Posts in Category: Videopoems

Falling Lessons: Erasure One by Beth Copeland

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Directed by Anh Vu for Motionpoems, this interpretation of a poem by Beth Copeland has been winning fans by the score on both old and new media. It was featured on PBS NewsHour:

Sometimes, what a poem does not say is the most important part.

That’s what Beth Copeland found while writing “Falling Lessons: Erasure One,” a poem that explored her father’s experience with Alzheimer’s disease.

Before his death four years ago, Copeland wrote a longer narrative piece about the last few years of his life. But then, she did something unusual: she deleted most of it.

That process of erasure was a way to put herself in her father’s place, replicating what had happened as his disease progressed.

“I became interested in the idea of erasure, because I felt that the process of erasure is a reflection of what happens to people when they have memory loss,” she said. “I found out as I was doing it that the distillation process made the poems stronger.”

“Erasure One” is the first in a series of three pieces. In each successive poem, Copeland used the same technique, erasing parts of the previous poem and distilling it to the words that are left behind.

Writing the series helped her understand more about her father’s mind near the end of his life, she said. “I had time to really reflect on the process that he had gone through … I think I did learn more about my father’s experience,” she said.

Director Anh Vu, working with the organization Motionpoems, brought Copeland’s poem to the screen in a short film. The film interweaves images of the natural world with books, papers and other evidence of academia — a combination of her father’s passions, Copeland said.

Copeland wrote more extensively about her parents, who both experienced dementia, in a new manuscript titled “Blue Honey,” which is seeking a publisher. “Writing about what happened to both of my parents has been an opportunity for me to process a lot of the feelings that family members have when they have someone in the family with some type of dementia,” she said.

A Staff Pick on Vimeo, Falling Lessons: Erasure One was also one of the first two Motionpoems to be released on YouTube by Button Poetry, which has, I believe, the most popular channel for poetry videos, with 502,636 subscribers and 109,923,559 views to date. Almost all the videos they share on YouTube and on their Tumblr blog are straight-forward documentary videos of readings or recitations, many of which they produce themselves, with a heavy emphasis on material from the spoken word community. So it’s been interesting to see the enthusiasm with which their fan base has reacted to Falling Lessons: Erasure One, uploaded on March 17, and The Mother Warns the Tornado, the Isaac Ravishankara film based on a poem by Catherine Pierce, which they uploaded on March 4. The former has been played 15,206 times and the latter 22,037 times—about average for Button Poetry videos. What is perhaps more astonishing is that the comments for both videos are entirely positive so far—apparently YouTube trolls haven’t discovered Button yet?—suggesting that the supposed gulf between performance poetry and mainstream poetry may not actually exist, and that we all need to do a better job of reaching out to this most obvious and receptive new audience for poetry film. Typical reactions to the two Motionpoems videos include: “Utilizing the power of film and score with poetry was a beautiful idea”; “I absolutely LOVE these motion poems, the perfect combination of visual artistry and spoken poetry”; “I would love to see more videos that are actually stories to poems! I was left speechless at the end of this. The poem itself is amazing but the addition of the visuals made it that much more powerful”; and “Please make a million of these.”

Click through to Vimeo for the full credits. Oddly, the film has not been featured as an “episode” on the Motionpoems website just yet, so I suspect there may be some interviews or other bonus materials in the offing. Keep an eye out for that.

Children of the Nephilim (excerpt) by Cindy St. Onge

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This author-made videopoem by Cindy St. Onge juxtaposes footage from Trump rallies with footage from Nazi concentration camps, along with other images. The choice of music for the soundtrack (by the Masonik collective) feels especially inspired. The Vimeo description:

This video is based on a poem which was originally titled “Free Range Citzens.”
Have you noticed that with the proliferation of technology and mobile devices, that we so rarely look up anymore? We should wonder about that.
Poem, concept and editing by Cindy St. Onge. Footage from Videoblocks, Cindy St. Onge, CSpan, Right Side Broadcasting. Soundtrack by Masonik.
Full text of poem can be read here: exhibitapoems.wordpress.com/2016/03/21/children-of-the-nephilim/

St. Onge has posted two versions of the videopoem; here’s the other.

