I’ll end the week with a poem by one of my favorite poets, Sarah Sloat, interpreted by one of my favorite poetry-film makers, Marie Craven, in what I think is one of the most effective examples of the kinestatic style in videopoetry that I’ve seen. (Kinestasis is properly defined as “an animation technique using a series of still photographs or artwork to create the illusion of motion,” but I use the term, in the absence of a better one, a bit more broadly, to refer to any faster-than-slideshow series of still images in a video.) Craven’s masterful deployment of images from the Brockhaus Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary (1890-1907) unfolds to music by Podington Bear and the Poetry Storehouse voice recording by a young boy identified only as DM. Someone on Facebook described the overall effect as “sumptuously austere.”
This isn’t the first poetry film to use this text; no less than Marc Neys AKA Swoon has also tried his hand at it. But Craven definitely gave him a run for his money here. Sloat’s text seems especially ripe for videopoetic adaptation, given its musing on the relationship between words and images. Pen-and-ink illustrations in a dictionary break up the columns of text, Sloat says, “like little windows opening / from one side of the brain // to the other.” That’s exactly what happens to me whenever I watch a good videopoem.
I’m tethering my life
so the storm doesn’t escape me.
costs the unthinkable.
A series of gnomic pronouncements, as if in response to an unseen interrogator, accompany shots of the poet’s visible traces: his identity papers, fingerprints, and typewritten words. Ángel Guinda stars in this gem of a book trailer, the work of Charles Olsen, a New Zealander currently residing in Spain, and the production company Antena Blue. (Be sure to click the CC icon on the lower right to read the subtitles—a very good English translation.)
This was one of two Olsen/Antena Blue films selected for screening at ZEBRA this year. Olsen wrote about his experience at ZEBRA for the big idea/te aria nui.
The second film poem, included in the section “Wracking Your Brains” – our preoccupations with the past, doubts and spiritual unrest – was a piece we made for the Spanish poet Ángel Guinda, “Libro de Huellas” (The Book of Traces) where, in a series of striking aphorisms, he reflects on memory, religion, and power.
I began making film poems using my own poetry and that of my wife, the Colombian writer Lilián Pallares, with whom I direct the production company Antena Blue, “The observed word”. There is a great freedom to explore all the aspects of the image, sound, text, words, narrative, pace, and as a poet-filmmaker it is not necessarily the poem that has to come first. It may be an image or a personal story that lends itself to a poetic treatment later inspiring the text or a filmmaker may piece together fragments of dialogues, sounds and images to create a collage of words and images.
Today again I’d like to present two very different videopoems made with the same text—and even the same reading. This time the poem comes from The Poetry Storehouse, and is the work of the Missouri-based poet and editor Laura M Kaminski. The voiceover in both is by Nic S., who is also the maker of the first video remix (her preferred term). Nic sourced her music from David Mackey on SoundCloud.
Australian artist Marie Craven puts the “kinesis” back in “kinestatic” here. I didn’t even notice that the film was made entirely of still images the first time I watched it; the uptempo music by anunusualleopard probably had something to do with that. Click through to Vimeo for the full list of credits and links.
Read the just-published interview with Laura M Kaminski at Moving Poems Magazine to learn why Nic’s film brought her to tears, and how a friend who doesn’t usually read poetry reacted to Marie’s film.
Another one of my personal favorites from the 2014 ZEBRA competition screenings, this poetry film was directed, filmed and animated by Maria Björklund. All the photography was done in a park in Helsinki named for a poet who used to live nearby, Katri Vala (1901-1944), and excerpts from several of her poems are included in the soundtrack. “The filming took place once a week through the year” (2009), according to the credits. Here’s the description at Vimeo:
A film by Maria Björklund (2012)
Script: Maria Björklund, Antti Mäki, Maria Palavamäki
Editing: Maria Palavamäki
Sound design and music: Antti Mäki
The infamous Katri Vala Park in Sörnäinen, Helsinki is a meeting place for urban nature and poetry in this experimental animated documentary.
The film was produced by Animaatiokopla.
The poetry was translated by Annira Silver and read by Kimberli Mäkäräinen. There’s also a version of the film in Finnish.
The astounding reception of this kinestatic video might offer some lessons for those interested in videopoetry as a way to reach new and larger audiences. In a post on her personal blog, Sebastian pondered “What happens when a poetry video gets 3,000 plays in 5 days?” I encourage everyone to click through and read the whole post, which is much more angst-ridden than boastful (we poets do not always handle success well). I particularly liked this part:
A poem has no life outside its interaction with people. When they are not being interacted with, poems lie dead in the dark, where they are purposeless, and meaningless.
The role of the curator, remixer or publisher of poetry is to maximize the number of interactions each poem has with people. In the hands of the successful curator/publisher, the poem lives in interaction repeatedly and reaches a higher level of its interaction potential than poems in the custody of less successful handlers.
That’s the role of the curator/publisher in the scheme of things poetry. But it doesn’t have to be their motivation. This is where I got confused. If things go well, more people will interact with poems as a result of my remixing and curating. If things don’t, they won’t. But that’s not why I do what I do. I do what I do because I like voicing poems, I like exploring the technology of putting poems online in different ways, I like the challenge of combining poetry and digital imagery in video, and experimenting with sound.
A poem by Diane Lockward from The Poetry Storehouse, in what Nic S. calls a still image remix — the first of two videopoems she’s made so far with the digital artwork of Adam Martinakis. Nic has just posted some process notes for the two videos. A couple of snippets:
I loved [Adam Martinakis’] weird and wonderful images as soon as I saw them. His website pictures are downloadable (not everyone is so open, even though the files for online viewing are necessarily quite small), so I was able to download the ones I liked and privately get a good sense of how I might work with them before I asked Adam for permission. He gave it at once, and went so far as to say there was no need for me to clear the final version with him. (I did, though – things work better if you keep folks posted all the way, I find).
A subset of Adam’s images were more rawly sexual, almost predatory, and these came together in my mind as a great backdrop for Diane’s lush, voluptuous poem about orchids, but not about orchids. The poem is couched as a warning to the predator against obsessive pursuit of the object, and I thought I could present the corollary of that – the vulnerability to exploitation of the object, whether a woman or an orchid in the wild. Adam’s image of the falling girl in a fetal position wrapped in gold foil struck me as exquisitely vulnerable and a wonderful way to wrap up this ‘story’.
This genre, to which I have perhaps inappropriately applied the term kinestasis — basically, fancy slideshows in video form — probably accounts for 90 percent of all poetry videos on YouTube. Most, of course, are thoroughly unimaginative, so I told Nic in an email that I was happy to see her elevating the genre a bit. Much to both of our surprise, however, the four still-image remixes she’s made so far have already surpassed almost every other videopoem she’s ever made in the number of views they’ve racked up. I would suggest that’s because, when the artists whose work she uses link to the videos, their artist friends on Facebook actually go and watch them. Poets trying to get other poets to watch videos is always going to be more of a struggle. At any rate, read Nic’s full account on her blog.