Posts in Category: Videopoems

City Swans by Bernard O’Rourke

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Bernard O’Rourke is an Irish writer, film-maker, and spoken word artist, new to Moving Poems. Filmed along Dublin’s Grand Canal, his City Swans reflects discontent and restlessness within the enclosures of city life. The poem is richly voiced by Bernard himself, woven into the melancholy whimsy of Brendan Carvill’s guitar chords. As an ensemble, the piece evokes a sense of sky-born hope glimpsed in lowly places. It was a finalist in 2018 for the Ó Bhéal Poetry Film Prize at the IndieCork Film Festival, Ireland.

Alphonso’s Jaw by Sarahjane Swan and Roger Simian

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Recently I became part of an international collective of artists called Agitate:21C. In its short existence, it has attracted about 300 outstanding experimental, avant-garde, and generally ‘other’ artists from around the world, including film-makers, poets, curators, critics, lovers of the arts, and just about any kind of alternative creator, focused on any medium, genre, style or form.

Originally part of a larger art installation created for Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival, Alphonso’s Jaw was the first poetry film I found via A21C. It is written and directed by Scottish artists Sarahjane Swan and Roger Simian, also known as Avant Kinema. Sarahjane appears in the film and voices the piece in English and French. I find it virtuosic in its fusing of word, soundscape and image, as well as deeply moving in its meditation on the timeless horrors of war in the lives of individuals.

This is an excerpt from what the artists have to say on the film’s page at Vimeo:

The installation, and our subsequent short film, were inspired by our fascination for two objects we discovered amongst Edinburgh University’s Anatomy Collection: (1) the cast of a disfigured face; (2) a prosthetic jaw constructed on an early nineteenth century battlefield.

Through some research we unearthed the story of Alphonse Luis, a young French gunner struck by shrapnel at the Siege of Antwerp, 1832. Having suffered horrific facial injuries, losing his lower face, Alphonse’s quality of life was eventually improved when the Surgeon-Major and a local Belgian artist collaborated on the construction of a silver prosthetic jaw, painted in flesh tones and adorned with whiskers.

We uncovered historical accounts of Alphonse Luis’ injury, surgery, recuperation and rehabilitation in medical journals of the day, and drew on these for an exploration of identity, disfigurement and reconstruction.

In Alphonso’s Jaw we imagine that Alphonse Luis has become dislocated from history to exist outside of any specific time or place, trapped in eternal convalescence, soothed by the dreams of his Battlefield Muse, who is equal parts Night Nurse, Scheherazade and Beauty from Beauty and the Beast. Luis’ Battlefield Muse is, in turn, both horrified and fascinated by her patient.

The poem, titled “Beauty and the Silver Mask,” can be read at Avant Kinema’s blog, in both its full English version and the short fragment of it spoken in French, which was translated by Raymond Meyer.

Snow Memory by Brendan Bonsack

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Fellow Australian film-maker Brendan Bonsack is one of the finest of the lyrical video poets I have encountered. Multi-talented, skilled and prolific in filmpoetry, photography, performance, and music, he is also a generous supporter of poets and their culture in this country, especially in Melbourne, where he is co-producer of a community radio show devoted to the spoken word.

Snow Memory is a wordless video poem, alluding to its themes in beautifully composed images and music. There are suggestions of fragmented narrative to be found in the precisely rhythmic editing between images, some shot by Brendan, others drawn from archival and alternative sources.

Whether finding expression in videos, poems, or any of his other chosen forms, Brendan’s work is inspiring to say the least, its effect on audiences well described here:

“Bonsack has one of those voices that fills a room with golden light…”
Nkechi Anele, Triple J Radio, Australia

In the case of this film, it’s a snowy silver.

Write Out: A Scribe’s Haiku #3 by Kathryn Darnell

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In my first post as a contributor to Moving Poems, I am delighted to introduce to the site the work of Kathryn Darnell. Her Write Out: A Scribe’s Haiku #3 is part of a series of animations of original haiku about her work as a calligrapher. Music is by Elden Kelly.

Kathryn has been a professional illustrator and calligrapher for over 30 years, dividing her time between commercial art and fine art practice. Her “animated calligraphics” are an extension of her passion for letters. Her personal artwork is regularly exhibited in galleries, and she is an adjunct professor of art at Lansing Community College.

In 2018, her video, Things I Found in the Hedge, in collaboration with UK poet Lucy English, was the winner of the inaugural edition of the Atticus Review Videopoem Contest, which I judged and discussed in Moving Poems Magazine.

