Posts in Category: Performance Poetry

The Applicant by Sylvia Plath (3)

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A unique twist on the performance poetry video genre from my new favorite channel on Vimeo, Tootight Lautrec’s This Be the Verse.

Tootight Lautrec, the Drag Laureate of the sub-sub-sub basement at PS 75 The Emily Dickinson School, brings you poetry–often as a drag queen lip-sync from archival recordings of poets–This Be The Verse: Poetry for Adults.

This wouldn’t work if Lautrec weren’t very, very good at lip-syncing. In all the years I’ve been combing YouTube and Vimeo for poetry videos, I can’t remember anyone taking this approach before, let alone pulling it off with such panache.

This is the third video for “The Applicant” that I’ve shared here over the years. See also Josep Porcar’s video remix and Maggie Bailey’s interpretative dance.

The Walk by Bharath Divakar

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Bangalore-based spoken word poet Bharath Divakar meditates on the meaning of slam culture in this film by Krishna Prasad Raveendran, who notes:

The film tries to capture the thought process of a poet as he/she walks up on stage. The film was shot and edited for Airplane Poetry Movement, a project to give spoken word poets in India a platform to showcase their work and get discovered […] Shot on Sony A6300 (The portions of the walk) The rest of the clips were curated. Filmed and Edited by Krishna Prasad Raveendran

Neon Poem by TJ Dema

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Poet TJ Dema, director/cinematographer Masahiro Sugano and Studio Revolt show how performance poetry film is done. The Studio Revolt Facebook page shared the video link on Friday accompanied by the following note:

On September 30 1966, the people of Botswana achieved independence from Britain’s colonial rule. On this 50th year anniversary, Studio Revolt would like to honor this important occasion with the world release of TJ Dema’s “Neon Poem” video. We were fortunate enough to collaborate with this talented and fiery spoken word poet while she was on tour in Cambodia. In the same year of Botswana’s independence, Amiri Baraka wrote a landmark poem as a radical anthem for Black Americans to seek self-love and liberation. “Neon Poem” exists after, and in conversation with Amiri Baraka’s “Black Art.”

Studio Revolt previously released another Sugano film of TJ Dema, “Dreams,” which demonstrated a more minimal but equally effective approach to performance poetry film making.

Red Coil (excerpt) by Cecilia Vicuña

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I discovered recently that the Chilean poet, visual artist, and filmmaker Cecilia Vicuña has an active presence on Vimeo, with many documentary videos of her performances and installations. Here’s one by Geoffrey Jones that I quite liked.

Film by Geoffrey Jones
Cecilia Vicuña and Jane Rigler.
Four performances for sitelines, New York, 2005, sponsored by LMCC and Poet’s House.

In this performances the artist pays homage to Gloria Anzaldúa’s line “The serpent, mi tono, my animal counterpart…” (Borderlands 26).

Thus the Vimeo description. It’s actually apparently an excerpt from a longer work:

Red Coil. Video, English. 68 mins, 2005
Records four performances where Cecilia Vicuña & the flutist Jane Rigler improvise music and poetry along the Hudson River, within the context of the Sitelines Festival of New York. Filmed and edited by Geoffrey Jones.

Eleven Reflections on September, part 11: Judgment / Traveling by Andrea Assaf

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Thinking about how the entirely preventable tragedies of the so-called War on Terror unfolded after September 11, 2001, and agonizing about what we might’ve done to stop it, language breaks down. From poet Andrea Assaf and the Art2Action theater group, including video artist Pramila Vasudevan, “Eleven Reflections on September” is

a poetry/spoken word, multimedia performance on Arab American experience, Wars on/of Terror, and “the constant, quiet rain of death amidst beauty” that each autumn brings in a post-9/11 world. This production is based on the series of poems Andrea Assaf has been writing since 2001, spanning the fall of the towers, the on-going wars, and the current revolutions and conflicts sweeping through the Arab world. Aesthetically, the poems explore the disintegration of language in the face of violence, prejudice, and unspeakable horror; as such, they progress from lyrical to abstract and broken. The annual witnessing of autumn leaves becomes a metaphor for the fallen–soldiers and civilians … This multi-disciplinary project includes performances with interactive media design and live music; community dialogues; visual arts exhibits; open mics, panels and opportunities for action through partnerships with Iraq Veterans Against the War and other peace organizations.

