Posts in Category: Performance Poetry

No Good Deed Goes Umpunished by John Giorno

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No Good Deed Goes Umpunished features a performance of the poem of the same name by John Giorno, who died, aged 82, on Friday 11 October 2019. He passed away in New York, the city where he was also born. This video of him is a piece complete in itself, and additionally forms part of a longer film of Giorno’s performances from 2007, titled Nine Poems in Basilicata, from Italian film-maker, Antonello Faretta.

Giorno was part of an illustrious community of American artists in the 1960s, including the major figures of Pop Art, such as Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. One of Warhol’s first experiments in film was Sleep, from 1963, which focused a camera for five hours and 20 minutes on a young Giorno asleep.

The influence of Pop Art on Giorno’s poetry included incorporating found text and imagery in his work. On at least one occasion a found text formed the entirety of one of his poems. In other poems, he employed cut-up and montage techniques. Later he abandoned these approaches for a poetic style that has been described as experimental realism.

In 1965 Giorno founded the non-profit organisation, Giorno Poetry Systems. The aims included connecting poetry with audiovisual media. One of its notable projects, inspired by a conversation with his collaborator, William S. Burroughs, was Dial-A-Poem, in which pre-recorded poems with radical political content were played to anyone calling in. Collaborators on this included John Ashbery, Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg, Charles Bukowski and Laurie Anderson.

Giorno was open and political about his queer sexuality. During the emergence of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, he founded the AIDS Treatment Project. The charity has since distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to sufferers.

Many thanks to the highly esteemed film-maker, Mark Rappaport, for drawing our attention to the obituary in the New York Times, and to Giorno’s substantial contribution to the development of poetry in performance and audiovisual media. More poetry performances can be seen at the website of Antonello Faretta.

Giorno’s life and creativity was rich and generous. Enduring is the vitality of his spirit.

Stander Under Anvils by Bronwen Manger

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Set on a Melbourne tram, Stander Under Anvils is from Australian film-maker Martin Kelly, and features the luminous presence of poet Bronwen Manger, who speaks her text live to camera for most of the film. It is one of several video poetry pieces that Martin has produced in a media partnership with Ian McBryde.

As with many of Bronwen’s poems, there is an enticing sense of mystery here, perhaps even a suggestion of perversity. I find shadowy and unfamiliar meanings arising from the subtle twists of soft-spoken words, ostensibly directed towards a brother. The final, almost-not-there glance at the camera creates for me a perfectly sly ending to a piece that draws me in by being quiet.

Martin is best known in the international video poetry community as co-creator of Spree, a highly-regarded video of a poem by Ian. In Spree too, the writer appears speaking the text direct to camera, inter-cut with vivid flashes of associative imagery.

Martin says of the ongoing collaboration he has with Ian:

…We hope to provide both a window into the world of poetry for those who may otherwise pass it by, but we also aim at contributing to and developing the unique genre of video poems.

Ian makes an uncredited appearance in Stander Under Anvils, as a blind passenger sitting next to Bronwen on the tram, who suddenly turns to give her a key word.

Memory-Bridge by Shalewa Mackall

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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

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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.

Canoe by Kate Marshall Flaherty

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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

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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

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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.