My brother lost his virginity behind the barn, he says, but he says a lot of things… sometimes we want to hold on to sanctuaries and cathedrals even as they crumble.
A new, text-on-screen videopoem by artist and writer Dave Richardson, each of whose poetry films so far has been something of a masterpiece. This one has special resonance for me, since I also grew up playing in an old barn with my brothers, and love old barns in general. Cathedral strikes me as a quiet but powerful ode to this most iconic embodiment of rural life.
Poet and director Susannah Ramsay‘s description reads:
West of Dalabrog refers to the relationship between place, landscape, memory and subjective experience. It focuses on the return to a place of personal importance – a long stretch of white sand to the west of the town of Dalabrog, South Uist, which I first visited in 2001. The return represents a shift in perception and reflects how time can bear great change on a place, landscape and more crucially memory.
Last year, Fucking Him won Best Experimental Film at the Manhattan Independent Film Festival and Curator’s Choice for Best Sound/Music at Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival, was the Grand Prix Winner for Found Footage at the 2015 Interference Festival in Gdansk, and has been screened in a number of other festivals as well.
A classic poetry film by the Scottish filmmaker and poet Margaret Tait (1918-1999). It’s one of “Five Filmpoems: Curated by Susannah Ramsay” in the first issue of an online journal dedicated to “exploring and showcasing the milieux, methods and madnesses of contemporary poetry in all its emergent myriad forms,” All These New Relations. Ramsay has this to say about Colour Poems:
Margaret Tait was known as a filmpoet and experimental filmmaker. Her approach to filmmaking was remarkably similar to the ethos of the avant-garde, generally self-funded, non-conformist, uncompromising, non-commercial, with distribution and exhibition being select. I think Colour Poems (1974) depicts some of the more thought provoking images within her oeuvre. There is a wonderful poetical moment, which begins with the poppy fields where Tait questions the true essence of the image through juxtaposing shots of the Scottish oil industry and related capitalist iconography and a sequence of images relating to a return to the earth. Nature is brought into being through spoken word. The narrator willing the viewer to look beyond what can be seen, to ‘look into all that is illuminated by the light’ […] ‘the own person’s own self perceiving the light and making the music’ suggesting that we are the beholders of (our) true vision.
A new video by YouTuber PXVCE, who writes in the description,
In this short piece i ask questions about the future of humanity, pointing out systematic oppression in today’s society! Encouraging listeners to wake up and reverse the cycle!
PXVCE describes himself as a “Cleveland born producer and artist” who “has a goal to create poetry for the culture.”
Subliminal messages embedded in his pieces often evoke medication and a state of chill. Implementing positive vibes and witty word play PXVCE offers a nostalgic style reminiscent of the Harlem Renaissance Era. While the soul takes its aural banquet from the universal language, the conscious is awakened. A Third eye is no longer dormant in the listener’s senses creating change one piece at a time ushering in new thought.
Artist as change agent is nothing new. However, it’s the way that this artist manages to use his music artistry to motivate, initiate, and spark creativity in listeners so that unity and love find a place in their lives that makes him a top-of-mind poet for this generation.
This brilliant, author-made stop-motion animation is featured in the latest issue of TriQuarterly. “Found materials do the heavy lifting of visual argument to demonstrate how repurposed materials might reveal something about the person who finds them,” as TriQuarterly‘s video editor Sarah Minor puts it.
It’s good to see that the 152nd issue of this venerable American literary magazine continues in the pattern set since its move to the web several years ago, leading off with a short video section introduced by its own essay. The fact that they seem to have dropped the term “cinepoetry” and call everything a “video essay” now is puzzling, but may simply reflect a shift in fashion among the MFA-led American literary establishment, where it must’ve gotten a huge boost by the bestseller status of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, which includes the transcripts of several video essays from the ongoing “Situations” series filmed in collaboration with John Lucas. The rise of creative nonfiction as a component of MFA programs may also have played a role. But even outside high literary culture, the video essay has certainly become a fashionable genre on both sides of the Atlantic, even if there appears to be little agreement on what it means (that sounds familiar).
At any rate, be sure to visit Triquarterly Issue 152 to watch the other two, er, non-narrative videos by Annelyese Gelman and Spring Ulmer. To learn more about video essay as a genre, this video about essay films by film critic Kevin B. Lee, from a recent opinion piece in Sight&Sound magazine, seems like a good place to start:
This videopoema by the Argentine artist and writer Alejandro Thornton is — as Tom Konyves puts it in a new essay in Poetryfilmkanal — a “silent, minimalist, prototypical ‘concrete poem'”. Konyves’ description of what’s going on in this video from a viewer’s perspective is the centerpiece of his essay, “A Rumination on Visual Text in Videopoetry,” which also mentions seven other videopoems, all embedded in the post. I’ve never been able to articulate why certain avant-garde videopoems work for me, but I think Tom nails it here: the video depends for its effect on “multiple, ambiguous meanings (the word O, the letter O, the vowel sound of O, an O shape, an expression of an emotion, a graphic representation of some concept like unity, harmony, return, etc.),” and by the video’s end, we should be able “to experience the ambiguous word-image relationship – a static O and a moving landscape – in a spatial context and therefore interpret O as a shape first, and the effect of rotation as a self-referential meaning ascribed to the entire work.”
Finally, there is the juxtaposition of text to image; O, therefore, is a demonstration of a figure-ground relationship in which the letter/shape O is the figure and the ground is – well, the ground (and the cloud-filled sky, and all in motion) of the image. In addition, the ground not only provides the best context for interpreting the meaning of the figure of the text (whose shape it reflects by its rotation) but also demonstrates the contrasted functions: image is from the world, of the world, predetermined and framed just-so or captured by chance from the environment with the function of bringing attention to and expanding the meaning of visual text in such a way that it completes its inherent incompleteness; it functions also as a device of closure, providing the context that leads to a poetic experience of ›greater or lesser value‹, depending on selection, modification, etc.
Nowhere is the juxtapositive function of the image more striking than in videopoems that feature a ›single-take‹; what appears in the frame, the content, automatically provides the context we will need to interpret the displayed text and, by extension, the entire work. My experience of O was enhanced by the recognition that the image element of the work, a found image, captured by chance from the environment, connects the visual text with the external world as the artist perceived it at that spontaneous moment; it is a recorded passage of a particular time in a particular space and, as such, it appropriates a ›slice‹ of the world against which could be written the internal world of thoughts.
This was I think the first English-language essay in Poetryfilmkanal’s current issue on the theme of text in poetry film, but if you don’t know German I recommend using the Google Translate drop-down menu in the sidebar of the site to get the gist of the other recent contributions, each of which adds something to the growing international conversation. Konyves’ essay builds on insights from his manifesto and other, more recent essays. I may not always agree with him, but I admire his capacity for jargon-free original thought, which always gives the impression of being very hard-won, unlike much of the more facile, academic prose one encounters these days.