Posts in Category: Videopoems

Bloodshot Cartography by Sarah Sloat

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The latest in an occasional series of Moving Poems productions matches Sarah Sloat‘s evocation of travel in the tropics to a beautifully decayed old home movie in a sort of lazy person’s homage to Stan Brakhage. The soundtrack is courtesy of the bird-sound library xeno-canto, from recordist Rodrigo Dela Rosa in the Atlantic rainforest of Brazil. The footage has been lightly edited from a single movie at the International Institute for the Conservation, Archiving and Distribution of Other People’s Memories (IICADOM).

Since one of my main motivations in producing videopoems like this, apart from simply having fun, is to demonstrate to other poets just how easy it is, let me give a few more detailed process notes. The whole idea was prompted by viewing the footage (which was silent, like most old home movies, and therefore I think easier to imagine juxtaposed with poetry). I thought it might be interesting to pair it with a text that dealt with decay and/or travel somehow, and after messing around with some Elizabeth Bishop recordings — “Sleeping on the Ceiling” was one strong possibility — I remembered that Sarah Sloat had written something that might work.

I’m in London for the summer and my copies of Sarah’s chapbooks are back home in Pennsylvania, but a web search turned up the likely poem title (from Heiress to a Small Ruin), and since I’d worked with her before, it was simply a matter of emailing to ask for a copy (and of course permission to mess around with it). I experimented with a news ticker-like scroll of the text along the bottom of the screen, and shared that with Sarah via a private upload to Vimeo, but she felt that it was too distracting for a viewer to concentrate simultaneously on the text and the rapidly changing images, and offered to supply a voiceover instead.

I asked Sarah for three readings so I could pick and choose the best bits to combine with the rainforest soundscape (editing as always on Audacity, which is excellent, free, and easy to use). Then it was simply a matter of cutting and splicing the footage to fit. (I use MAGIX Movie Edit Pro, which is a cheaper and somewhat more sophisticated alternative to novice-friendly software such as Adobe Premiere Elements. Its widespread adoption means that most questions one might have about its use are addressed in tutorials on YouTube.) The biggest change I made was to apply a warm filter to most of the footage — all but the “northeast” portion of the poem, which retains the original, cooler look — for that “bloodshot” effect. That might seem like an essential edit, but in fact it was the last thing I thought of, and the video worked almost as well without it. It’s always tricky to decide how much literalism to allow in a videopoem, but given the abstract nature of most of the images, I figured I could get away with some pink, blood-vessel-like webbing here and there.

Channel Swimmer by Jane Glennie

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This author-made videopoem by British artist Jane Glennie was recently featured at Atticus Review. It’s kind of high-concept, but I think it works. Here’s the description from AR and Vimeo:

Channel Swimmer is a short ‘flicker’ film that examines repetitive and ambivalent relationships in matriarchal cycles through the generations from mother to daughter to mother. The film is inspired by two novels – ‘A Proper Marriage’ by Doris Lessing and ‘National Velvet’ by Enid Bagnold, and their main characters. Martha Quest in ‘A Proper Marriage’ is having her own child and questions the relationship between herself and her mother. While Velvet Brown is quietly encouraged by her mother (who is the ‘Channel Swimmer’ of the title – as those who swim the English Channel to France are known) in ‘National Velvet’, the climax of which is when the protagonist wins the famous Grand National steeplechase. The words in the soundtrack are collaged from these two books. The film is made from hundreds of original photographs taken on location on a racecourse and in the studio.

Atticus Review, incidentally, unveiled a spiffy new site design a month or two back, and the editors are always looking for good mixed media submissions. Be sure to bookmark and check the site regularly.

Sun-Earth Diglossia by Eleni Cay

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This is the latest and last in Slovakian poet Eleni Cay‘s “celestial dialogues” series of dancepoems. She describes the project on her website:

I’m proud to be part of the generation who challenge discriminatory forms of sharing and creating poetry. I’m particularly interested in spaces that augment content and form into novel poetic genres. In my dancepoems, I’ve been experimenting with music, dance and poetry to see if carefully controlled convergence of three arts can give rise to a new poetic experience.

Between 2015 and 2017, I was fortunate to work with three very talented dancers. The theme binding our three dancepoems together is celestial dialogues- conversations between The Sun and The Earth, The Moon and The Sun, and The Earth and The Moon. When thinking about these conversational duets, the search for a ying-yang balance becomes a quest for unity and departure from human-imposed hierarchies.

