Voices from Haiti: Boy in Blue by Kwame Dawes

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This is the English version of the “visual poem” Boy in Blue with poetry by Kwame Dawes, images by photographer Andre Lambertson, editing by Robin Bell and music by Kevin Simmonds. See YouTube for the text.

I’ve decided to change course here and begin occasionally posting films that consist entirely of still images so I can feature projects like this. The technical term for a film montage of still images (often found in documentary films) is kinestasis, so that’s the name of this newest category at Moving Poems.

I previously shared Dawes’ kinestases with photographer Joshua Cogan, Live Hope Love, which was about living with HIV in Jamaica. Voices from Haiti is a newer series, also produced by the Pulitzer Center, which explores life after the earthquake in Haiti, focusing on the lives of those affected by HIV/AIDS.

At the AWP conference in Chicago the week before last, I had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Dawes speak about the collaborative process involved in making these videos, and was impressed by the extent to which he and the other artists involved in these projects seem to have stumbled upon some of the same principles that make regular videopoems or filmpoems work: the importance of the soundtrack and the need for juxtaposition rather than simple illustration to created multiple narratives in the listener’s head — “reportages in dialogue,” as he put it. These visual poems are creations in their own right, different from purely textual poems, and would not have happened without collaboration between poet, photographer and composer, he said.

2 Comments

  1. Reply
    rr 13 March, 2012

    Wow.

    Your explanation of the gestalt of the process reminded me of one of the truisms of TV reporting which is hardly ever observed nowadays (that I’m aware of). It is that the footage should speak for itself and the role of the reporter’s voice is only to provide sufficient context to allow it to do so to maximum effect.

    Unfortunately in this period of speed over quality that process – of thoughtful image-gathering, enhancing narrative and active engaged viewing – would seem to be regarded as too costly in time and effort for all concerned.

  2. Reply
    Dave 13 March, 2012

    Well, clearly the Pulitizer Center agrees with you. They exist to support investigative journalism, and they’ve underwritten both these projects from Dawes and Co. I wonder to what extent their journalistic ethos, and possibly even style guidelines, influenced the shape of these “visual poems”?

    You can see why Dawes was such a star at our AWP session. The audience applauded enthusiastically after each of his films.

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