Memory-Bridge by Shalewa Mackall

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From film-maker Danielle Eliska Lyle and poet Shalewa Mackall, this is Memory-Bridge, one of the best films from the 2019 Visible Poetry Project.

The visual stream is jazzily constructed of “found footage” from various free sources. This is in sync with the sample-based hip-hop and house music referred to but never heard in the film. Narration is by the poet, who appears in the film as well, accompanied only by the warm sound of vinyl static—warm like her strong, expressive voice.

The poem is beat-driven, funky. It conveys myriad elements of cultural identity, past, present and future:

Who we are is undefined. Might be infinite. Variable. A mystery unsolved, but not yet ready to exit.

Gen.er.a.tion X, n. People born between 1960 and 1980. Some were alive with the last survivors of enslavement.

Danielle Eliska describes herself as a “black archivist”, her life’s work to tell stories of powerful women, the Black Diaspora and the state of Black culture. She is the founder of multimedia production house Meraki Society.

Shalewa Mackall belongs to a community of artists embracing Sankofa, a word in the Twi language of Ghana that translates to “Go back and get it”. The term relates to the Asante Adinkra symbol, often represented by a bird with its head turned backwards while its feet face forward, carrying a precious egg in its mouth. This symbolises moving forward in full awareness and embrace of what has preceded, historically and culturally.

Kepler’s Law by Christina Rau

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From the Visible Poetry Project in 2018, this is Kepler’s Law, re-imagined as an allegorical animation by Dana Sink, and displaying a unique, graphic style.

The piece was written by Christina Rau, who describes it as “sci-fi fem poetry”. As a lover of astronomy, this possibly self-invented genre intrigues me, especially as it is expressed in this fresh poem, unusual in choice of language. As if to demonstrate the generic form in its title, Christina’s collection, Liberating The Astronauts (Aqueduct Press), was published in 2017, the year before the making of Kepler’s Law.

Among cultural involvements such as teaching and facilitation of writer’s groups, Christina serves as Poetry Editor for The Nassau Review. Dana’s animated videos are designed to appeal to his young daughter, who inspires his current creative work.

 

Wanting by Rich Ferguson

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Los Angeles poet and performer Rich Ferguson teams up with film-maker Chris Burdick to create Wanting, a tour de force of beat-style spoken word and mashed-up old films.

Rich posts daily at his blog, RichRant. The constant stream of inspired writing is marvelous, some of it existential, some political, some funny, frequently all three, and almost always on key.

The selection and editing of archival film is the work of a master. Any film-maker who has worked with footage from the Prelinger Archives will appreciate the countless hours that must have gone into finding all the shots, that are then cut to the fast rhythms of Rich’s voice.

Chris’s virtual home is at Patreon, where can be found a blackly hilarious account of his life and aims as a film-maker/writer/human. The synopses of his short fiction are alone worth the visit.

The ongoing collaboration between Rich and Chris has produced several videos so far, of which a small collection can be found on this playlist at YouTube.

Huntress by Janet Lees

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Huntress is by Isle of Man poet and artist Janet Lees, who also shot and animated the images.

The piece encourages us towards a wider-awake vision, towards more sensitive ears, with attention facing both inwards and outwards, and on the perceptual spaces in between. True to the soul of our times, it is deeply moving and beautifully well-realised.

George Simpson is the creator of the soundtrack, providing a track called “Artemis”, from his album Still Points In The Turning World. Emotionally affecting, with an elegant and simple extended first movement, followed by expansion into expressive drama, the music coherently accompanies the visual and textual elements in an organic way.

All the elements of this video merge to become an audio-visual experience far more than any sum of its parts.

Floodtide by Ian Gibbins

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Fellow Australian film-maker and poet Ian Gibbins asks in Floodtide how a city copes, and what does it look like, after years of drought, rising sea levels, relentless storms.

The video was shot around Adelaide, the Fleurieu Peninsula, Inner Suburban Melbourne, the Western Highway, and Far North Queensland. An only-slightly futuristic vision of a flooded urban landscape was achieved through the use of video compositing.

After The Incoming, The Overflow, our future lay within the tides, no turning back, no neap, no ebb, an undertow of uncertainty and doubt… Taunting us, an illusion of normality… We have run out of options, we are battling for breath…

It received the Honorable Mention at the Experimental Forum Film and Video Art Festival (Los Angeles, July, 2019).

Make America Great Again (Slogan) by David Hahn

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A video collage by multi-media artist, Donna Kuhn, set to composer David Hahn‘s piece, “Make America Great Again”, addressing the contemporary political and cultural landscape of the USA, while alluding to historical ideologies of identity that have led to its present condition.

In a rhythm reminiscent of beat poetry, Hahn voices his own text in a rapid stream of hackneyed national slogans, turned upside-down and inside-out to powerfully convey the deranged zeitgeist experienced by so many US residents, and by masses around the world. His feverish mantras climax in the distilled and obsessive chant, “America, America, again, again, again, America, again, again”.

The video is made up of a kinetic array of visual elements including animated text, digitally-drawn art, abstracted numerical sequences, cartoon images, and superimposition of iconic movie clips with footage from World War II.

Hahn has been composing for 30 years, beginning as a performer on lute, guitar, and mandolin with groups such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony and Opera Orchestras, Boston Musica Viva, the Seattle Symphony, Musica Nel Chiostro in Florence, and the City of London Festival. He served on the faculty at the New England Conservatory, where he co-founded the Boston Renaissance Ensemble, which toured extensively in the US and Europe.

Donna Kuhn’s experimental videos have exhibited internationally since 2004 at film festivals, museums, art galleries and online on literary and poetry sites.

The title of the piece is given on its Vimeo page as “Make America Great Again”, with the titles on the video itself suggesting the alternative name, “Slogan”.

Song of the Soil by Jessica Mookherjee

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Jessica Mookherjee‘s poem “Song of the Soil”, from her collection, Tigress (Nine Arches Press, 2019), is given heartfelt filmic treatment by Helen Dewbery and Chaucer Cameron, under the auspices of their production house, Elephant’s Footprint. According to the book’s webpage,

Jess Mookherjee is of Bengali heritage and grew up in Swansea. She has been widely published in magazines, including Under the Radar, Agenda, The North, Rialto, Antiphon and Ink, Sweat & Tears. She is author of The Swell (Telltale Press) and Joyride (Black Light Engine Room Press) and Flood (Cultured Llama). She was highly commended in the Forward Prize 2017 for best single poem. Jessica works in Public Health and lives in Kent.

The poem expresses a deep connection to the Earth in an elegy of lost origins and disappearing ground. Giving further voice to these themes, the film is imbued with overexposed images of a natural world scorched yellow and burnt brown, and a soundtrack made ominous by ambient bass. Mookherjee’s solemn, rich narration rounds the elements of this powerfully organic piece.

The film is part of a series Helen and Chaucer have been doing for Nine Arches Press. They note that “The film-poems are not only viewed by Nine Arches’ existing readers and online audiences, but are a tool for their poets to engage more easily with their existing and new audiences.” The press, however, does not appear to embed any of the videos on the books’ pages, which is kind of baffling.