The Vimeo description for this video reads:

An excerpt from “Eleven Reflections on September” by Andrea Assaf

Poem # 11: Judgment
Post-script 1: Traveling

Video Art by Pramila Vasudevan.
Sound Design for “Judgment” by Owen Henry & Keegan Fraley.

Choreographic Assignment: Raise me from the dead. From the metaphorical underworld to the heavens. Once you have lifted my body-spirit from the ground, help me travel to the afterlife. Travel with me, and send me on my way.

Cue: After the poem “Judgment” ends (repeating “just stop” 3x), the Daf pulses three times, followed by a chapreez — and the ritual to raise the dead begins. It will continue through the end of “Traveling”.

Movement during the re-mixed/voiceover section of “Judgment”: I am responding to the fragmented, falling, exploding words with my body — torso, arms and head only, while kneeling on the ground. This section is my descent into the underworld, so to speak — or simply my disintegration, from which you will raise/remake me…

A note on “Traveling” — This poem is an English translation of Mohamed Bouazi’s suicide note to his mother, posted on his Facebook page. Tarek al-Tayyib Muhammad ibn Bouazizi, a 26-year old Tunisian fruit vendor who quit high school to work and support his mother and sisters, set himself on fire on December 17, 2010, after his wares were confiscated … A fire that sparked the revolution now known as “The Arab Spring”. His last note is pure poetry, his final act pure protest. The poem, by Andrea Assaf, was published by Mizna in the Spring 2012 issue on “Literature in Revolution.”

Visit the Eleven Reflections on September channel on Vimeo to watch other excerpts from the piece, including live performance videos.

dear padmarajan by Nitin Nath

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Nitin Nath is the poet and performer in this musical short directed by Sumesh Lal with music rearranged and produced by Govind Menon. Like yesterday’s video, this poetry film was released as a trailer for a feature-length movie. But there’s an additional connection with the world of film here: the poem is a tribute to the great Malayalam director P. Padmarajan.

India’s first spoken word musical, ‘dear padmarajan’ is a prologue to the independent English feature film ‘Humans of Someone’, slated for release this March 2016.

‘Humans of Someone’ tells the story of a man who gets obsessed with a filmmaker whose films become inextricably entwined with his own life. WATCH THIS exclusive introduction to warm up to the neighbourhood of the film.

The prologue is our heart-sized ode to the dramatic genius of P. Padmarajan, one of the greatest storytellers we’ve ever known.

To support the film, follow

Click through to YouTube for the unusually complete credits, which include a list of the Padmarajan films mentioned plus other references in the poem.

Chikome Xochitl by Juan Hernández Ramírez

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For World Poetry Day, here’s a poem in Huastecan Nahuatl by Juan Hernández Ramírez.

Veracruz poet Juan Hernández Ramírez reads the first section of his prizewinning poem “Chikome Xochitl” in the Huastecan Nahuatl. Translated by Adam Coon with David Shook from both Huastecan Nahuatl and Spanish—Hernández’s creative process employs both in dialogue with one another—this poem and an accompanying note will appear in the print edition of World Literature Today (Jan. – Feb. 2014). […]

Video shot in Veracruz by Adam Coon. Subtitled in Los Angeles by David Shook. Poem © Juan Hernández Ramírez, 2013. Translation © Adam Coon and David Shook, 2013.

The complete poem appears in the anthology Like A New Sun: New Indigenous Mexican Poetry, edited by Víctor Terán and David Shook (Phoneme Media, 2015). It may also be read online in World Literature Today, which includes a lengthier description of Ramírez’ writing and the translation process.

See Vimeo for more of David Shook’s videos of indigenous and other poets.