Posts By Dave Bonta

Die Ameisen / The Ants by Joachim Ringelnatz

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A 2019 film by Marie Craven. Here’s what she wrote about it on her blog:

The Ants was made for the poetry film competition of the Leipzig Poetry Society in Germany. The challenge was to make a film based on any poem by Joachim Ringelnatz (1883-1934), a cabaret poet and absurd humorist. Most of the Ringelnatz poems I have read are strange and funny, and very short. I chose Die Ameisen/The Ants for its whimsy, and partly because it includes a reference to Australia, where I live. It’s a coincidence too that ants have been a funny and instructive presence in my life. The film is bilingual, in German first and then English. It was a fun film to make, with music created for it by my long-time collaborator, Adrian Carter, and collage art by Kollage Kid. Both of them are in the UK.

The film ended up taking first place in the contest.

All this week I’m going to be featuring recent poetry films by Marie Craven. When she joined Moving Poems as an editor last year, our initial instinct was to avoid sharing her own films too often to avoid the appearance of favoritism, but I’ve recently changed my mind about that. Marie has become one of the most prominent filmmakers in the international poetry film scene, and it’s silly to pretend otherwise. So it’s catch-up time! Especially since Marie has just caught up on her blog, and I can simply quote her process notes for most of these films.

Plasticpoems by Fiona Tinwei Lam

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A brilliant concrete videopoem directed and produced by Canadian poet Fiona Tinwei Lam with animation by Nhat Truong and sound design by Tinjun Niu. The Vimeo description notes that

This short animated video depicts two concrete/visual poems by poet Fiona Tinwei Lam from her collection of poems Odes & Laments about marine plastic pollution.

It won the Judges’ Award for Best Poetry Video, REELpoetry Houston 2020, which is how I knew about it: I was one of those judges.

The Blue from Heaven by Stevie Smith

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Stevie Smith‘s poem is brought to life through the magic of Norwich-based animator and professor Suzie Hanna. Here’s the description on Vimeo:

Glenda Jackson provides the voice of poet Stevie Smith in this animated interpretation of her extraordinary 1950’s poem ‘The Blue from Heaven’. Suzie Hanna has adapted and animated the poet’s own drawings to communicate her rueful, wistful, comic, and melancholy themes with music and sound design by Phil Archer. In Stevie Smith’s awkward world, King Arthur banishes Guinevere to the palace, and he enters the blue from heaven.

Sonámbulo / The Sleepwalker by Theodore Ushev

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A surrealist journey through colours and shapes inspired by the poem Romance Sonámbulo by Federico García Lorca. Visual poetry in the rhythm of fantastic dreams and passionate nights.

This is a poetry film only in the sense that it takes its inspiration from one stanza of Lorca’s, but it’s a brilliant animated homage to Spanish surrealism that reminded me of everything I love about the whole Generation of ’27, which includes so many of my favorite poets and artists. It’s difficult to imagine 20th century poetry and art without this incredible flowering of talent in the years leading up to the Spanish Civil War. U.S. poets who came of age in the 1960s were heavily influenced by Spanish poetry in translation; I’d say it was equal in impact to translations of classical Chinese and Japanese poetry. For me, getting a bilingual anthology of 20th-century Spanish poetry as a Christmas present when I was 11 was a life-changing experience. I doubt I would’ve become a poet otherwise.

Anyway, here’s a serviceable English translation of “Romance Sonámbulo”, followed by the original.

For more about the film, see its webpage. Theodore Asenov Ushev is a Bulgarian animator, graphic designer, illustrator and multimedia artist based in Montreal.

Secrets of the perpetually sick [redacted] by Jackie Morrey-Grace

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Janet Lees‘ first poetry film with a text by another writer sees her trying out a completely new filmmaking approach as well. Manx author and performance poet Jackie Morrey-Grace recites her poem ‘Secrets of the perpetually sick’ in a hospital, but does anyone hear her? As Janet wrote on the Poetry Film Live Facebook page,

We were filming in a hospital training room last year and I was drawn to the security camera footage which was showing on a screen in an adjacent room. I filmed this and slowed it down and really like the dark quality of it, simmering with the rage, despair and alienation Jackie has experienced due to chronic and severely crippling autoimmune health challenges. Redacting her much longer poem felt quite brutal, but in a sense that was also fitting, because in the system Jackie was often unheard and outright dismissed.

The music is ‘Anxious‘ by Sextile. For more of Jackie’s performance poetry, see her YouTube channel.

Scarcely Gilded by Lina Ramona Vitkauskas

A cinepoem by Lithuanian-Canadian-American poet Lina Ramona Vitkauskas, who notes that the text is

From a new poetry collection, “Between Plague & Kleptocracy: Invented Poetic Creations & Conversations of Seva & Bill”, in which I cross-reference poems between Vsevolod Nekrasov & Bill Knott and serve as medium and “translator” of their posthumous conversations / invented collaborations. The poems are written in the voice / tone / style of both Nekrasov & Knott, featuring borrowed lines and found poems within those lines. The poems are the transcripts of their thoughts across astral planes: what they would perhaps discuss in this perilous time in history: of pandemic, of widespread injustice, forced isolation, and of finding ourselves with a traitorous snake oil salesman / neo-Soviet puppet in our WH.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised by Gil Scott-Heron

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This prophetic poem by the late, great Gil Scott-Heron has been on my mind a lot lately. I went to see if anyone had ever made a decent video for it, and found this on YouTube (though I subsequently swapped in the production company’s own upload from Vimeo). It was produced in 2001 by Peter Collingridge and directed by Julian House as a video trailer for Scott-Heron’s collected lyrics and poems, Now and Then (Canongate Books). A link in the YouTube description took me to Collingridge’s Apt Studio, a British “digital consultancy to publishers,” where I found a page for the film, as well as the original Flash version, still live:

Apt MD Peter Collingridge worked at Canongate Books from 1997-2001. Whilst there he wrote a business plan for the Scottish Arts Council, titled “Pop Promos For Books”. The plan was to commission his film-maker friends to make pop video-length films inspired by books, and to host these films on the Canongate website, attracting more visitors.

One of the first films was for “Now and Then”, a collection of Gil Scott-Heron’s poems which Peter was editing at the time. There was only one option as to which poem to chose – Gil’s masterpiece, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

He teamed up with Julian House at Intro to make this promo, which has been seen over 750,000 times. The film uses archival images from Getty, and was launched in 2001.

The track “The Revolution Has Not Been Televised” has been edited for the promo.

Who knew that the idea of making video trailers for books of poetry pre-dated the creation of YouTube by at least five years! There’s also still a page for the video at the Intro website, which offers a reminder of how cutting-edge Flash animation was at the time:

The Intro moving image team has created a Flash movie to promote a book about music visionary Gil Scott Heron. The film, made entirely in Flash, is a dynamic interpretation of one of Gil’s most famous songs, ‘The Revolution Will Not be Televised.’ It features fragments of lyrics and images from the American 1970s mediascape. The promo was shortlisted at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, for best animation.

Do listen to the complete track, in all its glory, on the Ace Records YouTube channel.

I also found this snippet of an interview with Gill where he explains, very calmly and patiently, what he meant by his famous dictum:

“Shot by Skip Blumberg. Watch the full, unedited interview at Media Burn Archive.” This is raw footage for a TV series called The 90’s. The true revolution may not be televised, but fortunately Gil Scott-Heron was. Such a brilliant and original spoken-word innovator.