Posts in Category: Performance Poetry

“And did those feet in ancient time” by William Blake

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Continuing the theme of videopoems that riff on television conventions, here’s a poetry promo from the BBC disguised as a sporting news story from the BBC. The poem is referred to as “Jerusalem,” but it’s actually from the Preface to Milton. A popular hymn adaptation by Hubert Parry a century after Blake wrote it is reponsible for the new title, according to the Wikipedia.

The poem was inspired by the apocryphal story that a young Jesus, accompanied by his uncle Joseph of Arimathea, travelled to the area that is now England and visited Glastonbury. The legend is linked to an idea in the Book of Revelation (3:12 and 21:2) describing a Second Coming, wherein Jesus establishes a new Jerusalem. The Christian church in general, and the English Church in particular, used Jerusalem as a metaphor for Heaven, a place of universal love and peace.

That’s one of those metaphors that would seem to have outlived its relevance, except perhaps in the writing of the late Mahmoud Darwish.

Oblogo Concerto by Atukwei Okai

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Ghanaian poetry videos are a little thin on the ground, but I found three in the International Poetry Festival of Medellín’s massive video archive (African poets section), and was fascinated by Okai’s dramatic style and use of extreme alliteration. Atukwei Okai “was the first to try to take African poetry back to one of its primal origins, in percussion, by deliberately violating the syntax and lexicon of English, creating his own rhythms through startling phonetic innovations,” according to the Nigerian scholar of African Studies Femi Osofisan. In typical Medellín video style, we are shown the audience’s reactions — or lack thereof — as the poet recites.

For more on the festival, see the Guardian Weekly article, “Medellín’s poems of peace.” I would love to see the same kind of media coverage given to this festival as to the World Cup, at least on Univision. But I imagine it would have to be turned into a poetry slam-style competition for that to happen, and that would probably clash with the festival’s peace agenda.

Ballad of the Skeletons by Allen Ginsberg

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This is basically a glorified music video from 1997, directed by Gus Van Sant — but with music by Philip Glass and Paul McCartney, and spoken word by none other than Allen Ginsberg. I got a charge out of seeing him dressed as Uncle Sam, though by the end of the video I was beginning to tire of the poet-as-prophet schtick.

Incidentally, Howl, the movie, directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, is set for release in September. That should breathe some new life into the Ginsberg cult.

won’t you celebrate with me by Lucille Clifton

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Rest in peace, Lucille Clifton.

Warrior Woman Pantoum

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http://www.vimeo.com/8788339

You have to turn your sound up for this, but it’s worth it. The poem is “Voice,” by Lynn Thompson, and it serves as prologue to a marvelous solo dance choreographed by Anna Leo and performed by Bridget Roosa. Steve Everett composed the music (and uploaded the video to Vimeo). The poem was commissioned by the choreographer, as Thompson explains in a guest post for the Emory Dance blog:

When Anna Leo invited me to compose a poem for a solo dance entitled Warrior Woman Pantoum, I assumed the Malayan form (originally, pantun) would provide the structure for the poem. When I received the DVD of a rehearsal of the piece, however, it struck me that Anna’s choreography and Steve Everett’s feral musical score had fractured the regularized expectations that are a necessary aspect of that form. Traditionally, the pantoum is comprised of repeated, rhyming lines that create an echo in the listener’s ear; a feeling of taking four steps forward, then two back. However, Anna’s Warrior Woman earns her status by eschewing this expectation; by exploring the previously-unexplored so as to discover and establish her own way in the world. Thus, in writing “Voice,” I wanted to develop a pattern by repeating the active verb say while marrying that repetition to the dancer’s unpredictable curiosity and insistence on becoming.

Tsead Bruinja, Frisian poet

A short documentary about contemporary Frisian poet Tsead Bruinja from the German broadcasting company Deutsche Welle.

A video of Bruinja reciting one of his poems, “Darling no one knows about the previous lives,” with English subtitles. This is from Wyld Hynder (Wild Horse) films, according to the info on YouTube.

Here’s Bruinja reading a poem called “‘Sy wennet yn in baarnend hûs” — “She lives in a burning house.” This was produced by the Omrop Fryslân broadcasting company. Bruinja includes an English translation by David Colmer on the YouTube page:

she lives in a burning house
every storm takes a tile from the roof
it’s cold her teeth chatter
someone outside thinks up new rules for traffic
an old man cycles on
newspapers stuffed under his clothes
she walks out with a basket full of washing
black sheets black blankets black
pillowcase she sees the fields are burning too
no point in going out
it’s better back inside the walls
flames dancing on his portrait
letters fall unasked through the door
rustling down not reaching the mat her cat
jumps onto her lap with a vegetable desire
to be stroked she pours more meths
over the photo albums wipes
the ash from her glasses and reads
and reads and reads

Some more English translations of Bruinja’s work may be found on Poetry International Web, though according to the translators’ notes, they were based on the author’s own translations into Dutch. (Bruinja also writes and has published poetry in Dutch.)

Sea Things: poetry from the coasts of Australia

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I just discovered this delightful documentary.

Free Range Multimedia followed the last leg of the 2 month coastal poetry odyssey that was Sea Things. The brainchild of Sydney poetry organisation, The Red Room Company, the project sent two duffle bags along the west and east coasts of Australia to gather poetry of the sea by those who live on and around it.

For more information, see the Sea Things section of the Red Room Company website.