Posts in Category: Spoken Word

“The Poet of Baghdad”: Nabeel Yasin

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There’s a real dearth of English-subtitled Arabic poetry recitation on the web; this goes a small way toward righting the balance. It’s interesting to see how poetry is chanted or sung in Arabic, rather than simply read (much less mumbled). Another thing that might be a little difficult for some of us to get our heads around is a poet becoming so popular that he could be branded an enemy of the state, and his works become a relying cry for people opposed to the established order. Such was the case with Nabeel Yasin, Iraq’s most celebrated poet (and last year, an unsuccessful candidate for prime minister), who has been compared to Bob Dylan in his impact on Iraqi society from the late 60s on.

“The Poet of Baghdad” was directed by Georgie Weedon for Al Jazeera, and has just been re-uploaded to YouTube as a single video. The blending of poetry recitation with reminiscence is very effective, I think, and the reflections on exile will probably resonate with emigrants, voluntary and involuntary, from many lands. Al Jazeera posted an interview with the director in early 2010.

Poems from the Iraq War by Brian Turner

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This video includes six poems: “Here, Bullet,” “Hwy 1,” ”Eulogy,” “16 Iraqi Policemen,” “The Inventory from a Year Sleeping with Bullets” and “At Lowe’s Home Improvement Center,” taken from Brian Turner’s two books, Here, Bullet and Phantom Noise.

If I don’t post more poetry reading videos here, it’s because such videos are often poor quality (dark, out-of-focus, too quiet, etc.) and many poets don’t really know how to read their work. This video demonstrates how to do it right. In fact, the poems are so intense and so well read, I find I really don’t mind the utter minimalism of a single-camera close-up on the reader’s face. Neil Astley shot the video for Turner’s British publisher, Bloodaxe Books.

Brian Turner doesn’t appear to have a website, but here’s his Wikipedia page.

Tree by Jane Hirshfield

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Hirshfield’s reading of “Tree” is preceded by a short but eloquent statement about the role of poetry in contemporary society that really resonated with me, as well as a few words about how she came to connect with poetry as a child. (Wish I could turn off the terrible background music, though!) This is from PlumTV. Like many prominent writers, Hirshfield doesn’t appear to have her own website, but here’s what the Poetry Foundation has for her.

Invisible Man by Amir Rabiyah

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Kevin Simmonds’ brief film is part interview, part reading. Simmonds is the editor of the forthcoming anthology Collective Brightness: LGBTIQ Poets on Faith, Religion & Spirituality, which includes this poem by Amir Rabiyah.

Interstates and States of Grief by Phil and Angela Rockstroh

This blew me away. The Rockstrohs have produced a searing videopoem in the style of a political documentary weaving together American militarism, consumerism, capitalism and the interstate highway system without ever getting too preachy for my taste, somehow. Here’s the description at Vimeo:

On US Interstates, we meet the US empire coming towards us. In this evocative video, we meet confederate ghosts and demons of consumer emptiness. We travel down the highway, propelled by engines of extinction, towards empire’s end, where we find ourselves bearing much grief yet are stranded amid ferocious beauty.

I queried Phil about whether he was O.K. with my characterizing the script as a poem, and how their collaboration worked. He wrote: “You can describe the work as a spoken word piece or a long poem if it suits you. That is what I was going for when I wrote the script. And, yes, please, credit Angela and me as the filmmakers. We co-directed and collaborated on the imagery therein, and Angela has the mastery of the technology involved to create the evocative visuals.”

Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist, and essayist, published widely across the progressive internet. Angela Tyler-Rockstroh is a broadcast designer/animator who currently works with HBO. She has worked with major networks such as the Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, and PBS, as well as with Michael Moore on his documentaries Fahrenheit 911 and Sicko.

Dupont Circle, 3 A.M. by Raymond Luczak

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Another sign-language “reading” by poet and filmmaker Raymond Luczak. He notes at YouTube that the music was composed especially for the video by John Stutte. The book is available from Sibling Rivalry Press.

Orphans by Raymond Luczak

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The description at YouTube:

Why do so many Deaf people seem so clannish? In this clip, Raymond Luczak explains why in a poem from his book MUTE (A Midsummer Night’s Press). Naturally, it’s subtitled for those who don’t know American Sign Language (ASL).

I’m putting this in the Spoken Word category even though it’s clearly unspoken word. For more on the poet, check out his website. Luczak is also a filmmaker, with two documentaries and two ASL storytelling collections under his belt. Thanks to Nic at Voice Alpha, a blog devoted to the art and science of reading poetry, for this great find.