Posts in Category: Performance Poetry

Late Love Poems 1: Spring by Steve Griffiths

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This performance-style poetry film is interesting not just for its content (which, as someone who just fell in love in my late 40s, I kind of identify with), but also for the very well thought-out publication strategy of which it is a part. As the YouTube description says:

‘Spring’ is the first of 30 Late Love Poems by Steve Griffiths going up on YouTube weekly from 27 July, culminating in the book of the same name to be published by Cinnamon Press in time for Valentine’s 2016. Find out more from www.latelovepoems.com.

‘Spring’ is filmed in the Mortimer Forest in Shropshire, in the very landscape of the poem’s beginning, and at the same time of the year.

Funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

Eamon Bourke (Park6 Productions) directed and edited, with sound, camera assisting and photography by Jules May. There’s a good biography of Griffiths on the Late Love Poems website, which also features his thoughts about the project on the About page. This is especially interesting because of what it suggests about the power of active collaborations between poets and filmmakers:

The feeling that I’d made something life-enhancing fed my desire to share these poems in a new way. I hope that with these films we’ve created a format with an intimacy, an immediacy, and something of the quality of a live reading, but which is retrievable and can be savoured and shared.

Thanks to the support of Arts Council England, I’ve had a great team for this project – and it’s certainly been a voyage of discovery for us. My initial flatness in our first experiments in front of a camera made me work hard once again on my poems, and I rediscovered intonations, insights, glancing emphases, that were there when I first worked on the lines, but had somehow gone missing over time. I’ll always be grateful for that: after all the preparation for standing in front of a camera, I can’t say how much I learned about the quality of attention to a line of poetry in performance. And hearing my wife read my poems naturally and beautifully in rehearsal as I worked to learn them reminded me of the multiplicity of voices that can own a poem – but of course, especially hers.

Over months, it took on new forms, with the visual dimensions and echoes glancing off the poems’ imagery from film-maker Eamon Bourke – and glancing off the map of my face in close-up – and the unexpected gifts of music from two friends I’d known for more than thirty years – one old, one young, and their meeting again in these films, responding to my poems, bringing sensitivities from spectacularly different worlds to enrich my work.

Finally, I must say I’m impressed with Cinnamon Press‘ commitment to this project, going so far as to hire an excellent PR consultant to get the word out. I wish that more of the really ambitious poetry-film and videopoetry projects that I’ve seen in recent years had had that kind of backing. The trouble is, most poets, filmmakers and video artists I know are really crap at promotion. It’s the one area where the DIY ethos isn’t of very much use.

Tripping on Mt. Olympus by Yesha Townsend

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Bermudian poet Yesha Townsend in an exemplary performance-poetry film by Alyson Thompson. The poem lives up to its title, so the low-key camera work (no cliched “trippy” effects) provides just the right balance, I think.

2 Degrees by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CaZXCNfa04

Marshallese poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner‘s impassioned poem about climate change in a video from CNN, part of their correspondent John D. Sutter’s two degrees series. It aired in late June. Jonathan “jot” Reyes, the creative director of video development at CNN, included half a minute of motion graphics in a film that otherwise hews closely to the standard TV formula for poetry: shots of the poet alternating with a collage of complementary footage, more or less illustrative of the text. For a dash of irony, you can watch this on the CNN website, where it’s preceded by an automobile ad. But a longer, interactive web feature on Sutter’s visit to the Marshall Islands also includes the video poem (which is the term he uses for it), along with some prefatory text:

During my brief time in the islands, I met people like Angie [Hepisus] who are witnessing climate change and who are trying to do what’s best for themselves and their families. By sharing their stories, they hope the rest of us might listen — might realize our actions have consequences for places we’ll never see, for people we’ll never meet. I also had the pleasure of meeting Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, a young mother and poet who has emerged as one of the country’s pre-eminent storytellers. A teacher at the College of the Marshall Islands, the 27-year-old also studies the oral stories that form the fabric of her nation and culture.

The article continues with two of Jetnil-Kijiner’s stories; click through for those. As Sutter points out, she spoke at the UN last fall, reading a different poem which was also made available as a video.

Incidentally, this isn’t jot Reyes’ first foray into videopoetry. I’ll be sharing another of his creations soon.

The ABC of Insanity by Andy Parkinson

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One of the more ingenious performance poetry videos I’ve seen. Here are the details from the Vimeo description:

In fond memory of Andy Parkinson who wrote and performed the poem.
Music by Matthew Marks
Part of Insight In Mind produced by Swings and Roundabouts with a Mind Millennium Award and previously seen on Channel 4
Initiated and produced by Penny Arnold
Directed by Daniel Saul 2002

Insight in Mind is a 27-minute video containing 14 poetic pieces, of which this was one.

‘Insight In Mind’ vividly demonstrates how it feels to experience highs and lows, through the use of poetry, visual imagery, photography, animation and music; taking the viewer on an emotional and informative journey.
The 14 poetic pieces are interwoven with the voices of survivors and carers, talking openly about their experiences, married with artworks contributed from mental health survivors.

Throughout the film, with the exception of two performers, everyone you see or hear has personal experience of bipolar disorder or depression, or are carers for people who have these experiences. This includes the recorded voice-overs which were edited together from interviews with survivors and carers. Alongside these spoken sections of the film are over 200 artworks by survivors of bipolar disorder or depression. The poems and artworks were selected from material contributed during the research undertaken by ‘Swings and Roundabouts’.

