Kumukanda by Kayo Chingonyi and Sean Graham

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Coming-of-age rituals are at the center of this powerful, uniquely collaborative poetry dance film from director Fiona Melville and producer/creative director Nathalie Teitler for the Dancing Words project, featuring poet/dancer Kayo Chingonyi, poet/dancer/choreographer Sean Graham, and a composition by Gemma Weekes (who is also an accomplished British writer).

According to the Wikipedia page on the Lovale/Luvale people of Zambia and Angola,

In Zambia the Luvale people hold the ‘Makishi festival’ to mark the end of the ‘kumukanda’ (or ‘initiation’). Every 5 years or so, boys from the same age group (young teenagers) are taken into the bush for 1–2 months where they undergo several rites of passage into manhood. These involve learning certain survival skills, learning about women and how to be a good husband, learning about fatherhood, and also they are circumcised. The Luvale consider uncircumcised men to be dirty or unhygienic. It is said that in some very rural areas where the kumukanda is maintained in its strictest traditional sense that if a woman is to pass by the boy’s ‘bushcamp’ whilst they are undergoing kumukanda then she must be punished, even killed. To celebrate the boys’ completion of the kumukanda the Makishi festival welcomes them back to the village as men.

Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

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This “experimental visual poetry” directed by Katie Williamson stars Walter McCord in an imaginative riff on Lewis Carroll’s great nonsense poem. The soundtrack includes, if I’m not mistaken, a track by the Master Musicians of Jajouka.

Quattro Ottobre (October Fourth) by Francesca Gironi

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A unique piece even by the highly eclectic standards of the poetry-dance film genre. For one thing, the dancer/choreographer, Francesca Gironi, also wrote the text. For another, video artist Jack Daverio‘s imagery complements and expands the text in such a way that this could easily be characterized as a videopoem senso strictu. It’s described on Vimeo as an “Ironic dialogue between poetry and video art. Self escape becomes hyper presence.” The music is by Luca Losacco.

Quattro Ottobre was a finalist at the Doctorclip poetry film festival as well as in the Carbon Culture Review Poetry Film Competition 2016, judged by Zata Banks, who describes it as “A strong example of a dance-led poetry film incorporating sound design, visual layering and a voiceover poem about the self.” (Click through for biographies for Gironi, Daverio and Losacco.)

Navn Nome Name by OTTERAS

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Sound poetry and concrete poetry elude most efforts at translation — except for translation into videopoetry, as in this new release from Ottar Ormstad, Taras Mashtalir and Alexander Vojjov. I’m sure knowing Norwegian would add layers of meaning but even without that, I found the visualization of names as planetary objects or one-celled organisms intriguing and delightful. Here’s the Vimeo description:

NAVN NOME NAME (2016) is based on Ottar Ormstad’s “telefonkatalogdiktet” (‘the phonebook poem’). It is his third book of concrete poetry, published in Norway by Samlaget (2006). For this language research project, Ormstad read (!) the phonebook of Oslo 2004 and selected names on a poetic basis. In the book, the names are presented visually as concrete poetry. Most of the names are strongly connected to Norwegian and describe phenomena in nature.

NAVN NOME NAME is the second work of a collection of video poems created by the Norwegian-Russian duo OTTARAS (Ottar Ormstad and Taras Mashtalir) in collaboration with Russian video artist Alexander Vojjov. In the video, Ormstad reads names selected by the Russian-American composer Mashtalir. Through this work, Norwegian language turns into international sound poetry. Ormstad’s collection of family names present in Oslo’s phonebook at the time of reading are exposed and read by the author while performing to Mashtalir’s pulsating music. Is everyone connected to each other in the sphere that is shaping before the viewer’s eyes? How do names and language relate to the atmospheric scapes Vojjov creates of numbers, geometric forms and abstract shapes?

NAVN NOME NAME exists in different versions made for screening and live performance. Raising awareness of electronic poetry and sonic ecology, attracting new audience to a potent yet to come genre is the inspiration for this collaboration.

The video is produced in HD 16:9 in color, stereo.
Duration: 06:05 mins
Animation: Alexander Vojjov
Music: Taras Mashtalir
Concrete poetry, voice & production: Ottar Ormstad
© Ottar Ormstad 2016

Sollozo por Pedro Jara (Weeping for Pedro Jara), IV by Efraín Jara Idrovo

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This is the fourth of a five-part audiovisual composition by Ecuadorian musician, composer and poet Paola Proaño for an MMus thesis at the Berklee College of Music, “An Audiovisual Approach to sollozo por pedro jara (1978) by Efraín Jara Idrovo.” Watch all five parts in order on her website, which also includes background on the poem and her composition:

Efraín Jara Idrovo (Cuenca, EC, 1926) finished this work in 1978. He wrote it for his son Pedro Jara after his suicide in 1974 at age 16. This is one of the most expressive poems I discovered thanks to an admired professor in April 2014.

