Posts in Category: Documentary

When We Get Lonely, It Will Be Together by Melissa Studdard and Kelli Russell Agodon

“Meet the Queens of Quarantine Poetry” is Houston Public Media‘s only slightly clickbaity title for this seamless blend of interview and videopoem. From the YouTube description:

In this time of quarantine and self-isolation, two friends have been co-writing a series of poems inspired by the coronavirus pandemic.

Houston poet Melissa Studdard and Seattle poet Kelli Russell Agodon connect across the miles through Zoom to read their poem “When We Get Lonely, It Will Be Together” and to describe what it means to create art during a pandemic.

Dave McDermand and Joe Brueggeman handled the recording and editing, and Catherine Lu did the interviews. Lu tweeted that it was “Possibly [the] coolest project I’ve done for @HoustonPubMedia.”

I follow both poets on social media and have been reading their collaboratively written quarantine poems with great interest, so it was wonderful to get some background on how the project evolved: out of their pre-existing habit of writing together in a virtual shared study space, using video conferencing software and reading each other’s drafts on Google docs. It’s great that they’re letting the rest of us read over their shoulders, as it were, especially given the pressure from literary journals to hide all one’s poetry away in order to keep it eligible for submission. I advise following Kelli and Melissa on Twitter, where they post the drafts as jpegs. Here are links to some of the more recent ones, posted on April 21, April 22, April 25, April 27, May 5two on that day, and May 8.

Deadlock by Lauren Jones

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Deadlock is about an old English street: Daniel Street in Portsmouth. The text by Lauren Jones, and the film by Jane Glennie, evoke an important moment in its everyday history around 1820. The following quotes are from the artist notes.

“In the looming shadow of prison hulks docked in the harbour, Jeremiah and Charles Chubb worked on this site primarily as ironmongers providing naval equipment. Frequent crimes, including daring robberies of the dockyard warehouses and escapes from the hulks led to a competition being launched for an ‘unpickable lock’. The Chubb brothers accepted the challenge and created the now familiar Chubb lock still used to this day.”

But the success of the Chubb enterprise created a shadow legacy.

“…for those on the other side of the lock, the invention was a devastating barrier that put an end to those who relied on petty crime for survival, to those who were facing long, punishing sentences on the ships and even those women who were confined to the nearby Lock Hospital.”

The bold phrases of the text, and the spirited voice over, are well met by an animated ‘flicker film’ stream of images. Evocative stills rapidly pass through the eye in a way that feels dramatic and textural. The collaboration between the artists recalls to vivid imagination the local history and its impact.

Deadlock is one in a collection of films commissioned to be the online media component of ‘Dark Side Port Side‘ (2019), a walking tour set in Portsmouth.

“…the street has long since vanished in the name of progress and is now the location of Admiralty Road with its own soaring, modern accommodation. Evidence of the concern of security is still visible… behind keypads, passcodes and security men.”

Whitman on Film | a video essay at the poet’s bicentennial

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I just shared H. Paul Moon‘s adaptation of “America” and mentioned the trilogy of Walt Whitman poetry films of which it is a part. But that’s not all that Paul’s been getting up to. This wonderfully comprehensive and personal video essay takes a chronological look at the use of Whitman’s poetry in film, embracing a multitude of movies and TV shows good and bad, high-brow and low. It’s the centerpiece at Paul’s site whitmanonfilm.com, and will be part of the May 31st Whitman bicentennial screening in Washington, D.C.

This video essay is an analysis of Walt Whitman’s every appearance in cinema and television, leading up to his 200th birthday on May 31, 2019. […] As explained at the end title, this video essay was created for non-commercial educational access, in the spirit of fair use for analysis, with gratitude to these filmmakers who have honored Walt Whitman.

Go to Vimeo for the clickable timecode list of cited films, but really, you should just watch the whole thing straight through. I’ll paste the list in below.

I should mention for the benefit of any newcomers to the film poetry genre that the 1921 film Manhatta by Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand was not only the first real Whitman poetry film, but also arguably the first American avant-garde film and the first proper film poem. (Watch it in full here.) For this reason alone, fans of poetry film and videopoetry need to pour one out for old Walt on May 31. Long may his poetry live and continue to shape art and literature around the world.

