The history of poetry in film can be seen to have two main branches: the cinematic and the classically poetic. In cinematic history, the two were brought together almost from the start, with the avant garde and experimental movements of the early 20th century.
This genre of film was first explored in the 1920s by French Impressionists Germaine Dulac, Louis Delluc, Man Ray, Hans Richter, and others. In the mid-1960s and early 1970s this genre was further explored by the Beat Generation poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, and Herman Berlandt, and developed into a festival held annually at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, California. (Wikipedia)
Poetry itself has its origins in the oral forms of ancient times, adapting and evolving over the last millennium with the arrival of the new technology of the printing press. It has been combined over time with art and music. Poetry film now marries audio and time-based visual media with the printed and spoken forms of poetry. There seems little doubt there are other emerging manifestations of poetry happening now.
In the Future, written and directed by Canadian experimental film-maker Mike Hoolboom, is from 1998. It is a piece complete in itself, but also part of a longer feature film, Imitations of Life, that is made up of several parts.
In a recent bio, Mike describes himself this way:
Born: Korean War, the pill, hydrogen bomb, playboy mansion. 1980s: Film emulsion fetish and diary salvos. Schooling at the Funnel: collective avant-geek cine utopia. 1990s: failed features, transgressive psychodramas, questions of nationalism. 2000s: Seroconversion cyborg (life after death), video conversion: feature-length, found footage bios. Fringe media archaeologist: author of 7 books, editor/co-editor 12 books. Curator: 30 programs. Copyleft yes. Occasional employments: artistic director Images Fest, fringe distribution Canadian Filmmakers. 80 film/vids, most redacted. 9 features. 30 awards, 12 international retrospectives. 2 lifetime achievement awards. 24 books, 15 mags, 40 interviews, 100+ essays, 40 sound clips.
Indeed, his contribution to the contemporary field of experimental film is substantial. He is deservedly considered by many to be one of its greatest living artists.
In the Future draws its sublime image stream from moments in films from many sources. Most of these are unrecognisable from their original context. Its text is given visually on screen, a deep poetic meditation on photographic media and its relation to human identity. The film is prophetic in its vision of a world in which every moment will be photographed, until at last our identities become indistinguishable from photographs themselves. Prophetic again is its apocalyptic sense of where this might take us. This film from over 20 years ago seems even more relevant today.
An experimental filmpoem about side-stepping death. The style of filmmaking was inspired by the Materialist/Structural elements of Peter Gidal’s experimental film, Key (1968).
The piece encourages us towards a wider-awake vision, towards more sensitive ears, with attention facing both inwards and outwards, and on the perceptual spaces in between. True to the soul of our times, it is deeply moving and beautifully well-realised.
George Simpson is the creator of the soundtrack, providing a track called “Artemis”, from his album Still Points In The Turning World. Emotionally affecting, with an elegant and simple extended first movement, followed by expansion into expressive drama, the music coherently accompanies the visual and textual elements in an organic way.
All the elements of this video merge to become an audio-visual experience far more than any sum of its parts.
The video was shot around Adelaide, the Fleurieu Peninsula, Inner Suburban Melbourne, the Western Highway, and Far North Queensland. An only-slightly futuristic vision of a flooded urban landscape was achieved through the use of video compositing.
After The Incoming, The Overflow, our future lay within the tides, no turning back, no neap, no ebb, an undertow of uncertainty and doubt… Taunting us, an illusion of normality… We have run out of options, we are battling for breath…
It received the Honorable Mention at the Experimental Forum Film and Video Art Festival (Los Angeles, July, 2019).
After reading Albert Samaha’s powerful reporting on the first hate crime after 9/11 in the United States, I was inspired to make this found footage retelling of a glimpse of his story.
Here’s the Buzzfeed article she drew upon for her information and some of the text.
Bernard O’Rourke is an Irish writer, film-maker, and spoken word artist, new to Moving Poems. Filmed along Dublin’s Grand Canal, his City Swans reflects discontent and restlessness within the enclosures of city life. The poem is richly voiced by Bernard himself, woven into the melancholy whimsy of Brendan Carvill’s guitar chords. As an ensemble, the piece evokes a sense of sky-born hope glimpsed in lowly places. It was a finalist in 2018 for the Ó Bhéal Poetry Film Prize at the IndieCork Film Festival, Ireland.
Recently I became part of an international collective of artists called Agitate:21C. In its short existence, it has attracted about 300 outstanding experimental, avant-garde, and generally ‘other’ artists from around the world, including film-makers, poets, curators, critics, lovers of the arts, and just about any kind of alternative creator, focused on any medium, genre, style or form.
Originally part of a larger art installation created for Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival, Alphonso’s Jaw was the first poetry film I found via A21C. It is written and directed by Scottish artists Sarahjane Swan and Roger Simian, also known as Avant Kinema. Sarahjane appears in the film and voices the piece in English and French. I find it virtuosic in its fusing of word, soundscape and image, as well as deeply moving in its meditation on the timeless horrors of war in the lives of individuals.
This is an excerpt from what the artists have to say on the film’s page at Vimeo:
The installation, and our subsequent short film, were inspired by our fascination for two objects we discovered amongst Edinburgh University’s Anatomy Collection: (1) the cast of a disfigured face; (2) a prosthetic jaw constructed on an early nineteenth century battlefield.
Through some research we unearthed the story of Alphonse Luis, a young French gunner struck by shrapnel at the Siege of Antwerp, 1832. Having suffered horrific facial injuries, losing his lower face, Alphonse’s quality of life was eventually improved when the Surgeon-Major and a local Belgian artist collaborated on the construction of a silver prosthetic jaw, painted in flesh tones and adorned with whiskers.
We uncovered historical accounts of Alphonse Luis’ injury, surgery, recuperation and rehabilitation in medical journals of the day, and drew on these for an exploration of identity, disfigurement and reconstruction.
In Alphonso’s Jaw we imagine that Alphonse Luis has become dislocated from history to exist outside of any specific time or place, trapped in eternal convalescence, soothed by the dreams of his Battlefield Muse, who is equal parts Night Nurse, Scheherazade and Beauty from Beauty and the Beast. Luis’ Battlefield Muse is, in turn, both horrified and fascinated by her patient.
The poem, titled “Beauty and the Silver Mask,” can be read at Avant Kinema’s blog, in both its full English version and the short fragment of it spoken in French, which was translated by Raymond Meyer.