Filmmaker: Rachel Eliza Griffiths

S by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

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Another author-made videopoem recently published by Voluble, this time from the enormously talented poet and photographer Rachel Eliza Griffiths. Click through to listen to her artist’s statement, where she explains that “‘S’ is the first piece in a trilogy of videos that engage Audre Lorde’s poem The Black Unicorn.” Her discussion of the relationship between audio and video, hearing and seeing in her creation of the video is absolutely fascinating.

This concludes this week’s focus on videopoems or poetry films made solely by the poet her- or himself. Over the years I’ve shared many such videos, and Matt Mullins put together an annotated gallery of Ten Notable Single-Author Videopoems to showcase some of the best. There are many more examples of films that emerge from active collaborations between the poet and the filmmaker. I hadn’t planned this as a promotion for the Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival, which alone among poetry film and videopoetry festivals requires the poet to have been directly involved in making the video, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that their deadline for submissions is coming up on July 1. (Which happens also to to be the deadline for the 2016 ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival.)

Mule & Pear: two videopoems by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

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Rachel Eliza Griffiths has made poetry book trailer-style videopoems for a couple of other poets, but this one from 2011 was for her own collection, and Roxane Gay, writing at HTML Giant, was impressed:

Mule & Pear is a new book of poetry by Rachel Eliza Griffiths and has a book trailer I really love which is saying something because I do not care for book trailers.

This Dust Road: Self Portrait is an excerpt from the final poem in Mule & Pear. According to the publisher’s description,

These poems speak to us with voices borrowed from the pages of novels of Alice Walker, Jean Toomer, and Toni Morrison—voices that still have more to say, things to discuss. Each struggles beneath a yoke of dreaming, loving, and suffering. These characters converse not just with the reader but also with each other, talking amongst themselves, offering up their secrets and hard-won words of wisdom, an everlasting conversation through which these poems voice a shared human experience.

Woman Without Umbrella: poetry by Victoria Redel

This is a fascinating experiment: a poetry book trailer of sorts that’s also a collage videopoem by another poet, Rachel Eliza Griffiths. Here’s the description from Vimeo:

A visual poem based upon the poetry collection of the same title, “Woman Without Umbrella”, by Victoria Redel. Published by Four Way Books, 2012. The visual poem incorporates various spoken lines gathered from the poet’s collection and employs associative thematic imagery inspired by Redel’s work.

Directed/Edited by Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Associate Producer: Joseph A.W. Quintela
Make-Up Artist: Cassi Renee
Narrator: Gabriel Don

Visit
rachelelizagriffiths.com
victoriaredel.com
fourwaybooks.com

Kudos to Redel and Four Way Books for giving permission for such an innovative remix.

Incident by Amiri Baraka

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An exemplary use of collage in this videopoem by Rachel Eliza Griffiths, incorporating the Eric Garner footage along with other shots of police brutality and newspaper-headline-style snippets of text. The description at Vimeo:

My name is Rachel Eliza Griffiths. I am a black poet who will not remain silent while this nation murders black people. I have a right to be angry.

“Incident” by Amiri Baraka read by Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Visual Text include references & lines from
Allen Ginsberg’s “America”
Carrie Mae Weems “From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried”
Gil Scott-Heron, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”

The inclusion of multiple voices in a videopoem is something that doesn’t happen very often, for some reason, but I think it’s very effective here. Rachel Eliza Griffiths is a poet and photographer whose “literary and visual work has been widely published in journals, magazines, anthologies, and periodicals including Callaloo, The New York Times, Poets & Writers, The Writer’s Chronicle, Crab Orchard Review, Mosaic, RATTLE,” and many others. See her website for more.

As I was preparing this post, I noticed that the video has also just been featured at Cultural Front.

The poem and confluence of words, still images, and disturbing video footage come to us quickly within the span of 141 seconds. Multiple viewings are necessary to grasp all that Griffiths presents here. She really stretches the boundaries of poetry, video, and artistic protest. Her contribution is a really distinguishing moment in the production of #BlackPoetsSpeakOut and beyond.

It’s encouraging to see the prominent role of poets and poetry in what is increasingly looking like a new American civil rights movement. Since I wrote about #BlackPoetsSpeakOut at Moving Poems Magazine the other week, videos with that hashtag have continued to appear online and number in the hundreds now. And there was an excellent article by Matt Petronzio in Mashable, of all places: “Refusing silence: Black poets protest and mourn in verse.”

As Black Poets Speak Out grows, more and more poets are reading their original work. But most people so far have read the work of famous poets, such as Lucille Clifton, Langston Hughes and Claude McKay, as well as renowned contemporary poets, including Evie Shockley and Cornelius Eady.

“I think most people are doing other people’s work initially, because that work is there and still, unfortunately, relevant. And that’s the thing about poetry — when it was used in the Black Arts Movement as protest poetry, it was because it was an immediate response. It was something to do quickly,” [Jonterri] Gadson says.

Perhaps that’s why so many people, even outside Black Poets Speak Out, are turning to poetry, after their own words fail them. In the wake of tragedy, it can help make sense of the senseless; iconic black poets’ words are painfully timeless.

While purely documentary videos of poetry readings can be wonderful, I’ll remain on the lookout for those that incorporate video remix and other elements of true videopoetry to share here. Any and all tips are appreciated. I’d also encourage poets who might be interested in following Griffiths’ example to check out our list of online resources for videopoem makers.