A Whitmansque exploration of identity from Lehua Taitano for the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s online exhibition A Day in the Queer Life of Asian Pacific America. It’s part of a half-completed series of twelve author-made videopoems curated by poet Franny Choi: Queer Check-Ins, which Choi introduces with this note:
It’s a strange time to be strange. For those of us who are queer and trans, femme and gender non-conforming, immigrant and indigenous, every day seems to bring a new understanding of the exact precariousness of our survival. As artists, we are often making our visions for the future while being drained by loss, heartbroken by loneliness and the distances between us. But, as poet Ocean Vuong writes, “loneliness is still time spent / with the world.” As curator for this project, I’m excited to gather these twelve queer voices from across the Asian and Pacific diasporas, to form a kind of collective rest stop in our travels through this America. Together, these poets meet the dark road ahead with fierce tenderness, with legends and incantations, with sharp criticism and complex dreams. Here are twelve check-ins from our extended chosen family; twelve brief glimpses into what it looks like when we stay.
For more on Taitano, see her excellent website. I’ll take the liberty of quoting her bio:
Lehua M. Taitano is a queer CHamoru writer and interdisciplinary artist from Yigu, Guåhan (Guam) and co-founder of Art 25. She is the author of two volumes of poetry—Inside Me an Island (WordTech Editions) and A Bell Made of Stones (TinFish Press). Her chapbook, appalachiapacific, won the Merriam-Frontier Award for short fiction. She has two recent chapbooks of poetry and visual art: Sonoma (Dropleaf Press) and Capacity (a Hawai’i Review e-chap).
Her poetry, essays, and Pushcart Prize-nominated fiction have appeared in Poetry, Fence, Arc Poetry Magazine, Kartika Review, Red Ink International Journal, and numerous others. She has served as an APAture Featured Literary Artist via Kearny Street Workshop, a Kuwentuhan poet via The Poetry Center at SFSU, and as a Culture Lab visual artist and curatorial advisor for the Smithsonian Institute’s Asian Pacific American Center. Taitano’s work investigates modern indigeneity, decolonization, and cultural identity in the context of diaspora.
April 17, International Haiku Poetry Day, can ironically be a hard day to discover true haiku on Twitter, where #NationalHaikuDay is currently the second highest trending term in the United States. Browse the hashtag and you’ll see what I mean: nothing but three-line, 17-syllable arrangements of prose — party tricks by the least clever people at a party.
So I thought I’d share this animated text experiment by Jim Kacian, editor/publisher of Red Moon Press and head of The Haiku Foundation, to push back against widespread misconceptions of the genre. Though more serious viewers might find that some of the font and animation choices border on cheesiness, to me, the irreverence is part of the charm (not to mention an essential feature of haiku/hokku since the 17th century). And the playfulness is in service to a pretty important lesson about modern haiku, as the description suggests:
Jim Kacian takes the Rorschach Test and makes his results public.
Pareidolia is the the imagined perception of a pattern or meaning where it does not actually exist, as in considering the moon to have human features. In this short film, poet Jim Kacian explores the relationship between the images of the famous Rorschach Inkblot Test and multi-stop monoku — one-line haiku with several possible interpretations. Music composed by Erik Satie, arranged and realized by the Camarata Contemporary Chamber Orchestra.
First screened for HaikuLife, the Haiku Film Festival held during International Haiku Poetry Day, April 17, 2016.
Forrest Gander‘s latest collection Be With has just won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry — congratulations to him. As someone who shares his interests in Latin American poetry and ecopoetry, I’ve been cheered by his growing prominence in recent years. Not to mention the fact that he’s one of the very few major American poets who makes his own videopoems. Here’s one he re-edited just a few weeks ago. (I think the original video appeared around 2012.) The text appears in his 2001 collection Torn Awake.
Our second video, “The Center” by Annelyse Gelman has us eyeing the eerie potential for non-human entities to replicate or replace human jobs, relationships, and even literature. Like examples of video art that pushed the limits of early green screen technology, “The Center” repurposes face swap and text-to-voice in a savvy, uncanny pairing of poetry and digital media that brings out the specific resonances of the text. Gelman’s project nods to animal experiments involving cages with electrified flooring, centers and peripheries that implicate and confront the viewer: “Are you thinking about your own heartbeat?”
“After the chaos of the Nazi march in Charlottesville, one key voice is hapless,” reads the description of this 2017 film by filmmaker/poet Caroline Rumley. She notes further that it was “Created in response to this photo, which eventually won a Pulitzer: [link].” Stevie Ronnie drew attention to it in his report from the 2018 ZEBRA festival as one of the stand-out films there for him. It was also screened at the 2107 Ó Bhéal and Filmpoem festivals.
This two-year-old videopoem by the Australian polymath Ian Gibbins is more relevant than ever, with this past week’s dire new report on the worldwide collapse of insect populations, which found that “More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered… The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.”
Compared with that forecast, Gibbins sounds down-right optimistic. Here’s how he describes the film on Vimeo:
“nearly extinct … we burrow… far from toxic miasmata … we will wait … once more fill the skies…”
Brooding, breeding underground, the insects wait until the time is right to escape the confines of gravity and environmental degradation.
Hexapod was short-listed and screened at 5th Ó Bhéal Poetry-Film Competition, Cork, Ireland, 2017, as part of the IndieCork Film Festival.
It was screened at the 6th International Video Poetry Festival, Athens, January, 2018 and published on-line at Atticus Review in February, 2019.
Do visit the Atticus Review for additional process notes.
For those of us in the middle of a snowy winter, it can fun to recall how we think of winter the rest of the year. This is one of three “micro film-poems” released by Colorado-based poet and filmmaker R.W. Perkins last July in Atticus Review. It went on to be selected for the ZEBRA and Rabbit Heart poetry film festivals in the fall. The artist statement reads:
Much of life comes down to the simple things, small in nature but complicated in terms of the inner workings of the mind. Most of my work centers around the effortless red-letter moments of life, where the heart seems to linger. I create poetic snapshots of the past facing the present in a subtle attempt to draw attention to where we are culturally at this moment in our history. My poetry and films harken back to my Texas roots and friends and family in rural Colorado, bringing a touch of surrealism to my small town recollections, highlighting the occasions that seem to bind us emotionally and culturally.