My latest Moving Poems production remixes a translation I made of a poem by the great, 20th-century Mexican writer Rosario Castellanos with footage of a performance art piece. I found the latter on Videezy: two clips licensed CC0, i.e. public domain, but I still think it’s important to acknowledge the original director, Derek Alan Rowe—especially since I made so few changes to his clips—as well as the artist/performer, Stephanie Leathers. In place of the original soundtrack, which was more atmospheric, I hit on the idea of using a tango (for hopefully obvious reasons), and found a Creative Commons-licensed one on SoundCloud that I liked by an Iranian musician named Roozbeh Fallah. As usual, my tools were basic: Magix Movie Edit Pro and Audacity.
Veracruz poet Juan Hernández Ramírez reads the first section of his prizewinning poem “Chikome Xochitl” in the Huastecan Nahuatl. Translated by Adam Coon with David Shook from both Huastecan Nahuatl and Spanish—Hernández’s creative process employs both in dialogue with one another—this poem and an accompanying note will appear in the print edition of World Literature Today (Jan. – Feb. 2014). […]
Video shot in Veracruz by Adam Coon. Subtitled in Los Angeles by David Shook. Poem © Juan Hernández Ramírez, 2013. Translation © Adam Coon and David Shook, 2013.
The complete poem appears in the anthology Like A New Sun: New Indigenous Mexican Poetry, edited by Víctor Terán and David Shook (Phoneme Media, 2015). It may also be read online in World Literature Today, which includes a lengthier description of Ramírez’ writing and the translation process.
See Vimeo for more of David Shook’s videos of indigenous and other poets.
This is Platillo Puro, Spanish director Bruno Teixidor‘s “homenaje en videoarte al poeta hispano-mexicano Tomás Segovia” (homage in videoart to the Spanish-Mexican poet Tomás Segovia). He’s released both color (above) and black-and-white versions. Be sure to click the “CC” icon at the bottom to read the English subtitles—the work of translators Gabriela Lendo and Lucas Laursen, who were close friends of the poet. Also, be advised that the film contains full frontal nudity, so watch with discretion.
The title literally means pure dish, but Bruno told me in an email that it’s from a Segovia poem in which platillo refers to the pan on a balance scale. The voice on the soundtrack is Segovia’s, cinematography is by Thiago Moraes, and the actors are Leila Amat and Rafael de Labra. The two poetry selections are separated by a short statement from the poet about his relationship to the literature world as the credits roll, setting us up for the excerpt from “Anti-Yo” at the very end. All in all, a very effective homage, I thought.
Spanish director Eduardo Yagüe‘s stunning interpretation of a poem by the early 20th century Mexican poet Amado Nervo, for which I was pleased to be able to contribute the English translation. Pablo Barrangán and Gabriella Roy act. The music is by archiv ev noise.
Eduardo shared some notes on his process:
This year it was my intention to challenge myself to make at least one video with text on the screen. That might be seen as a slight challenge, but not for me. I consider it very difficult to insert the text on the screen at the same time that one is watching the images and not feel lost with the sense of the poem and the images. This is my first video with the text on the screen since Green Stones in the House of Night, where the poems appeared in a very different way.
My inspiration for inserting the text here is the style that Marc Neys (aka Swoon) uses in his videos—neat, clean, precise. I also wanted to maintain the rhythm of the reading in order to not lose the sense of the poem, so here I tried to make a slow but continuous reading of the poem by Amado Nervo. The reason I didn’t use the periods, commas and exclamation marks from the original text is that I felt that they would disturb the cleanness I was looking for, after consulting with Dave Bonta, the translator. I consider this a poetic license.
Thanks to Dave for suggesting I pick one of the translations that he and many others talented translators are making of great poets from Latin America in the Facebook group Poetry from the Other Americas and on Via Negativa. I chose the poem by Amado Nervo in the first place because I prefer to work with short texts now, and also because I found in “Ofertorio” a way of continuing my investigations of religious symbols and themes that I started in my video Consideraciones sobre la luz, based on a poem by Laura M. Kaminski.
I am not obsessed with Catholic imagery but I find it interesting, and I tried to make suggestions with it, trying to renew my vision of it, not being sexually explicit as that could be the easy way. I don’t know if I hit my target, but that was my goal. As inspiration, I used what in Spain are called “Estampas de la Virgen”—those little pictures of the Virgin Mary with a prayer in them.
Other thing I wanted to do in this video was include both texts, English and Spanish, in the same video, rather than making two different videos as I have been doing with my remixes from The Poetry Storehouse, and divide the video into two related parts, using an actor and an actress. I always imagine big scenes while I am preparing the recordings, but I know that at the end I have to adjust my wishes of a grand production to what I actually can do, and that is a beautiful process of searching for simplicity.
I hope you enjoy the result.
I made this video for a new series I’ve started at the literary blog Via Negativa, “Poetry from the Other Americas.” Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz is one of the greatest poets of the last 500 years, and it bothered me that I didn’t have anything of hers at Moving Poems yet. Luck was on my side, because (as is often the case with me) I shot the meadow footage without knowing how I’d use it. Then a few days later I found the translation in my files and the proverbial light bulb went off. Since this is a “green” poem, I suppose we should imagine an LED light. But as I said in my process notes at Via Negativa, verde or green has all kinds of connotations, including some that Sor Juana couldn’t have imagined in 1688, and I think it’s fine to suggest some of them in a contemporary videopoem. Through the choice of fonts and music, I tried to bridge the gap between the 17th and 21st centuries.
I also did something a little out of the norm for films/videos of poems in translation: I put the original language into subtitles and a reading of the translation in the soundtrack. To me, this approach makes sense if the primary audience is people who need the translation to understand the poem. Though I personally find reading subtitled movies very easy, I’m told that a lot of people have trouble with it, and in any case, most traditional poetry makes its strongest appeal to the ear, not to the eye. On the other hand, people in the target audience with hearing disabilities will not be well served by this approach.
The black-and-white footage is sourced from two television ads produced in the 1960s, found via the invaluable Prelinger Archives. The music is also in the public domain, courtesy of MusOpen. Thanks to Luisa A. Igloria for the terrific reading.