There’s a video of Simic reading this poem, but it’s not as interesting as the two videos included here. About the musical performance above I could gather nothing, though it appears from the one comment that it may have been uploaded by one of the performers. I love the interpretation of the poem as a Sufi teaching, though I’m not sure how Simic would feel about it.
Brian Watterson is the filmmaker here.
Here’s a live performance of one of the pieces included on the album, from the September 2009 Grand Opening of Poet’s House in New York. This is by British poet Charles Causley: “Nursery Rhyme of Innocence and Experience,” the opening track of the two-disc set.
Watch more live performances of songs off Leave Your Sleep at BBC Radio Scotland.
Expand this to full screen and turn the sound up: this is Hopper Confessions: Room in Brooklyn for cello, interactive electronics and interactive video. The music is by Joseph Butch Rovan, and the video is by Rovan and Katherine Bergeron. The page on Vimeo includes a rather academic disquisition from which I’ll quote only the opening paragraph:
This multimedia work draws its inspiration from “Room in Brooklyn,” a poem by Anne Carson, published in her collection Men in the Off Hours (New York: Knopf, 2000). Carson’s poem is itself polyphonic, exposing two different voices that speak to the condition of passing time: a painting by Edward Hopper (the 1932 canvas “Room in Brooklyn”) and a passage from St. Augustine’s Confessions. Carson measures the nostalgia of Hopper’s Americana with a tiny thread of verse that hangs on Augustine’s temporal philosophy like a second melodic voice over a stolid cantus firmus.
You have to turn your sound up for this, but it’s worth it. The poem is “Voice,” by Lynn Thompson, and it serves as prologue to a marvelous solo dance choreographed by Anna Leo and performed by Bridget Roosa. Steve Everett composed the music (and uploaded the video to Vimeo). The poem was commissioned by the choreographer, as Thompson explains in a guest post for the Emory Dance blog:
When Anna Leo invited me to compose a poem for a solo dance entitled Warrior Woman Pantoum, I assumed the Malayan form (originally, pantun) would provide the structure for the poem. When I received the DVD of a rehearsal of the piece, however, it struck me that Anna’s choreography and Steve Everett’s feral musical score had fractured the regularized expectations that are a necessary aspect of that form. Traditionally, the pantoum is comprised of repeated, rhyming lines that create an echo in the listener’s ear; a feeling of taking four steps forward, then two back. However, Anna’s Warrior Woman earns her status by eschewing this expectation; by exploring the previously-unexplored so as to discover and establish her own way in the world. Thus, in writing “Voice,” I wanted to develop a pattern by repeating the active verb say while marrying that repetition to the dancer’s unpredictable curiosity and insistence on becoming.
I don’t often share videos uploaded by someone other than the copyright holder, because chances are eventually they’ll get taken down and I’ll have a dead post. But these are too good to miss: five selections from Scribbles on Akka, a 60-minute film in Hindi and Kannada with English subtitles directed by Madhusree Dutta, with music by Ilayaraja, and starring Seema Biswas, Sabitri Heisnam, and Harish Khanna. Here’s a synopsis from Upperstall.com:
Scribbles on Akka is a short film on the life and work of the 12th century saint poet, Mahadevi Akka. Her radical poems, written with the female body as a metaphor, have been composed and picturised in contemporary musical language. Mahadevi, famed as Akka — elder sister, while leaving the domestic arena in search of God, also abandoned modesty and clothing. The film explores the meaning of this denial through the work of contemporary artists and writers and testimonies of ordinary folks who nurtured her image through centuries in their folklores and oral literature. A celebration of rebellion, feminity and legacy down nine hundred years.
The female director writes,
The film is an exercise in building a bridge across eight hundred years. Mahadevi Akka, the poet, still influences the contemporary poets and painters. Mahadevi Akka, the deity, graces the packets of pickles and papads — prepared by ladies’ co-operatives. Mahadevi Akka, the legendary nude saint, adorns pinup posters and music cassette covers. The bridge is already there. But how did it happen?
Why women poets of feminist era obsessively write pieces of dialogues with Akka? Why a painter in Baroda incessantly paints various images of Akka? Why is she still marketable as a brand name? Who is she?
I don’t know, but I will say that the Indian filmmaking style seems tailor-made for videopoetry.
Click the four-arrows icon on the bottom right to watch this full-screen: a musical, modern-dance interpretation of a suite of poems by Akka Mahadevi, A.K.A. Mahadeviyakka, the great Saivite bhakti poet. These are Jane Hirshfield’s translations from the 12th-century Kannada. For more on Mahadevi, see Kristen McHenry’s Obscure Poets column on Mahadevi at Read Write Poem.
There’s full nudity in the last few minutes, so this may not be entirely work-safe, depending on where you work. Mahadevi, like many of her male counterparts in Indian ascetic practice, dispensed with clothes.
The description on Viddler gives the full credits:
Live performance, March 3, 2007, in New York City’s Dance New Amsterdam. Amy Pivar Dances presents Songs For Solo Dance and Voice. “Emptiness,” music by Paula M. Kimper, translation of Mahadeviyakka (India, 12thc.) by Jane Hirshfield. Amy Pivar – dancer/choreographer, Elaine Valby and Gilda Lyons – vocals, Paula M. Kimper – guitar. Video by Vanessa Scanlan.
Thirteen Mahadevi poems in English translation are available on the Poet Seers site.
Tomorrow: More Akka Mahadevi vachanas, as interpreted by a contemporary Indian filmmaker.