Nationality: United States

St. Umbilicus by Cindy St. Onge

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Portland, Oregon-based poet Cindy St. Onge is no stranger to Moving Poems, but mostly as the maker of her own videos. This one’s the work of Australian filmmaker Marie Craven, herself a Moving Poems regular, and I love the way she both literalized and extended the poem at the same time. She posted some process notes on her blog last May which are worth quoting in full:

‘St. Umbilicus’ is from a poem by Cindy St. Onge, and is one of my shorter video pieces. As well as a poet, Cindy is a maker of videopoems I admire. She also gave her voice to the soundtrack of this video. This is the second video I’ve made from Cindy’s poetry. The first was ‘Double Life‘. The collaboration was closer on ‘St. Umbilicus’ and grew out of personal chats we had recently on Facebook and via email. These led to me expressing an interest in collaborating further, to which Cindy agreed. The poem is about the navel and its bodily reminder of our connection to our mother. To express this, I chose a very close, still image of a navel to be a ‘frame’ for a series of central images featuring mothers and children. The still image, which rotates slightly throughout the piece, was found on creative commons licence at Flickr. The artist is Linnéa Sjögren. The moving images contained within it are from ‘Scenes at the Beach Club‘, a 1927 home movie from the Prelinger Archives. I selected historic images here to emphasise the timelessness of the theme. Music is by Chris Zabriskie, his ‘Prelude No. 12’ from the ‘Preludes’ album.

Shoes Without Feet by Caroline Rumley

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“After the chaos of the Nazi march in Charlottesville, one key voice is hapless,” reads the description of this 2017 film by filmmaker/poet Caroline Rumley. She notes further that it was “Created in response to this photo, which eventually won a Pulitzer: [link].” Stevie Ronnie drew attention to it in his report from the 2018 ZEBRA festival as one of the stand-out films there for him. It was also screened at the 2107 Ó Bhéal and Filmpoem festivals.

American Arithmetic by Natalie Diaz

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At the National Museum of the American Indian,
68 percent of the collection is from the U.S.
I am doing my best to not become a museum
of myself. I am doing my best to breathe in and out.
I am begging: Let me be lonely but not invisible.

Mohammed Hammad‘s polyvocalic film of a poem by Natalie Diaz — the first of two of her poems included in Motionpoems‘ Season 8, “Dear Mr. President” — is everything a socially engaged poetry film should be, giving the viewer a powerful sense of the political and cultural contexts from which the poem emerged. There’s a very good interview with Hammad in Director’s Notes; here’s a snippet:

How did your conceptualization of Natalie Diaz’s poem evolve from an initially abstract narrative to its current form and how do you feel the use of portraiture and mixed format cinematography strengthened your interpretation of the poem?

I initially had a visual treatment that was more abstract and super ambitious production-wise relative to the budget we were working with. Part of the initial concept was to film portraits of residents of the reservations. After much consideration and a push from my producers, we decided it would be best to have the film feature portraits of indigenous people living in a city to better relate to Natalie Diaz’s depiction. We felt it would create moments of intimacy that would contextualize the statistics mentioned in the poem.

I felt that the camcorder footage would add that extra layer of intimacy between the film and the viewer, to show a more intimate perspective of the illuminating conversations happening behind the scenes.

From its opening moments, American Arithmetic’s soundtrack is peppered with a multitude of vocal fragments discussing the hostile environment encountered by the Native American community. Could you tell us more about the process of building the film’s soundtrack?

The more I embraced the portraiture treatment of the film, the more the pieces of the puzzle came together more, especially with regards to the audio part of the film. It just made sense to add snippets of our subjects’ interviews and to weave together a collection of reflections, each contributing to the conversation on what it’s like to be a Native person in America today.

Read the rest. And do read Diaz’s poem in its original form on the Motionpoems page.

Visions of Snow by R.W. Perkins

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For those of us in the middle of a snowy winter, it can fun to recall how we think of winter the rest of the year. This is one of three “micro film-poems” released by Colorado-based poet and filmmaker R.W. Perkins last July in Atticus Review. It went on to be selected for the ZEBRA and Rabbit Heart poetry film festivals in the fall. The artist statement reads:

Much of life comes down to the simple things, small in nature but complicated in terms of the inner workings of the mind. Most of my work centers around the effortless red-letter moments of life, where the heart seems to linger. I create poetic snapshots of the past facing the present in a subtle attempt to draw attention to where we are culturally at this moment in our history. My poetry and films harken back to my Texas roots and friends and family in rural Colorado, bringing a touch of surrealism to my small town recollections, highlighting the occasions that seem to bind us emotionally and culturally.

I Long to Hold the Poetry Editor’s Penis in My Hand by Francesca Bell

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Rattle is one of the most widely circulated print literary journals in the U.S., and I’ve always admired its website as well. So I was very interested to see it venture into poetry film production last month, partnering with Mike Gioia and Blank Verse Films to make a film out of Francesca Bell‘s popular, sardonic poem from Rattle‘s Summer 2013 issue. Featuring the poet as an actor seems like a nearly inevitable choice for this poem, but it really works well.

The YouTube description suggests that this will be a monthly thing: “Rattle magazine presents episode one of their new video series ‘A Poet’s Space’. This month…” So that’s really good news.

Poem (I lived in the first century of world wars) by Muriel Rukeyser

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Julia VanArsdale Miller of Manual Cinema directed this affecting film, which includes shadow puppets, live actors, and animation by Lizi Breit. Here are the full credits.

In this startling animation of Muriel Rukeyser’s “Poem (I lived in the first century of world wars),” two lives unfold in split screen, one during the tumultuous world events of 1968, the other 50 years later against a new landscape of uncertainty and ever-present digital technology.

The film was produced by the Poetry Foundation just last year, part of a new focus on poetry videos on their website, which I was excited to discover recently. When I started this website ten years ago, the Poetry Everywhere series of animations produced by the Poetry Foundation (in association with docUWM at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) was one of the major caches of poetry animations on YouTube, and though they were made by university students and therefore not as sophisticated as the series of Billy Collins animations that had been produced by JWTNY a few years earlier, they were plentiful and my standards were low, so they had a lot to do with turning Moving Poems from a short-term gallery into a long-term blog. I’d always hoped that the Poetry Foundation would devote more of its considerable endowment to producing poetry films some day. It looks as if that day might finally be here.

New Arctic by Allain Daigle

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The latest issue (#155) of Triquarterly came out on January 14, opening as usual with a section of video essays/cinepoems, including this one by Allain Daigle, which is described as a cinepoem on Vimeo but labeled a video essay on the website. His bio at the latter location reads:

Allain Daigle is a PhD candidate in Media, Cinema, and Digital Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is currently writing his dissertation, which historicizes the industrialization of lens production between the late 19th century and the 1920s. His work has appeared in Film History, [in]Transition, The Atlantic, and TriQuarterly.

In “An Introduction to Video Essays” in TQ 155, Sarah Minor writes,

Using a style that sets high-quality footage to the pace of slow breathing, Allain Daigle’s “New Arctic” thinks about the future of our planet without using images of landscape. In this project, Daigle shows us a house being built from the inside: industrial lighting, radio waves, breaths that rise in parcels. He asks us to consider the changes “our skin doesn’t notice” that mean our children will “dream about icebergs,” because “the new Arctic,” of course, is an oxymoron.

The videos in this suite trick us into seeing three familiar technologies in unfamiliar ways. Each piece showcases the variety of formats, structures, and new media that today’s literary videos might take on.

Read the rest… and then watch the other two videos.