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.
Fellow Australian film-maker Brendan Bonsack is one of the finest of the lyrical video poets I have encountered. Multi-talented, skilled and prolific in film, poetry, photography, performance, and music, he is also a generous supporter of poets and their culture in this country, especially in Melbourne, where he is co-producer of a community radio show devoted to the spoken word.
Snow Memory is a wordless video poem, alluding to its themes in beautifully composed images and music. There are suggestions of fragmented narrative to be found in the precisely rhythmic editing between images, some shot by Brendan, others drawn from archival and alternative sources.
Whether finding expression in videos, poems, or any of his other chosen forms, Brendan’s work is inspiring to say the least, its effect on audiences well described here:
“Bonsack has one of those voices that fills a room with golden light…”
Nkechi Anele, Triple J Radio, Australia
In the case of this film, it’s a snowy silver.
In my first post as a contributor to Moving Poems, I am delighted to introduce to the site the work of Kathryn Darnell. Her Write Out: A Scribe’s Haiku #3 is part of a series of animations of original haiku about her work as a calligrapher. Music is by Elden Kelly.
Kathryn has been a professional illustrator and calligrapher for over 30 years, dividing her time between commercial art and fine art practice. Her “animated calligraphics” are an extension of her passion for letters. Her personal artwork is regularly exhibited in galleries, and she is an adjunct professor of art at Lansing Community College.
In 2018, her video, Things I Found in the Hedge, in collaboration with UK poet Lucy English, was the winner of the inaugural edition of the Atticus Review Videopoem Contest, which I judged and discussed in Moving Poems Magazine.
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?”