Nationality: Russia

The Hair of Literature by George Uallick and Zhanna Shibalo

A videopoem by the Russian Latvian collective Orbita (“Orbit”), made in 2001—I assume on videotape—and uploaded to Vimeo six months ago. Artur/Artūrs Punte and Diana Palijchuk are credited with making the video, the text is by George Uallick and Zhanna Shibalo, and The Trilobitum Coitus supplied the music. I love the fast-paced, playful energy here, making me re-play it multiple times despite not feeling that I entirely understand it. The main thing is, it’s fun and imaginatively shot and edited, and I remain intrigued.

One of my favorite poetry publishers, Brooklyn-based Ugly Duckling Presse, came out with an excellent bilingual anthology, Hit Parade: The ORBITA Group, in 2015. You can read Kevin M.F. Platt’s introduction, along with several of his translations, online at Deep Baltic. Here’s an excerpt that may or may not shed light on what exactly Uallick and Shibalo mean by “pits overgrown with ancestors” and “the hair of literature”:

Paradoxically, while they eschew nostalgia for the Soviet past, the poets of Orbita are the actual heirs to the legacy of cutting edge and experimental culture characteristic of Latvia in the last Soviet decades. Orbita is an intentionally trans-ethnic and trans-linguistic phenomenon. And this is one of the keys to its success: theirs is an avant-garde of cosmopolitan hybridity. In distinction from the majority of Russian cultural production of the Baltic region, these poets transcend marginality and provincialism by forming a literary bridge between ethnic enclaves, languages, and cultures.

Read the rest.

Note: Long-time readers of Moving Poems may recall that I uploaded an earlier, lower-resolution YouTube version of this video back in 2011. Rather than simply edit that post, I decided to delete it and post afresh so others can enjoy re-watching it as much as I did.

Semechki (Семечки) by Eta Dahlia

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Be sure to click the CC icon for English subtitles.

A fascinating collaboration between Russian poet and filmmaker Eta Dahlia and UK poet and artist Iris Colomb. It grew out of a residency at the Center for Recent Drawing, one of “a series of experimental translations of Eta Dahlia’s minimalist Russian poems into gestural drawings,” Colomb writes, which were

entirely process-led. I made use of my limited knowledge of Russian, allowing me to experience the poems phonetically without semantic bias. Translating the poems’ sounds into gestures became the basis of my systemic approach.

I listened to each poem repeatedly for an hour, interpreting each sound as a separate movement tracing a line. Throughout this process my repetitive gestural sequences produced an increasingly intricate network of lines, generating a tightly layered shape. My movements evolved with each iteration, the drawing itself exposing their range.

The resulting compositions became complex maps of my changing perception; areas and textures displaying different levels of conviction and doubt, making these drawings both translations and documents of performance.

The video was featured in 3:AM Magazine last September as part of their Duos series.

Сонг / Song by Eta Dahlia

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Click the closed captioning (CC) icon to read the English subtitles.

An author-made videopoem by Eta Dahlia, who notes in the Vimeo description:

Song (Сонг) is part of an album of thirteen compositions called Tsvetochki (Цветочки). The video poem aims to create a new type of poetic language, integrating spoken word with moving image and not merely echoing or illustrating the spoken word with visuals.

Eta Dahlia is

A London based Russian film maker and video-poet. I am part of the No Such Thing collective.

Life, Life by Arseny Tarkovsky

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It’s always fascinating to see how different poetry-film makers will deploy the same text. In his film, Cameron Michael juxtaposes the dreamy text and soundtrack with time-lapse shots of New York City, while in Exiles, Bangladeshi director Amirul Rajiv uses black-and-white footage of a vast Rohingya refugee camp. Which is a better fit? How does our understanding of the poem change from one film to the other?

Poetry-film fans should recognize the name Arseny Tarkovsky: his son, the great Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, included his father’s poems in some of his most memorable scenes. Here, the title poem from Virginia Rounding’s recent volume of English translations comes to us via an album by the film composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, which he offered up for an international short film competition earlier this year. Here’s how the website No Film School described it:

The composer behind ‘The Revenant’ has teamed up with Apichatpong Weerasethakul to give out awards totaling $5,000 cash.

This past spring, Ryuichi Sakamoto released his album async, which he described as a “soundtrack for an imaginary Andrei Tarkovsky film.” Today, he announced the async Short Film Competition, in which he asks filmmakers to create a movie around his music.

The short films will be judged by Sakamoto and acclaimed filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives). In addition, one filmmaker will be given an “Audience Award” based on the following method: One point for every time the submitted film is played on Vimeo; 10 points for every “like” on Vimeo; and 10 points for every “like” on Facebook by September 30th, 2017.

Sakamoto will decide on a winner based on the following criteria:

  • Originality
  • Creativity
  • Unique expression of the relationship between the music and the images
  • The general appeal of the film

[…]

Apichatpong will decide on a winner based on the following criteria:

  • Originality
  • Creativity
  • The general appeal of the film

Links to all the films entered in the competition are currently on the front page of Sakamoto’s website. You can see more film interpretations of this poem by doing a Google video search for Arseny Tarkovsky “Life, Life”.

ПИЛИГРИМЫ / Pilgrims by Joseph Brodsky

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Pilgrims is “a short film based on the poem of the same name by Russian-American Nobel Prize winning poet Joseph Brodsky,” performed, directed, cinematography by John Doan. Click the CC icon for subtitles in Russian, German, French, or English. The synopsis on Vimeo reads:

Poet alone with his thoughts and feeling tries to find answers to life’s greatest questions. Where is this world going? What is real and what is illusory? Where can one find salvation and peace? Will his inner pilgrimage come to an end?

In addition to his other roles, Doan was also the English translator here; the music is by Moby. Visit the Facebook page for more information on the film.

На заре – наимедленнейшая кровь / At dawn – quiet blood by Marina Tsvetaeva

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A poem by the great Marina Tsvetaeva in a film directed by Natalia Alfutova. Be sure to click the CC icon for the English translation by Tony Brinkey. Anastasia Somova (Anastasia Somique) and Artem Tkachenko are the actors, Valeria Ordinartseva co-wrote the script with Alfutova, and Mikael Hamzyan was the cameraman.

Послушайте / Please listen! by Vladimir Mayakovsky

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This wonderfully disturbing film by Natalia Alfutova was recognized by the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival 2016 jury as a Special Mention for the Goethe Film Prize. Be sure to click the closed captioning (CC) icon for the English translation. Here’s the description from the ZEBRA website:

The Dummy and its mirror-reflection are in the waiting room of God. They mimic the Human-talk and the God dancing.

Natalia Alfutova
was born in Moscow and studied Mathematics at the Moscow State University, movie directing at ‘Higher Director’s Courses’ Moscow,, and multimedia art at The Rodchenko Art School (Moscow). In 2014 she founded “Mediamead” art studio. Artworks of this studio are based on the mix of math, cinema and multimedia art. In last two years Natalia made a number of installations, which were shown in different Moscow Museums and art places.

Much to my own surprise, this is the first Mayakovsky poem I’ve ever shared a video for. I was sure I must’ve found others over the years, but apparently not.