Nationality: Canada

Plasticpoems by Fiona Tinwei Lam

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A brilliant concrete videopoem directed and produced by Canadian poet Fiona Tinwei Lam with animation by Nhat Truong and sound design by Tinjun Niu. The Vimeo description notes that

This short animated video depicts two concrete/visual poems by poet Fiona Tinwei Lam from her collection of poems Odes & Laments about marine plastic pollution.

It won the Judges’ Award for Best Poetry Video, REELpoetry Houston 2020, which is how I knew about it: I was one of those judges.

Scarcely Gilded by Lina Ramona Vitkauskas

A cinepoem by Lithuanian-Canadian-American poet Lina Ramona Vitkauskas, who notes that the text is

From a new poetry collection, “Between Plague & Kleptocracy: Invented Poetic Creations & Conversations of Seva & Bill”, in which I cross-reference poems between Vsevolod Nekrasov & Bill Knott and serve as medium and “translator” of their posthumous conversations / invented collaborations. The poems are written in the voice / tone / style of both Nekrasov & Knott, featuring borrowed lines and found poems within those lines. The poems are the transcripts of their thoughts across astral planes: what they would perhaps discuss in this perilous time in history: of pandemic, of widespread injustice, forced isolation, and of finding ourselves with a traitorous snake oil salesman / neo-Soviet puppet in our WH.

I’ve in the Rain by Al Rempel

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A new poetry video from Erica Goss uses text by Canadian poet Al Rempel. She told us that

Al wrote the poem, and his friend Sandro Pecchiari translated it and recorded it in Italian. Al sent me Sandro’s recording and the poem in English. I asked for the Italian translation, and when I received it, I matched it to the English poem, line by line, to get the right pacing for the video.

Some of the images in the video are mine and some are from Pexels and Videezy. My son did the music.

Erica has been part of the international videopoetry community for the better part of a decade, first as author of a monthly column on the genre for Connotation Press, then working with Belgian filmmaker Marc Neys to make one of the most ambitious videopoetry series up to that time (2013-2014), Twelve Moons. In 2016 she began making poetry films herself, taking her time with each as her skills developed. I admire this cautious, deliberate approach because it’s so different from my own slap-dash, “git ‘er done” approach of turning out a huge volume of average-quality videopoems, hoping for the occasional gem.

This is I believe Erica’s first video collaboration with another poet. For Al Rempel, this marks a return to videopoetry after a series of collaborations with filmmaker Stephen St. Laurent from 2012 to 2016.

as the breath is… by Endre Farkas

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A “Videopoem created together in isolation during the COVID-19 Pandemic” by Montreal-based poet Endre Farkas (text, vocals), Martin Reisch (video and editing), Carolyn Marie Souaid (accompanying vocals), and Gregory Fitzgerald (sound engineering). Farkas and Souaid previously collaborated on Blood is Blood, which won the ZEBRA International Poetry Film Festival’s “Best Film for Tolerance” in 2012.

Sometimes the best videopoems arise from a simple idea flawlessly executed, and this is I think an example of that. All of the lockdown’s pent-up frustration and anxieties (about breathing, among other things) find visceral expression as the text is breathed, stretched and seemingly stitched into the very fabric of the biosphere. On the front page of his website, Farkas describes how it came to be made in a short essay which is worth quoting in full:

This poem has been around the block a few times. Sitting in a bar in Trois Rivières in the 1980s, during its annual poetry festival, a few poets, including me, were asked to compose a brief poem on a handmade paper coaster and then read it to the audience.

I had always been interested in line lengths in poems, usually referred to as beats, feet or breath. I always liked the measure of breath. Breath is best. It made sense that the measure of a line of a poem (an oral form) be measured in breaths not feet. I had also been working with dancers to whom breath was a concern. People take breath for granted. It’s an automatic function. The dancers made me conscious of its actuality and necessity. So breath was floating in my brain. And after a few glasses of wine or beer, not sure, I came up with the first draft of the poem.

When it came to reading it, I decided to “breathe” the poem. This is how and when the poem “as the breath is…” first had life breathed into it.

I had performed it a couple of times over the years before I met Carolyn Marie Souaid, another poet. I don’t remember why or when exactly she agreed to do it with me, but I remember how much richer the poem became. The texture, the meshing, the lyrical, the cacophony, was enriched because of her participation.

Recently, BV (Before Virus), Carolyn & I went into Studio Sophronik to record some poems. “as the breath…” was one of them. The sound engineer, Greg Fitzgerald, who was used to recording music, didn’t know what to make of the poem. But he liked it. He asked if I would allow him to play with it. I have always liked collaborations, so I said, “of course.” A few days later he sent me an mp3 of it. I was blown away. The reverb, echo took it to another level. I listened to it a couple of times and filed it away, feeling that I would like to be able to perform this live.

