Posts in Category: Videopoems

Lost by Caroline Reid

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Lost was written by performance poet Caroline Reid in South Australia, teaming up with film-maker Pamela Boutros to produce this warm and frank video. The notes on the Vimeo page describe it this way:

A playful fusion of poetry, visual art and film in which a reflective middle-aged poet discovers that life’s interruptions to writing poetry are the very substance from which poems emerge.

Caroline was one of the top five Australian Poetry Slam finalists in 2018 and 2019. Her bachelor’s degree is in theatre and writing. This collaboration with Pamela Boutros brings together its creative elements so well.

garden by Caleb Parkin

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A film adaptation of Bristol-based writer Caleb Parkin‘s poem by Marius Grose, who shares some process notes on Poetry Film Live, where it first appeared two weeks ago.

The poetry film garden was made during April 2020 which was the beginning of the Corona virus lockdown in the UK. This meant that the production process was a bit different to how I would expect to work in normal times.

Caleb and I had discussed making a film towards the end of March and when lockdown happened, we suddenly had time to start a project. Using the internet we were able to work remotely and to collaborate using email, Zoom and the telephone.

As the poem is set in a garden we did not need to go out to get footage, so we could work and maintain the lockdown rules.

For me the main challenges were learning to use my DSLR camera to shoot movie footage and finding visual equivalences to the images in the poem. Household objects, from feather dusters, plastic tubing and dental floss, were pressed into service.

In discussions with Caleb the blurring of boundaries between the human body and nature became a theme that influenced how I approached the edit. Layering of images, keying and masks are central to the look of this film.

Hard to believe this is Marius’ first poetry film! But he’s worked in TV postproduction for decades, and says this was “a bit of a kid in a sweet shop experience.” Go read the rest of his remarks — and check out more of Poetry Film Live while you’re there.

frog_poem_text.doc by Annelyse Gelman and Chaucer Cameron

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frog_poem_text.doc is a videopoem from Annelyse Gelman in Berlin, whose earlier film-making and poetry have featured at Moving Poems over some years.

This film was made as part of Chaucer Cameron’s marvellous Wild Whispers project, which involved an array of artists around the world. Chaucer’s original poem was sent on a transformative journey through different nations, in a chain of writing, translation, reinterpretation and finally film-making. The project inspired very interesting and varied videos, reflecting the shifting ways we understand and express language, both textual and filmic. At its completion, Wild Whispers had inspired 14 distinct texts in 10 languages and 12 unique poetry films.

Annelyse’s film came towards the end of the two-year process of the project’s evolution across cultures. The words are almost unrecognisable from the original poem, more like a deconstruction and reconstruction of it. She arrived at this via Google Translate. The voice is synthetically generated. She has written about her approach:

I was interested in maintaining some of the imagery and observational eye of the original text while transforming its sensuousness and sentimentality into something cold and mechanical, and in working with a software collaborator that can produce, but not understand, language. (read more)

Of the 12 films in Wild Whispers, this one may have the closest relationship to a history of experimental cinema starting in the early 20th century. Still now this is a movement often abandoning populist or classical approaches to text, whether narrative or poetic, and with a similarly expanded and exploratory approach to making films. It is a movement that continues to be strongly allied with avant-garde art.

Shadow by Alice Oswald

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Alice Oswald is a very well-known and loved poet, especially in the UK, her native land, where she has been Oxford Professor of Poetry since October last year. Her poem Shadow is at the heart of this video commissioned by The Poetry Society, also in the UK.

The video is by Defacto Films based in Texas. There is no information to be found on the web about the people involved in Defacto. In any case, this is a beautifully simple audio-visual accompaniment, intimately evoking nature as a bed for Oswald’s voice. The image stream is again of green nature, creatively literal and well-edited in way that adds new feeling to the poem.

Oswald’s list of major poetry prizes is long and it’s easy to see why. With Oswald’s voice, the film’s sounds and visions of nature, the overall piece is darkly profound and beautiful.

The Dream by Tishani Doshi

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This 2013 film from Motionpoems, directed by Babe Elliott Baker, adapts Tishani Doshi‘s poem “The Dream” from her collection Everything Begins Elsewhere. For the full credits, see Baker’s website.

“The Dream” was featured on PBS NewsHour in 2016, and Doshi talked about how she came to write the text.

In 2008 she was commissioned to write a series of poems about migration and movement. One of them, “The Dream,” is directly based on her impressions when she first moved to North Carolina.

“I loved that there were all these houses that had front porches and there were no gates. The houses themselves seemed so welcoming. Unlike India, there were no gates around the American houses— they were all just so open. In India there is a boundary around everything.”

But the poem is also about what immigrants do to create a sense of home in a new place.

“You want to hold onto something old, but you want to create something new. You want to make the new place feel like home, even though you’re not in your home. There’s a constant tension between the past and the present.”

