A “visual poem” directed by Dutch filmmaker Judith Veenendaal using a text written by the UK voiceover actor and poet Johnny B.A.N.G. Reilly. Noel Schoolderman was the director of photography and Adam Taylor wrote the music. I found the film thanks to an article by Olivia Zhu in 3 Quarks Daily, “Johnny B.A.N.G. Reilly, Being Free,” which also includes another poetry film featuring Reilly’s words and reading, an ad for Johnnie Walker (which is much better than the whisky, and is well worth clicking through to watch). Zhu discusses and compares the two films at some length, speculating that “The pairing of poetry and film might be what helps re-awaken popular interest in poetry.” Check it out.
|Y era el demonio de mi sueño, el ángel
más hermoso. Brillaban
como aceros los ojos victoriosos,
y las sangrientas llamas
de su antorcha alumbraron
la honda cripta del alma.
—¿Vendrás conmigo? —No, jamás; las tumbas
—Vendrás conmigo… Y avancé en mi sueño
(poema de Antonio Machado)
|And he was the evil spirit of my dreams, the most handsome
of all angels. His victorious eyes
shot fire like pieces of steel,
and the flames that fell
from his torch like blood
lit up the deep dungeon of the soul.
“Would you like to come with me?” “No, never! Tombs
“You will come with me…” And in my dreams I walked
(translated by Robert Bly)
Eduardo Yagüe (GIFT Producciones) made this videopoem in 2014 as an homage to the great Spanish poet Antonio Machado on the 75th anniversary of his exile and death. Eduardo’s reading is exceptionally good, and slow-paced enough that even those with just a little bit of Spanish should be able to follow along. Music by Jared C. Balogh accompanies the voiceover.
I first learned this poem (number LXIII from Galerías) through Robert Bly’s translation (above) in Roots and Wings: Poetry from Spain 1900-1975. (Alan S. Trueblood also translated it for a bilingual edition of the selected poems, but not quite as effectively.)
A fascinating multimedia project from artist-poet Holly Corfield Carr. Her description on Vimeo:
A harbour travels around a line. The line travels around a boat. The boat travels around your body, star-jumping in the water’s private weather. Written through the rhythms of Bristol’s last shantyman, Stanley Slade, Aft is a sightseeing trip with the ferryman across Bristol’s Floating Harbour.
Commissioned by Spike Island with Bristol Ferry Boats as part of the Spike Open 2015.
Own binoculars and someone else’s obol recommended.
Carr goes into more detail about the project in a blog post:
I have to thank Spike Island and Bristol Ferry for commissioning this poem for Matilda, the Bristol Ferry boat that chugs brightly across the Floating Harbour from Temple Meads to Hotwells, via the city centre, Spike Island, Arnolfini and SS Great Britain. It was a proper joy of a project and thanks to the patience of the crew and passengers, I took several trips to watch the city from the water, standing at the back window, feeling the engine’s rhythm in my feet. I composed much of the poem on site, on the boat, measuring my line to the cm width of the window.
I started to listen to the sea shanties of the Bristol sailor Stanley Slade, which were recorded by Peter Kennedy in 1950 and are now held in the British Library’s sound archive, and let the length of the halyard’s lines also instruct the breath and breadth of the poem that was then transferred directly, in Bristol Ferry yellow, to the windows of Matilda.
At first, I saw the couplets banding around the cabin as a two-level Plimsoll line, a measure of the rising waters (or a sinking boat), or as a twin rope, each a precaution against the severance of the other. Certainly on the page, the poem presents its shortening of breath much more clearly and you can read the full text here.
But on the boat, it wasn’t all visible at once. Walking the line to read the poem across the wide windows, rocking back a little to read the second line from where the first line landed you, and all the while reading as the boat pulls you across the water, makes something knotty of the reader.
As you read, the city interrupts, aligns your reader’s attention with the sudden sight of mooning stags, lads! lads! lads! on tour, traffic on the bridge, seagulls lifting in the wake of another ferry, the train, kayaks and paddles and sunburned backs, a tiny flotilla of crisp packets.
I’ll end the week with a poem by one of my favorite poets, Sarah Sloat, interpreted by one of my favorite poetry-film makers, Marie Craven, in what I think is one of the most effective examples of the kinestatic style in videopoetry that I’ve seen. (Kinestasis is properly defined as “an animation technique using a series of still photographs or artwork to create the illusion of motion,” but I use the term, in the absence of a better one, a bit more broadly, to refer to any faster-than-slideshow series of still images in a video.) Craven’s masterful deployment of images from the Brockhaus Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary (1890-1907) unfolds to music by Podington Bear and the Poetry Storehouse voice recording by a young boy identified only as DM. Someone on Facebook described the overall effect as “sumptuously austere.”
This isn’t the first poetry film to use this text; no less than Marc Neys AKA Swoon has also tried his hand at it. But Craven definitely gave him a run for his money here. Sloat’s text seems especially ripe for videopoetic adaptation, given its musing on the relationship between words and images. Pen-and-ink illustrations in a dictionary break up the columns of text, Sloat says, “like little windows opening / from one side of the brain // to the other.” That’s exactly what happens to me whenever I watch a good videopoem.
The title poem from Meghan O’Rourke’s Once (W.W. Norton & Company, 2011), adapted to film by L.A.-based directors Angela & Ithyle for Motionpoems. Logan Polish is the actor, Patrick Jones the director of photography, and John Hermanson of Egg Music composed the original score.
The Motionpoems website includes an interview with the directors, conducted by poet Jake Lans, that’s really worth checking out, because I think it’s fascinating to see how filmmakers used to working on commercials approach a poetry film assignment. Here’s a bit of it:
Many motionpoems utilize a voice actor to help convey the poem; you chose text. What inspired that decision?
As we were listening to different voices, we realized that any voice actor that we chose would really influence how the poem was understood by the viewer. As we talked about it, we realized that for us the imagination was triggered more authentically by reading than by hearing the poem performed. We really enjoy reading poetry and wanted to stay true to that feeling.
What moved you to choose Meghan O’Rourke’s poem? Did you consult with her while you were adapting?
It’s so young and nostalgic. We decided not to talk to Meghan about the poem because we had a lot of questions about the deeper context of the piece but felt that we needed to go with our own gut reaction after reading it, as one would do when reading a poem normally. We felt that having a greater insight into the poem, having all of our questions answered, would tie us too much to a “real” narrative.
When working with an organization like Motionpoems, how does the creative freedom differ from some of the other projects you have worked on?
It was a lot of fun to have the parameters of the poem and then just go for it. Most of our work is done for products or companies where we have objectives of the client and their culture to really think about (we do a lot of work in other countries) and with this, we could really explore our own motifs and personal mythology.
This contribution to Lucy English‘s Book of Hours project is the work of filmmaker and animator Maciej Piatek and composer Tim Benjamin in collaboration with the poet, as Piatek explains in the Vimeo description:
This film was made as a result of collaboration between Lucy English, Tim Benjamin & Maciej Piatek. More info about the Book of Hours project below. The poem was written by Lucy to the video samples/animations I made earlier on. Then the whole poem was incorporated into the longer visual piece. Lucy wanted to reverse the traditional way of making video poems where words are initiating the whole creative visual process.
Click through for the rest.