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.
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.
A completely captivating film by Pakistani filmmaker Shehrbano Saiyid about a Hunza poet named Shahid Aktar, and how a particular poem of his has been received by his primary audience — his fellow villagers. The film documents its recording by Zoheb Veljee, who has spent five years recording music in remote locations around the world.
Be sure to click the CC icon for the English translation of the (sung) poem. It’s also available in text form in English (translated by Nosheen Ali), Urdu, and the original Wakhi at the new website Umang, which looks very promising indeed — a platform for “poetic thought in multiple languages as well as in multiple formats – including text, audio, video, and art,” initially from Pakistan and South Asia. (They also welcome submissions to their moderated forum.)
Do read the biography of the poet on the site.
Trinidadian writer Vahni Capildeo, currently based in the U.K., recites three poems, interspersed with other remarks, in a very imaginatively shot performance-poetry film by Karen Martinez of Riposte Pictures. Here’s the description from Vimeo:
Over the course of a summer day in 2012, two Trinidadian artists, poet Vahni Capildeo and filmmaker Karen Martinez, set out, as co-conspirators, to have some fun and make a film, assisted by the fabulous Ava Martinez Lambert. They wandered through the environs of northwest London and this four-minute film is what they have to show.
‘The Pale Beast’ is taken from Dark & Unaccustomed Words (Egg Box, 2012). The ‘Person Animal Figure’ dramatic monologue series is included in Undraining Sea (Egg Box, 2009). ‘Calling Time’ will appear in Utter (Peepal Tree, 2013).
To find out more about Vahni, visit: almostisland.com/monsoon_2010/vahni_capildeo_1.php
For more on Karen Martinez, check out this interview in ARC magazine: “‘The most magical thing’: Karen Martinez on Film and Filmmaking.”