Commit to Memory: The Precipice of Extinction by Nicelle Davis

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What better way for Moving Poems to return from hiatus than with the latest video collaboration between artist Cheryl Gross and poet Nicelle Davis? And as a nature lover, the subject matter is close to my heart. I feel that way too few poets really grasp the severity and horror of the extinction crisis, let alone the threat it poses to the human imagination and, arguably, our very souls. I found this cycle of poems so moving, especially accompanied by Cheryl’s inimitable, unsettling animation.

Nicelle has a brief column about the collaboration up at Cultural Weekly:

Death is a charmer; nothing makes us feel more alive than brushing shoulders with Death at a bar, in our cars, or at 5,000 feet in the air. Every time we risk and survive there is a thrill. We feel like we won more life because we are not the one dying.

There is something sexy about Death, how when poachers take a machete to the face of an elephant, the gaping wound resemble a wet vagina, how sex is always better once it’s gone, or when whalers take a grenade harpoon to a whale—even more so when an entire species is gone, how life looks for life even inside a zoo.

But Death is a trickster. We can never win at Death’s game. We remain alive, while our humanity is dying. Soon, there will be nothing of our lives worth living for.

Commit to Memory: The Precipice of Extinction is a multi-platform project that addresses the eventual disappearance of our culture using animals as metaphors. We explore issues of global warming, displacement, assault and poverty.

Read the rest.

America by Walt Whitman

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A recording of Whitman’s own reading of “America” is juxtaposed with shots of demonstrators in Washington, D.C., minutes after the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, to great and moving effect. This is part of a trilogy of Whitman poetry films by H. Paul Moon, “a filmmaker whose body of work includes short and feature-length documentaries, dance films, and experimental cinema, featured and awarded at over a hundred film festivals worldwide.” Paul tells me that he’s currently shooting the last part, a setting of Civil War poems, in the Richmond, Virginia area right now, and based on what he did with “America”, I’m guessing that that film may not shy away from contemporary political references. But we’ll have to wait until May 31 to find out. That’s when the whole trilogy will be posted to whitmanonfilm.com, to mark Whitman’s 200th birthday. They’ll also be screened the same evening in Washington, D.C. as part of a week-long Whitman bicentennial celebration. If you’re in the DC area, check it out.

Moon’s description at Vimeo is worth quoting in full:

The confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was politically divisive, but Walt Whitman’s 19th century wisdom is timeless. In 1892, the poet wrote in prose:

“I have sometimes thought, indeed, that the sole avenue and means of a reconstructed sociology depended, primarily, on a new birth, elevation, expansion, invigoration of woman.”

Towards the end of his life in 1888, he added “America” to his collection “Leaves of Grass,” and then recited four lines from the poem, onto a wax cylinder recording, before he died (it is the only record of his voice in existence):

“Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love”

And the written poem proceeds to say:

“A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair’d in the adamant of Time.”

This poetry film combines my documentation of the minutes after Kavanaugh’s confirmation, with Whitman’s own voice, and original music by composer James S. Adams. I used the new Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K at 120 frames per second, and color graded using the FilmConvert emulsion/grain simulation of Fuji 8563 RL film stock.

It has been presented at the 2018 Rabbit Heart Film Festival, the 2019 Beeston Film Festival, and the Walt Whitman 200 Festival.

Filmed and edited by H. Paul Moon | Zen Violence Films | zenviolence.com
Music composed and performed by BLK w/ BEAR | James S. Adams | courtesy of LCR Records | littlecrackdrabbit.co.uk/lcr001.html

Muirburn by Yvonne Reddick

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Dutch filmmaker Helmie Stil‘s latest filmpoem, just released online yesterday, is a brilliant follow-up to her award-winning The Opened Field. Like that film, it’s based on a poem from the UK Poetry Society’s 2017 National Poetry Competition, this time the commended poem “Muirburn” by Yvonne Reddick, a scholar of ecopoetry and up-and-coming poet from the northwest of England. And like Dom Bury’s “The Opened Field”, “Muirburn” is an unsettling poem that gives Stil plenty of room to subvert viewers’ expectations, steering just close enough to standard, narrative film-making to draw us in and reveal the—I would argue—true, uncanny reality of nature and our relationship with it. One of the National Poetry Competition judges, Pacale Petit, noted that the poem itself contains “filmic flashes, which dissolve and sear as if glimpsed through a furnace”, and added that it “concludes on an astonishing parting image”—a real gift to the filmmaker, who certainly rose to the challenge.

The film premiered in March, according to the Poetry Society’s announcement post:

Yvonne Reddick also won the inaugural Peggy Poole Award, and the film ‘Muirburn’ was premiered at the Peggy Poole Award readings at Bluecoat, Liverpool on 13 March 2019.