I recently returned to Pennsylvania after a summer in London, and on my way out of Newark, New Jersey, I shot a brief cellphone video through the dusty window of a Greyhound bus, capturing some remarkable murals on a wall beneath a train line. After I got home and recovered from jet-lag a bit, it occurred to me that the footage might make an interesting pairing with a short poem by Luisa A. Igloria, which she’d just posted to the literary blog we share, Via Negativa. Footage shot from car, bus and (especially) train windows is of course exceedingly common in videopoetry, but I’m hoping my use of moving text saves this instance of it from cliché. I liked the juddering racket of the bus, preserving it as-is in the soundtrack even after I slowed the clip down.
This new poetry film by the always interesting Lori H. Ersolmaz is an adaptation of a poem from The Poetry Storehouse by Luisa A. Igloria, and includes the author’s own reading in the soundtrack. Ersolmaz incorporated archival footage from the newly available Pond5 Public Domain Project and sound effects from Freesound.org.
Read Lori’s process notes, “Beginning with the End in Mind,” at Moving Poems Magazine.
A text-on-screen-style videopoem by Swoon (Marc Neys) with a text from Night Willow, a 2014 collection of prose poems by Luisa A. Igloria. Back in September, Marc blogged some process notes about the video, calling it “The latest experiment in my series of videos where I re-think the relationship of image, sound, and text”.
Combining lines from the poem with the suitable footage, trying out different fonts and sizes for the text on screen, placement of words… It’s a puzzling way of editing.
I’m not only editing film anymore, I’m carefully trying to blend sound, image and text in one cut. It feels more like composing. It makes me rethink the way I worked (and still work) with audible videopoems.
These ‘film Compositions’ are meant to be played full screen and loud!
Marc talked about this style of editing in a brief interview I filmed for Moving Poems, Swoon on finding a new angle in videopoetry composition.
Happy Holidays to all Moving Poems readers/viewers. This is a joint production of Moving Poems and Via Negativa, where Luisa A. Igloria and I blog daily poems. Via Negativa began in mid-December 2003, and this time of year “when nights are longest” has always seemed full of creative possibilities to me. So I found a mysterious, dark but light-filled home move at the Prelinger Archives, selected and arranged some of the images into a composition that made sense to me, emailed the link to Luisa and asked her if she thought she could find a poem in it. Indeed she could! After a little back-and-forth about the title and opening lines, she settled on a final form for the text and sent me a reading that she recorded with her mobile phone. I found a Creative Commons-licensed sound recording on SoundCloud through my usual method of clicking on random links and trusting in serendipity: it’s a field recording by Marc Weidenbaum of Phil Kline’s “Unsilent Night” boombox procession passing a certain point in the streets of San Francisco on December 18, 2010.
Moving Poems will be taking the rest of the week off, but will be back on the 29th.
Marc Neys, A.K.A. Swoon, probably needs no introduction here. Nor was this the first time he’s ever worked with a poem by Luisa A. Igloria, though this may be my favorite of their collaborations to date. And their usual working order was reversed, because Luisa’s poem was written in response to a “first draft” of the video, one of the three prompts in the Poetry Storehouse First Anniversary Contest. Poetry judge Jessica Piazza selected Luisa’s poem as a runner-up:
In that future which pressed
ever closer toward us, time was a room
whose shape we could no longer determine.
In every city, men stood on platforms
gesticulating and making pronouncements.
Armored tanks rolled into the last
encampments, leaving tracks in the river’s
boiled mud. We knew when to flee,
what to gather up, what to leave behind.
We walked deeper into blind forests,
climbed as high as our feet allowed
up the thinned hair of trees. They let us
cocoon there, they let us make hammocks.
At night, we watched as distant flares
limned the unnavigable horizon.
At night, some of us told stories,
making shadows with our hands
to mimic the movement of wings.
Marc explained how he put together the video used in the contest:
I had footage of several Psychic TV performances by Allan Chumak. Once, I re-edited a bunch of them for a collab with another poet, but that didn’t happen. The cuts were not wasted and waited on the shelves for another occasion.
Around the time of the Poetry Storehouse contest proposals, I thought it might be a good idea to put those two pieces of footage together. For the purpose of viewing quality I added an extra layer of light and colour to the Ephemeral Rift recordings. Not really a match, but an interesting pairing.
I created a track and edited the different pieces loosely to the music, hoping it would give some writers an idea.
Luisa told us:
My writing process in response to Marc’s video, which resulted in the poem “Foretold,” was to open two screens on my computer: on the left side, Marc’s video, and on the right, the first page of a new (blank) Word document. I decided that I was going to compose—start immediately to write—as soon as the video started. Almost all of the poem’s lines were generated exactly in this manner, with very slight revisions afterwards (mostly having to do with lineation and spacing, tightening some of my word choices). In Marc’s film, the images—and their strategic juxtaposition—were immediately striking, as was his choice to strip them of sound and instead use music and ambient sound. Though I realized they may not have had anything specifically to do with each other, their pairing in the film’s sequences began to suggest an underlying narrative to me, filled with foreboding and portent. The occurrences of repetition in the film suggested that. The closeups of hands and mouths spoke to me of something both very intimate and very distant, and in some instances those mouths looked as if they could very well be on the verge of varying emotions: rage, for instance; or pleasure, or fear.
Once I got Luisa’s poem, it all came together perfectly. Suddenly these images and their pairing become very political. Nic S. provided a very suitable reading for the track. It all needed a bit of re-editing (in length and pace), but the main visual idea is still the same, but much more powerful because of Luisa’s fantastic poem.
Nic S.’s trademark focus on audiopoetry (as well her growing mastery of video remix) are really on display here as she experiments with a whispered delivery of a poem by Kristine Ong Muslim.
This is one of the latest videopoems based on material at The Poetry Storehouse, which continues to attract high-quality submissions of poetry from around the world. I strongly encourage filmmakers at all levels of expertise to make it their first stop when looking for texts to adapt to film/video.