Filmmaker: John Bresland

Peyton Place: A Haiku Soap Opera by David Trinidad

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Writer and filmmaker John Bresland, the former video editor for TriQuarterly, made this videopoem for David Trinidad’s haiku collection using clips from the soap opera that prompted the haiku. It appeared in the November 2015 issue of Blackbird, accompanied by a commentary by Gregory Donovan which is essential reading if, like me, you’re too young to remember Peyton Place, “the very first American prime-time soap opera.” It was, he says, “one of the first televised programs in the U.S. to deal frankly with sexual themes, which revealed the hypocrisy and masked immorality beneath the misleadingly peaceful façade of small-town American life.”

In David Trinidad’s Peyton Place: A Haiku Soap Opera (Turtle Point Press, 2013) he has whipped up a haiku concoction to respond, with an energy both antic and erotic, to each of the over 500 episodes of the complete run of the television program. Reading this series of poems, carefully constructed within the confines of a taut form yet unleashing a sardonic and often laugh-generating appreciation of the oddities of a now-dated television drama, one is struck by an experience on the page that brings the television series back into the mind’s eye with a pointed mix of humor, pathos, and social critique.

Meanwhile, the imaginative adaptation by John Bresland, collected, edited and enhanced into an equally layered, genre-challenging video essay, employs actual clips from the television program with the texts of Trinidad’s poems superimposed and narrated. Bresland builds upon Trinidad’s frank exploration of the many dimensions of “the male gaze” and further examines the looking generated not only by the camera’s eye, but also by our own changed vision of a set of cultural moments and icons that time and history have inescapably altered. Bresland’s video piece provides its own unique experience that arises from the atmosphere generated by Trinidad’s book while also plunging us into an even more pointed sense of the absurdities and strange possibilities of realization available in the now transformed and reconstituted images of what was once, and is now again, Peyton Place.

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