Posts in Category: Spoken Word

Foresight by Roche “Roach” Du Plessis

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A well-produced performance poetry video from Emote Record Company, “a record label dedicated entirely to the recording, distribution, promotion, and support of spoken word artists and the spoken word community.” Du Plessis is one of several artists recorded in what appears to be someone’s living room in Johannesburg. (View more at Emote’s YouTube channel.)

Scoring and Additional Recording by Paul Elliott
Edited, Mixed and Mastered by Simon Strehler
Videographers: Ett Venter, Bernard Brand

Special Thanks to Clive Thomson and the Thomson family, the greatest hosts on Earth.

It’s no secret that I’m not the biggest fan of spoken word and slam-style poetry. But the outrageous rhymes on “Orwell” sold me on this one. Plus I applaud the emphasis on audio and video production. Emote’s website, spokenwordcollective.com, was just launched last month, so they’re obviously just getting off the ground. I hope they go far.

Detrás de los fragmentos / After Fragments by Diana Bellessi

An English-subtitled reading by the Argentinian poet Diana Bellessi, part of a larger documentary about her. The translation’s really good and the language and landscape are both mesmerizing, I thought. Here’s the YouTube description:

Diana Bellessi reads the poem “After the fragment”, about the history of her family, originally from Italy. As she reads, the sun sets over the land they worked.
This is video is part of the documentary “Secret Garden” (www.secretgardendocumentary.wordpress.c­om).

Directed by Cristián Costantini, Diego Panich and Claudia Prado
Camera: Leandro Listorti/Diego Panich
Poem translation: Cathy Eisenhower

Diana Bellessi lee el poema “Detrás de los fragmentos”, sobe la historia de su familia, descendientes de italianos en la pampa santafesina. Mientras ella lee, el sol se pone en la tierra que trabajaron sus parientes.
Este video es parte del documental “El jardín secreto” (www.eljardinsecretoblog.wordpress.com).

Eventually you will be dead but today you are not by Steve Roggenbuck

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One recent addition to the Links page that’s proving especially useful in expanding my horizons is a Blogspot site from Laura Theobald, a poetry MFA student at Louisiana State University: irreducible: a study on the concept and genre of poetry film. Among other things, she’s led me to take another look at Steve Roggenbuck, who must be one of the most prominent videopoets not to have been featured on Moving Poems so far, for the simple reason that I find him annoying as hell. I realize the annoyingness (which includes intentional misspelling) is all part of his sincerely ironic, internet-savvy schtick; but since most of his videos are hand-held, vlog-style spoken word pieces, they also haven’t held my interest aesthetically. This one, however, incorporates some found video of subjects other than the poet’s face. As Theobald puts it:

This poetry-video, titled “Eventually you will be dead but today you are not,” is a good example of Roggenbuck’s poetry-film aesthetic: a handheld camera is pointed by the poet directly at himself in close-up, often off-centered, partially out-of-frame, walking outdoors, “in nature”; ambient music accompanies the entirety of the film; Roggenbuck speaks directly into the camera; and the film is heavily edited, with short, quick intervals between shots. The overall tone is high-energy, full of impact, intense. In the case of this particular film, shots of the poet speaking into the camera are interlaced with “found” (appropriated) images from popular films and videos (“Independence Day,” “Air Bud,” Rebecca Black’s viral video for “Friday,”) and audio clips of motivational speakers—these images coincide with the poet’s “textual” references to popular culture: “Carlos Mencia,” “The Rock,” “Will Smith,” “Bagel Bites,” etc.

Like most of Roggenbuck’s videos, this one raises a number of questions about its terms. Roggenbuck has published three books/e-books of poetry that themselves push the boundaries of ideas about poetry by making the same sort of moves that we see in this video: by making pop-culture references (Justin Bieber), by using “internet speech,” jokes, and witticisms, and an “internet-y” conversational tone. None of these factors are, alone, groundbreaking, but, together, as we see in the video, they form an end product that somehow breaks from our traditional (or even nontraditional) understanding of poetry. In his videos, the characteristics that define Roggenbuck’s written works are intensified by the fact that Roggenbuck seems to be improvising the lines of the “poems” that he speaks into the camera. Whether or not he does in fact improvise, I don’t know for sure. I suspect (from interviews, blog posts, and the quality of the content) that some time is spent rehearsing or planning the scenes he films. Regardless, the videos seem to challenge collective notions about poetry, as Roggenbuck himself seems to recognize—specifically in his video “am i even a poet anymore?” Explicitly here Roggenbuck seems to raise a number of questions about poetry and literature and to dismiss conventional means of disseminating literature as outdated. He advocates, instead, a broader view of literary activities.