Andy Parkinson, AKA Andy Postman, was one of the five members of Swings and Roundabouts, and died in 2008. There’s a tribute page to him on the same website. It begins:

Andy Parkinson, also known to many as Andy Postman sadly passed away aged 53 in October 2008 from a sudden heart attack, a condition that runs in his family.

Andy made an incredible contribution to Insight in Mind. He was an inspiration to us during the planning and production of the film, with his stream of infectious and elaborate ideas. He wrote 4 (and adapted another) of the poems in the film and conceived many of the ideas for the filming of 2 of the poems, Mutter and ABC which begin and end Insight in Mind. Andy put an extraordinary amount of careful consideration into the construction of these pieces.

Juan Felipe Herrera’s winding path to poetry + Five Directions to My House

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Following last week’s announcement that Juan Felipe Herrera would be the next U.S. Poet Laureate, PBS NewsHour sent their arts correspondent to Fresno and produced this pair of videos.

Juan Felipe Herrera is the author of more than 20 books of poetry, novels for young adults and collections for children, most recently “Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes.” He is the son of migrant workers from Mexico, and today he becomes the first Latino to serve as poet laureate of the United States. Jeffrey Brown travels to the poet’s home in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

Dreams by TJ Dema

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This spoken-word film featuring the Botswana poet TJ Dema was directed, filmed, and edited by Masahiro Sugano of Studio Revolt in Phnom Penh. Click through to Vimeo for the complete credits, as well as the text of the poem and a bio of the poet. Sugano left the following note there as a comment:

TJ Dema is a renown poet from Botswana. Her poetry style would be called “spoken word” in the US. But speaking poetry out loud is how poetry has always been done in her homeland. So this is not a “street” or “urban” version of published words. This is poetry as it should be in Botswana. I had the great honor to get acquainted with this talented woman while traveling with Kosal Khiev (Cambodian Son) for London 2012 Cultural Olympiad in the UK. During her show at the Shakespeare museum, she told a few hilarious episodes about how poets are treated and represented in Botswana. I hope to share that video someday soon with you. Once again it is a great honor to present this video to you all. The production was done all in Cambodia (literally “in house” production) when she came to visit in March of 2015. Oh, and we filmed another piece called “Neon Poem” while TJ was here. Stay tuned. Like “Studio Revolt” on the Facebook page. You will be notified of the next release.
— Masahiro Sugano

Here’s the Studio Revolt Facebook page.

But tell me, who are they, these Travellers, by Tony Williams

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Director Alan Fentiman worked with poet Tony Williams to produce a documentary on the relationship between dog-walking and writing, concluding with a poem that grew out of the film-making process. I first saw Roam to Write at the 2013 Filmpoem Festival in Dunbar, Scotland, and when I got back to the States I shared the link with some friends who study the literature of place but inexplicably forgot to share it here. It was brought back to mind by a new video released by the same two guys, a film of a pub discussion about poetry film, which I posted at Moving Poems Magazine on Sunday.

Roam to Write was funded by Northumbria University, where Williams is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing. Fentiman has a page about the film on his website:

“Roam to Write” is a short documentary film which I filmed, edited and produced in Alnwick Northumberland. The 15 minute film follows poet Tony Williams as he walks the same route over 5 days. Each day Tony addresses different aspects of the creative relationship between walking and writing.

I especially love working with artists and writers, and documenting their creative process. I want the audience to gain an understanding of how ideas develop and emerge through a piece of work. Working with Tony was a especially rewarding as we developed the idea for the film over many months. It allowed me time to absorb and reflect on Tony’s writing process and work out ways of showing this through film.

During filming Tony worked on a piece of poetry called “But tell me, who are they, these Travellers” which he performs at the end of the film. This poem reflects on his earlier observations about writing and walking.

I shot the the film over a week with a Panasonic AF101, a steadicam and a GH2. We developed the initial ideas during fireside discussions at The Tanners pub in Alnwick. Tony then wrote the script and together we developed the storyboard over egg and chip lunches and the odd evening pint. After logging the footage in Adobe Prelude, Tony sat with me throughout the editing process.

Williams expanded his thoughts into an open-access journal article, “The Writer Walking the Dog: Creative Writing Practice and Everyday Life.” Here’s the abstract:

Creative writing happens in and alongside the writer’s everyday life, but little attention has been paid to the relationship between the two and the contribution made by everyday activities in enabling and shaping creative practice. The work of the anthropologist Tim Ingold supports the argument that creative writing research must consider the bodily lived experience of the writer in order fully to understand and develop creative practice. Dog-walking is one activity which shapes my own creative practice, both by its influence on my social and cultural identity and by providing a time and space for specific acts instrumental to the writing process to occur. The complex socio-cultural context of rural dog-walking may be examined both through critical reflection and creative work. The use of dog-walking for reflection and unconscious creative thought is considered in relation to Romantic models of writing and walking through landscape. While dog-walking is a specific activity with its own peculiarities, the study provides a case study for creative writers to use in developing their own practice in relation to other everyday activities from running and swimming to shopping, gardening and washing up.

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