If the Earth spoke to the Moon, what would she say? And if the Moon talked to the Sun, would they remember the times when they were one? The perennial themes of love and separation somewhat always find their way into a poem…

Dual Focus Media shot the video, with music by Armand Amar. Cay’s dance partner, Dickson Mbi, was the choreographer, and Christian Payne provided the voiceover.

Przesłanie Pana Cogito / Last Message from Mr Cogito by Zbigniew Herbert

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A 2010 film by Canadian director Anna Woch using a poem and reading by the great Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert. The YouTube description notes that it was awarded “Best experimental video at the Black and White Audiovisual Festival in Porto. Also projected at the Miden Film Festival in Kalamata and Obraz + Idea Festival in Brodnica.” The soundtrack includes original music by the Wintership Quartet.

Also translated as “The Envoy of Mr. Cogito,” the poem was the first to feature Herbert’s character Mr. Cogito, who supplied the title for a 1974 volume of poetry and appeared in four successive volumes through 1998.

Initially Mr. Cogito was an Everyman, a universal element of humanity sharing his opinions on various aspects of life and existence. However, the more he says, the more disembodied he appears, and becomes transformed into an ethical symbol and a metaphor of the tough choices we have to make between good and evil.

The character’s name originates from Descartes’ famous phrase, “Cogito ergo sum.”

(Hat-tip: The Film & Video Poetry Society)

The Leash by Ada Limón

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After the birthing of bombs of forks and fear,
the frantic automatic weapons unleashed,
the spray of bullets into a crowd holding hands,
that brute sky opening in a slate metal maw
that swallows only the unsayable in each of us, what’s
left? Even the hidden nowhere river is poisoned
orange and acidic by a coal mine….

Ada Limón‘s searing poem was animated by Rachel Visser using “After Effects, paper, paint, sand, clay, yarn, other found objects” and the poet’s own recitation.

Visser has also animated a poem by Czesław Miłosz.

Dear Alison by Helen Mort

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Chris Prescott of Dark Sky Media (“specialists in adventure film production”) directed this short, documentary-style poetry film featuring Helen Mort as poet and climber. The Vimeo description:

‘Dear Alison’ is a poem featured in the anthology No Map Could Show Them by critically acclaimed poet Helen Mort – a collection of poems centring on women making their mark and forging their own paths throughout history, both in the wilderness and in modern urban life. ‘Dear Alison’ is a personal tribute written by Helen to the late British mountaineer Alison Hargreaves – a mother, a wife and a talented climber who faced criticism due to her risk taking and her decision to continue climbing as a young mother, before her untimely death on K2 in 1995. The short film Dear Alison by Dark Sky Media and UKClimbing.com is a visual recreation of Helen’s words with imagery and sounds which evoke the poet’s emotional connection to Alison.

The film is currently featured on the front page of Liberated Words, where the accompanying, unsigned essay calls Dear Alison “a metanarrative on the process of writing: of the struggle of putting one word after another; of literally conceiving poetry, line by line.”

With the topic of non-metaphorical poetry films still echoing in our minds we also might consider this particular work as riven with metaphorical seams (rock metaphors to discuss metaphor notwithstanding). Throughout ‘Dear Alison’ close-up shots of Helen’s hand writing the poem punctuate the film and at the end she draws a firm but balanced line under the last word. We might think of this as jointly associative for both climber and poet: the metaphorical horizontal evocation of the joyous release from the vertical ropes and carabiners that stop a climber’s fall; or equally, the poet’s release from language, deliberately letting the line go; the summit having been reached. However, the analogy between mountaineering and writing ends there: the poet displays their roped words, carabinered like woven lace; the mountaineer hauls in their rope erasing all traces of the climb.

Read the rest.

I Ate Up the Whole Thing by Ilana Simons

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Psychologist, writer, and animator Ilana Simons describes her conflicted feelings about the seemingly endless creativity of a fellow artist, Noah Saterstrom, in this wonderful, quirky blend of videopoetry and documentary set to an up-tempo track from the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

This upload was the April 17 release from the Visible Poetry Project (which, incidentally, just had a screening in Beijing last Thursday — the first U.S. poetry film festival to travel abroad in a number of years). Simons’ own upload of the video is accompanied by a note that “this is a short intro to a longer documentary I’m making about Noah Saterstrom, a painter”. She has previously made documentaries about Haruki Murakami and the literary critic William Empson.

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