Just a few days ago I read a lovely poem called ‘Solar Therapy’ by Alaska-based artist and writer, Michele S. Cornelius and published in the multi-media literary journal, Gnarled Oak. As it happened, I already had images and music on hand, edited together and waiting for a poem that would mix well with them. I recognised the potential in Michele’s piece straight away and completed this video in the 24 hours following the poem’s first public appearance. The music is by Western Australian ensemble, Masonik, whose soundscapes I’ve appreciated over a number of years. This track is called ‘Bending Light For The Magi‘. I sourced it at the Pool group on Facebook, where it was posted on offer for remix. The images are from the royalty-free stock footage site, VideoBlocks. With a minimal piece like this the small details become magnified. I spent a surprising amount of time on minutiae in the editing, especially deciding how to present the phrases of the poem on the screen and where and when the text should best be placed. In the end, as is often the case, simple seemed best.
Click through to read Marie’s process notes on three of her other recent videopoems, as well.
This is the second of two films by Marie Craven using Poetry Storehouse poems by A.M. Thompson. (I also liked the first, Unavoidable Alchemy, but felt that it ended too abruptly.) Here she has used footage by Mollie Mills, guitar music by Josh Woodward and a voiceover by Nic S. to create a surprisingly upbeat video remix. I’ll let viewers decide whether it succeeds, but I salute its boldness as an experiment in confounding expectations. (Read the text.)
Australian artist Marie Craven‘s video remix of a poem from The Poetry Storehouse by Missouri-based poet Laura M Kaminski. Craven recently blogged some process notes on three films she’s made with Kaminski’s poems, including this one:
I met Laura on social media after the first video, and our mutual membership of the Pool creative group put us in more contact after that. I sent her a message about making something new with her writing, and asked if she would be interested in responding in poetry to four pieces of royalty-free video footage I had found at VideoBlocks. She was interested in a continued collaboration and willing to write a new poem. But her first response to the images I sent was that they reminded her of a poem she had already written, ‘Lilies of the Field’. I loved the poem, agreed there was a fit, and so went to work. I decided text on screen might be the way to go for this video. To that end, I rearranged the line breaks in the poem to better suit the screen, which Laura welcomed in the final result. In response to the poem, I also found additional video images to go with the original ones I had sent Laura. One of these – the road at night shot – is by videographer, Gene Cornelius in Alaska, whose fantastic videography is featured in some of my previous videopoems. The music in the video is Slow Blizzard by Clutter (aka Shaun Blezard in Cumbria, UK). Shaun and I have been in online contact on and off for several years and this is a track I’ve loved since I first heard it in about 2010. Once the video was completed, I contacted Nic S. at The Poetry Storehouse to ask if she might be interested in publishing the poem and video at the site. They are both now there.
Australian filmmaker Marie Craven demonstrates one way to get away with out-right illustration in a videopoem. Had she used footage of pinball games in a poem that references pinball, it would’ve seemed merely redundant, I think. But instead she hit upon the idea of using colorful still images (by Donald Bell) alternating with dark, silent-film-like title cards bearing the lines of the poem. Cut these images in time with up-tempo, pinball-esque music by CIRC, and rather than simply depicting a game of pinball, the video actually enacts or reproduces the effect of a highly kinetic ball careening around in an inert cabinet. “The whole thing / goes tilt.” And the poem is raised to a new level, I think.
This film by Marie Craven is the remix category winner of the Poetry Storehouse First Anniversary Contest. The challenge was to “Create a remix (a video remix, an art collage, a soundscape, a sound collage, or surprise us) in response to any Storehouse poem currently up at the site.” Erica Goss, Marc Neys and I were the video judges, but in fact all the remix entries were videos, so our top pick was the category winner.
On the poetry side of the contest, Jessica Piazza picked a winner and three runners-up, and I’ll be sharing the resulting ekphrastic videopoems by Neys, Eduardo Yagüe and Lori Ersolmaz as they are completed. Please see the full announcement at Moving Poems Magazine. Let me just quote what Erica Goss wrote about why we selected First Grade Activist.
In judging the contest, we looked for an overall fit between the poem, images and soundtrack. The winner had to demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of the elements of video poetry, blending them to create an artwork that is more than the sum of its parts.
As we evaluated the contest entries, we watched the videos many times over. Dave watched each video on different days, to try to eliminate the influence of whatever mood he might be in at the time, while Marc says he looked at “the total package, the crafting, as in editing skills, original camerawork, and the visual concept and originality.” For my part, I watched looking for that indescribable quality that a good video poem has, the juxtaposition of poetry, sound and image that jumps from the screen.
We agreed that “First Grade Activist” has those qualities. Dave said it had a “great populist aesthetic, as is appropriate for the subject matter. The music is fitting and compelling. The split screen with text on the left is on one hand reminiscent of a classroom blackboard, and on the other just a good choice for a self-referential poem like this one. I like everything about it.”
I thought it dealt well with a subject that’s gotten a lot of attention lately: bullying. I love that the poem imagines a “first grade activist” who combats bullying with a poem praising her friend’s red hair, the very attribute she’s getting teased for. As the children march down the hallway, little ones first, we feel the pain of the child who doesn’t fit in and the courage of her friend, who imagines a way to help.
Marc added, “The video is as crisp and fresh as a first school day, with a strong and taut concept in a tight execution. Good rhythm and good use of split screen in combination with the poem on screen (and the use of red in the letters). The music brings it together and gives it a nice build up, while the visuals remain the same. The video is clever and actually lifts the poem to a higher level.”
Congratulations to Marie Craven for winning the contest, and thanks to all who sent in their work.
On a personal note, I was pleased that the winning film was made with a poem by Nic S., even though this barely registered when I was evaluating the entries. Nic is of course the driving force behind The Poetry Storehouse, and added some of her poems at the beginning (as did I) mainly to set a good example and get the ball rolling. She works tirelessly to promote others’ poetry, lending her wonderful reading voice to many projects and creating a huge number of remixes herself, but her own poetry deserves to be much better known.
Today again I’d like to present two very different videopoems made with the same text—and even the same reading. This time the poem comes from The Poetry Storehouse, and is the work of the Missouri-based poet and editor Laura M Kaminski. The voiceover in both is by Nic S., who is also the maker of the first video remix (her preferred term). Nic sourced her music from David Mackey on SoundCloud.
Australian artist Marie Craven puts the “kinesis” back in “kinestatic” here. I didn’t even notice that the film was made entirely of still images the first time I watched it; the uptempo music by anunusualleopard probably had something to do with that. Click through to Vimeo for the full list of credits and links.
Read the just-published interview with Laura M Kaminski at Moving Poems Magazine to learn why Nic’s film brought her to tears, and how a friend who doesn’t usually read poetry reacted to Marie’s film.