Nationality: Belgium

Day is Done by Johan de Boose

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Swoon‘s latest videopoem features a text, reading and English translation by Belgian author Johan de Boose. As Swoon wrote in a blog post introducing the film:

For poetry day & week (here in Belgium & The Netherlands) Johan de Boose wrote a poem.
The ‘Provincie Oost-Vlaanderen‘ and ‘Het Poëziecentrum‘ gave me a commission to make a videopoem for it.

During these days filled with poetry, Johan is visiting schools, showing the video, reading the poem and talking with the students…

Some things speak for themselves.
Loud and like crystal.


It was clear from the beginning that I wanted someone young to feature in this video. And I found the perfect one. Filming and editing was made easy with her natural expression and Johan’s strong words.

Dutch and Flemish Poetry Day is the fourth Thursday of January (January 24th this year).

Click through to the post to read the poem in both languages.

Notes from Noise by Jan Lauwereyns

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Swoon used public-domain footage from the U.S. Navy’s MSTS Arctic operations (1955-1957) to accompany an English-language text by the multilingual Belgian writer and scientist Jan Lauwereyns. He first constructed a soundscape, then found footage to match, but in a departure from his usual modus operandi, decided not to include the poem in the soundtrack:

Reading or recording the poem was no option…
It wouldn’t work. I needed to see the words ‘floating’ slowly, using the pace of the music and the images.
Giving them time to interact with the sounds and the images.

Idioticon by Peter Wullen

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Animator Kris J. Yves Verdonck performs a kind of open-heart surgery on Peter Wullen’s text (or an English translation of it). The author’s reaction on his blog is worth quoting in full:

With the videopoem ‘Idioticon’ Kris J. Yves Verdonck created something really special. Together with Ian Kubra and Marc Neys this is exactly what I had in mind when I started this. Poets are egotistical and selfish creatures. They don’t like others to play with their words. But in these videopoems the ego is finally abolished. The words stay visible and primary but somehow they disappear inside the videopoem. The viewer or reader has to look very carefully to find them. The meaning of the videopoem is the perfect integration of word, sound and image.

1 November by Bernard Dewulf: Remembering Lidice

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Swoon used a small piece of footage from the documentary Lidice Lives by James Truswell, as well as a loop of his own images, for this memorial film. “Repetition was the key word here,” he notes. He was moved to search for a poem to envideo after reading a book about Lidice, and discovered “November 1” by the Belgian poet Bernard Dewulf, also available in an English translation by Sapphire/Ramona Lofton. Even before that, though, his first step had been to compose the music later incorporated into the soundtrack.

From the Wikipedia:

Lidice is a village in the Czech Republic just northwest of Prague. It is built near the site of the previous village of the same name which, as part of the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, was on orders from Adolf Hitler and Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, completely destroyed by German forces in reprisal for the assassination of Reich Protector Reinhard Heydrich in the late spring of 1942. On 10 June 1942, all 173 men over 16 years of age from the village were murdered. Another 11 men who were not in the village were arrested and murdered soon afterwards along with several others already under arrest. Several hundred women and over 100 children were deported to concentration camps; a few children considered racially suitable for Germanisation were handed over to SS families and the rest were sent to the Chełmno extermination camp where they were gassed to death. After the war ended, only 153 women and 17 children returned.

ctrlC/ctrlV by Katrijn Clemer

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Belgian poet Katrijn Clemer reads her poem, which, according to the note at Vimeo,

was constructed out of 100 lines taken from a diary.
Each line deconstructed into separate words, constructed back into 20 new lines.
Deconstructed those 20 again into words and then constructed the poem using the cut/up technique.

Annmarie Sauer translated it into English for the subtitles. Swoon did everything else.

Guesswork (Raden) by Bart Van der Straeten

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An interesting, high-concept videopoem, and the first I’ve seen to credit the typeface designer. Let me quote the description from Vimeo in full:

Guesswork. Variation 8 (Belgium, 2011) – short version (3 minutes)
film by Jan Peeters
text by Bart Van der Straeten
typeface: Jean-Luc by Atelier Carvalho Bernau,

In “Guesswork” poetry and film literally come together. A super 8 reel with worn and withered documentary footage is overlaid with the text from the Dutch poem Raden (meaning ‘guesswork’) by Belgian writer and critic Bart Van der Straeten (°1979), forming a filmic-typographic collage.

The condensed verses are unravelled word by word, inciting a tentative reading. They describe the existential and uncomfortable feeling of instability one can have with the public space of the city one dwells in.

Although the word and image layers are in disjunction, involuntarily the found footage of Parisian monuments starts connecting with the text, stressing a distant and impersonal relationship with the surrounding urban environment.

Jan Peeters has also uploaded a version in Dutch, which is almost two minutes longer:

Faites vos jeux by Marleen de Crée

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Update 7/19/12: Swoon informs me that there’s a volume of Marleen de Crée poetry translated into English by Annmarie Sauer due out later this year. And note that Swoon’s two earlier subtitled films for de Crée poems have been re-done with Sauer’s translations.

Marleen de Crée is one of Belgium’s most prominent living poets, with 15 poetry collections and a number of major prizes to her name. Swoon, of course, is without a doubt the most active maker of videopoems in Belgium; this is his third video for a de Crée poem, all three available in two versions: with subtitles and without. The recitation here is by Katrijn Clemer, and the English translation is by Annmarie Sauer.

Most of the footage comes from a 1942 home movie in the Prelinger archive of ephemeral films. I love seeing videopoets make use of this kind of material.