Then came the plague. I knew that performing it live was not going to be possible. The option was online. For that I needed visuals. I had a bunch of photoshopped images that seemed to fit the bill. However, it would require the animation of stills. My go-to videographer, Martin Reisch, thought it might be too complicated to do in these isolation conditions. He suggested that he go through his archives and find appropriate clips to collage together and synch it to the audio. Again, the collaborative sensibility kicked in and I agreed.

​So, to make a short poem long, the videopoem, “as the breath is…”, (a day in the life and death of breath) is a collaboration in isolation brought to fruition by the plague. “as the breath is…” is an artifact of this time.

In the Future by Mike Hoolboom

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The history of poetry in film can be seen to have two main branches: the cinematic and the classically poetic. In cinematic history, the two were brought together almost from the start, with the avant garde and experimental movements of the early 20th century.

This genre of film was first explored in the 1920s by French Impressionists Germaine Dulac, Louis Delluc, Man Ray, Hans Richter, and others. In the mid-1960s and early 1970s this genre was further explored by the Beat Generation poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, and Herman Berlandt, and developed into a festival held annually at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, California. (Wikipedia)

Poetry itself has its origins in the oral forms of ancient times, adapting and evolving over the last millennium with the arrival of the new technology of the printing press. It has been combined over time with art and music. Poetry film now marries audio and time-based visual media with the printed and spoken forms of poetry. There seems little doubt there are other emerging manifestations of poetry happening now.

In the Future, written and directed by Canadian experimental film-maker Mike Hoolboom, is from 1998. It is a piece complete in itself, but also part of a longer feature film, Imitations of Life, that is made up of several parts.

In a recent bio, Mike describes himself this way:

Born: Korean War, the pill, hydrogen bomb, playboy mansion. 1980s: Film emulsion fetish and diary salvos. Schooling at the Funnel: collective avant-geek cine utopia. 1990s: failed features, transgressive psychodramas, questions of nationalism. 2000s: Seroconversion cyborg (life after death), video conversion: feature-length, found footage bios. Fringe media archaeologist: author of 7 books, editor/co-editor 12 books. Curator: 30 programs. Copyleft yes. Occasional employments: artistic director Images Fest, fringe distribution Canadian Filmmakers. 80 film/vids, most redacted. 9 features. 30 awards, 12 international retrospectives. 2 lifetime achievement awards. 24 books, 15 mags, 40 interviews, 100+ essays, 40 sound clips.

Indeed, his contribution to the contemporary field of experimental film is substantial. He is deservedly considered by many to be one of its greatest living artists.

In the Future draws its sublime image stream from moments in films from many sources. Most of these are unrecognisable from their original context. Its text is given visually on screen, a deep poetic meditation on photographic media and its relation to human identity. The film is prophetic in its vision of a world in which every moment will be photographed, until at last our identities become indistinguishable from photographs themselves. Prophetic again is its apocalyptic sense of where this might take us. This film from over 20 years ago seems even more relevant today.

Letter by Doyali Islam

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Filmmaker: Amrita Singh


Filmmaker: Laurice Oliveira


Filmmaker: Jane Glennie

A poem from Canadian poet Doyali Islam‘s second collection, heft, gets three different film interpretations, thanks to the wondrous Visible Poetry Project, which released these on April 12. I’ll take the liberty of lifting their bios for each of the filmmakers (though Jane Glennie is probably already familiar to many Moving Poems readers):

Amrita Singh is a writer/director born in Chennai and raised in Chicago. She’s currently attending NYU Tisch’s Graduate Film Program and developing her thesis film about a ruthless spelling bee wunderkind and her immigrant family.

Born in Brazil, Laurice Oliveira bravely moved to NYC with the ambitious hope of becoming a filmmaker. In her long journey to The Big Apple, Laurice met the unseen people and listened to unheard voices. From people of the poorest Brazilian slums to abused immigrant workers in the US, Laurice has made her goal to tell the stories of people that often do not have the privilege of being seen or heard by society.

Jane Glennie is an artist, filmmaker and typographic designer. Previous projects include an installation at The National Centre for the Written Word in the UK, and the publication of ‘A New Dictionary of Art’. Her videopoetry has been awarded a special mention at the Weimar Poetry Film Award in Germany and she was a finalist for Best Production One Minute or Under at Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival 2018. Poetry films have been selected for festivals in the UK, USA, France, Germany, Ireland and Singapore.

Canoe by Kate Marshall Flaherty

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Mark Korven directs this adaptation of a poem by Kate Marshall Flaherty, one of a series of three such films supported by a grant program associated with the Georgian Bay Land Trust,

integrating [Flaherty’s] performance poetry with the original music of award-winning composer and film-maker Mark Korven […] Set against the memorable backdrop of Georgian Bay landscapes, these films will highlight the jack pines and quartz rocks of the shorelines, striving to capture in word, sound and image the unique character of this region.

Watch all three films on Korven’s Vimeo page.