This clip from D. A. Pennebaker‘s 1967 documentary Don’t Look Back remains an innovative, proto music video. Poetry-film expert Alice Lyons included it in her list of “Ten Films to Look at When You Want to Think About Poetry and Film.”
Thinking about how the entirely preventable tragedies of the so-called War on Terror unfolded after September 11, 2001, and agonizing about what we might’ve done to stop it, language breaks down. From poet Andrea Assaf and the Art2Action theater group, including video artist Pramila Vasudevan, “Eleven Reflections on September” is
a poetry/spoken word, multimedia performance on Arab American experience, Wars on/of Terror, and “the constant, quiet rain of death amidst beauty” that each autumn brings in a post-9/11 world. This production is based on the series of poems Andrea Assaf has been writing since 2001, spanning the fall of the towers, the on-going wars, and the current revolutions and conflicts sweeping through the Arab world. Aesthetically, the poems explore the disintegration of language in the face of violence, prejudice, and unspeakable horror; as such, they progress from lyrical to abstract and broken. The annual witnessing of autumn leaves becomes a metaphor for the fallen–soldiers and civilians … This multi-disciplinary project includes performances with interactive media design and live music; community dialogues; visual arts exhibits; open mics, panels and opportunities for action through partnerships with Iraq Veterans Against the War and other peace organizations.
The Vimeo description for this video reads:
An excerpt from “Eleven Reflections on September” by Andrea Assaf
Poem # 11: Judgment
Post-script 1: Traveling
Video Art by Pramila Vasudevan.
Sound Design for “Judgment” by Owen Henry & Keegan Fraley.
Choreographic Assignment: Raise me from the dead. From the metaphorical underworld to the heavens. Once you have lifted my body-spirit from the ground, help me travel to the afterlife. Travel with me, and send me on my way.
Cue: After the poem “Judgment” ends (repeating “just stop” 3x), the Daf pulses three times, followed by a chapreez — and the ritual to raise the dead begins. It will continue through the end of “Traveling”.
Movement during the re-mixed/voiceover section of “Judgment”: I am responding to the fragmented, falling, exploding words with my body — torso, arms and head only, while kneeling on the ground. This section is my descent into the underworld, so to speak — or simply my disintegration, from which you will raise/remake me…
A note on “Traveling” — This poem is an English translation of Mohamed Bouazi’s suicide note to his mother, posted on his Facebook page. Tarek al-Tayyib Muhammad ibn Bouazizi, a 26-year old Tunisian fruit vendor who quit high school to work and support his mother and sisters, set himself on fire on December 17, 2010, after his wares were confiscated … A fire that sparked the revolution now known as “The Arab Spring”. His last note is pure poetry, his final act pure protest. The poem, by Andrea Assaf, was published by Mizna in the Spring 2012 issue on “Literature in Revolution.”
Visit the Eleven Reflections on September channel on Vimeo to watch other excerpts from the piece, including live performance videos.
This is the fourth of a five-part audiovisual composition by Ecuadorian musician, composer and poet Paola Proaño for an MMus thesis at the Berklee College of Music, “An Audiovisual Approach to sollozo por pedro jara (1978) by Efraín Jara Idrovo.” Watch all five parts in order on her website, which also includes background on the poem and her composition:
Efraín Jara Idrovo (Cuenca, EC, 1926) finished this work in 1978. He wrote it for his son Pedro Jara after his suicide in 1974 at age 16. This is one of the most expressive poems I discovered thanks to an admired professor in April 2014.
Jara Idrovo’s approach to structure, rhythm and sound in this piece is unique. This work is divided into five series and each series consists of three parts. Inspired by its musicality/resemblance to musical compositional approaches, I started working in November 2015 on an audiovisual frame for this piece as part of my M.Mus. thesis. The project consisted, initially, in writing music inspired on the emotional content and avant-garde structure of this elegy and trying to find creative approaches to translate or adapt this poetic work into a composition for electric guitar. This is the “musical” element of the frame I wanted to provide for this poetry.
More information about the compositional process is available here.
In the end, these five resulting pieces are now part of five audiovisuals, which include the recitation of the poem, audio and footage editing that supports the emotional environment and English subtitles based on a translation by Dr. Cecilia Mafla Bustamante.
The purpose of my project is to make this elegy available in other “formats” and, therefore, hopefully, reach a broader audience for this beautiful poem.
For anybody interested in this elegy, I would like to share the following documents, which are available online. This is a compilation from sources cited below:
Purpose and reading instructions stated by the author (in Spanish) (screenshots of El mundo de las evidencias (1984) by Efraín Jara Idrovo available for partial preview in Google Books): Propósitos e instrucciones
Poem (in Spanish) (corrections made on online versions): sollozo por pedro jara – estructuras para una elegía
English translation by Dr. Cecilia Mafla Bustamante: Weeping for Pedro Jara – Structures for an Elegy
Proaño’s essay on her composition process is also well worth checking out. She doesn’t say anything about her process for choosing the film images, which I find generally successful, erring more on the side of arbitrariness than literal illustration. I am especially impressed by the scope and ambition of this project and the music-first approach to poetry filmmaking. At any rate, do go watch all five parts, and if the Wix site doesn’t display properly in your browser, watch them on Vimeo.
Nitin Nath is the poet and performer in this musical short directed by Sumesh Lal with music rearranged and produced by Govind Menon. Like yesterday’s video, this poetry film was released as a trailer for a feature-length movie. But there’s an additional connection with the world of film here: the poem is a tribute to the great Malayalam director P. Padmarajan.
India’s first spoken word musical, ‘dear padmarajan’ is a prologue to the independent English feature film ‘Humans of Someone’, slated for release this March 2016.
‘Humans of Someone’ tells the story of a man who gets obsessed with a filmmaker whose films become inextricably entwined with his own life. WATCH THIS exclusive introduction to warm up to the neighbourhood of the film.
The prologue is our heart-sized ode to the dramatic genius of P. Padmarajan, one of the greatest storytellers we’ve ever known.
To support the film, follow facebook.com/humansofsomeone
Click through to YouTube for the unusually complete credits, which include a list of the Padmarajan films mentioned plus other references in the poem.
A beautifully filmed rendition of John Cage’s composition Forever and Sunsmell, performed by Dorothy Gal, Christopher Salvito, and Jessica Tsang and filmed and recorded by Christopher Salvito.
The title and text of Forever and Sunsmell are from 26, one of 50 poems (1940) by e.e. cummings. Some lines and words have been omitted, others have been repeated or used in an order other than that of the original. The humming and vocalise (not part of the poem) are an interpolation.
That’s from the video description. There’s a longer analysis of the piece at allmusic.com that talks about its place in Cage’s artistic development. For the complete text of the original poem, click through to Vimeo.
I think “The Hollow Men” has just found its ideal multimedia interpretation. I remember being utterly enthralled with Eliot’s poem at age 13, and this projection performance video from the artist duo Decomposing Pianos—Julia Krolik and Owen Fernley—brings it all back. Here’s the description:
T.S. Eliot’s 1925 poem The Hollow Men is spoken in unison by a trio of computer generated voices. Photography, code-generated video, original music and choreography are combined for performance. This work was part of Chipped Off’s wasteAWAY.
Performed: June 4th to 6th, 2015 at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, Kingston ON.
Dancers: Meredith Dault, Tracey Guptill & Helena Marks
Chipped Off: Kim Renders, Robin McDonald and Dan Vena
See Facebook for more on the Chipped Off Performance Collective.