Like Betsy Newman’s video for Ed Madden’s “Red Star”, or film interpretations of Jade Anouka’s poems by Mickael Dickes and Sabrina Grant, this collaborative effort from filmmaker Anita Clearfield and poet Nicelle Davis shows how to include the poet as an actor while still keeping the main focus on the poem. I was alerted to its existence by a post at Davis’ blog, The Bee’s Knees: “Collaboration: The Walled Wife.”
The Walled Wife is a project that has haunted me for the past six years; it is my retelling of a story about a woman who is buried alive in hopes that her soul will hold up the walls of a church. “The Ballad of the Walled-Up Wife” is a folk song at least 1,000 years old; it is one of the most famous in the world, according to folklorist Alan Dundes. In an interview Dundes explains, “the song has inspired more than 700 versions — mainly throughout eastern Europe and India — as well as countless essays by scholars.”
Countless, he says.
Countless, I questioned, and so began exploring the many cases of women being buried alive. I compared variations of a song sung across the globe. The lyrics go: a wife is buried so a structure can rise—it implies a room is worth more than a woman, and as a place she approximates value.
I started to wonder if the architecture of intimacy is dependent on violence—if art is the ultimate form of violence—if women, especially in the role of wife, are worth anything (or nothing) at all? Countless being the inverse of priceless, it would seem that this ballad proves that we are not worth much at all. It shows that the easiest thing in the world to replace is a wife—it says a woman is a thing.
Read the rest to learn how Davis attempted over the years to re-create the experience of being walled up or buried alive, what she learned from it, and how she came to collaborate with Clearfield and composer Silke Matzpohl. The post also includes the text of the poem, which first appeared in Manor House Quarterly.
A new film from Massachusetts-based videopoet Martha McCollough, one of three she’s placed so far in TriQuarterly. This one appears in their Summer/Fall 2014 issue. Kudos to their editors for changing their policy and allowing their videos to be embedded elsewhere.
McCollough continues to chart an independent course. Her work is like nobody else’s, mesmerizing and disturbing in equal measures — and always gorgeous.
Husband-and-wife team Robert Peake and Valerie Kampmeier won the children’s prize in Southbank Centre’s inaugural Shot Through the Heart Poetry Film Competition with this film. Peake wrote about the composition process on his writer’s blog:
When Valerie and I read the call-out for a film-poem competition with a children’s category happening here in London, we had to give it a try.
I wrote and recorded the poem, and then began playing with stop-motion animation. I used Christmas ornaments made of teasel, blue tack, coloured paper, a Raspberry Pi with LEGO-mounted camera arm (my own creation, at right), and of course lots of buttons. Valerie wrote and recorded the music at the end.
After more than forty hours of painstaking animation work, it was so gratifying to discover that the judges–a group of London school children–really liked the result.
Peake has also created a free storybook from the poem, available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices.
While it may seem surprising that someone could meet with such success on their first foray into the world of children’s poetry film, Peake appears to have thoroughly immersed himself in the genre, judging from his survey at the Huffington Post, “Combining Film and Poetry Is Child’s Play.”
The film-poem genre is a slim but highly enthusiastic and truly international one. It is largely comprised of serious filmmakers and equally serious musicians and poets. As a result, the sub-genre of film-poems made specifically for children is something of a subset within a subset. Yet this kind of thing has been going on successfully for some time, from cartoons of Dr. Seuss books made in the 1970s to the recent Emmy-Award-winning “A Child’s Garden of Poetry” produced by HBO in cooperation with the US Poetry Foundation. There are also many fine examples from all over the world, in different languages, of filmmakers setting poetry to film with children in mind.
Click through to watch the selection of seven films that Peake also screened at a live event in the Southbank Centre’s festival in mid-July. He includes some real gems.
Last and probably least, I see from Facebook that Robert Peake has just gotten British citizenship, in case anyone is wondering why there are now two nationalities identified with his poems here. Like T.S. Eliot, he has now become a major headache for book catalogers using the Library of Congress system. Fortunately, the same post can appear on multiple virtual shelves on a website, thanks to the wonders of modern content management systems (WordPress, in Moving Poems’ case). At any rate, congratulations to Robert for coming out of the closet as fully bi-national.
Brooklyn-based poet and artist Bianca Stone is well known for her poetry comics, but she also makes poetry videos. This animation was featured back in April on the always-invaluable Tin House Reels. Ilana Simons writes:
Epitaph in Reverse, today’s feature from Bianca Stone, includes the sort of artistic play that shows the author’s permissive relationship to her own creative mind. There is an elasticity to Stone’s process- she lets ink drops bleed, invites smudging, and whitewashes sections of her drawings for an explicit redo.
“Since I end up eviscerating the art during the filming, I sometimes start with old drawings that I’m ok deconstructing,” Stone says. “It’s really a trial and error. Which is fun as hell. I like to think of the process of making the video as a big part of the final product. In other words, you see a lot of my process in the final product.”
Stone describes her method of creation as such: “I sit at my drafting table and use my iphone usually, with a tiny tripod and a bright light on. I’m always alone. I have a beer. I first start taking pictures of the drawing I’ve started. I draw and photograph, draw and photograph, until my phone gets too hot. Then I load the photos into imovie and play with speed and filters. I find a song that fits or record my own music on GarageBand. A video takes me about five hours, depending on the length of the poem.”
The result is wild play, with guts.
Stone’s blog appears to have gone missing from her long-time URL poetrycomics.com—temporarily, I hope. In the meantime, check out more of her work on YouTube. (And in some nice synchronicity, she has a poem up today on Poetry Daily.)
This innovative videopoem about the destruction of Damascus, The City, alternates lines from a poem by Ghayath Almadhoun, translated from Arabic by Catherine Cobham and read by female voices, and a poem by Marie Silkeberg, translated from Swedish by Frank Perry and read by male voices. The readers are people from the streets of Stockholm. Silkeberg composed the sound montage and Almadhoun the montage of found footage from the internet. He mentioned in a recent interview that the film has been screened in more than 150 festivals.
A new poetry film from the husband-and-wife team of Robert Peake and Valerie Kampmeier. Peake posted the text to his blog along with some brief process notes, which are worth quoting in full, since they show how organically the film developed:
I had a feeling of the kind of film-poem I wanted to create here, something about flight. I used Blender to render a flock of birds and then composited them together with historic aviation footage from the Prelinger Archives. The poem wrote itself after that, and Valerie’s piano accompaniment followed. We also recorded birdsong on an H1 Zoom and looped it to create a backdrop of sound.