Posts in Category: Videopoems

Cirkel / Circle: 11 Belgian poets

A filmpoem by Swoon (Marc Neys) incorporating 11 poems by 11 different Belgian writers, telling a single story of life, lust, love and loss. The poems range in style from experimental to formal verse, all ably translated by Willem Groenewegen. I had the pleasure of seeing this at ZEBRA with an introduction by the filmmaker, having first viewed it online more than a year ago when Marc briefly made it public. It’s now been fully released to the web after nearly two years of festival screenings.

I don’t know if there is ever an ideal day of the week to post a 20-minute poetry video, but website visitor stats do suggest that Monday is a big day for procrastination on the job. So grab a beverage, put on your headphones and hit the play button. What better way to ease into the week than with a surreal poetry film to alter your consciousness?

Here are the poems that make up the film:

  1. “Meer tijd” (More Time) by Jan Lauwereyns
  2. “Tel Aviv” by Michaël Vandebril
  3. “Over de afstand tussen twee vogels (III)” (On the Distance between Two Birds (III)) by Lies van Gasse
  4. “Het komt” (It Will Come) by Stefan Hertmans
  5. “!!!” by Xavier Roelens
  6. “Krop” (Crop) by Leonard Nolens
  7. “Of wel” (Or Will It) by Marleen de Crée
  8. “Een hele kleine oorlog” (That Little War) by Yannick Dangre
  9. “De reu rouwt, de mens steelt” (The Hound Mourns and People Steal) by Delphine Lecompte
  10. “Dertien vragen en geen antwoord” (Thirteen Questions Without An Answer) by Stijn Vranken
  11. “Onvoltooid” (Unfinished) by Charles Ducal

The poems were recorded by three well-known Flemish actors: Vic De Wachter (poems 1, 6, 7, 8), Michaël Pas (poems 2, 4, 10, 11) and Karlijn Sileghem (poems 3, 5, 9). The actors are Katrijn Clemer, Mathieu Courtois, and Rommel the cat. (“Rommel” means “clutter” in Dutch; it has nothing to do with the Nazi general.) The music is by Hanklebury, Lunova Labs, and Swoon. Click through to Vimeo for the rest of the credits, not to mention the extensive list of screenings.

لاعب النرد / The Dice Player by Mahmoud Darwish

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Egyptian student-filmmaker Nissmah Rosdhy’s animation of a section of a Mahmoud Darwish poem of the same title is the winner of the 2014 ZEBRA Prize for the Best Poetry Film. (Though the jury members announced from the stage that they regarded all four of the films they picked for prizes this year as equal winners, the prize sponsored by Literaturwerkstatt Berlin itself was still treated as the first among equals. And having watched all 29 competition films, I wouldn’t argue with that.)

Erica Goss and I met with Nissmah Roshy the day after the awards ceremony and recorded a twenty-minute interview with her — go watch. The important thing to mention here is that the live recitation with music by the band Le Trio Joubran sparked the film; it’s much more than just a soundtrack. Combine that with a killer animation of Arabic typography and rotoscoped dance moves by the animator herself, and you’ve got an innovative, probably ground-breaking work. Congrats to Roshdy and a tip of the hat to the jury for their inspired selections. (Look for more of those here in the coming days, interspersed with other films from the festival.)

Der Längste Kuss / The Longest Kiss by Gerhard Rühm

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One thing that poetry-film can really do well is make experimental or avant-garde poems seem more approachable, even entertaining, to a mainstream audience. That’s what Austrian filmmaker Hubert Sielecki and poet Gerhard Rühm have managed to do here, employing what can only be called a choral arrangement of readers—all versions of the same person—in 4/4 meter to defamiliarize and poeticize a found text taken from a newspaper report. For someone with no German like me, the result is a pure sound poem. I was in the audience last Saturday for the main screening of this film at ZEBRA, where it was one of the 29 competition films, and the response was very warm indeed. And that’s not a surprise: this is an immensely entertaining film. Had there been a true “people’s choice” award voted on by everyone who attended the competition screenings, I suspect this would’ve won. (I see that the American animator Cheryl Gross, who also had a film in the competition, has also singled this out as one of her favorites.)

An English translation appears at the beginning of the video, but it’s also included in the YouTube description, so let me just paste it in here:

THE LONGEST KISS
The longest kiss in the world continued for 30 hours, 59 minutes and 27 seconds.
Clara and Hannes who kissed each other for the first time on November 21, 1986 are determined to break this world record on Valentine`s Day, February 4.
The world record attempt will be organised by the Association of Pharmacists.
The pharmacists want to promote superior oral hygiene.
They refer to the fact that during a normal kiss 40 000 parasites are transmitted, besides nine milligrams of water, some fat, proteins, salt and also 250 species of bacteria.
The Association of Pharmacists chose Clara and Hannes because at the age of respectively 38 and 41 years they would be experienced.
During the world record attempt they are neither allowed to lie down nor sit and may not visit the toilet.

