“Video adapted from a sequence of haiku-like micropoems in my book Highway Sky,” says James Brush in the Vimeo description. He goes into quite a bit more detail in a blog post, and I was interested to see him come to the same conclusion about video haiku as I did a few years ago: the on-screen images can obviate the need to include up to half the text in a haiku (or every other verse in a renga).
Things got interesting as I was editing. The more I looked at it, I realized I could cut a line from the first haiku which originally read (as published at tinywords):
a hundred miles out
the glow of Los Angeles
The second line seemed redundant with the footage of the LA skyline and city lights. Likewise, I was able to cut the first line from the third haiku as the sunset-over-the-waves image did the work of the first line.
the sun falls to sea
here at the end of the road
nothing left to say
The central haiku was left alone, but I played with the text to try to put it in motion and show the action of the waves erasing the name.
James makes another point in his post which I feel is crucial advice for poetry filmmakers of all stripes:
I liked this process of adaptation. When movies are adapted from books and stories, filmmakers change things. They fire characters and compress scenes in part to save money on paying actors and renting space, but also because there is often no need to say what is shown. Why not something similar with poetry?
I think writers and probably poets especially can get locked into the sanctity of their words and lord knows there are times when that makes sense, but if poetry is to be a conversation even if as in this case with oneself, I think it’s important to let go a little bit especially when changing mediums. My academic background is in film production and screenwriting where the expectation is that the written word is not final so maybe this comes easier for me, but it’s a comfortable way for me to work and I think it’s useful to see where your words can go and a worthwhile exercise to keep playing with what you’ve made and, if you dare, open it up for others to do so as well.
I was excited to see this film become available on the web last week, because it’s the one my jury mates and I chose as winner of the Weimar Poetry Film Award last year. Filmmakers Hanna Slak and Lena Reinhold adapted a text by the contemporary German poet Daniela Seel. Here’s the statement we released last May:
Standard Time is a timeless, self-referential meditation on the power of communication to transmute and, at times, distort. Its flawless blend of text, sound and images suggests a worldview both deeply rooted and universal, shamanistic and apophatic. It does what all great poems should do in suggesting more than it says and leaving the viewer’s mind abuzz with creative energy and new ideas. Addressing the poetic possibilities of time as it does, it can almost be seen as a film about poetry film itself.
I wrote all about our judging process in “2nd Weimar Poetry Film Award: A view from the jury.” Much more recently, the folks at Weimar have come out with a very effective video collage of interviews and other shots from the festival. And they’d probably like me to remind you that submissions to the 2018 award are still open until the 31st.
It occurred to me as I re-watched this that the opening sequence of loons calling with the title superimposed is a great example of a circumstance in which it makes sense to break the rule against straight-forward illustration in video- or filmpoetry: so few people nowadays can be assumed to know what a loon call sounds like, and it’s really helpful to know that if you want the full, melancholy effect of the poem. And I like how the images in the film and the text slowly diverge over the next couple of minutes: an uncoupling that seems appropriate for a poem about memory and mortality. Finally we reach the ending sequence — back out on the water with the loons — and learn that the filmpoem is For Roald Carlson (1925-2015). Beautifully done (and a good mate to the in memoriam filmpoem by George and Eleanor Hooker that I posted on Wednesday).
An author-made videopoem by Kate Greenstreet. As always, she was assisted by Max Greenstreet, listed in the credits as “right hand”. The text is poem #7 in her latest book from Ahsahta Press, The End of Something (where the poems rather than the pages are numbered), and the soundtrack incorporates the 7th track in Greenstreet’s EP drawn from the book, birds in the house. The video first appeared in Typo 28.
The End of Something is, by the way, a beautifully designed book which I read last month with great enjoyment, savoring the openness of the poems, full of imaginative leaps and half-unspoken truths that induce a kind of contemplative mood. This quality makes them ideal for multimedia adaptation, I think. Watch all four of the videopoems from the book, and download the EP, on the book’s website.
A filmpoem by Dublin-based photographer and director George Hooker for a poem by his mother, Eleanor Hooker. Insight was featured at Poetry Film Live, which included thumbnail bios, the text of the poem, and these process notes from the author:
George made this filmpoem for me as a Mother’s Day gift in April this year. He read the poem and then created a story board, with second by second plan for each ‘scene’. He enlisted the help of his brother and father and his girlfriend, Martina Babisova, an actress. The film was made on one cartridge of super 8mm film with only in-camera edits and no post-production. As 8mm film does not have a sound facility, George recorded the sound separately. He entered the filmpoem into the Straight 8 competition, who arranged to have sound added to the film in studios in London. The film was selected by an international jury and was premiered on July 9th 2017 at the Picturehouse Central, London as part of Straight 8’s UK premieres. The poem was first published in The Irish Times newspaper and subsequently in my second poetry collection, A Tug of Blue.
Text and film by Sergi García Lorente (be sure to click on the CC icon for English subtitles). Paula Berrido Aceña is the actress. García Lorente notes on his website that he “studied Audiovisual Media in order to connect audiovisuals with poetry, to emphasize word’s beauty by visual and audio impulses.” On his About page, he writes:
Poetry is everywhere. Poetry’s beauty lies encrusted under wounds’ shallowness. So we have to scratch the scab and let us bleed. That’s what I try to do with poetry, photography and cinema. There’s too much beauty inside every single thing. It doesn’t matter how hard or high or intense is poetry’s commotion; my will is to catch those endless emotions and impress them through something I’d like to call art.
I was struck by this choice of words, since Poetry Everywhere was the name of one of the first large-scale poetry video projects in the era of YouTube and Vimeo, launched by the Chicago-based Poetry Foundation back in 2008. The notion of films that could be available to people anywhere in the world with a fast internet connection was then still an exciting novelty.
But enough of my old-man rambling. I thought this video made for an interesting follow-on to the previous three videos I’ve shared, all also made by the poets themselves, and each also depicting or representing female desire in some way. Those poet-directors were women, though, and the contrast in choice of images is striking. I don’t mean to pick on Mr. García Lorente; the tension between titillation and aesthetic epiphany has obviously been at play in the treatment of nudes throughout Western art history, and this is a well-done film. But it’s interesting to see how many more aesthetic possibilities emerge when the made becomes the maker.
I can’t mark the first loneliness, the elongated pause, inkless and imagining magnolias. Or the first guilt, terrain of peaches overripe and trespassed with rigid fingers. Or the first haunt, a gas station bathroom swarmed with flies, slack spirits dangling from their mouths. Or the first love, tide of hyacinth, tide of red mud, chorus of elderly song. Or the first love, inebriated child wandering along snowy tracks. Or the first love, holding you by the wrists, shaking you like a bell.
This just appeared in my Vimeo feed yesterday, but I thought it was too good a companion for Friday’s and Thursday’s videos to hold it in the queue.