Sojourner Ahebee‘s words meet Reva Santo‘s filmmaking, with actress Alana Ogio and a score by Avila Santo, in today’s film from the Visible Poetry Project, a NYC-based initiative to produce a poetry film for every day of April. I’ve been remiss in sharing their videos here, but expect at least 75 percent of them to appear on Moving Poems eventually, because the quality has been really high so far, and they’ve been amazingly varied, as well. I also like the project’s openness to emerging as well as accomplished poets from all walks of life; they had an open call for submissions back in January.
You can watch all the videos on their website or Vimeo page, and/or attend one of the live screenings still upcoming in Brooklyn, Manhattan, upstate New York, or Beijing. Here’s how they describe the project on their About page:
The Visible Poetry Project brings together a collective of filmmakers to create a series of videos that present poems as short films. Drawing from works created by renowned poets, including Neil Gaiman and Tato Laviera, as well as emerging poets, the Visible Poetry Project strives to make poetry accessible, exploring how we can recreate and experience poems through the medium of film.
Throughout the month of April – National Poetry Month – we will release one visual poem each day at 9 AM EST. An exercise in translation and a reclamation of both poetic and film discourses, the resulting thirty videos will explore how we read, interpret, visualize, and hear poetry.
The Visible Poetry Project is no longer accepting submissions from poets and filmmakers for the 2017 series. We will reopen for 2018 submissions in December 2017. If you would like to be involved with the Visible Poetry Project, or have any questions about our organization, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An experimental videopoem from Martin Green (text, voiceover) and filmmaker Emily Wright, one of the 27 poetry films produced for the Disappear Here project focused on the ringroad around Coventry, UK. Every week another three films appear on the project blog, together with biographies of those involved. This was my favorite of the three films by Green and Wright featured on April 2; I thought that the recitation of vehicle registration plate codes as if they were text gained a peculiar pathos from the conjunction with a stained-glass-like video collage of the ringroad map.
Wright’s bio states that “Brutalist architecture is a strong inspiration for her work as she is interested in drawing attention to anything unpopular and unloved.” And Green is described as more of an artist than a poet, whose “work explores joining sculpture, writing and performance together.” (This is especially evident in “T“.) Read — and watch — the rest.
It never fails: I take a week off and a tsunami of great new material hits. Let’s start with this videopoem by Québécois poet Jean Coulombe (text and images) and Gilbert Sévigny (montage and video treatment), with piano by Vincent Gagnon. It’s one of several recent additions to the Coulombe Larose-Samson (AKA CLS Poésie) Vimeo page. I especially like the contrast between the contemplative pacing of words and images and the frenetic soundtrack here.
A brief but effective film combining animation and live action by Atlanta-based motion graphics artist Liah Honeycutt, who notes in the Vimeo description that this is
A second installation of my visual poem series in which I team up with poet Josh Jacobs and bring his written word to life. I allowed myself to feel insecure and uncomfortable by including my own face and body in this piece (something I loathe) in order to connect a little deeper with the overall tone of isolation, inadequacy, and insecurity found in the poem and, to be honest, in my own life.
The first short animation in the series, Goldfish, is also worth checking out.
I’ve seen a number of innovative poetry films made with the words of multiple poets, but none with as many contributors (48), and few as profound and urgent in their message as this cento compiled and directed by the legendary Bob Holman, with folklorist Steve Zeitlin as producer, editor Lee Eaton and composer Saul Simon Macwilliams. In the Boro language of India, Khonsay (खोनसाइ) means “to pick up something with care as it is scarce or rare,” according to the film’s website.
There are nine different words for the color blue in the Spanish Maya dictionary, but just three Spanish translations, leaving six [blue] butterflies that can be seen only by the Maya, proving that when a language dies six butterflies disappear from the consciousness of the earth.
Poetry, then, is precisely what is least translatable about a language – it is the ineffable, the things that only a set of words in a particular language can say. Translated into English from many languages, “Khonsay” is an act of audacious and unabashed imagination. It imagines the ecology of languages through a world poem. It seeks to capture the luminous originals in refracted light. The voices of the indigenous speakers draw us in, even if non-speakers do not understand what is being said. Yet what cannot be translated, what we cannot do justice to, is a measure of what is being lost as so many languages disappear.
Though definitions differ, poetry exists in every culture: the crystallization of experience into words, word into art, the engaging patter of consciousness itself. “Khonsay” is a tribute and call to action to support the diversity of the world’s languages. The poem is a “cento,” a collage poem; the name in Latin means “stitched together,” like a quilt — each line of the poem is drawn from a different language, appearing in that language’s alphabet or transliterated from the spoken word, followed by an English translation.
There’s a lot going on in this film, visually and linguistically, and you may find yourself hitting the pause button a lot, but there’s really no need: the website includes both the text of the poem in an easy-to-read format and a line-by-line commentary with information about all the languages and performers. According to the website, Khonsay premiered in New York City at the 2015 Margaret Mead Film Festival and was featured in the biannual Sadho Poetry Film Festival in New Delhi, India, where it won the Viewer’s Choice Award. In February, it was shared by the Button Poetry YouTube channel.
Incidentally, Holman’s documentary about endangered languages, Language Matters, is still streaming for free on PBS (though I imagine only for U.S.-based ISPs). Holman has a long-standing involvement with poetry film, including another public television production, the five-part United States of Poetry series directed by Mark Pellington, which aired in 1996.