There’s a real dearth of English-subtitled Arabic poetry recitation on the web; this goes a small way toward righting the balance. It’s interesting to see how poetry is chanted or sung in Arabic, rather than simply read (much less mumbled). Another thing that might be a little difficult for some of us to get our heads around is a poet becoming so popular that he could be branded an enemy of the state, and his works become a relying cry for people opposed to the established order. Such was the case with Nabeel Yasin, Iraq’s most celebrated poet (and last year, an unsuccessful candidate for prime minister), who has been compared to Bob Dylan in his impact on Iraqi society from the late 60s on.
“The Poet of Baghdad” was directed by Georgie Weedon for Al Jazeera, and has just been re-uploaded to YouTube as a single video. The blending of poetry recitation with reminiscence is very effective, I think, and the reflections on exile will probably resonate with emigrants, voluntary and involuntary, from many lands. Al Jazeera posted an interview with the director in early 2010.
This brief documentary on the making of the three poetry films to emerge from the 2010 ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival workshop (see the previous three posts here to watch videos of the films) is a must-watch for anyone interested in ekphrastic collaboration. I was particularly impressed by poet Monika Rinck’s remarks on the life of a poem beyond the page, and her interest in avoiding the sort of filmmaker who might over-interpret a poem:
I like poems and I think also movies about poems to guard a certain openness. I don’t want to have the pictures in the poem locked, as if it couldn’t be otherwise, as if the pictures of the movie override everything which was open before.
I also liked her collaborator Avi Dabach’s admission that he is better able to connect with poems that he doesn’t fully understand, implying that the making of a poetry film is a kind of close reading or exercise in hermaneutics.
Brooks Books is pleased to announce the publication of HAIKU: The Art of the Short Poem, a film by Tazuo Yamaguchi. The haiku cited or read in the film are published in this book/DVD combo as a haiku anthology featuring contemporary English-language haiku writers.
In August 2007 Tazuo attended the Haiku North America conference, where he filmed over 50 hours of interviews and events with contemporary haiku poets, concluding with the HNA head-to-head haiku competition. As Taz writes in the introduction to this book/DVD: “Each poet brought me their wealth of passion, information and knowledge, and timeless insights from their snowball stash they had collected through their life’s sleigh ride of love and interest in haiku.”
A thoroughly wonderful project from Media Mike Hazard at The Center for International Education:
A swarm of 25 first through eighth graders at Capitol Hill School in Saint Paul, Minnesota, was busy as bees off and on for a whole school year, creating Tamamushi-Iro. It is a great little video of haiku about bugs written by the Japanese poet Issa (1763-1827). We might look at it in many different ways.
While developing the project with the art teacher Julie Woodman, I learned from Ross Corson, then an aide to Ambassador Mondale in Japan, that there is a saying, “tama-mushi-iro,” literally meaning “round-bug-color.” It is used in diplomatic circles to describe something which looks beautiful to everyone, yet different from all angles. Our dream became to create a video of some of Issa’s insect haiku which might be seen as tamamushi-iro.
Like a Rashomon, the video has been seen as a program about Issa, about bugs, about poetry, about Japan, about kids’ views of the world, about art and artist residencies, about television, about international education, about experiential learning, about crossgenerational, crosscultural and crossdisciplinary education, about a person who lived 200 years ago, about inquiry science, about old poetry and new technology…It has been seen in many colorful ways.
First, it’s about great poems. This is why I love poetry. My nine year old daughter, who was on the Issa team, saw a spring fly, and flew to get a flyswatter. She raised her arm, and in mid-air stopped, and thought “Issa,” and let the fly fly. Now if we raise a society to respect even the tiniest creatures of the earth, maybe when some dumb finger is about to push a button and blow us all to kingdom come, some small poem will save us from our worst selves. If we can create a society which stops and thinks, stop and think: we just might….
Ambassador Mondale helped us connect with Sakurababa Junior High School in Nagasaki. Our sister city relationship between Saint Paul and Nagasaki was set up to heal the war wounds of World War Two. On a profound level, this was all about international education, across time and space.
I look into a dragonfly’s eye
the mountains over my shoulder.
tsuki ni utsuru
Be sure to read the whole article, and if you’re an educator, consider ordering a copy of the video.
A while back I posted another excerpt from this documentary, featuring three animations. This is the opening 5+ minutes of the half-hour documentary by Mike Hazard and Deb Wallwork, with animations by John Akre.
A short documentary about contemporary Frisian poet Tsead Bruinja from the German broadcasting company Deutsche Welle.
A video of Bruinja reciting one of his poems, “Darling no one knows about the previous lives,” with English subtitles. This is from Wyld Hynder (Wild Horse) films, according to the info on YouTube.
Here’s Bruinja reading a poem called “‘Sy wennet yn in baarnend hûs” — “She lives in a burning house.” This was produced by the Omrop Fryslân broadcasting company. Bruinja includes an English translation by David Colmer on the YouTube page:
she lives in a burning house
every storm takes a tile from the roof
it’s cold her teeth chatter
someone outside thinks up new rules for traffic
an old man cycles on
newspapers stuffed under his clothes
she walks out with a basket full of washing
black sheets black blankets black
pillowcase she sees the fields are burning too
no point in going out
it’s better back inside the walls
flames dancing on his portrait
letters fall unasked through the door
rustling down not reaching the mat her cat
jumps onto her lap with a vegetable desire
to be stroked she pours more meths
over the photo albums wipes
the ash from her glasses and reads
and reads and reads
Some more English translations of Bruinja’s work may be found on Poetry International Web, though according to the translators’ notes, they were based on the author’s own translations into Dutch. (Bruinja also writes and has published poetry in Dutch.)
Excerpt from a documentary called Immortal Cupboard: In Search of Lorine Niedecker, by Cathy C. Cook, which won a Jury Award from the 2009 Wisconsin Film Festival. Cook reproduces the official blurb on her blog:
In this unconventional documentary, filmmaker Cathy Cook takes cues from Niedecker’s work and the Wisconsin heritage they share to explore the poetry and life of Lorine Niedecker (1903 – 1970). The poetry and film subjects included are: nature, history, ecology, gender, domesticity, work, culture, family and social politics. Cook gives new voice and visibility to the extraordinary works of this very private poet that some literary critics have described as the 20th century’s Emily Dickinson.
There’s a review and an interesting discussion of possible omissions from the film at The Irascible Poet.
For more on Niedecker, see the website for the poet from the Friends of Lorine Niedecker, Inc. Here’s another video, featuring Wisconsin Poet Laureate Marilyn Taylor discussing and reading from Niedecker’s work, part of the Dead Poets Society of America’s 2009 cross-country gravesite tour.