Read the rest of Theobald’s post (which also includes an analysis of a Kate Greenstreet film). Whatever else might be said about Roggenbuck, his work certainly represents a sort of apotheosis of the selfie culture. I’m sure this won’t be the last time I’ll be featuring it here.

In my kitchen in New York by Allen Ginsberg

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Last week’s Sunday bonus post went over well, so here’s another, also a bit spiritual, for all you church-of-the-brunch types. In this one, the late Allen Ginsberg does Tai Chi in his kitchen over an audio track of Allen Ginsberg reading a poem about doing Tai Chi in his kitchen. Found via the lyrikline blog, which notes:

This clip is one of the earliest “Poetry Spots” Bob Holman made between 1986 and 1994 for the New York public television station, WYZC. Holman produced around 50 “Poetry Spots” in total.

For more of Holman’s poetry videos, see his YouTube channel.

How to lift him by Ed Madden

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Here’s a Sunday bonus video, a poetic un-sermon after my own heart from one of our finest Southern poets. Ed Madden’s TEDx talk seamlessly incorporates three poems from his 2013 collection My Father’s House: “How to lift him,” “Knowledge,” and “Thirst.” The book’s publisher, Ron Mohring, describes this talk as “Frank, open, painful, specific, direct, moving, and perhaps above all, generous.” I was especially moved by Madden’s quietly radical questioning of the power of communication to change those around us, and his refusal to grasp at easy, glib truths.

The video is also available at the TEDx site.

Glaoch/Call by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

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A film adaptation by Peter Madden of a piece originally titled “Skype,” by the bilingual Irish poet Doireann Ní Ghríofa. Madden first released an English version, about which he noted: “This is basically a performance based video, Doireann simply reads the poem on skype.” Then he made Glaoch (embedded above): “Shot to the same beat as its English version ‘Call’ it varies only very slightly, echoing the changes that occur in translation.”

Both films were part of a recent feature of Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s poetry in Numéro Cinq, which includes her statement about this poem:

Glaoch/Call is a consideration of modern life and love. I am intrigued by the multiple paradoxes of contemporary life — we are more connected than ever through technology, and yet there often remains a fundamental disconnect between us, an emotional distance, a fundamental interpersonal detachment. This poem arose from dissonance between these opposing constructs, and our collaboration in film seeks to further explore this matter.

I know I don’t post nearly as many performance videos here as I could. Sometimes that’s because the poetry is too didactic (a common failing especially of spoken-word poetry, in my view), but more often than not because the filming simply isn’t imaginative enough. But this film, short as it is, proves that a talented filmmaker can transform a performance video into something wonderful — and perhaps transcend the genre altogether. This could just as easily be classed as a videopoem/filmpoem that happens to feature the poet.

Then of course there’s the pleasure of watching and hearing a poem read in another language while reading a good translation in subtitles. That’s one of the things that most interests me about poetry video in general: the way it can be used to bring the music of poetry in other languages across, at the same time helping poets who write in languages with relatively small numbers of speakers to reach a global audience.

Ars Poetica by Annelyse Gelman

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“A fireman puts out fires. An artist puts out artist statements.” So begins this entertaining poem by Annelyse Gelman, recited as any good ars poetica should be: in clown makeup, auditioning for the part of a poet who shares her name. The Vimeo description reads:

Poem and direction by Annelyse Gelman.

From the collection ‘Everyone I Love is a Stranger to Someone’ (Write Bloody, 2014).

Thanks to Rick “Tricky the Clown” Sahar for help with set and makeup.

The book is due out on April 4. Meanwhile, best of luck to Gelman in getting the part.

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