Posts in Category: Spoken Word

My Mother Speaks to me of Suicide by Dave Lordan

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

Pádraig Burke of the production company Runaway Penguin directed and edited this filmpoem-performance video hybrid. Though some of the shots struck me as a bit too literal, they were balanced by other, more oblique images, and Dave Lordan‘s intense delivery was a good fit for the dire subject-matter of the poem. “My Mother Speaks to me of Suicide” appears in his collection The Lost Tribe of the Wicklow Mountains (Salmon Press, 2014).

Incidentally, Runaway Penguin takes its name from one of my favorite Werner Herzog scenes… which also relates, in a strange way, to the subject of Lordan’s poem.

Poetics Lesson at the Baruch Houses by Rich Villar

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Another great spoken-word video from Advocate of Wordz, this time featuring writer, editor, activist, and educator Rich Villar, who wrote about it in a January blog post:

Appropriately, my first project for 2015 returns to a subject I first wrote about in 2004. Beyond the legacy of the Nuyorican writers, I can’t fully explain the pull of the place. But when I’m there, when I’m roaming the Lower East Side, there is poetry.

And there are poets from there. Some heralded, others not so much, but I’m honored to speak this poem into existence, to them and for them. And I’m even more honored that Advocate of Wordz chose to record me reciting it at various places on the Lower East Side, including those iconic Baruch Houses at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge.

More soon, gente. For now, enjoy the poem.

This Poem is Free by Ngoma Hill

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Performance poet and musician Ngoma Hill was the first person to be featured in a terrific series of web videos filmed, directed and edited by the artist and poet known as Advocate of Wordz. His Director of Wordz series—”digital films and performance art videos consisting of Spoken Word Artist, Poets, Singers, Emcees, and Storytellers”—is now up to six episodes; I’ll post more of them in the coming weeks.

Deaf Brown Gurl (La Morena Sorda) by Sabina England

Poet: | Nationality: , , | Filmmaker:

This is

a film written, directed, shot, performed, and edited by Sabina England.

-Voice Over & Sound Design by Micropixie.
-Music by Om/Off (Paco Seren and Pablo Alvarez)
-V.O Recording by Elliott Peltzman.

Filmed in India (Old Delhi, India and Patna, Bihar, India)

Though England grew up in the UK, the sign language here is ASL. She notes in her bio (which is so interesting, I almost hate to excerpt it):

I use a combination of American Sign Language, mime, poetry, voice-over, multimedia, and/or music in my stage performances. I am always looking for more opportunities to expand my works, and I love meeting new people from different cultures. I believe that art and culture can bring people together in spite of differences and issues.

I have been profoundly deaf since I was two years old. I am fluent in English, Spanish, and American Sign Language.

Click through and scroll down to the Long Biography to read about some of England’s other films. In a blog post announcing this film’s release, she wrote:

After one year in the making, it’s here for public viewing. ENGLISH & SPANISH subtitles are available for your watching. My film shows the diversity of Indian society (in Patna) and I wanted to show a variety of Indian groups (Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists), including Deaf Indians (and myself as a Deaf Indian).


(Hat-tip: Thomas Zandegiacomo Del Bel at the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival group page on Facebook)

Why I Write by Kosal Khiev

Poet: | Nationality: , | Filmmaker:

I’m guilty of a lot of oversights and memory failures, but it’s hard to believe I never got around to posting this visually stunning film featuring the exiled Cambodian American spoken-word poet Kosal Khiev. Directed by Masahiro Sugano, it was released in 2011 by Cambodia-based Studio Revolt and was screened at the 2012 ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival in Berlin, where it won a prize for Best Poem Performance on Film.

Why I Write was the first of a series of short films that culminated in Sugano’s feature-length documentary about Khiev, Cambodian Son, which debuted in April. Here’s the trailer:

In the Vimeo description for Why I Write, Sugano shared a lengthy essay about how he came to meet and work with Khiev. I particularly liked this bit:

The truth is. I don’t really understand poems. It’s mostly the language issue. English is my second language. I don’t really hear lyrics in songs. Forget rappers. Poetry usually passes over my head as well. So what he was giving, I did not really get. Those rhymes confuse my immigrant ears. But I got what he was telling. It wasn’t the word. This guy knew what it was all about. He was making it real. He captivated me despite my limitation on poetic appreciation. It was very clear to me from the very first line. It wasn’t the poetry. It was him. He was showing and revealing himself, his emotions, through the vehicle of words called poetry. I had this incomprehensible chills in my spine throughout his performance. This is called transcendence. There are few people in the world who can move you beyond category or background. He was one of them. He was transcending his genre of spoken word poetry. His poetry did not call for comprehension. It only engaged and revealed, for which you do not need knowledge. That’s where he was playing. And it was kicking my ass.