02:30 Intolerance (1916): Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking
02:49 Manhatta (1921): A Broadway Pageant; Mannahatta; Crossing Brooklyn Ferry
03:39 Street Scene (1931): Passage to India
04:25 Now Voyager (1942): The Untold Want
05:18 Goodbye, My Fancy (1951): Good-bye My Fancy!
05:54 The Twilight Zone, Season 3 Episode 35 (1962): I Sing the Body Electric
06:46 Fame (1980): I Sing the Body Electric
07:16 Sophie’s Choice (1982)
08:12 Down By Law (1986): The Singer in Prison
08:59 Bull Durham (1988): I Sing the Body Electric
11:17 Dead Poets Society (1989): O Captain! My Captain!; O Me! O Life!; Song of Myself
15:17 Northern Exposure, Season 1 Episode 2 (1990): When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d
17:12 Quiz Show (1994): I Hear America Singing
17:33 Doc Hollywood (1991): Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking
18:14 With Honors (1994): Song of Myself; One Hour to Madness and Joy; Song of Myself
19:49 Little Women (1994): Give me the Splendid, Silent Sun
20:24 Beautiful Dreamers (1992)/Song of Myself (1976)
21:19 Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Season 5 Ep. 21 (1997): Song of the Open Road; I Hear America Singing
25:31 Love and Death on Long lsland (1997): The Untold Want
26:15 L.I.E. (2001): Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking
27:25 The Notebook (2004): Spontaneous Me; Continuities
29:19 Leaves of Grass (2009): To You
31:10 Breaking Bad (2011-2013): When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer
32:57 Whitman Trilogy by H. Paul Moon (2016-2019): America; The Wound Dresser; Civil War poems
33:21 Short Film by Sara Wolfley (2019): Poets to Come

Turbulence by Dave Harris

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Poet, playwright, and essayist Dave Harris is featured in this latest installment in the monthly series “A Poet’s Space” from Rattle magazine and director Mike Gioia’s Blank Verse Films. For the text of the poem (which won the 2018 Rattle Poetry Prize) and some additional remarks by Harris, see the post on Rattle‘s website.

War by Adonis

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I recently bought the award-winning translation of Adonis’ Selected Poems by Khaled Mattawa and have been enjoying it immensely. A little bit of searching turned up not only the above video, but 18 more such videos, all from a 2013 documentary about the Syrian-Lebanese poet from Oogland Film Productions, Land of Absence, directed by John Albert Jansen and supported in part by Poetry International. PI have created an album on Vimeo where you can watch Adonis recite all 19 poems with Mattawa’s translations in subtitles.

Here’s the description of Land of Absence:

A journey through the eventful life of the Syrian-Lebanese writer Adonis, one of the most eminent thinkers and writers of the Arab world. In Land of Absence he talks about his life and work, about Syria, the Arab world and Islam.

The Paris based Syrian-Lebanese poet Ali Ahmed Esber (1930), better known under his pen name Adonis, is sometimes called ‘the living legend of Arab literature’. For seventy years he has been writing poetry in which Arab identity is a central theme. His unique voice and independent mind has secured him a central role in the complex and multi-faceted Arab world.

In Land of Absence Adonis, in his Paris apartment, talks about his life, about Syria, about the Arab world and Islam. In his old age he is still as lucid and sharp and obstinate as ever. But first and foremost he is a great poet, who covers not only his own land, Syria, but a whole continent. ‘From writing in Arabic, you only learn that your homeland is not a place, that it can nowhere be found,’ he writes.

The DVD is still available for order.

River Hymns: poetry by Tyree Daye

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Snippets of interview are interspersed with poems in this wonderful portrait by Morgan Potts of the poet and educator Tyree Daye, who appears equally at home in the classroom and the North Carolina landscape. The poems are from his collection River Hymns, winner of the 2017 APR/Honickman First Book Prize. Though this may resemble a book trailer, it’s actually a public television spot, aired on PBS station UNCTV back in February.

Dear Progress by Micah Purnell

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A pair of videos by Mark “Sparky” Tuson documenting a fascinating public poetry-ish project in Manchester a few years ago.

Artist Micah Purnell writes an ‘open letter’ on billboards to make you think. Twenty-one billboards in Manchester will display artwork that discuss some of the challenges facing consumers of Western progress. 24 March 2014 – 7 April 2014

Sadly, the project’s website is no longer online, but you can still read an article about the installation by Kate Feld at creativetourist.com.

[Purnell’s] messages draw a lot of their inspiration from Oliver James’ book Affluenza: How to Be Successful and Stay Sane, a bleakly brilliant polemic against a society infected by rampant capitalism. Basically, James says, the richer we get, the unhappier and more anxious we become. The more things we have, the less we value ourselves, the more we seek satisfaction through buying stuff and attempting to conform to impossible aspirations, put in our minds with the express purpose of turning a profit. To see these messages sprout in advertising space seems deliciously provocative.

Read the rest. (And visit Micah Purnell’s website.) Although Purnell does not claim his brief “letters” are poetry, the first video could easily qualify as a videopoem, I think.