St. Umbilicus by Cindy St. Onge

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Portland, Oregon-based poet Cindy St. Onge is no stranger to Moving Poems, but mostly as the maker of her own videos. This one’s the work of Australian filmmaker Marie Craven, herself a Moving Poems regular, and I love the way she both literalized and extended the poem at the same time. She posted some process notes on her blog last May which are worth quoting in full:

‘St. Umbilicus’ is from a poem by Cindy St. Onge, and is one of my shorter video pieces. As well as a poet, Cindy is a maker of videopoems I admire. She also gave her voice to the soundtrack of this video. This is the second video I’ve made from Cindy’s poetry. The first was ‘Double Life‘. The collaboration was closer on ‘St. Umbilicus’ and grew out of personal chats we had recently on Facebook and via email. These led to me expressing an interest in collaborating further, to which Cindy agreed. The poem is about the navel and its bodily reminder of our connection to our mother. To express this, I chose a very close, still image of a navel to be a ‘frame’ for a series of central images featuring mothers and children. The still image, which rotates slightly throughout the piece, was found on creative commons licence at Flickr. The artist is Linnéa Sjögren. The moving images contained within it are from ‘Scenes at the Beach Club‘, a 1927 home movie from the Prelinger Archives. I selected historic images here to emphasise the timelessness of the theme. Music is by Chris Zabriskie, his ‘Prelude No. 12’ from the ‘Preludes’ album.

Semechki (Семечки) by Eta Dahlia

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Be sure to click the CC icon for English subtitles.

A fascinating collaboration between Russian poet and filmmaker Eta Dahlia and UK poet and artist Iris Colomb. It grew out of a residency at the Center for Recent Drawing, one of “a series of experimental translations of Eta Dahlia’s minimalist Russian poems into gestural drawings,” Colomb writes, which were

entirely process-led. I made use of my limited knowledge of Russian, allowing me to experience the poems phonetically without semantic bias. Translating the poems’ sounds into gestures became the basis of my systemic approach.

I listened to each poem repeatedly for an hour, interpreting each sound as a separate movement tracing a line. Throughout this process my repetitive gestural sequences produced an increasingly intricate network of lines, generating a tightly layered shape. My movements evolved with each iteration, the drawing itself exposing their range.

The resulting compositions became complex maps of my changing perception; areas and textures displaying different levels of conviction and doubt, making these drawings both translations and documents of performance.

The video was featured in 3:AM Magazine last September as part of their Duos series.

Aftermath by Siegfried Sassoon

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Layla Atkinson directed this vivid animation of a poem by Siegfried Sassoon that insists on the importance of remembering the horrors of war in peacetime. The animators are Marie-Margaux Tsakiri-Scanatovits, John Harmer, Rok Predin, Jocie Juritz, Jacob Read, and Clelia Leroux; see Vimeo for the rest of the credits. The Trunk Animation Production Company website provides detailed production notes. Here’s the middle part:

Being that the poem obviously has a dark subject matter, we wanted to find a balance so that an audience would be able to enjoy the film, relate, and hopefully retain Sassoon’s warning, without being either too harrowing, or too warm.

We worked with the amazing Julian Rhind-Tutt on the voiceover, and he played with the delivery of different lines to help ground each scene in a reality.
The visual narrative has a cyclical structure that as we progress, slowly erases reality as memories take over, only for our main character to make a firm decision to regain control and pull themselves back into the here and now.

The poem was written in 1919, and we took influence from cubism, in so much as we wanted to tell multiple stories and ideas at once from different viewpoints. Layla also approached the overall look and feel using a mixture of different textures and materials to build up visual layers.

Read the rest.

Ultimul balaur / The Last Dragon by Radu Stanca

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A poem by 20th-century Romanian poet and playwright Radu Stanca is reimagined as a film by actor Lari Giorgescu and director Andreea Dobre from Three of Swords Productions, who specialize in “Unhinged cinematic fantasies. Mood and magic. Deep dark fears.” See Vimeo or their website for the full credits.

The horror/fantasy film vocabulary isn’t always a good fit with poetry film, but this succeeds admirably, I thought. Three of Swords Productions describe it in a blog post as “the first extravaganza in our series of poetry films: an actor we love + a poem we love = magic ✨”

The Opened Field by Dom Bury

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Devon-based poet Dom Bury‘s poem won the 2017 National Poetry Competition sponsored by the UK Poetry Society, and the judges said:

The darkly allegoric winning poem surrounds six boys in a field enacting a disturbing coming-of-age ritual, and is told with a driving rhythm and mantra-like repetitions. The poem interrogates themes of unchecked masculinity, exploring our destructive relationship with each other and with the natural world. The barbaric impulses enacted are interwoven to offer us a sombre and precisely wrought ecological and social fable for our times.

This film interpretation by Helmie Stil takes, perhaps unavoidably, a somewhat illustrative tack while remaining suggestive and allusive in all the right ways, so that the poem doesn’t feel pinned down, as it easily could have felt with a more conventional approach.

Shoes Without Feet by Caroline Rumley

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“After the chaos of the Nazi march in Charlottesville, one key voice is hapless,” reads the description of this 2017 film by filmmaker/poet Caroline Rumley. She notes further that it was “Created in response to this photo, which eventually won a Pulitzer: [link].” Stevie Ronnie drew attention to it in his report from the 2018 ZEBRA festival as one of the stand-out films there for him. It was also screened at the 2107 Ó Bhéal and Filmpoem festivals.

Hexapod by Ian Gibbins

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This two-year-old videopoem by the Australian polymath Ian Gibbins is more relevant than ever, with this past week’s dire new report on the worldwide collapse of insect populations, which found that “More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered… The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.”

Compared with that forecast, Gibbins sounds down-right optimistic. Here’s how he describes the film on Vimeo:

“nearly extinct … we burrow… far from toxic miasmata … we will wait … once more fill the skies…”

Brooding, breeding underground, the insects wait until the time is right to escape the confines of gravity and environmental degradation.

Hexapod was short-listed and screened at 5th Ó Bhéal Poetry-Film Competition, Cork, Ireland, 2017, as part of the IndieCork Film Festival.

It was screened at the 6th International Video Poetry Festival, Athens, January, 2018 and published on-line at Atticus Review in February, 2019.

Do visit the Atticus Review for additional process notes.