I’m told that in some MFA poetry classes, budding poets are discouraged from writing about the moon. Are they also discouraged from writing about love and death, I wonder? The moon is a touchstone in almost every culture, and according to the latest science, not only was it birthed by our own planet after a fiery collision with an asteroid, but it’s known to have played an essential role in stabilizing the earth’s rotation enough to allow the evolution of life, despite its own utter lifelessness. So it seems clearer than ever that banishing the moon from poetry would be a sad and solipsistic exercise.
The fact remains, however, that modern poets need to “make it new.” Claudia Serea‘s poem at The Poetry Storehouse works precisely because it challenges the powers we have traditionally imputed to the moon, including the way we out-source our longings to it. (Read the text.)
Videopoets working with Serea’s text have a further problem, it seems to me, inasmuch as the moon — especially an unnaturally close/large one — is such a stock image in the movies, freighted with associations that may or may play well with the poem. Nic Sebastian was the first to attempt a video remix (above), using her own reading and a soundtrack by Jarred Gibb. Then Lori H. Ersolmaz made this:
And finally, here’s Jutta Pryor’s take:
Pryor’s soundtrack — my favorite of the three — uses a soundscape by Neal Ager as well as the poet’s own reading, which I prefer to Sebastian’s mainly because of her accent, which to my WASPy ears sounds more “foreign” and thus better suited to a poem in the moon’s voice. None of the filmmakers managed to avoid using footage of the moon, though Ersolmaz came the closest by turning her moon into a screen for other, earthly footage. And I liked the way Pryor made an almost Wizard of Oz-like switch from pale, seemingly moonlight images to saturated colors, extending her film into a wordless montage that serves to expand the poem outwards, suggesting possible connections between artificial light and nighttime violence.
I don’t think any of these films constitutes a definitive interpretation of the poem (if there can be such a thing), but each has something in it that I like, and after watching all three, I find myself wanting to try to write yet another poem about the moon.
This interpretation of an Eric Burke poem by Jutta Pryor is one of the most satisfying ultra-short videopoems I’ve seen. It started out as a 15-second film, then was expanded to 20 seconds to incorporate more credits at the end. Somehow, it manages not to seem rushed, and the images are allusive enough to reward multiple viewings. Pryor used music by Masonik and a recording of Burke reading his poem, the text of which originally appeared in THRUSH Poetry Journal. She also credits the POOL group, a Facebook-based (and very international) creative community.
This should be played in HD on the largest screen available.
Rarely a week goes by when I don’t post another video by the Belgian filmmaker Swoon, A.K.A. Marc Neys, but even still I barely keep up with all he’s doing. What’s even more surprising is that despite his great rate of production his poetry films continue to feel fresh, and he doesn’t cut corners in their production, sitting on each project for at least a couple of weeks before releasing it. This film is a case in point. It was already almost in the can (Do filmmakers still say that?) when I visited him back in early July, but he continued to sit with it for another month before releasing it. And he’s taking plenty of risks here. This represents, I think, his most ambitious attempt yet to develop text-on-screen as a compelling alternative to the tried-and-true voiceover approach.
Marc blogged his process notes. Some snippets:
Another episode in my explorations in combining film compositions with text on screen (see my other efforts)
This time it was a poem by Donna Vorreyer I used.
It’s not the first time I work with Donna’s words. She’s a fantastic poet with a very inspiring choice of words. Her work is perfect for these kind of works.
I picked out ‘Extermination’ from her collection ‘a house of many windows’, Sundress Publications, 2013.
Once I was sure this was going to be the poem I started searching for, filming and selecting suitable visuals. When I had about 10 minutes of material I created a soundscape with the visuals and the poem in mind:
Then came the puzzling part. Matching lines from the poem with the right footage, trying out different fonts ans sizes, placement of words… It’s a completely different way of editing.
You’re not only editing film, you’re 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.
Betsy Newman explains how she came to make this film in the YouTube description:
This video was created for the event “Saint Sebastian: From Martyr to Gay Starlet,” which was on display in fall 2011 at Friday Cottage Art Space in Columbia, South Carolina. Those who collaborated on the show, which was part of a series of events leading up to Gay Pride week in Columbia, included visual artists Leslie Pierce and Alejandro Garcia-Lemos, the poet Ed Madden, Florida-based video artist Santiago Echeverry and me, Betsy Newman. The text and inspiration for this video come from South Carolina poet Ed Madden and his poem “Red Star,” which in turn was based on [a] print by Garcia-Lemos that can be seen in the video. I think Ed described the video well when he called it “a feverish meditation on penetration” in his essay on the show in the January-February 2012 issue of The Gay and Lesbian Review.
It’s been a while since I last made a video for a Howie Good poem. When I made ‘The Killing’ last year I worked with Michael Dickes for voicing the poem. This time I wanted to work with 2 voices, so I asked Michael again and I also knocked on Nic Sebastian‘s virtual door for a reading. Both of them were willing to do a reading. Both delivered a great one.
The poem(s) I picked out for this project come from Howie Good’s book ‘The complete absence of twilight’ (MadHat Press, 2014)
I had this footage (by cinetrove) lying around for months waiting for the right words to come by. A sequence of repeated actions… You see a guy running around, being busy and mysterious but without purpose. Senseless actions, repetition, paranoia… It’s Dark City.
I combined parts of this footage (that I turned blue for a darker feel) with more colourful footage to chafe along the blue footage. I think the combination of the 2 voices and the 2 ‘storylines’ work well together.
For more about The Complete Absence of Twilight, or to order, see the publisher’s page.