Posts in Category: Performance Poetry

Memory-Bridge by Shalewa Mackall

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

From film-maker Danielle Eliska Lyle and poet Shalewa Mackall, this is Memory-Bridge, one of the best films from the 2019 Visible Poetry Project.

The visual stream is jazzily constructed of “found footage” from various free sources. This is in sync with the sample-based hip-hop and house music referred to but never heard in the film. Narration is by the poet, who appears in the film as well, accompanied only by the warm sound of vinyl static—warm like her strong, expressive voice.

The poem is beat-driven, funky. It conveys myriad elements of cultural identity, past, present and future:

Who we are is undefined. Might be infinite. Variable. A mystery unsolved, but not yet ready to exit.

Gen.er.a.tion X, n. People born between 1960 and 1980. Some were alive with the last survivors of enslavement.

Danielle Eliska describes herself as a “black archivist”, her life’s work to tell stories of powerful women, the Black Diaspora and the state of Black culture. She is the founder of multimedia production house Meraki Society.

Shalewa Mackall belongs to a community of artists embracing Sankofa, a word in the Twi language of Ghana that translates to “Go back and get it”. The term relates to the Asante Adinkra symbol, often represented by a bird with its head turned backwards while its feet face forward, carrying a precious egg in its mouth. This symbolises moving forward in full awareness and embrace of what has preceded, historically and culturally.

Turbulence by Dave Harris

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

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.

Canoe by Kate Marshall Flaherty

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

Mark Korven directs this adaptation of a poem by Kate Marshall Flaherty, one of a series of three such films supported by a grant program associated with the Georgian Bay Land Trust,

integrating [Flaherty’s] performance poetry with the original music of award-winning composer and film-maker Mark Korven […] Set against the memorable backdrop of Georgian Bay landscapes, these films will highlight the jack pines and quartz rocks of the shorelines, striving to capture in word, sound and image the unique character of this region.

Watch all three films on Korven’s Vimeo page.

The Opposites Game by Brendan Constantine

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

This film of Brendan Constantine‘s brilliant anti-gun poem (click through for the text) kicked off a promising new YouTube channel called Blank Verse Films, the work of L.A.-based filmmaker Mike Gioia. He described his modus operandi in an email: “I travel around filming poets, and then edit the recitations into little films.” He added,

Making the videos is much more challenging and exciting than I originally anticipated. I’m trying lots of different approaches but still don’t feel like I’ve “cracked the code” of how to film poetry. Later this month I’m going to try some experiments with dramatic reenactments of poems that will use actors who speak the lines of poetry.

Do consider subscribing to his channel and (of course) watching the other films. There’s also a Facebook page.

The Entropy of Forgiveness by Angelica Poversky

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

Merissa Victor directed this videopoem about self-acceptance, with Vancouver-based spoken-word poet Angelica Poversky contributing the original concept and lyrics. I’m blown away by Poversky’s voiceover here—refreshingly free of affectation, it’s the perfect compromise between a natural speaking voice and rhythmic musicality, to my ear. Unsurprisingly, a note in the YouTube description says it’s “Coming soon to Spotify as part of a debut album by Angelica Poversky.” The vocal accompaniment and musical direction are by rhé (Rhea Casido); moses c.c. is the producer.

Thanks to Moving Poems reader Emily Sergey for the tip.

Two poems by Liu Xia

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

To celebrate yesterday’s release of Liu Xia from detention, here’s a video of her reading two poems while in captivity, “Untitled” (translated by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern) and “Drinking” (translated by Yu Zhang). A 2015 post on the PEN America website has the text of both translations, as well as the back-story:

October 8, 2015, will mark five years that Liu Xia, the wife of imprisoned Chinese writer and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, has been under extralegal house arrest in her Beijing apartment. It was on this date in 2010 that Norwegian Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjørn Jagland announced from Oslo that her husband was to receive the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize “for his long and nonviolent struggle for human rights in China.” Within hours, police descended on her apartment complex, cut her phone lines, and barred friends and family from entry.

In this rare video, shot in December 2013 after friends ripped past the guards to her apartment, Liu Xia is seen reading two of her own poems in her apartment. Liu casually sits at her desk just outside the soft glow of a reading lamp, smoking a cigarette and reading from her notebook. After she finishes reading the second poem, “Drinking,” she gives a hasty thumbs up to the unidentified camera operator heard whistling in approval.

On December 1, 2015, PEN will host a reading of Liu Xia’s poems from a new translation of her poetry, Empty Chairs—forthcoming on November 3 from Graywolf Press—at Book Court in New York City. Stay tuned for details to come.

Dear White America by Danez Smith

This may be a basic video (from the livestream by Katalogon of Poetry International Festival Rotterdam, 2 June 2018), but it is nevertheless essential watching: a master poet at the top of his game calling out the rot at the heart of the American dream. The text is from Danez Smith’s award-winning collection Don’t Call Us Dead and has been reprinted online at Literary Hub.