A new videopoem by filmmaker Stephen St. Laurent featuring the words of British Columbia-based poet Al Rempel. It came about in a uniquely collaborative fashion, according to the YouTube description: “It started with a musical piece by Jeremy [Stewart]. Al then took that music and wrote a poem to accompany it. Steph then sculpted the video and directed Teresa [DeReis] in the voice work.”
Irish poet Doireann Ní Ghríofa, composer Stephen Moore and filmmaker Peter Madden have collaborated on a powerful filmpoem dedicated to Savita Halappanavar, who died on 28 October 2012, at University Hospital Galway in Ireland, of complications from a miscarriage after the hospital refused to perform an abortion. As people around the world celebrate their real or imagined Irishness today, it might be worth remembering some of the less savory aspects of St. Patrick’s legacy — or perhaps, to put it in a more positive way, some of the figurative serpents that still remain for Patrick’s spiritual descendents to cast out of Ireland.
The poem, originally titled “Recovery Room, Maternity Ward,” may be read in Numéro Cinq, which featured the video along with this description from the poet:
My poem Waking gives voice to a woman waking up in the recovery room of a maternity hospital. At the core of this poem is the sense of disorientation, loneliness and loss that follows a miscarriage. This is an experience that is, sadly, not unfamiliar to me, personally.
I chose to dedicate Waking to the memory of Savita Halappanavar, whose appalling death while under the care of the Irish maternity system left many in shock. She was admitted to hospital while suffering a miscarriage, and despite her repeated requests to terminate her pregnancy, she was denied the procedure that would have saved her life. Savita’s death led to many protests both in Ireland and abroad, where protestors demanded a review of Irish law that prevented her from accessing the abortion that would have saved her life. I would wish nothing more for Savita than to allow her the treatment she needed in order to wake up and draw breath, and it angers and saddens me to live in a country where a woman must die in order for society to effect essential constitutional change.
I am very grateful to the talented filmmaker Peter Madden for interpreting my poem visually with a sensitivity that I believe honours those many, many women who each year suffer the pain of miscarriage in silence. The haunting soundtrack is an original musical composition by guitarist Stephen Moore that adds further depth to the collaboration.
I have been working on ‘Poetry Storehouse’ videos in between workshops and commissioned projects. Perfect way to create a (much needed) distance from one project while playing around with another one (with less pressure)
This videopoem started out with ‘loose’ footage I shot in Athens (during a workshop for Frown. More on that in a later post). I wanted parts of a ping pong table almost to feel other-worldly.
Back at home I stumbled on this great instrument: http://www.femurdesign.com/theremin/
The selection of poems in the Storehouse is evidently large and diverse enough that a filmmaker with some footage and music already in hand can locate a suitable text, as Swoon did:
Somehow I thought the feel of the poem and the alienating music fitted well together and were a great ‘match’ with the ping pong footage. When I say ‘match’, I mean there’s a lovely friction between it all. It seems wrong (hence the title) and strangely suitable at the same time…
Jessop’s On Miles Platting Station is an adaptation of Simon Armitage’s likewise titled poem. A muted collage, it follows an imagined trip on a rickety train from the Pennines into the dangerous crowds of central Manchester.
“I grew up in the same Pennine village as Simon Armitage,” Jessop said, “and would often take this train into Manchester. When I realized he had written a poem based on this journey, I knew I had to adapt it to screen—it being particularly personal as it signified my journey out of childhood into adulthood and my own life in Manchester.”
Do click through and read the rest. As with everything in Tin House Reels, the write-up is thorough and engaging. It’s great to see a major literary magazine prioritizing “videos by artists who are forming interesting new relationships between images and words,” and unlike certain other august literary organs, they’re not demanding web exclusivity and preventing other people from sharing and embedding their videos. Yay!
This latest Motionpoems animation is by Keri Moller. The poem is from Bob Hicok’s collection Elegy Owed. The Motionpoems monthly email newsletter included this brief exchange with the poet. I like his suggestion for a writing exercise:
MOTIONPOEMS: How did this poem begin?
BOB HICOK: Seeing vultures and loving vultures for being underrated as beauty queens (and kings).
MOPO: What’s your favorite moment in the poem, and why?
HICOK: When it’s over. So i can go work on my shed.
MOPO: Motionpoems are used in classrooms a lot. If you were to recommend a writing prompt or exercise using this poem as a model, writing teachers and students might find that very useful.
HICOK: Go outside. Thrust your arms out like the wings of a vulture. Run in circles around what you imagine to be a grave. Come back in. Write a poem in which you wonder why you didn’t run in circles around what you imagine to be a garden. Put flowers in the garden and a child eating dirt. This may be way too specific. Open your notebook. Write your mind.
This is Hicok’s second poetry film from Motionpoems. The first, “Having intended to merely pick on an oil company, the poem goes awry,” made by Joanna Kohler, remains one of my all-time favorites of theirs. But this one’s also a gem. Something of Hicok’s droll, off-kilter wisdom seems to have infected both filmmakers.
This is one of the latest videopoems based on material at The Poetry Storehouse, which continues to attract high-quality submissions of poetry from around the world. I strongly encourage filmmakers at all levels of expertise to make it their first stop when looking for texts to adapt to film/video.
Spanish poet Alberto Masa blogs at Erosionados. The poem appears in his collection. Roberto Alcázar, supongo from Eolas Ediciones.