“My eye is your finger,” reads the Vimeo description of this silent, black-and-white videopoem by Tokyo-based filmmaker Shuhei Hatano. Made in July 2015, it was part of an exhibition of hand-held films in Kunitachi, Japan called 92TOUCH. There’s also a version with only the English titling.
This videopoem from Public Thought, the collaborative team of Dutch poet Jan Baeke and designer and media artist Alfred Marseille, was screened at ZEBRA 2016. Completed last July, it is sadly more relevant than ever: a “Poetic reflection on the ambiguities of the refugee crisis, media coverage, extremist propaganda and EU politics,” as Baeke and Marseille describe it. (Click through for the text.)
A poetic music video or a musical videopoem? Tommy Becker‘s videos for his Tape Number One project are hard to categorize, which is why I haven’t featured them here as often as I should. They blend “the artist’s poetics, songwriting, performance, costuming with found footage and computer design,” according to the statement on his website.
“Song for Koko” is from 2015. The accompanying text on Vimeo reads:
An elephant escapes from the circus and begins a rampage down a city street. His trunk tosses aside everything in his path. We cheer for him. Why? A man sits on an alligator and attempts to tie his mouth shut. The alligator contorts his body, throwing the man off before turning to bite. We are unsympathetic. Why? We take our children to the zoo to look at the monkeys. The children complain about their inactivity and we feel a sense of betrayal as we admit to ourselves that our observations are a fraud. What’s important in these situations of conflict and captivity is that we are seeing animals as equals. They are no longer the lesser species. A life force is being held against its will or once again running wild through the streets. The moment the lion lunges at the tamer we understand his motives. We relate viscerally to his oppression as we connect to the soul of its being.
An author-made video from 2015 by Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Meghan McDonald, who evidently stumbled upon the idea of videopoetry herself, judging by what she wrote on YouTube:
This little tidbit is an idea I’ve been crafting for a while. It is intended to literally bring an imagery aspect to poetry (like a music video, but with poetry). I also wanted to incorporate beautiful moments that take place every day that may be overlooked.
Australian videopoet Ian Gibbins is a retired neuroscientist with three books of poetry under his belt and a penchant for experimental video and electronic music. His Vimeo description for Bayside Reporter reads:
Suspicions of criminal activity along the beachfront… Filmed between St Kilda and Port Melbourne, Victoria. Sounds were recorded beside the Yarra River, on trams between the City and Middle Park, and along the beachfront itself. A version of “Bayside Reporter” was published in Australian Poetry Members Anthology 3, Digital Edition, 2014. Here is the link.
An author-made videopoem by Aaron Fagan from 2014. Fagan has been experimenting with video for a number of years now, initially in collaboration with visual artists Jeffrey Schell and K. Erik Ino. In more recent years he’s been mostly working on his own, and he described his philosophy about multimedia poetry in an interview with huck magazine (which also featured this poem and video):
Why did you decide to turn some of your poems into videos?
I wanted to use sound and image with the poems for texture and offer a different, hopefully more inviting, way to experience poetry. I’m not looking for any literal relationship, I just like how the language, the music, and the image correspond with each other like a dialogue.
The interesting thing about making the videos is that it was totally arbitrary. The length of the movies, the length of the poems, and the length of the songs drove it all. I had a few movies I made with my phone and a few I used my phone to film stuff I liked online off my laptop. So that became a collection of images I liked. Then I looked at a bunch of poems I recorded in a friend’s studio back in 2010. If a film and a poem were the same length I just dumped them together and found a piece of music in my music library that was the same length. They are all like these happy accidents to me. They seem harmonised.
An author-made videopoem by Wisconsin-based writer Blair Braverman that combines two poems in the soundtrack, read, one presumes, by the poet herself, for an interesting interplay of text and video imagery. It’s from the Summer/Fall 2016 issue of TriQuarterly, where the video editor Kristen Radtke says this about it:
Blair Braverman’s “Two Poems About X, 2009 and 2014” features dueling narratives, competing for our attention as they volley back and forth, left to right. The viewer must make a choice: focus on one and experience it fully, or alternate between the two and splice them together into a new, tailor-made narrative—a rare quality in a medium where the viewer is often a passive participant. Braverman’s video invites rewatching, and as one narrative becomes familiar, we’re more capable of digesting the other—most interestingly, opening up a space in which we can experience those narratives in conversation. Much of Braverman’s video is concerned with desire made complicated by gender and terrain, and near its end comes one of its most powerful and beautifully voiced lines: “Half my problems come from wishing that men who have been bad to me would be worse, and the men who have been good would confront them.”
I notice by the way that all videos at TriQuarterly now seem to be designated video essays, which is perhaps a good way to side-step the whole controversy about what to call poetry films; their cinepoetry category hasn’t had any new additions since the previous video editor’s departure. Regardless of what they call them, though, it’s great that such a prominent American literary magazine continues to place such value on literary short films. And I’m pleased to see that they now have a fully public page at Vimeo.