А у вас дім далеко від нас? (Do you have a home away from us?) by Anzhela Bogachenko

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What planet, era, realm, country are your letters from?
At this point, draw a palm, a house, a planet. Explain.

I’m just back from the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival, where I saw many great films including this wonderfully goofy one from Ukrainian poet-filmmaker Anzhela (or Angie) Bogachenko, which with its dancing cosmonauts somehow speaks to my experience over the past week in Berlin (where I also met up with my British partner-in-crime Rachel, with whom I otherwise maintain a long-distance relationship).

You’ll need to watch this at 360p minimum to make out the English subtitles. The text of the poem in the original is here; the translation in the titling is credited to Ksana Kovalenko. The music is a song called “на крыше” (“On the Roof”) by the group VEN, according to a Google translation of the YouTube description. The film was part of a screening called “Triadic Dimensions” featuring films that used music and dance as well as poetry to “convey … the cumulative force of language.”

There’s also a version of the film with Russian subtitles.

This Is Not a Fairytale by Laura Kasischke

A film by Laurent Barthelemy and Shizuka Kusayanagi for Motionpoems. Laura Kasischke is one of my favorite contemporary poets, so I was pleased to see this so well done.

Read the text on the Motionpoems website. They’ve also posted an interview with Kasischke conducted by Ethna McKiernan, though unfortunately it doesn’t make any mention of the film.

Ethics of the Mothers by Rachel Barenblat and Prayer by January Gill O’Neil

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A Moving Poems original. I got the idea of combining two poems about small children, and spent more than a week tinkering with the footage, trying to create enough echoes between the two parts of the film so it all hangs together. I’m not sure whether I succeeded or not, but it was an interesting experiment.

The texts came from The Poetry Storehouse: “Ethics of the Mothers” by Rachel Barenblat and “Prayer” by January Gill O’Neil, each read by the author. The music is by Serge Seletskyy, AKA GustoTune on SoundCloud, used in its entirety without alteration. I wanted to stay as far away from stereotypically “spiritual” music as possible, and suggest instead the boundless energy of childhood.

I shot some of this myself (the dodgy wildlife shots and the overlays) and filled it out with free footage from Beachfront B-Roll and Phil Fried. Yes, I really was that close to a mother bear with cubs! It seemed important to start out with a powerful image of motherhood that also might be seen to possess a kind of celestial resonance (Ursa Major and Ursa Minor). And over-all, the wildlife imagery and the closing shot of the night sky gave me a way to suggest something extra about the kind of felt connections with the larger-than-human world that seem to come naturally to most children, and the awe that that can inspire in them. Needless to say, I wouldn’t have dared to close with such a “cosmic” shot if O’Neil’s poem hadn’t focused so resolutely on small things.

Rachel Barenblat is an ordained rabbi who blogs at The Velveteen Rabbi, and January Gill O’Neil is also an active poet-blogger — see Poet Mom. Both are based in Massachusetts.

Him by Laura Mullen

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“This Valentine was created by running the hard sell of an on-line dating guru through ‘Dictation,'” says the Vimeo description by Laura Mullen, a practitioner of “hybrid poetics” with seven books under her belt. In an interview posted on her blog, afteriwas dead, she answered a question about the making of the video:

LG [Lola Gerber]: The video you showed at your reading at Naropa had both performance and writing in it. Can you tell me more about the process of creating this video? Did you write and then perform the writing? Or do you perform first and then write from that?

LM: Ah, you’re talking about “Him” (a play on Hymn), the Valentine’s day video (up on my Vimeo site, with other movies…). The text is the pitch of a famous dating guru, available on-line, full of promises (including that wonderful: “I will teach you how to speak the secret language of men”!)! I wrote it down, then read it into “Dictation,” which—as far as I can see—speaks “the secret language” of the pitchman, exposing the truth behind those promises made to lonely women. Then I recorded the result as a voice over—and attached it to the film (my friend Marthe Reed helped me make) of me peeing in a giant box of chocolates. But I led up to that with film work (with Afton Wilky) of Valentine’s Day merchandise, and also a Valentine’s Day performance (live) where I read from a journal entry about losing my virginity while smearing my face with Valentine’s day candy (actually, that didn’t work so well—it’s got too much wax in it, doesn’t really melt), while backed up by three brave women who (off-mic) described their loss of virginity experience…

It seemed like an apt follow-up to Monday’s posting of 15th February.

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