Posts in Category: Spoken Word

Karawane by Hugo Ball (2)

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When is a sound poem a found poem? When it’s Marie Osmond Explains Dadaism with Auto-Subtitles, one of the latest uploads by UK videopoet Ross Sutherland as past of his 30 Videos/30 Poems project for the Poetry School. He’s been doing some really interesting stuff with remix, swapping in his own voice-overs for existing videos, but in this case all he’s done is share the results of turning on the auto-subtitling function for a YouTube video of Marie Osmund explaining Dada and reciting Hugo Ball‘s “Karawane.” The software’s “misreadings” are at times wonderfully apropos. And then there’s Marie, in her yellow bathrobe and 80s hair… I don’t think I’ve gotten this much joy from a web video since Cat Wearing A Shark Costume Cleans The Kitchen On A Roomba.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, why in the heck was Marie Osmond holding forth on Dada and and sound poetry? It turns out she was a regular host of the TV show Ripley’s Believe It or Not! in its 2nd series, which ran from 1982-86 on the American ABC Network. The TV show derived from a long-running syndicated feature in American newspapers—kind of the original “news of the weird.” According to the Wikipedia article,

Character actor Jack Palance hosted the popular series throughout its run, while three different co-hosts appeared from season to season, including Palance’s daughter, Holly Palance, actress Catherine Shirriff, and singer Marie Osmond. The 1980s series reran on the Sci-fi Channel (UK) and Sci-fi Channel (US) during the 1990s.

Six of the segments hosted by Osmond have been uploaded to YouTube, including another one about a poet, Renée Vivien. I’m not sure who the director was for this particular show (which apparently aired on 29 September 1985), but it didn’t go unnoticed. According to a post at Dangerous Minds,

In 1993, Rough Trade records put out Lipstick Traces, a “soundtrack” to the book by Greil Marcus. It’s one of my favorite CDs of all time, with tracks by The Slits, Essential Logic, The Raincoats, The Mekons, Buzzcocks, The Gang of Four, Jonathan Richmond and the Modern Lovers, Situationist philosopher Guy Debord and others. It’s an amazing collection, but one track in particular stands out from the rest, a recitation by none other than Marie Osmond, of Dada poet Hugo Ball’s nonsensical gibberish piece from 1916, “Karawane.”

The post goes on to quote the liner notes from Lipstick Traces:

As host of a special (Ripley’s Believe It or Not) show on sound poetry, Osmond was asked by the producer to recite only the first line of Ball’s work; incensed at being thought too dumb for art, she memorized the lot and delivered it whole in a rare “glimpse of freedom.”

In a YouTube comment on a different upload of the segment, art-video maker Ethan Bates does throw a bit of cold water on Marie’s performance:

Great upload and interesting video, but Ripley didn’t appear to get their dada facts quite right…
‘Karawane’ was performed and written by Hugo Ball, and was also performed in 1916 at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich as the video says. But his costume for that show was a kind of ‘Cubist’ tube-esque costume made from different coloured sheets. It can be easily found in images online.
The ’13’ costume discussed in the video was worn by Theo Van Doesburg, not Hugo Ball, in 1922 when he performed ‘Does At Mid-Lent’ at the Bauhaus.

This info is from the book ‘Dada’ edited by Rudolf Kuenzli. As a product of its time, though, this clip is fascinating.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that this is not quite the strangest video of “Karawane” on the web. That honor belongs to Lucas Battich’s binary code translation. Still, kudos to Ross Sutherland for recognizing the re-Dadaifying potential of YouTube auto-subtitling.

My Mother Speaks to me of Suicide by Dave Lordan

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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

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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

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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.

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