“Film, I believe, lends itself particularly to the poetic statement, because it is essentially a montage and, therefore, seems by its very nature to be a poetic medium.” —Maya Deren
Welcome to Moving Poems, an on-going anthology of the best poetry videos from around the web, appearing at a rate of one every weekday most weeks. Subscribe by email to get a weekly round-up of all our content (which includes articles at the forum), follow @moving_poems on Twitter, or pick up the full-content RSS feed and follow along in Feedly or some other feed reader.
About the content
My main focus here is on videopoetry, “a genre of poetry displayed on a screen, distinguished by its time-based, poetic juxtaposition of text with images and sound,” as videopoetry pioneer Tom Konyves puts it. Other names for this genre — or examples of closely related genres, depending on one’s perspective — include filmpoetry, poetry-film and cinepoetry, and animated poems form an important subset. I am especially interested in videopoems created by the poet him- or herself, which can often take ekphrastic form (“Hey, I’ve got some cool footage — let’s see if there’s a poem in it!”), and which grade into active collaborations between poet and filmmaker. I do also post other kinds of poetry videos, too, including poetry readings, spoken word performances, documentaries, poetry dance videos, concert performances of poems set to music, and the occasional interview with a poet. See the directory for a complete listing of poets, nationalities, and filmmakers.
I sometimes produce videos for Moving Poems, but otherwise everything here is someone else’s work, available for embedding without any special permission needed at YouTube, Vimeo, Blip.tv, VideoPress and other sites. So the main thing that makes this site special is my curatorial instinct and the several hours a week I devote to scanning the web for new videos. I have two basic strategies. When I’m looking for specific kinds of videos, I use Google video search. Otherwise, I rely on a weekly search of Vimeo for the most recent uploads of videos containing the word “poem” somewhere in the text or tags. Vimeo tends to be favored over YouTube by serious artists, and has a much higher signal-to-noise ratio. I’m sure I miss a lot, though, so any and all tips are greatly appreciated. Please
use the comments below use the contact form, or simply email me: bontasaurus [at] yahoo [dot] com.
This is obviously an English-language site, but I do my best to try and keep it as international as possible. I’m happy to include videos in other languages as long as they contain English subtitles, and sometimes I’ll even waive that requirement, especially if a translation is readily available to include in the commentary.
Please visit the forum, which I set up in Spring of 2010 to host conversations about videopoetry theory and practice, pass along information about contests and screening/publication venues and discuss videos that may be slightly outside the purview of what I post here. Please also browse the links page and let me know of any additional sites I should include.
About the curator
My name is Dave Bonta — here’s a bio. I’m also on Facebook and Twitter. I started this site in part to learn how to make better videopoetry, but as a matter of basic propriety I don’t share videos of my own poems on this site, even when they’re made by others. See the Videos page of my author website or the Videopoetry category at my literary blog Via Negativa if you’re interested in that.
In January 2011, Alex Cigale began to contribute posts on Russian-language videopoems — see his posts here. I’d welcome contributions from other translators, as well, to bring videopoetry from other languages to an English-speaking audience, presuming that we could agree on the quality of the videopoems in need of explication. Contact me if you’re interested in helping out as a translator.
About videopoetry, film-poems, cinepoetry, etc.
I recently gave a paper titled “Videopoetry: What Is It, Who Makes It, and Why?” At the same conference (AWP 2012), Jordan Stempleman from The Continental Review delivered a paper on the relationship between music video and poetry video, “That’s Entertainment.”
Here are some other online sources about the filmpoetry/videopoetry genre:
Weldon C. Wees, “Poetry Film” (1997):
In ‘Six Memos for the Next Millennium’, Italo Calvino proposed “two types of imaginative process: the one that starts with the word and arrives at the visual image, and the one that starts with the visual image and arrives at its verbal expression’. Cin(E)-Poetry (also known as poetry video and poetry film) put both process of the imagination on display simultaneously. They combine the verbal energy of poetry with the visual richness and diversity of experimental cinema. Through a synergy of expressive words and images, successful cinepoems produce associations, connotations, metaphors and symbols that cannot be found in either their verbal or their visual texts taken alone. They might be thought of as imaginative interpretations of ‘readings’ or poetic texts in visual terms – and vice versa.
