Nationality: Ireland

Farerra by Gabriel Rosenstock

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Farerra is a selection from a rensaku (“a sequence of haiku or tanka in which the individual stanzas do not function independently,” says AHA) by the prominent Irish poet and haikujin Gabriel Rosenstock. This videopoem version by Swoon (Marc Neys) uses the first eight haiku of the sequence, and combines Rosensack’s reading in Irish Gaelic from Lyrikline with an English translation on the screen. Marc writes:

For the visuals I decided to use stills by Pyanek, who made some brilliant macro photos. He is a photographer who uses the reverse-lense technique to delve deeper into the tiny worlds that make up the world we can see with our naked eye. I thought these images expressed exactly what I was looking for to combine with Gabriel’s observations of the nature around the Catalonian Pyrenees. They both dive into our natural world and surroundings to dig underneath the surface, somehow…

I applied the same visual haiku technique (5/7/5 seconds for each image) as I did earlier and placed the English version as (sober) text on screen with each last image. The only movement is a gentle zooming in and out.

Incidentally, Marc has just launched a low-key crowd-funding campaign to support his work as a filmmaker and composer. His main editing computer just died, and he can’t afford to buy a new one without our help. If you enjoy his videopoems, please consider making a donation. As someone who often has trouble asking for help and believes in open content and open source, I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment:

I strongly believe in art being as free as possible. Unlocked. Shared and spread all over the world (real and virtual).

But I also believe that in order for artists to create and produce, their audiences need to step up and directly support them.

I’m basically stretching my comfort zone by getting out of my comfortable hermit existence to connect with you people and hold my hand out, be it virtually.

Read the rest of his appeal.

My Mother Speaks to me of Suicide by Dave Lordan

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Pádraig Burke of the production company Runaway Penguin directed and edited this filmpoem-performance video hybrid. Though some of the shots struck me as a bit too literal, they were balanced by other, more oblique images, and Dave Lordan‘s intense delivery was a good fit for the dire subject-matter of the poem. “My Mother Speaks to me of Suicide” appears in his collection The Lost Tribe of the Wicklow Mountains (Salmon Press, 2014).

Incidentally, Runaway Penguin takes its name from one of my favorite Werner Herzog scenes… which also relates, in a strange way, to the subject of Lordan’s poem.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree by William Butler Yeats

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I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey…

By situating the action of this animated short in the “pavements grey” rather than the “bee-loud glade,” director, scriptwriter and editor Don Carey was able to avoid the trap of too-literal illustration while drawing attention to the poem’s longing and suggestion of despair. The ending is brilliantly ambiguous.

According to the Vimeo description, Innisfree was “produced by the students of the animation department at the Irish School of Animation, Ballyfermot College of Further Education, 2013.” It won best animation at the 2014 Royal Television Society awards, and has been screened at several festivals, including the Cork Spring Poetry Festival, the 7th ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival in Berlin, and the Liberated Words Poetry Film Festival 2014 in Bristol (and again last week at their “Reflections” screening in Bath).

Proof: a poetic glimpse into the archives of Bloodaxe Books

A poetry film/documentary hybrid. The filmmaker, Kate Sweeney, describes it in the Vimeo description as

A poetic glimpse into the archives of the North East [UK] poetry publisher Bloodaxe Books, the contents of which were recently purchased by Newcastle University.
The film was made by artist Kate Sweeney in collaboration with poets Tara Bergin and Anna Woodford in spring 2013

Anna Woodford and Tara Bergin both held residencies at the archive. Bergin talks about her fondness for archives in a video introduction to the film. The same site (CAMPUS social network) gives a fuller explanation of how Proof came to be:

In 2013, Newcastle University acquired the archive of Bloodaxe Books, one of the most important
contemporary poetry publishers in the world. Two poets and recent PhD graduates, Anna Woodford and Tara Bergin, were asked to take a look into the as yet un-catalogued boxes to gain an initial sense of the archive’s scope and potential. To document their findings, they teamed up with artist Kate Sweeney to make a short ‘poem-film.’ They called it ‘Proof’.

