Los Angeles-based poet Lois P. Jones supplies the text and part of the voiceover (along with Katia Viscogliosi) in this wonderful new poetry film by Jutta Pryor. It’s the April 5 installment in the Visible Poetry Project‘s release of 30 poetry films in 30 days, which anyone with an interest in poetry film or videopoetry should be following, either on Vimeo or at the website, which includes much more information about the poets and filmmakers (but sadly shoehorns all the videos from each year into a single post, making subscription impossible and download times formidable for those of us with DSL connections).
Australian filmmaker Jutta Pryor (film and sound production) collaborated with Romanian American poet Claudia Serea (text and voice). There’s also a version without the titling, but I think this one’s better for savoring the poem’s unusual vocabulary: the etymology of “moth,” plus some of the more bizarre names of actual moth species.
To me, though, the most impressive thing about this filmpoem is its successful use of pretty literal imagery—footage of a moth—without in any way seeming to reduce or pin down the text. If anything, I think it leaves it more open. Why this succeeds, when so many similar efforts by lesser filmmakers fail, I’m not entirely sure. I love how the camera seems to adopt a moth’s erratic flight toward the end.
Two interpretations of a Matt Dennison poem by Jutta Pryor, the first incorporating a flute improvisation by Bruno Gussoni. For the text of the poem (voiced by the author in both films), click through to Vimeo.
It was midnight in Melbourne when I wrote Nailing Remembrance after feeling a cold fire burning in me. I had just finished reading about the journey of a girl from my valley in Afghanistan in the late 1800s. A princess turned into a slave, she was elegant and in-love, layered and lonely, resilient and secretive. Besides the brutal political context of the time and her painful destiny, this poem is capturing her layers of inner feelings, sense of loss, vibrant and violent moments of the time and the strength in her struggle. Nailing Remembrance is a window into the museum of a forcefully forgotten self.
This recent addition to the Book of Hours project is
Bruno Gussoni: Flute, Alto Flute, Tibetan Bells (Italy)
Claudio Ferrari: Electronics (Italy)
Iao Aea: Fretless Electric Bass (Italy)
Click through for the text for the poem.
Lori Lamothe is the latest poet to have work added to The Poetry Storehouse, which is where Australian multimedia artist Jutta Pryor found this poem (originally published in Third Coast) and the reading by Nic S.. Pryor is responsible not only for the cinematography and direction but also for the very effective soundtrack.
I’m told that in some MFA poetry classes, budding poets are discouraged from writing about the moon. Are they also discouraged from writing about love and death, I wonder? The moon is a touchstone in almost every culture, and according to the latest science, not only was it birthed by our own planet after a fiery collision with an asteroid, but it’s known to have played an essential role in stabilizing the earth’s rotation enough to allow the evolution of life, despite its own utter lifelessness. So it seems clearer than ever that banishing the moon from poetry would be a sad and solipsistic exercise.
The fact remains, however, that modern poets need to “make it new.” Claudia Serea‘s poem at The Poetry Storehouse works precisely because it challenges the powers we have traditionally imputed to the moon, including the way we out-source our longings to it. (Read the text.)
Videopoets working with Serea’s text have a further problem, it seems to me, inasmuch as the moon — especially an unnaturally close/large one — is such a stock image in the movies, freighted with associations that may or may play well with the poem. Nic S. was the first to attempt a video remix (above), using her own reading and a soundtrack by Jarred Gibb. Then Lori H. Ersolmaz made this:
And finally, here’s Jutta Pryor’s take:
Pryor’s soundtrack — my favorite of the three — uses a soundscape by Neal Ager as well as the poet’s own reading, which I prefer to Sebastian’s mainly because of her accent, which to my WASPy ears sounds more “foreign” and thus better suited to a poem in the moon’s voice. None of the filmmakers managed to avoid using footage of the moon, though Ersolmaz came the closest by turning her moon into a screen for other, earthly footage. And I liked the way Pryor made an almost Wizard of Oz-like switch from pale, seemingly moonlight images to saturated colors, extending her film into a wordless montage that serves to expand the poem outwards, suggesting possible connections between artificial light and nighttime violence.
I don’t think any of these films constitutes a definitive interpretation of the poem (if there can be such a thing), but each has something in it that I like, and after watching all three, I find myself wanting to try to write yet another poem about the moon.