Posts in Category: Videopoems

The Blue from Heaven by Stevie Smith

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Stevie Smith‘s poem is brought to life through the magic of Norwich-based animator and professor Suzie Hanna. Here’s the description on Vimeo:

Glenda Jackson provides the voice of poet Stevie Smith in this animated interpretation of her extraordinary 1950’s poem ‘The Blue from Heaven’. Suzie Hanna has adapted and animated the poet’s own drawings to communicate her rueful, wistful, comic, and melancholy themes with music and sound design by Phil Archer. In Stevie Smith’s awkward world, King Arthur banishes Guinevere to the palace, and he enters the blue from heaven.

Sonámbulo / The Sleepwalker by Theodore Ushev

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A surrealist journey through colours and shapes inspired by the poem Romance Sonámbulo by Federico García Lorca. Visual poetry in the rhythm of fantastic dreams and passionate nights.

This is a poetry film only in the sense that it takes its inspiration from one stanza of Lorca’s, but it’s a brilliant animated homage to Spanish surrealism that reminded me of everything I love about the whole Generation of ’27, which includes so many of my favorite poets and artists. It’s difficult to imagine 20th century poetry and art without this incredible flowering of talent in the years leading up to the Spanish Civil War. U.S. poets who came of age in the 1960s were heavily influenced by Spanish poetry in translation; I’d say it was equal in impact to translations of classical Chinese and Japanese poetry. For me, getting a bilingual anthology of 20th-century Spanish poetry as a Christmas present when I was 11 was a life-changing experience. I doubt I would’ve become a poet otherwise.

Anyway, here’s a serviceable English translation of “Romance Sonámbulo”, followed by the original.

For more about the film, see its webpage. Theodore Asenov Ushev is a Bulgarian animator, graphic designer, illustrator and multimedia artist based in Montreal.

Ode all’ansia / Ode to Anxiety by Milena Tipaldo

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Ode to Anxiety is a half-minute film by Milena Tipaldo, an animator and illustrator in Torino, Italy. It is an outstanding text-on-screen film. Though it was made three years ago, it is even more relevant now.

The animation is distinctive, created from Tipaldo’s line-sketch illustrations. The text on screen is graphically well-blended with the drawings. It appears largely in Italian with smaller lettering in English on the bottom left and right of the screen. The overall rhythm of the film is fast and sharp.

The poem is written playfully and also speaks strongly about anxiety, describing it as a “faithful companion”. This will have special meaning to anyone who has lived with high anxiety over time, even before our world turned upside down. Now so many more of us are experiencing it at greater intensity.

There are only two credits at the end of the film, for Milena Tipaldo’s animation, and Enrico Ascoli for sound design. The latter is fantastic, creating a musical texture of lively, comic sounds, with a touch of flamenco guitar at the end.

I assume the poem is by Tipaldo. It is published in English in the video notes at Vimeo.

Secrets of the perpetually sick [redacted] by Jackie Morrey-Grace

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Janet Lees‘ first poetry film with a text by another writer sees her trying out a completely new filmmaking approach as well. Manx author and performance poet Jackie Morrey-Grace recites her poem ‘Secrets of the perpetually sick’ in a hospital, but does anyone hear her? As Janet wrote on the Poetry Film Live Facebook page,

We were filming in a hospital training room last year and I was drawn to the security camera footage which was showing on a screen in an adjacent room. I filmed this and slowed it down and really like the dark quality of it, simmering with the rage, despair and alienation Jackie has experienced due to chronic and severely crippling autoimmune health challenges. Redacting her much longer poem felt quite brutal, but in a sense that was also fitting, because in the system Jackie was often unheard and outright dismissed.

The music is ‘Anxious‘ by Sextile. For more of Jackie’s performance poetry, see her YouTube channel.

Screens by Celia Parra

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Screens is a poem from Celia Parra‘s most recent book, Pantallas. The author speaks her own words and is also the film-maker. Original music, sound recording and final mix is by Alejandro Almau.

The video explores the effects on our perceptions of reality when we experience so much of it via mobile phones.

Parra’s website tells us this about her:

Celia Parra is a Galician poet and film producer… Her poems have been translated to English, French, Finnish, Catalan and Spanish.

She also created and was executive producer of Versogramas: Verses and Frames, a 75-minute film about videopoetry as a genre, including many film excerpts and several interviews with videopoets around the world.

Scarcely Gilded by Lina Ramona Vitkauskas

A cinepoem by Lithuanian-Canadian-American poet Lina Ramona Vitkauskas, who notes that the text is

From a new poetry collection, “Between Plague & Kleptocracy: Invented Poetic Creations & Conversations of Seva & Bill”, in which I cross-reference poems between Vsevolod Nekrasov & Bill Knott and serve as medium and “translator” of their posthumous conversations / invented collaborations. The poems are written in the voice / tone / style of both Nekrasov & Knott, featuring borrowed lines and found poems within those lines. The poems are the transcripts of their thoughts across astral planes: what they would perhaps discuss in this perilous time in history: of pandemic, of widespread injustice, forced isolation, and of finding ourselves with a traitorous snake oil salesman / neo-Soviet puppet in our WH.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised by Gil Scott-Heron

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This prophetic poem by the late, great Gil Scott-Heron has been on my mind a lot lately. I went to see if anyone had ever made a decent video for it, and found this on YouTube (though I subsequently swapped in the production company’s own upload from Vimeo). It was produced in 2001 by Peter Collingridge and directed by Julian House as a video trailer for Scott-Heron’s collected lyrics and poems, Now and Then (Canongate Books). A link in the YouTube description took me to Collingridge’s Apt Studio, a British “digital consultancy to publishers,” where I found a page for the film, as well as the original Flash version, still live:

Apt MD Peter Collingridge worked at Canongate Books from 1997-2001. Whilst there he wrote a business plan for the Scottish Arts Council, titled “Pop Promos For Books”. The plan was to commission his film-maker friends to make pop video-length films inspired by books, and to host these films on the Canongate website, attracting more visitors.

One of the first films was for “Now and Then”, a collection of Gil Scott-Heron’s poems which Peter was editing at the time. There was only one option as to which poem to chose – Gil’s masterpiece, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

He teamed up with Julian House at Intro to make this promo, which has been seen over 750,000 times. The film uses archival images from Getty, and was launched in 2001.

The track “The Revolution Has Not Been Televised” has been edited for the promo.

Who knew that the idea of making video trailers for books of poetry pre-dated the creation of YouTube by at least five years! There’s also still a page for the video at the Intro website, which offers a reminder of how cutting-edge Flash animation was at the time:

The Intro moving image team has created a Flash movie to promote a book about music visionary Gil Scott Heron. The film, made entirely in Flash, is a dynamic interpretation of one of Gil’s most famous songs, ‘The Revolution Will Not be Televised.’ It features fragments of lyrics and images from the American 1970s mediascape. The promo was shortlisted at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, for best animation.

Do listen to the complete track, in all its glory, on the Ace Records YouTube channel.

I also found this snippet of an interview with Gill where he explains, very calmly and patiently, what he meant by his famous dictum:

“Shot by Skip Blumberg. Watch the full, unedited interview at Media Burn Archive.” This is raw footage for a TV series called The 90’s. The true revolution may not be televised, but fortunately Gil Scott-Heron was. Such a brilliant and original spoken-word innovator.