The great Chilean poet Nicanor Parra died on January 23 at the age of 103, so I wanted to make a video for one of his poems as a tribute, especially since there didn’t seem to be any real videopoems or poetry films of his work on the web. I asked some fellow fans of Latin American poetry on Facebook for suggestions of poems, and “El hombre imaginario” came up. It had been translated before—by Edith Grossman, no less—but we all found her decision to depart from the plain meaning of the text in order to imitate the word order of Spanish odd and unfortunate. The Spanish poetry-filmmaker Eduardo Yagüe is a member of the group, and agreed to read the poem for the soundtrack when I mentioned I had an idea for a videopoem. I found the music—an accordion track by the composer Steven O’Brien—on Soundcloud, and the footage was something I’d downloaded from the one-person stock video channel Beachfront B-Roll a while ago.
Two different appreciations of Parra have appeared in major North American literary magazines in recent days: “Nicanor Parra, the Alpha-Male Poet” by David Unger in The Paris Review blog, and “Remembering Nicanor Parra, the Almost Immortal Chilean Poet” by Alejandro Zambra in The New Yorker.
The poem chosen for the Visible Poetry Project, “The Microwave,” is in conversation with the hypnotic, digitalized world in Taiwanese artist Chen Wan-jen’s video “The Unconscious Voyage,” in which people move across a barren landscape in loops of repetitive movement. Boundaries, scope, elegy, and apocalypse, are some of the ideas animating this poem.
It seems only appropriate that a poem prompted by a video should be made into a video in turn. Here is The Unconscious Voyage (best expanded to full screen):
I discovered recently that the Chilean poet, visual artist, and filmmaker Cecilia Vicuña has an active presence on Vimeo, with many documentary videos of her performances and installations. Here’s one by Geoffrey Jones that I quite liked.
Film by Geoffrey Jones
Cecilia Vicuña and Jane Rigler.
Four performances for sitelines, New York, 2005, sponsored by LMCC and Poet’s House.
In this performances the artist pays homage to Gloria Anzaldúa’s line “The serpent, mi tono, my animal counterpart…” (Borderlands 26).
Thus the Vimeo description. It’s actually apparently an excerpt from a longer work:
Red Coil. Video, English. 68 mins, 2005
Records four performances where Cecilia Vicuña & the flutist Jane Rigler improvise music and poetry along the Hudson River, within the context of the Sitelines Festival of New York. Filmed and edited by Geoffrey Jones.
This is — the credits tell us — a production of the San Diego State University School of Theatre, Televison, and Film. Alexander Ameen, Miles Feld and Kurt Conety jointly directed a disturbing and imaginative interpretation of Neruda’s “Clenched Soul” as translated by W.S. Merwin.
If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know how much I appreciate unlikely combinations of text and moving image. In this case, I think the filmmakers may have gone a bit too far. But the result is so entertaining, I had to share it anyway. This is the Samuel L. Jackson reading of Neruda’s poem from Il Postino. Alessio Cuomo and Sander de Nooij of ColdSun Productions, a Dutch production company specializing in documentaries, indicate on Vimeo that this was
a little video we made just to celebrate the end of summer.
We came across this footage while doing some hard disk cleaning.
For a more serious take on the poem, see Four Seasons Productions’ interpretation of “Walking Around”, which uses footage from classic silent horror films. Unfortunately, though, the reading there (by Robert Bly, I think) isn’t as good as Jackson’s here.
After all my web hosting woes of late, I think it’s safe to say that this site, at least, is back on an even keel. To celebrate, I made a video for one of my favorite poems, and Nic S. was gracious enough to upload a reading I could use to Pizzicati of Hosanna. I found the music on SoundCloud: “The Foggy Dew” on tin whistle by Chris Kent. I blogged a bit more about this at Via Negativa just now.
Moving Poems’ latest production takes advantage of a new free-audio site that other filmmakers might be interested in, too: pizzicati of hosanna: dead poets’ poems read by Nic S. in English & other languages. The footage is from Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia. I blogged all about it at Via Negativa.