This is one of five poetry book trailers included in Erica Goss’s latest column for Connotation Press.
When is a video poem more than a video poem? When it’s a book trailer. Authors promote their books with book trailers, short films meant to entice a buyer, just like a movie trailer is meant to advertise a movie. Movie trailers show a condensed version of the film, including cuts of the most exciting parts without giving away the plot, while book trailers tend to focus on the author’s credentials first and the story second, especially if the author is well-known. A video poem meant to promote a book of poems, literary fiction or non-fiction, however, is often a complete work of art, its connection to the book somewhat tangential.
About Krut’s video, Goss writes:
Robert Krut’s second collection, This is the Ocean, due out this month from Bona Fide Books, was preceded by videos of two poems from the book. “The Ocean” shows a coastal city all but abandoned in the early morning light. Robert Krut told me that he and filmmaker Nick Paonessa shot scenes at Venice Beach, California. “It’s a completely different world at dawn,” Robert said. “This sounds impossible, but you can drive from Burbank to Venice in about twenty minutes” – a trip that normally takes at least an hour. The video for “The Ocean” shows an alternate Southern California in an Edward Hopper-esque mood: a skateboarder has the whole park to himself, a empty lifeguard tower faces the sea as the sky turns pink, and the smooth wide beach is alone with its secrets as we hear the last lines of the poem: “There may be nothing for miles and miles, / but I have come from the bottom of the ocean, / and I am here to tell you about it.” The Pacific Ocean is the unreliable narrator in this video, elemental, beautiful and dangerous.
Be sure to check out her other selections. And for more videopoems that do double duty as book trailers, browse the book trailer category here. (It’s relatively new, so it doesn’t necessarily include all of the book trailers on the site.)
A poetry book trailer that appears to give a pretty good indication of the tone and flavor of the book. (I say that having read a number of Howie Good‘s books and chapbooks, though not this particular one yet.) Sizable chunks of text alternate with underwater footage of swimming penguins, apparently shot on a mobile phone at an aquarium. Unlike so many trailers for poetry books from micropresses, where the initiative to make a video originates with the author, this was made by the publishers themselves.
This is a video promoting the launch of Howie Good’s limited edition poetry collection ‘The Death of Me’ through Pig Ear Press. The text is from Howie’s book, the video was shot in Basel Zoo and the soundtrack was created on a ukulele. The video and audio were created by Mr [Pete] Lally.
Pig Ear Press are a (very) small press using letterpress printing and handbinding to create limited run books of quality. You can purchase Howie’s book and see information about previous publications by visiting pigearpress.co.uk.
I’m a little late in sharing this, but the press run doesn’t seem to be sold out quite yet.
As a fan primarily of mainstream, “page” poetry I don’t necessarily seek out spoken-word poetry, but I am enlivened and inspired by poets like Benjamin Zephaniah — not that there are too many other poets like him. Just as certain avant-garde poets challenge us to take language more seriously and to invent a new universe for every poem, brilliant performance poets like Zephaniah remind us that poetry is first and foremost an oral, embodied medium. Zephaniah’s example challenges us to take living more seriously, and to question whether our words and actions and politics are truly aligned as they should be. And needless to say, for a type of poetry that so emphasizes the physicality of language, film/video is the ideal medium.
Bloodaxe Books were kind enough to send me a review copy of the DVD-book for which this is the trailer, and I loved it. I’d already known from watching her films on Vimeo that Pamela Robertson-Pearce is a good director who knows how to get out of the way and let the poems and the poet speak for themselves, and this talent is very much on display here. I watched the DVD in two long sittings and was entranced. The readings and interviews are artfully blended, with earlier sequences anticipating later explanations by the poet. For example, a series of delightful readings for, and exchanges with, schoolchildren were filmed in what turns out to be the Keats House next to Hampstead Heath, which prepares the viewer not only to hear about the poet’s own childhood and difficult time at school, but also eventually to hear how and why he came to love Keats, Shelley and Byron despite his original aversion to dead white male poets. And footage of Zephaniah in a track suit practicing taiqi in his yard is first used as a backdrop for several segments, arousing one’s curiosity — eventually satisfied — about his exercise and martial arts regime and its influence on him as a performance poet and musician.
The footage of various readings before live audiences varies in quality (the sound is slightly muffled in a couple of them), but one thing I really appreciated was that the director did not attempt to jazz things up by jumping frenetically between two or more different perspectives, as so many slick poetry filmmakers like to do. I generally find that distracting, and with a performer as expressive as Zephaniah, there’s no need to add any more kinesis!
The film is playful and serious by turns, just as Zephaniah’s poems are, and gave me a lot to think about, especially on the role of performance in poetry, the social responsibility of artists, and the various ways in which oral and literary traditions intersect. My favorite interview sections were actually those with the poet’s mother, Valerie Wright, clearly the single biggest influence on his life, who sat beside him on a couch and helped answer questions about his upbringing and the family traits and customs that helped to produce a poet. I should add that all the poems are presented in full, and the film also incorporates a highly entertaining music video by his rap-reggae group, The Beta Brothers (with four more videos included as bonus tracks). Neil Astley’s Foreword in the book offers a more comprehensive biography than any I’ve seen online, and people who already own some or all of Zephaniah’s earlier books with Bloodaxe and Penguin will want this one, too, since it includes different versions of many poems, updated to reflect how they have evolved as he continues to perform them on stage.
The DVD is in PAL format, which means it won’t play on most North American DVD players, but should play just fine on most computers (as it did on my laptop). As the note about this on the last page of the book says, “In an ideal world we’d produce our DVD-book with DVDs in either format and give overseas readers the choice, but unfortunately that would be much too costly.” Check out the publisher’s detailed description at Vimeo or on the Bloodaxe website. Let me close with Zephaniah’s own description at his blog:
Yes, that’s right, I’ve got a new DVD and book out. It’s a kind of Zephaniah on the road jam, and it features my mum and my nephew, Zayn. He’s a good boy, but he can’t play football as good as me. The DVD has live performances of some previously published and unpublished poems, with interviews and lots of messing around by me. What I really love about it is the mix of my children’s poetry, my work for adults, and my music, which most publishers usually like to keep separate. Publisher, writer, and all round good guy Neil Astley has written an introduction for it, and Pamela Robertson-Pearce did the filming. We’ve tried to do something which stands up as both entertaining and educational, so it could be used in schools and other funky places. I’m pleased with it.
A very professional, author-made poetry book trailer in the form of a videopoem. Bagwell is a graphic designer as well as a poet, and it shows. Here’s the description at Vimeo:
Constellations is an excerpt from the poem The Rose Thief, which is a part of the collaborative book Or Else They Are Trees with poetry by Michael Bagwell and artwork by Rebecca Miller. The book is new from El Aleph Press and is available for purchase at elalephpress.com.
A mash-up of public-domain footage from the Internet Archive by Kenji Liu.
Poet Vickie Vertiz reads the poem “Pets” from her book Swallows (Finishing Line Press, 2013), available at tinyurl.com/swallowsbook
A beautiful and, to my mind, highly effective book trailer for Spells: New and Selected Poems by Annie Finch, due out this month from Wesleyan University Press. U.K. animator Suzie Hanna describes their creative process in a note at Vimeo:
The film was made through a Transatlantic collaborative shared process. Annie sent her voice recording to me and I responded with clips of tests and animatics which I adjusted, extended or dumped in response to her reactions.
For the text of the poem (and audio of Finch’s reading), see poets.org.