While this background is certainly interesting, I wish they’d acknowledged in the discussion how the film suggests other interpretations as well. (And it’s a tribute to the poet that her text has this quality of openness.) I’m not sure why I didn’t share the film back when it first came out, but to me it really speaks to our present moment of pandemic gardening and surveillance-state oppression. As someone who dabbles in ecopoetry myself, I’m fascinated by what might be called postmodern pastoralism, which is totally not a phrase I just made up (thanks, Google!) so this week that’s what we’ll be looking at: how videopoets and poetry filmmakers imagine nature and the pastoral in a world of accelerating ecological impoverishment and deprivation.

Metamorphosis by Jean Morris

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Marie Craven’s most recent poetry film is a collaboration with the Spanish director Eduardo Yagüe and the London-based poet and translator Jean Morris. I’d been waiting to share it until Marie blogged process notes, which incorporate comments from Jean and Eduardo. The resulting post is too long to quote in full, but here’s a bit of it:

I was immediately drawn to the poem of Metamorphosis when it came up on one of my social media news-feeds, where I regularly read contemporary poetry from around the world. UK writer and translator, Jean Morris, was its author. The piece was inspired by a famous woodcut print by M.C. Escher, Metamorphosis II (1939-40). Jean’s viewing of the art work seemed to have suggested in her a vision of someone who might be similar to Escher himself, a character who perhaps the poet could relate to personally, as could I. The piece sketches a solitary character fascinated by life’s multiple and varying repetitions, of shapes and spaces, movement and time. It has a mirror structure, which I felt apt as a reference to the highly distinctive geometries that appear in Escher’s art.

In another part of the virtual globe, I had been in contact for several years with Spanish film director, Eduardo Yagüe. We had previously talked about a possible collaboration between us. So in 2019 I contacted Eduardo with Jean’s poem and asked if he might be interested in co-directing a film of it. We then contacted Jean, who agreed to a film of her poem. I suggested Rachel Rawlins as a possible voice artist and we were all pleased when she said yes to joining the project as well. […]

Jean Morris (writer):

I’ve always been a loner and not so great at working with others, so having my words become part of this rich collaborative work is a new and rewarding experience. An earlier version of my “mirror poem”, which tried to reflect the morphing mirror structure of Escher’s artwork, appeared on the Via Negativa poetry blog, long established as a beacon of the Creative Commons ethos, which I support, so I was happy to say yes to Marie’s proposal and keen to leave it to her and to Eduardo to make of the poem whatever they wanted. I’d long admired both their, very different, work in poetry film and trusted they’d make something beautiful, technically sophisticated and interesting. It also made me happy that the actor, Pedro, was someone I knew as a poet and the voice, Rachel’s, one long known in real life here in London. What a lovely, complex, international thing in sad and claustrophobic times.

Eduardo Yagüe (direction, videography):

When I was thinking on locations for filming, nothing seemed to me more ‘escherian’ than the Colegio de la Inmaculada in Gijón, my hometown in Northern Spain and where I am currently living. Belonging to the Jesuits, the building owns a long history including some dramatic episodes during the Spanish Civil War. I studied there from age 6 to 18.

Then, when I was thinking for potential actors for the video, I decided, looking at Escher’s portrait, that Pedro Luis Menéndez would be a perfect choice. Pedro was my Literature teacher and my first theater director when I was a teenager student at the Colegio, and now he’s become one of my favorite Spanish poets. One year before recording Metamorphosis I made a video called La vida menguante (Waning Life) based on several of the poems from Pedro’s book of the same title. I also recorded some footage of the streets and buildings of Gijón, a city sometimes aesthetically annoying but very ‘escherian’ too. […]

Read the rest.

I hope this week’s focus on Marie Craven has brought into sharper relief the variety of tools and approaches available to contemporary videopoets and poetry filmmakers. As a much more impatient and slap-dash video maker, I admire Marie’s perfectionism, to say nothing of her artist’s eye and musician’s ear and her openness to collaborations of all kinds.

We may do other week-long features on filmmakers or poets in the coming months. It’s always especially helpful when people take the time to write in detail about the making of their films, as Marie does. Though most projects aren’t as wildly collaborative as Metamorphosis, even the loners among us stand to benefit from a culture of sharing tips and insights, especially with a growing community as full of artistic ferment as the international videopoetry scene.

The Love of the Sun: five poems by Matt Hetherington

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This is Marie Craven’s fifth film made in collaboration with the Australian poet Matt Hetherington. Perhaps fittingly, it contains five of his poems.

This is the final film version of The Love of the Sun, from five poems out of Matt Hetherington’s poetry collection of the same name. The video had its first presentation as a live audiovisual performance at the Ó Bhéal Winter Warmer Poetry Festival in Cork, Ireland in late November 2019. Thanks to festival director, Paul Casey, and the Arts Council of Ireland, I was able to be there in person. I traveled from Australia with Adelaide actor, Claudia La Rose-Bell, also a guest of the festival. Claudia gave a live reading of three of Matt’s poems in rhythm with the images on the screen, and with a pre-recorded music soundtrack by Steve Kelly (aka Douglas Deep, Manfred Hamil). This included Matt’s voice speaking two of his poems. After the brilliant festival in Cork, Claudia and I then traveled to other places in Europe. We presented The Love of the Sun live again, at the video poetry festival in Athens. Directing live audiovisual performance was a first for me. Happily, it went smoothly and was well received.