Animation by ultapopdsgn
La bailarina ahor est danzando
la danza del perder cuanto tenia
The dancer now is dancing
the dance of losing it all
Se solto de su casta y de su carne
She loosed herself from caste and flesh
desnuda de todo y de si misma
stripped of everything and of herself
sigue danzando sin saberse ajena
she dances on, not knowing she is changed
unica y torbellino, vil y pura
alone, a whirlwind, foul and pure
(Ursula K. Guin, trans.)
An interesting attempt to convey the mood of a work with just a few fragments of text, given out of order, and a rapid, pop music-video-style succession of images. I like it!
Since this is Women’s History Month (in the U.S., at any rate), I thought this would be a good time to recall that Pablo Neruda was not the first Chilean poet to win the Nobel Prize. I’m not sure which are the best English translations, but the volume I own seems pretty good: Gabriela Mistral: A Reader, tr. by Maria Giachetti and ed. by Marjorie Agosin. Its only drawback is that it does not include the original Spanish. The translation used above comes from a more recent book — Selected Poems of Gabriala Mistral, tr. by Ursala K. LeGuin, which I haven’t seen.
Though never well known in North America, Mistral remains a beloved figure in Latin America. She appeals strongly to conservatives and leftists alike, who tend to project their own values onto the clear and deceptively simple surfaces of her poems, much as readers do here with Emily Dickinson. Unlike Dickinson, Mistral was very active on the world stage, and her mix of progressive activism and traditional Catholic religiosity makes her supremely dificult to pigeonhole. According to Petri Liukkonen,
In 2001 Mistral’s sexual inclinations arose fierce debate in Chile. Yuri Labarca’s film, La Pasajera, written by Francisco Casas, dealt with her relationship to Doris Dana, her American secretary. Mistral’s devoted readers considered the film outrageous and said that her true, traditional views of life and love were present in her works. However, an independent woman, Mistral has also been presented as a feminist icon. The absence of male friendship and her life as an unmarried woman has contributed to her image of a defender of all racial minorities and “the mixed-race mother of the nation”.
As for me, I am of course fondest of her nature poetry.
Poem by Anne Carson, from Possessive Used as Drink (Me), a lecture on pronouns in the form of 15 sonnets
Video by Sadie Wilcox
Dancers: Julie Cunningham, Rashaun Mitchell, Andrea Weber
I had to compose a lecture on pronouns for a conference at Harvard and this was the result. I wrote a sonnet sequence, which Stephanie Rowden recorded and made interesting. Then three Merce Cunningham dancers improvised choreography in response to the sonnets. Sadie Wilcox videotaped everything they did and edited it to fit (or not) the sound score.
Carson has generously uploaded six excerpts from the 25-minute performance to YouTube. I’ll probably link all of them eventually, but in the meantime they can be accessed via playgallery.org.
The video credits say “created by: Jackie, Jaclyn, Mat” — no doubt without the knowledge or approval of the poet. I hope they don’t get a takedown notice from Glück’s publisher, because I think this really expands upon the message of the poem, as the best video poems seem to do. Some intelligibility is of course sacrificed with this spliced-recitation technique, but I think it’s worth it.
Poem by Agha Shahid Ali (reading by Carl Hancock Rux) — text here
Animation by Kyle Jenkins for the Poetry Foundations’ Poetry Everywhere series
A posthumous volume of Ali’s collected poems, The Veiled Suite, has just been released. He was a master who died much too young. As for the video, I’m not sure it adds anything to the poem or not.
Poem by Juan Ramón Jiménez (Estío, 11)
Here’s the poem, which I think should be in the public domain by now, together with my translation (feel free to offer corrections in the comments).
|Yo no sé cómo saltar
desde la orilla de hoy
a la orilla de mañana.
El río se lleva, mientras,
Miro al oriente, al poniente,
…Y no sé como saltar
|I don’t know how to leap
from the brink of today
to the brink of tomorrow.
Meanwhile the current bears
Look to the east, the west,
…And I don’t know how to leap
I imagine Jiménez is rolling at his grave at the video’s use of the soundtrack from The Matrix — he was pretty uptight, I hear — but it works for me.
Poem and reading by Sylvia Plath — text here
Video by mishima1970
Another video with the same poem, this time by Jim Clark, who makes
Virtual Animated movies of great poets reincarnated through the wonders of computer animation reading their best loved poems and presented in the style of old scratchy movies.
Poem by Aaron Fagan, video by Jeffrey Texas Schell
In an article in the March/April 2009 issue of Poets & Writers — published coincidental to the launching of this website (chalk it up to zeitgeist) — Alex Dimitrov writes,
The sharing of video poems began sometime in 2005, when artists discovered YouTube as a tool through which they could easily distribute their work and reach a broad audience. Aaron Fagan, author of the poetry collection Garage (Salt Publishing, 2007), describes seeing an early video poem that “began with a line about standing in the kitchen slicing an orange, and sure enough the video showed someone standing in a kitchen slicing an orange. The literality seemed to be the pitfall this potential genre was falling into right out of the gate.”
Collaborating with his friends, visual artists Jeffrey Schell and K. Erik Ino, Fagan made several videos for poems from Garage and tried to avoid such a literal approach. One of these videos, “My Entrepreneurial Spirit,” features a collage of images, ranging from footage taken in a moving car to a woman walking on a rooftop, that cannot be explicitly traced back to the narrative of the poem but nonetheless add a rich texture of meaning. For Fagan, working with video is “yet another among many Hail Mary shots to get poetry some attention or readership,” he says.