He performed another piece for me. I learned soon afterwards spoken word artists use the word “kick” to mean perform. So instead of perform or share a piece of poetry, you “kick” a piece. I’m not a very cool person so I would make you blush if I said something like, “Can you kick a piece?” So I am not using that term, but I think it’s like the official term. Anyhow, the dude “kicked” another piece for me. And we said good-bye.

Read the rest.

I Can’t Breathe: poems for Eric Garner by Daniel J. Watts and Bettina Judd

From WalkRunFly Productions, here’s a unique performance poem by Daniel J. Watts which took the form of a well-coordinated, flash-mob-like demonstration four months ago, in response to the choking death of Eric Garner at the hands of police. In light of the recent failure of a grand jury to indict the officer who killed Garner, and the growing, nation-wide movement against racist police behavior, it is sadly more relevant than ever. Here’s the description from Vimeo:

On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner, a 43-year-old Staten Island man died after being placed in a choke hold by police. His death sparked national outrage.

More than 100 Broadway stars, directors, choreographers, designers, and technicians gathered at the police precinct in Times Square to express their thoughts on the killing of Eric Garner.

WalkRunFly Productions (Warren Adams & Brandon Victor Dixon) partnered with poet Daniel J. Watts, MSNBC’s David Wilson from thegrio and more than 100 Broadway stars, directors, choreographers, designers and technicians in Times Square, to express their thoughts on the killing of Eric Garner.

WalkRunFly Productions

Produced By
Warren Adams & Brandon Victor Dixon

Poem written and performed by
Daniel J. Watts

Edited by
Darryl Harrison
Visual Architect

Videographers
Lowell Freedman, Antonio Thompson, Darryl Harrison, And Jesse Guma

The whole incident was captured on video by a bystander, and at least one poet — Bettina Judd — has remixed the footage into a videopoem. Judd is no stranger to innovative videopoetry, and it shows: she uses contrast and layering to good effect, including verses from the Bible (where breath is often equated to the soul and to the breath of God), preparing the viewer/listener for a sardonic, unsettling conclusion.

Burning House by Jovan Mays and Theo Wilson

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Amid racial tensions in communities such as Ferguson, Missouri, and following the unwarranted deaths of young black men like Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, two slam poets confront what it means to be black men in America and in their communities. Theo Wilson, once a victim of police brutality, delves into his internal struggle of dealing with the past encounter, remembering how powerless he felt in the face of his oppressor, and his ensuing resolve to change the rules of the game. Beneath the smoldering anger and aftermath of police violence is a growing disquietude toward the future of race relations. Jovan Mays, the poet laureate of Aurora, Colorado, uses his spoken word to express the turmoil of emotions and experiences inherently attached to growing up a black boy in America.
(Vimeo description)

These two related poetry films are by Mary I. Stevens, an associate producer of digital video at CNBC. They deserve to be seen widely in the wake of yet another grotesque miscarriage of justice in the racist police state that the United States has become. Those of us who have the luxury of merely wallowing in outrage and not fearing for our lives (yet), simply because we happen to have been born with white skin, need to hear the testimony of the victims of police violence and humiliation, and ask ourselves whether our anxious calls for peaceful protest aren’t motivated more out of a desire to sweep unpleasant realities under the rug rather than to actually confront the glaring inequities in our society.

Jovan Mays and Theo E. J. Wilson, A.K.A. Lucifury, are members of the Slam Nuba team, who won the National Poetry Slam in 2011. The first film, an artful blend of interview and poetry, contains a few excerpts from the performance of “Burning House” featured in the second film, but devotes much more space to a poem recited by Mays, “To the Black Boys.” The song “Look Down Lord,” included in both films, is performed by Dee Galloway.

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