Destination by Carol Novack

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A poem by the late American poet Carol Novack in a film adaptation by the Belgian-Canadian filmmaker Jean Detheux, who notes on Vimeo that

This is the second film I made based on a text written and recited by Carol Novack (1948-2011).
The first one, “Civil War,” is here vimeo.com/26869484.
The text of “Destination” (and “Civil War”) can be found in the book “Giraffes in Hiding: The Mythical Memoirs of Carol Novack.” (tinyurl.com/d93v9lv)
Music by Don Meyer.
The images dialog with the narrative while following their own logic.
The images were made from a series of photos taken by my son Georges (he was 15 at the time of writing these lines) during a trip to Belgium, photos he then assembled in beautiful panoramas (used here as well).
Here’s an example: tinyurl.com/9q5l7j2 (other movies made with his help are here: vimeo.com/tag:georgesdetheux)

I processed his images in a variety of applications (Still Life, Studio Artist and especially, Final Cut Pro).

Carol Novack died of cancer on December 29, 2011. She had so much left to live, to share, to write!
May she have found her town!

There’s a good bio of Jean Detheux online in Madhat 15, accompanying another film made with a Carol Novack poem, Refuge. I particularly like this bit:

[Detheux] focuses on the importance of the hand gesture in image making (“le geste révélateur”), and especially, on the exploration of “inherent animation” (that which is done/found “by accident”), avoids “smarts” like the plague, believes that the conceptual approach is at a dead-end.

Balliwamta by Velimir Lobsang

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On this day of international solidarity with Belgium, I’m sharing the most Belgian videopoem I could find. Marc Neys A.K.A. Swoon is the filmmaker, credited on Vimeo with “concept, add. mouthsounds & music, editing & grading,” and his fellow countryman Velimir Lobsang contributed the reading and the soundpoem. In an old blog post about an earlier collaboration, Marc explained the poet’s pseudonym:

‘Velimir’ is de voornaam van de Russische futurist ‘Chlebnikov’ en ‘Lobsang’ is een Tibetaanse naam die zoiets betekent als ‘positieve, heilzame studie’, aldus J.V. een ex-collega die onder het wonderlijke pseudoniem Velimir Lobsang gedichten schrijft.
(“Velimir” is the [first] name of the Russian futurist Khlebnikov and “Lobsang” is a Tibetan name that means something like “positive, wholesome study,” says JV, a former colleague who writes poems under the strange pseudonym Velimir Lobsang.)

One Dream Opening Into Many by Kallie Falandays

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American poet Kallie Falandays’ text is superimposed onto mirrored images in a new videopoem by Australian artist Marie Craven. The soundtrack is by SK123. This approach to video imagery is one that Craven has used before, in her videos Transmission and Double Life, but One Dream Opening Into Many is in my view even more effective in its sleight-of-hand gestures toward the text:

[…] This bird,
which is also not a bird, is still dying

but at times, when my mother hobbles
past the window to get water,
the sunlight clouds it like tiny people

made of light stepping over the ocean
and it is set free.

Perhaps it’s an inversion of our usual way of thinking about poetry to have the text-on-screen in this videopoem seem more stable, less evanescent than the folding and unfolding elements of the world to which it alludes.

The City Inside, Part 1 by Tim Cumming

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A new film from UK poet and filmmaker Tim Cumming, who notes on Vimeo:

First part of a two-part film of a London poem The City Inside. You could call it an inner city revealed.
Every metropolis dweller has their own inner city, an internal map organism that grows through space and time. This is work in progress. Status may change.

Hotelsituation, langes Liegen / Hotel Situation, Long Recumbency by Steffen Popp

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A film by Marc Neys (AKA Swoon) using a poem by the contemporary German poet Steffen Popp. The poet’s recitation and the English translation by Christian Hawkey were sourced from Lyrikline. The choice to have the untranslated audio version first, followed by the translation as text-on-screen, is unusual, but I think it works, echoed as it is by the vertically split screen. It does mean, however, that more than two-thirds of the film is devoted to the slower-moving English version.

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