What better way for Moving Poems to return from hiatus than with the latest video collaboration between artist Cheryl Gross and poet Nicelle Davis? And as a nature lover, the subject matter is close to my heart. I feel that way too few poets really grasp the severity and horror of the extinction crisis, let alone the threat it poses to the human imagination and, arguably, our very souls. I found this cycle of poems so moving, especially accompanied by Cheryl’s inimitable, unsettling animation.
Nicelle has a brief column about the collaboration up at Cultural Weekly:
Death is a charmer; nothing makes us feel more alive than brushing shoulders with Death at a bar, in our cars, or at 5,000 feet in the air. Every time we risk and survive there is a thrill. We feel like we won more life because we are not the one dying.
There is something sexy about Death, how when poachers take a machete to the face of an elephant, the gaping wound resemble a wet vagina, how sex is always better once it’s gone, or when whalers take a grenade harpoon to a whale—even more so when an entire species is gone, how life looks for life even inside a zoo.
But Death is a trickster. We can never win at Death’s game. We remain alive, while our humanity is dying. Soon, there will be nothing of our lives worth living for.
Commit to Memory: The Precipice of Extinction is a multi-platform project that addresses the eventual disappearance of our culture using animals as metaphors. We explore issues of global warming, displacement, assault and poverty.
Continuing with this week’s feature on Marc Zegans, here’s the first of three videos I’ll be sharing based on texts in his latest collection, circulated to select video artists and filmmakers while still in manuscript. This one is described on YouTube as “retro-collagist Eric Edelman‘s animation of the First Fragment from the Typewriter Underground. Full text can be found in La Commedia Sotterranea della Macchina da Scrivere: Swizzle Felt’s First Folio from the Typewriter Underground. Available from Pelekinesis March 1, 2019.” The publisher’s webpage calls La Commedia
a gathering of verse fragments and collages describing and illustrating the life of the Typewriter Underground, a spontaneous sub-cultural phenomenon that appeared with near simultaneity in a variety of cities and smaller locales across the globe in the late 20th and early 21st Century.
Layla Atkinson directed this vivid animation of a poem by Siegfried Sassoon that insists on the importance of remembering the horrors of war in peacetime. The animators are Marie-Margaux Tsakiri-Scanatovits, John Harmer, Rok Predin, Jocie Juritz, Jacob Read, and Clelia Leroux; see Vimeo for the rest of the credits. The Trunk Animation Production Company website provides detailed production notes. Here’s the middle part:
Being that the poem obviously has a dark subject matter, we wanted to find a balance so that an audience would be able to enjoy the film, relate, and hopefully retain Sassoon’s warning, without being either too harrowing, or too warm.
We worked with the amazing Julian Rhind-Tutt on the voiceover, and he played with the delivery of different lines to help ground each scene in a reality.
The visual narrative has a cyclical structure that as we progress, slowly erases reality as memories take over, only for our main character to make a firm decision to regain control and pull themselves back into the here and now.
The poem was written in 1919, and we took influence from cubism, in so much as we wanted to tell multiple stories and ideas at once from different viewpoints. Layla also approached the overall look and feel using a mixture of different textures and materials to build up visual layers.
In this startling animation of Muriel Rukeyser’s “Poem (I lived in the first century of world wars),” two lives unfold in split screen, one during the tumultuous world events of 1968, the other 50 years later against a new landscape of uncertainty and ever-present digital technology.
The film was produced by the Poetry Foundation just last year, part of a new focus on poetry videos on their website, which I was excited to discover recently. When I started this website ten years ago, the Poetry Everywhere series of animations produced by the Poetry Foundation (in association with docUWM at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) was one of the major caches of poetry animations on YouTube, and though they were made by university students and therefore not as sophisticated as the series of Billy Collins animations that had been produced by JWTNY a few years earlier, they were plentiful and my standards were low, so they had a lot to do with turning Moving Poems from a short-term gallery into a long-term blog. I’d always hoped that the Poetry Foundation would devote more of its considerable endowment to producing poetry films some day. It looks as if that day might finally be here.
A videopoem by Helen Dewbery and Chaucer Cameron for the title poem from Tania Hershman‘s debut poetry collection with Nine Arches Press. A song by Tania’s brother Nick Hershman, “You Get What You Deserve”, is also incorporated into the soundtrack, and the interplay between the two texts is part of what makes this work so well, I think.