“It was very strange and very interesting,” Bergin says.

The film includes guest appearances by Bloodaxe authors Gillian Allnutt, Simon Armitage, John Hegley and Anne Stevenson.

Genocide Is My Man Utd by Kevin Barrington

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Irish poet Kevin Barrington is doing interesting things with spoken-word video these days — here, with the help of filmmaker Mark Cantwell. The poem’s cynicism may be a little on the heavy side, but it works for me. (For Americans and others who may be clueless about soccer/football, “Man United” is Manchester United Football Club, one of the most successful teams in English football.)

Waking by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

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Irish poet Doireann Ní Ghríofa, composer Stephen Moore and filmmaker Peter Madden have collaborated on a powerful filmpoem dedicated to Savita Halappanavar, who died on 28 October 2012, at University Hospital Galway in Ireland, of complications from a miscarriage after the hospital refused to perform an abortion. As people around the world celebrate their real or imagined Irishness today, it might be worth remembering some of the less savory aspects of St. Patrick’s legacy — or perhaps, to put it in a more positive way, some of the figurative serpents that still remain for Patrick’s spiritual descendents to cast out of Ireland.

The poem, originally titled “Recovery Room, Maternity Ward,” may be read in Numéro Cinq, which featured the video along with this description from the poet:

My poem Waking gives voice to a woman waking up in the recovery room of a maternity hospital. At the core of this poem is the sense of disorientation, loneliness and loss that follows a miscarriage. This is an experience that is, sadly, not unfamiliar to me, personally.

I chose to dedicate Waking to the memory of Savita Halappanavar, whose appalling death while under the care of the Irish maternity system left many in shock. She was admitted to hospital while suffering a miscarriage, and despite her repeated requests to terminate her pregnancy, she was denied the procedure that would have saved her life. Savita’s death led to many protests both in Ireland and abroad, where protestors demanded a review of Irish law that prevented her from accessing the abortion that would have saved her life. I would wish nothing more for Savita than to allow her the treatment she needed in order to wake up and draw breath, and it angers and saddens me to live in a country where a woman must die in order for society to effect essential constitutional change.

I am very grateful to the talented filmmaker Peter Madden for interpreting my poem visually with a sensitivity that I believe honours those many, many women who each year suffer the pain of miscarriage in silence. The haunting soundtrack is an original musical composition by guitarist Stephen Moore that adds further depth to the collaboration.

Glaoch/Call by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

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A film adaptation by Peter Madden of a piece originally titled “Skype,” by the bilingual Irish poet Doireann Ní Ghríofa. Madden first released an English version, about which he noted: “This is basically a performance based video, Doireann simply reads the poem on skype.” Then he made Glaoch (embedded above): “Shot to the same beat as its English version ‘Call’ it varies only very slightly, echoing the changes that occur in translation.”

Both films were part of a recent feature of Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s poetry in Numéro Cinq, which includes her statement about this poem:

Glaoch/Call is a consideration of modern life and love. I am intrigued by the multiple paradoxes of contemporary life — we are more connected than ever through technology, and yet there often remains a fundamental disconnect between us, an emotional distance, a fundamental interpersonal detachment. This poem arose from dissonance between these opposing constructs, and our collaboration in film seeks to further explore this matter.

I know I don’t post nearly as many performance videos here as I could. Sometimes that’s because the poetry is too didactic (a common failing especially of spoken-word poetry, in my view), but more often than not because the filming simply isn’t imaginative enough. But this film, short as it is, proves that a talented filmmaker can transform a performance video into something wonderful — and perhaps transcend the genre altogether. This could just as easily be classed as a videopoem/filmpoem that happens to feature the poet.

Then of course there’s the pleasure of watching and hearing a poem read in another language while reading a good translation in subtitles. That’s one of the things that most interests me about poetry video in general: the way it can be used to bring the music of poetry in other languages across, at the same time helping poets who write in languages with relatively small numbers of speakers to reach a global audience.