Elizabeth Lewis directed and animated this film based on a Leonard Cohen poem, using a reading by Paul Hecht. It’s actually an excerpt from a longer film produced by the National Film Board of Canada in 1977: Poets on Film No. 1, which “brings together animated interpretations of four poems by great Canadian wordsmiths” by four different animator-directors.
(Hat-tip: Anik Rosenblum at the Poetry in Animation Facebook group.)
Based on a poem by U.S. poet R.A. Villanueva, this was commissioned by London’s 2015 Dance Film Festival UK—”a collaboration between the dancer/choreographer, Julie Ann Minaai, and Garrett and Garrett, a brother-sister team of filmmakers,” as Villanueva told me via email. Michael and Katie Garrett work for a variety of clients, but according to the Dance Film Festival UK website,
their real passion lies in filmmaking for the arts, particularly, poetry, dance and music. They have won several awards for their dance and poetry pieces as well as producing a documentary which won the Channel 4 short documentary award at the Kendal Mountain Film Festival. […]
The piece “You will drown for poems” is a continuation of their love of collaborative arts projects and mixes poetry with movement for the screen. The key theme in this piece is that of the migrant artist and it reflects upon the importance of one’s work as a link to home and sense of belonging.
I’ve seen a lot of innovative dance-centered poetry films over the years, but this is the first aquatic one that I can remember, and Julie Ann Minaai‘s choreography takes full advantage of the dream-like movement of fabric and diffuse lighting available underwater. The evocative music is credited to Cato Hoeben. As for the poem, it originally appeared in Lantern Review: A Journal of Asian American Poetry, and carries the dedication “for Dennis Kim, 1983-2005.”
Double Life in REM State […] has all the dreamlike quality and strange reality that I look for in a poem. […] The poem was perfect for text on screen (and I love the line ‘Dreams are always about the dreamer’)
I started collecting footage for certain lines (insects, animals, nature, movement, and a few haunting ones)
Meanwhile I also began working on a fitting soundtrack;
Once I had all my building blocks, I could start ‘composing’.
Image by image, placing lines, adjusting pace,…
It’s what I call fun.
Motionpoems’ latest, a Vimeo Staff Pick, is a pencil animation by Matt Smithson A.K.A. man vs magnet of a poem by Stacey Lynn Brown. Yaa Asantewa provided the voiceover and Joshua Smoak composed the music.
“Citizen journalist” Jeannie E. Roberts conducted interviews for Motionpoems with both the poet and the filmmaker—check them out. Brown says, in part:
“Undersong” is both an elegy and an ode to the poet Jake Adam York, who died at the age of 40 in December 2012. Jake was a poet of extraordinary depth, courage, wisdom, and empathy. His life’s work, a project entitled “Inscriptions for Air,” was an excavation of race and involved writing an elegy for every single man, woman, and child who were martyred in the Civil Rights Movement. He was a white man from Alabama who confronted the challenges and implications and devastation of racism head on, and the literary world is so much richer for his work—and so much more bereft for the work that will not follow.
Poetry is, in many ways, the only language I have at my disposal to say certain things, and this poem is an example of that. As a poet from the South, I wanted to pay homage to the visual landscape that connected us, to evoke the places we’re both from in an effort to encapsulate origin while memorializing just how far from there we journeyed in our thoughts and actions and words.
And Smithson’s description of his process is extremely impressive:
The process of creating the Motionpoem for “Undersong” was two-fold. Once I had decided on a direction and concept, I spent quite a bit of time researching specific locations that I felt best captured the visual quality described in the poem. Traveling through the South, through rural Virginia, North and South Carolina, West Virginia, and Kentucky, I filmed a variety of places, people, and details that I planned to use in the creation of this Motionpoem. Not every piece of footage was used, but this process helped further connect me to many of the places Stacey Lynn Brown describes, places echoing with a storied past.
The process I used to create the visual style of this Motionpoem involved the labor intensive process of tracing each image by hand to give the piece a handmade quality. Using the filmed footage as a starting point for most of the scenes, I merged the reality with my stylized interpretation, taking creative liberty in the development of each moment.
A new film by artist and poet Dave Richardson using a text and reading by Charlotte Pence. As the Vimeo description notes, “Normalization of Deviance” appears in Pence’s collection Many Small Fires, just out from Black Lawrence Press.