Fil Ieropoulos, “Poetry-Film & The Film Poem: Some Clarifications“:
[N]ot everybody in the modernist avant-garde as it developed between the ’20s and the ’70s was opposed to the notion that words could be used to enhance the poetic qualities of a film. Man Ray used text in his ‘Etoile de Mer’ cine-poem. Even someone who believed very strongly in the visual qualities of film like Maya Deren did not consider the possibility of using spoken language as a contradiction to film’s visual value. In a ‘Poetry and Film’ symposium and in answer to Arthur Miller’s claim that words should not be used in films, Deren suggests that words
…would be redundant in film if they were used as a further projection from the image. However, if they were brought in on a different level, not issuing from the image which should be complete in itself, but as another dimension relating to it, then it is the two things together that make a poem.
American filmmaker Ian Hugo worked in this way in his 1952 work ‘Bells of Atlantis’. As Abel Gance argues “…the marriage of image, text, and sound is so magical that it is impossible to dissociate them in order to explain the favorable reactions of one’s unconscious”.
Tom Konyves, “Videopoetry: A Manifesto“:
Presented as a multimedia object of a fixed duration, the principal function of a videopoem is to demonstrate the process of thought and the simultaneity of experience, expressed in words – visible and/or audible – whose meaning is blended with, but not illustrated by, the images and the soundtrack.
Heather Haley, “About Visible Verse“:
I believe Jean Cocteau was the first poet to employ film. In 1930 he produced Blood of a Poet, usually categorized as surrealist art. Recently I read about “film poets” from the West Coast abstract school, James Broughton, Sidney Peterson and Hy Hirsh, the latter two collaborating with John Cage in 1947. In 1978 Tom Konyves of Montreal’s Vehicule Poets coined the term “videopoetry” to describe his multimedia work. Rather than get bogged down in semantics, I’d like to point out that I think in terms of moving images and don’t make a huge distinction between film and video. I have worked primarily in digital video as it is accessible and affordable, important considerations to a poet with a small budget and again, poetry exists beyond media. [...]
In my experience the greatest challenge of this hybrid genre is fusing voice and vision, aligning ear with eye. Some poets like to see words on the screen. The effect can be exquisite but I find that film/video doesn’t accommodate text well. We are busy listening to the poem with our eyes, assimilating it through our ears. I prefer spoken word. Voice is the critical element, medium and venue secondary considerations. Unlike a music video—the inevitable and ubiquitous comparison—a videopoem stars the poem rather than the poet, the voice seen as well as heard.
Michelle Bitting, “The Muse and the Making of Poem Films“:
I love the tension of two minutes—how much, but not too much—needs to be packed into that very limited space. The automatic compression it imposes in the same way as a poem! And how whatever is happening visually can layer, augment or work “constructively” against what is being spoken: the challenge of figuring out when two elements are making mush or blotting each other out. How to have actual words, the text, come into play on the screen and how they pop and expand beyond their two-dimensionality. I love how a poem and a poem film become a little dance—the words shaped and choreographed just right. Same goes for staging visuals and sound.
Alastair Cook, “The Filming of Poetry“:
[T]he Poetry-film should successfully bring the work to the audience through visual and audio layering, attractive to those who would not necessarily read the poetry. The film needs to provide a subtext, a series of suggestions and visual notes that embellish the poem, using the filmmaker’s subtle skills to allow the poet’s voice to be seen as well as heard. The collaboration remains with the words. If this subtext is missing, the film resorts to being a piece of media, the reading of a text over discombobulated imagery, a superimposition.
Gerard Wozek, “poetry video“:
A poetry video is an illuminated electronic manuscript that records the voice, the spirit, and vision of the poet, and frames this technological intersection between visual art and literature.
Ren Powell, “If not a manifesto, an explanation“:
While it was not my original intention, I can see that animated poems could serve as a reader’s guide to my own system of poetics: they demonstrate the way I invite the reader to approach the text from several directions and allow phrases to interact vertically as well as horizontally, and refer back within the text itself through parallel structures (spacial and grammatical).
Ron Silliman, “Tom Konyves has a mission…“:
For videopoetry to exist, the form has to be able to distinguish itself from the gumbo that is intermedia. Or perhaps polymedia would be a more accurate term. [Billy] Collins’ piece is nothing more than a reading of the piece over which a cartoon has been superimposed. The use of language is more interesting in the pieces by Konyves & Vassilakis, but each imports elements from other media, other worlds. Vassilakis treats his sound track more as a score, and more than a few of his visuals harken back to the heyday of lightshows that accompanied the rock bands of the late ’60s and early ’70s.
Where credit is due
I’m indebted to all the talented filmmakers who have shared their work on the web. Without their generosity, none of this would be possible. I’ve provided links to any and all websites I could find — please click through, and if they have DVDs for sale, consider making a purchase.