Jara Idrovo’s approach to structure, rhythm and sound in this piece is unique. This work is divided into five series and each series consists of three parts. Inspired by its musicality/resemblance to musical compositional approaches, I started working in November 2015 on an audiovisual frame for this piece as part of my M.Mus. thesis. The project consisted, initially, in writing music inspired on the emotional content and avant-garde structure of this elegy and trying to find creative approaches to translate or adapt this poetic work into a composition for electric guitar. This is the “musical” element of the frame I wanted to provide for this poetry.

More information about the compositional process is available here.

In the end, these five resulting pieces are now part of five audiovisuals, which include the recitation of the poem, audio and footage editing that supports the emotional environment and English subtitles based on a translation by Dr. Cecilia Mafla Bustamante.

The purpose of my project is to make this elegy available in other “formats” and, therefore, hopefully, reach a broader audience for this beautiful poem.

For anybody interested in this elegy, I would like to share the following documents, which are available online. This is a compilation from sources cited below:

Purpose and reading instructions stated by the author (in Spanish) (screenshots of El mundo de las evidencias (1984) by Efraín Jara Idrovo available for partial preview in Google Books): Propósitos e instrucciones

Poem (in Spanish) (corrections made on online versions): sollozo por pedro jara – estructuras para una elegía

English translation by Dr. Cecilia Mafla Bustamante: Weeping for Pedro Jara – Structures for an Elegy

Proaño’s essay on her composition process is also well worth checking out. She doesn’t say anything about her process for choosing the film images, which I find generally successful, erring more on the side of arbitrariness than literal illustration. I am especially impressed by the scope and ambition of this project and the music-first approach to poetry filmmaking. At any rate, do go watch all five parts, and if the Wix site doesn’t display properly in your browser, watch them on Vimeo.

Hammersmith by Sean O’Brien (excerpts)

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This new poetry film by UK filmmaker Kate Sweeney, based on a poem by Sean O’Brien, was commissioned by the 2016 Newcastle Poetry Festival. The Vimeo description reads:

In response to extracts from Sean O’ Brien’s same-titled poem, ‘Hammersmith’ is an elegiac, hand-drawn animation sweeping through 1950’s London. drawn from the iconic cinematography from Jules Dessin’s 1950 noir film, ‘Night And The City’.

The soundtrack by Lady Caroline Mary includes a song by Bernadette Sweeney.

In the Forest by Candida Baker

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I love the abstract imagery in this videopoem by Marie Craven. It’s partly the work of the poet herself, according to Craven’s process notes in a recent blog post, “Mid-year videos 2016“:

Much closer to home, I was delighted when well-known Byron Bay writer, Candida Baker, contacted me recently with some lovely poems she thought might be of interest. She already had high quality voice recordings of her own readings, produced by Sunshine Coast musician and sound artist, Michael Whiticker, and some abstracted landscape photographs to work with as well. An attempt at creating a video poem was irresistible to me. This video, ‘In The Forest’, is the result. It is, again, a visually abstract piece. The effect of motion from still images was achieved by creating three layers, one static and two slowly zooming in opposing directions, and also by creating multi-layer dissolves between the images. I was struck by the beautiful colours of the Australian landscape that were captured in the original stills and was pleased for their colours and textures to become even more abstractly focused in the video images. The music is by Podington Bear, whose wonderful sounds I have included in videos before. These I’ve sourced from the many musical tracks available around the internet on Creative Commons license. The bird sounds are from Tai Inoue at Nature Sounds Australia in Cairns, from a download link he shared at Soundcloud with permission to re-use. The email collaboration with Candida Baker was very engaged and a joy from start to end. She and I will be meeting in person for the first time this week, when she interviews me for the online magazine she edits and publishes, Verandah. It’s rare that I have the opportunity to meet internet collaborators and I’m very much looking forward to this. The profile will appear in an issue of the magazine in the near future.

Click through to watch and read about all three of Craven’s recent videos. I just want to add that I think it’s commendable not only that Craven regularly collaborates with poets and musicians at such a high level, but also that she “shows her work” and describes her process in such detail. I wish more filmmakers and video artists would follow her example.

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