I’ve been reading Mairead Byrne’s cryptic, quirky blog Heaven for some three years now, so I was excited to come across this gem of an interview on YouTube — perhaps the most perfect interview with a poet ever captured on video. The title, “The Poet’s View,” appears to be a reference to a DVD of the same name produced by the Academy of American Poets, which includes portraits of John Ashbery, Louise Glück, Anthony Hecht, Kay Ryan, and W. S. Merwin.
The video appears on Byrne’s own YouTube channel. The interviewer isn’t credited.
Poem and reading by Sylvia Plath — text here
Video by mishima1970
Another video with the same poem, this time by Jim Clark, who makes
Virtual Animated movies of great poets reincarnated through the wonders of computer animation reading their best loved poems and presented in the style of old scratchy movies.
Poem by Aaron Fagan, video by Jeffrey Texas Schell
In an article in the March/April 2009 issue of Poets & Writers — published coincidental to the launching of this website (chalk it up to zeitgeist) — Alex Dimitrov writes,
The sharing of video poems began sometime in 2005, when artists discovered YouTube as a tool through which they could easily distribute their work and reach a broad audience. Aaron Fagan, author of the poetry collection Garage (Salt Publishing, 2007), describes seeing an early video poem that “began with a line about standing in the kitchen slicing an orange, and sure enough the video showed someone standing in a kitchen slicing an orange. The literality seemed to be the pitfall this potential genre was falling into right out of the gate.”
Collaborating with his friends, visual artists Jeffrey Schell and K. Erik Ino, Fagan made several videos for poems from Garage and tried to avoid such a literal approach. One of these videos, “My Entrepreneurial Spirit,” features a collage of images, ranging from footage taken in a moving car to a woman walking on a rooftop, that cannot be explicitly traced back to the narrative of the poem but nonetheless add a rich texture of meaning. For Fagan, working with video is “yet another among many Hail Mary shots to get poetry some attention or readership,” he says.
Video by Four Seasons Productions
Most of Four Seasons’ videoems strike me as too literal and cliched in their interpretations. This is one of the few I kind of liked.
Poem and reading by T. S. Eliot (text here)
Animation by Everett Wilson, who writes:
I produced the visuals for this poem by T.S. Eliot in the fall of 2001, during my brief time in the Media program at the University of Lethbridge. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, an Animated Rendition of T.S. Eliot’s Poem” appeared in the “highlights reel” of the Melbourne International Student Animation Festival, which traveled to select universities across Australia. After receiving feedback on YouTube, I replaced the original narration with T.S. Eliot’s voice in this 2007 revision.
There are other Prufrock videos on YouTube, but this is by far the best of those I’ve seen.
Animation by Julian Grey of Head Gear Animation, produced by JWT-NY
I have to say these Billy Collins videos from JWT-NY (there are nine total; I’ll post them all eventually) are really an improvement over the straight texts. This is just a matter of personal taste, of course, but Collins’ poems tend to bore me after the first reading. The video adaptations, by contrast, invite repeated viewings. I’m sure there’s a lesson there somewhere…
Poem by Emily Dickinson:
I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air –
Between the Heaves of Storm –
The Eyes around – had wrung them dry –
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset – when the King
Be witnessed – in the Room –
I willed my Keepsakes – Signed away
What portions of me be
Assignable – and then it was
There interposed a Fly –
With Blue – uncertain stumbling Buzz –
Between the light – and me –
And then the Windows failed – and then
I could not see to see –
Video by Lynn Tomlinson. It won the Keith Clarke Prize for animation at the 1989 Ann Arbor Film Festival.
An eerie adaptation of the Emily Dickinson poem, told from after death. Created in clay-on-glass animation. This was my first film in this technique, made in 1989.
There are a number of other animations of this poem on YouTube, but none of them hold a candle to this one.
Its only major flaw is the pixelation — perhaps the artist was trying to protect her work from being ripped off. In addition to the YouTube page linked above, Tomlinson has a proper website here.
[UPDATE 11/29/09] For a much higher quality version, see the video gallery on Tomlinson’s website.
[UPDATE 2/13/12] Higher-resolution version at Vimeo swapped in (see comments).