An author-made videopoem by John Mortara for a special, all-video edition of Shabby Doll House. Don’t let the hand-held shakiness fool you — this is a well-edited video with a number of imaginative juxtapositions of text and image. I was also impressed that the voiceover remained fully intelligible despite the relative loudness of the music (which is by Garrett Kemp).
One recent addition to the Links page that’s proving especially useful in expanding my horizons is a Blogspot site from Laura Theobald, a poetry MFA student at Louisiana State University: irreducible: a study on the concept and genre of poetry film. Among other things, she’s led me to take another look at Steve Roggenbuck, who must be one of the most prominent videopoets not to have been featured on Moving Poems so far, for the simple reason that I find him annoying as hell. I realize the annoyingness (which includes intentional misspelling) is all part of his sincerely ironic, internet-savvy schtick; but since most of his videos are hand-held, vlog-style spoken word pieces, they also haven’t held my interest aesthetically. This one, however, incorporates some found video of subjects other than the poet’s face. As Theobald puts it:
This poetry-video, titled “Eventually you will be dead but today you are not,” is a good example of Roggenbuck’s poetry-film aesthetic: a handheld camera is pointed by the poet directly at himself in close-up, often off-centered, partially out-of-frame, walking outdoors, “in nature”; ambient music accompanies the entirety of the film; Roggenbuck speaks directly into the camera; and the film is heavily edited, with short, quick intervals between shots. The overall tone is high-energy, full of impact, intense. In the case of this particular film, shots of the poet speaking into the camera are interlaced with “found” (appropriated) images from popular films and videos (“Independence Day,” “Air Bud,” Rebecca Black’s viral video for “Friday,”) and audio clips of motivational speakers—these images coincide with the poet’s “textual” references to popular culture: “Carlos Mencia,” “The Rock,” “Will Smith,” “Bagel Bites,” etc.
Like most of Roggenbuck’s videos, this one raises a number of questions about its terms. Roggenbuck has published three books/e-books of poetry that themselves push the boundaries of ideas about poetry by making the same sort of moves that we see in this video: by making pop-culture references (Justin Bieber), by using “internet speech,” jokes, and witticisms, and an “internet-y” conversational tone. None of these factors are, alone, groundbreaking, but, together, as we see in the video, they form an end product that somehow breaks from our traditional (or even nontraditional) understanding of poetry. In his videos, the characteristics that define Roggenbuck’s written works are intensified by the fact that Roggenbuck seems to be improvising the lines of the “poems” that he speaks into the camera. Whether or not he does in fact improvise, I don’t know for sure. I suspect (from interviews, blog posts, and the quality of the content) that some time is spent rehearsing or planning the scenes he films. Regardless, the videos seem to challenge collective notions about poetry, as Roggenbuck himself seems to recognize—specifically in his video “am i even a poet anymore?” Explicitly here Roggenbuck seems to raise a number of questions about poetry and literature and to dismiss conventional means of disseminating literature as outdated. He advocates, instead, a broader view of literary activities.
Read the rest of Theobald’s post (which also includes an analysis of a Kate Greenstreet film). Whatever else might be said about Roggenbuck, his work certainly represents a sort of apotheosis of the selfie culture. I’m sure this won’t be the last time I’ll be featuring it here.
In celebration of World Poetry Day, here’s a video which may not fit some people’s idea of a poem at all — but which, to my way of thinking, represents the purest form of videopoetry. In fact, it was brought to my attention by videopoetry pioneer Tom Konyves (more about that in a minute). It’s the work of the Madrid-based filmmaker and graffiti artist Dier, and incorporates two kinds of found text: in the soundtrack, a monologue from the movie Blade Runner, and as images on the screen, the erased words of painted-over graffiti. The former is (eventually) translated into Spanish-language graffiti, but it’s the “lost” words that are uniquely able to communicate — or fail to communicate — in all languages, due to the universality of silence. This struck me as especially suggestive today, given the emphasis of World Poetry Day on endangered languages and censored or silenced poets, as well as on dialogue between poetry and the other arts. To quote from the UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova’s message,
Today, contemporary forms of poetry, from graffiti to slam, enable young people to become engaged in the practice and renew it by opening the door to a new space for creation. The forms evolve, but the poetic impulse remains intact. [...] As a deep expression of the human mind and as a universal art, poetry is a tool for dialogue and rapprochement.
In videopoetry as Konyves conceives of it, the meshing of different media goes well beyond mere dialogue, however. In a review of this video, “Loss, Memory, Spectacle, Redemption: A Hermeneutic Approach to Dier’s Videopoem Todos esos momentos se perderan (All Those Moments Will Be Lost In Time),” he reminds us that, in his view, “the ‘poetry’ in a videopoem is not the privileged ‘text’ — it is the moment of intersection between the text, image and sound.”
In “Todos esos momentos se perderan”, Dier succeeded in discovering the collaborative properties of the elements of text, image and sound. (Not all texts, images and soundtracks can be said to have ‘collaborative properties’; a previous!y published poem, for example, may arrive complete-in-itself.) The text is appropriated and bifurcated so that its relationship to the images (supported by a soundtrack that is itself an appropriation) presents to the viewer a metaphor extended and redrawn through key ‘moments’ in the unfolding of the work. The words of the spoken text are translated to Spanish before they are “enacted”, emphasizing their adaptation and service to the real world.
Due to the difficulty of copying and pasting from the online document, I’ll leave my quoting at that, but do click through and read the rest — an illuminating analysis which, unlike a lot of theorizing, should also be of practical value to any poets or filmmakers working in the field. For credits and Dier’s found-poem text translated from Blade Runner, see the description on Vimeo.
Sara Mithra’s latest videopoem once again makes good use of old home-movie footage from the Prelinger Archives. She calls it
A story of flowers with sharp desires, set to a bricolage about women who go into the woods in search of deer and the hunters they find. The film is entirely sourced from super 8 home movies of unknown origin and authorship. The score, by Lee Gerstmann, is taken unaltered from a damaged reel-to-reel recording, adding a warped, unsettling soundtrack.
Text, voice, sound and visuals are all by Max Oravin, an Austrian poet, video artist and audiovisual performer currently living in Finland. Be sure to click on the CC icon below the video for the English subtitles.
For more of Oravin’s videos, browse the Visuals tag at his blog. I asked him about the provenance of the footage used here, and he wrote:
The video uses a mixture of original and found footage. While I shot some sea animals for the first half of the video in Berlin’s magnificent Aquarium, I use heavily edited YouTube videos in the second part.
As I create videos for my own poetry, I try to use visuals as a means to reveal hidden layers in the text. By avoiding a literal visualization, I can make explicit some associations I had while writing the poems.
A new filmpoem by poet Robert Peake with musician/composer Valerie Kampmeier. Peake blogged the text and a brief process note. To me, this is one of Peake and Kampmeier’s most satisfying videos to date, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that film and text took shape at the same time:
I found a film of reindeer in the archive.org 35mm Stock Footage collection and, after watching it several times, I began to develop a narrative about a man lost in the Arctic Circle. The poem came from there, followed by the video and effects editing and finally the music and sound effects.
A gem of a videopoem by poet and filmmaker Dave Richardson.
Note that, polished as it appears, this is still a first draft, according to Richardson. In a comment at Vimeo, he wrote:
Always happy to share works in progress. My “first draft” might just be someone’s “final draft.” I think this motion piece is in good shape now.