A video collaboration between Michael Dickes (concept, camera) and Marc Neys/Swoon (editing, music) featuring the words and voice of Gessy Alvarez, with some additional footage from the Prelinger Archives and an appearance by a young actor, Ava Dickes.
One fascinating thing about this collaboration is that Michael Dickes’ original edit, with substantially the same images and the identical soundtrack, is also on Vimeo. Comparing them gives a sense of his and Neys’ different approaches to videopoetry:
I find Dickes’ approach a little less high-brow (for lack of a better term; I’m afraid I’m not a very sophisticated critic) but still reasonably subtle and nuanced. Left completely to his own devices, I’m not sure Neys would’ve included yolk imagery for a poem that so prominently features egg yolks, but to me as a viewer, seeing imagery of some of the things mentioned in a lyric text is not an annoyance as long as the film avoids out-right, narrative-style illustration. Plus, of course, it’s striking footage, which I gather is part of what made Neys so willing to take on the project. Here’s what he blogged about it:
La Curandera is a text by Gessy Alvarez that first appeared in here.
Some time ago Michael Dickes asked me to help him out with a soundtrack for a video he was going to make. I used Gessy’s reading and came up with this track: [SoundCloud embed]
Last week Michael came up with his video for this track. I liked it and I especially loved the structure and the colour of the yolk he had filmed. He asked if I was up for my own edit.
Yes. He provided [me] with all the source material he had used and I played around with the same concept. Concentrating the visual storylines on the yolk, baby, girl, woman.
I had such fun just editing. Cooking’s fun with the right ingredients…
The next issue of Awkword Paper Cut should be out soon, I’m guessing, so we’ll get to see how Dickes presents the two videos. In the meantime, it’s worth mentioning that APC has a well-curated channel on Vimeo, which showcases poetry films along with some other videos of literary interest. Check it out.
This short film about surfing in the North Sea proves that a television-friendly filmpoem need not be literal or simplistic. The gorgeous scenery, imaginative shooting and subtle interplay between voiced text and images are evidently working for many viewers. A staff pick on Vimeo, it has so far garnered 143,000 views on the web, was broadcast on the U.K.’s Channel 4, “has won a variety of awards at film festivals, and was shown at SXSW,” according to the poet, Daniel Crockett.
Perhaps it resonates with so many viewers because it’s more than just a film about surfing; it shows how a members of a surfing community understand their relationship with a wild place. Chris McClean (producer and director) and Mark Waters (cinematographer and editor) are associated with the blog Doggerland:
The North Sea is a source of food, a source of fuel – oil and gas, a playground for catching waves or simply a mass of water that needs to be navigated. Few are aware its these cold grey waters that cover a prehistoric landscape that once joined England to Europe. Yet between 18000 and 5500 BC, global warming raised sea levels to the extent that this area known as Doggerland was engulfed by water and the area that had been home to mankind disappeared. This entire land sank beneath the North Sea. Is it this former land that we North Sea surfers now surf.
We are the Doggerland groms, heavies, hippies and kooks.
The surfers in the film are Gabe Davies, Pete Eyre, John John Florence, Nathan Florence, Dylan Graves, Chris ‘Guts’ Griffiths, Ritchie Sills, and Balaram Stack. Lewis Arnold and Chris McClean supplied additional footage. William Evans was the sound engineer, and they used a song by UNKLE in the soundtrack. Crockett’s poem was read by Jeff Hordley.
I’m told that in some MFA poetry classes, budding poets are discouraged from writing about the moon. Are they also discouraged from writing about love and death, I wonder? The moon is a touchstone in almost every culture, and according to the latest science, not only was it birthed by our own planet after a fiery collision with an asteroid, but it’s known to have played an essential role in stabilizing the earth’s rotation enough to allow the evolution of life, despite its own utter lifelessness. So it seems clearer than ever that banishing the moon from poetry would be a sad and solipsistic exercise.
The fact remains, however, that modern poets need to “make it new.” Claudia Serea‘s poem at The Poetry Storehouse works precisely because it challenges the powers we have traditionally imputed to the moon, including the way we out-source our longings to it. (Read the text.)
Videopoets working with Serea’s text have a further problem, it seems to me, inasmuch as the moon — especially an unnaturally close/large one — is such a stock image in the movies, freighted with associations that may or may play well with the poem. Nic Sebastian was the first to attempt a video remix (above), using her own reading and a soundtrack by Jarred Gibb. Then Lori H. Ersolmaz made this:
And finally, here’s Jutta Pryor’s take:
Pryor’s soundtrack — my favorite of the three — uses a soundscape by Neal Ager as well as the poet’s own reading, which I prefer to Sebastian’s mainly because of her accent, which to my WASPy ears sounds more “foreign” and thus better suited to a poem in the moon’s voice. None of the filmmakers managed to avoid using footage of the moon, though Ersolmaz came the closest by turning her moon into a screen for other, earthly footage. And I liked the way Pryor made an almost Wizard of Oz-like switch from pale, seemingly moonlight images to saturated colors, extending her film into a wordless montage that serves to expand the poem outwards, suggesting possible connections between artificial light and nighttime violence.
I don’t think any of these films constitutes a definitive interpretation of the poem (if there can be such a thing), but each has something in it that I like, and after watching all three, I find myself wanting to try to write yet another poem about the moon.
This interpretation of an Eric Burke poem by Jutta Pryor is one of the most satisfying ultra-short videopoems I’ve seen. It started out as a 15-second film, then was expanded to 20 seconds to incorporate more credits at the end. Somehow, it manages not to seem rushed, and the images are allusive enough to reward multiple viewings. Pryor used music by Masonik and a recording of Burke reading his poem, the text of which originally appeared in THRUSH Poetry Journal. She also credits the POOL group, a Facebook-based (and very international) creative community.
This should be played in HD on the largest screen available.
Rarely a week goes by when I don’t post another video by the Belgian filmmaker Swoon, A.K.A. Marc Neys, but even still I barely keep up with all he’s doing. What’s even more surprising is that despite his great rate of production his poetry films continue to feel fresh, and he doesn’t cut corners in their production, sitting on each project for at least a couple of weeks before releasing it. This film is a case in point. It was already almost in the can (Do filmmakers still say that?) when I visited him back in early July, but he continued to sit with it for another month before releasing it. And he’s taking plenty of risks here. This represents, I think, his most ambitious attempt yet to develop text-on-screen as a compelling alternative to the tried-and-true voiceover approach.
Marc blogged his process notes. Some snippets:
Another episode in my explorations in combining film compositions with text on screen (see my other efforts)
This time it was a poem by Donna Vorreyer I used.
It’s not the first time I work with Donna’s words. She’s a fantastic poet with a very inspiring choice of words. Her work is perfect for these kind of works.
I picked out ‘Extermination’ from her collection ‘a house of many windows’, Sundress Publications, 2013.
Once I was sure this was going to be the poem I started searching for, filming and selecting suitable visuals. When I had about 10 minutes of material I created a soundscape with the visuals and the poem in mind:
Then came the puzzling part. Matching lines from the poem with the right footage, trying out different fonts ans sizes, placement of words… It’s a completely different way of editing.
You’re not only editing film, you’re carefully trying to blend sound, image and text in one cut. It feels more like composing. It makes me rethink the way I worked (and still work) with audible videopoems.