese Communists. This recording, made in 2018, marks a watershed moment for Lo Sirong and her now deceased father, as Taiwan flourishes today as a fully democratic society.

Lo Sirong sings White Clouds in the Hakka language. She has a marvellous voice, deeply expressive of her father’s poetry. The music overall is wonderful to hear. The English subtitles bring the welcome experience of the poem in written translation as well.

Ye Mimi’s earlier videopoems include I See Green and Golden Shadows as part of the Wild Whispers global videopoetry project, initiated by Chaucer Cameron in the UK. Dave shared three of Ye Mimi’s videos from earlier years here at Moving Poems, including from her own poems. One of these videos was also published by Cordite Poetry Review from Australia, where she wrote an interesting account of her relation to videopoetry.

Ye Mimi’s bio at Vimeo:

Ye Mimi is a Taiwanese poet and filmmaker. A graduate of the MFA Creative Writing Department at Dong Hwa University and the MFA Film Department at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she is the author of three volumes of poetry and has internationally exhibited several of her poetry films. Through collaging her words and images, she improvises a new landscape trying to erase the border between poetry and image making. Book-length translations of her work are available in Dutch and English.