Nationality: United States

Sundowning by Matt Mullins

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A collaboration between Marc Neys and Matt Mullins, who writes:

Alzheimer’s/Dementia includes a phase called sundowning during which the afflicted cannot shake the sense that there is somewhere else they must be, regardless of where they are. This includes the need to go “home” even if one is already home. The videopoem comments on this condition even as it comments on how Alzheimer’s/Dementia takes the sufferer “away” from loved ones while that loved one is still in their presence.

Editing original footage/Music: Swoon (Marc Neys)

Direction/Poem/Recitation/Audio-Visual Composition: Matt Mullins

In the Circus of You (four poems) by Nicelle Davis

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Cheryl Gross’ animated films for poems by Nicelle Davis are the focus of this month’s Swoon’s View column by Marc Neys at Awkword Paper Cut. I realized I’d never shared In the Circus of You, so this seemed a good opportunity to do so. Neys writes:

You want to take your time with these. The poetry is clear and Nicelle’s voice works smoothly with the music. At first I thought these were too literal, yet I couldn’t stop watching them over and over again. Cheryl’s illustrations are just stunning and they allow the audience to comprehend and recognize the significance of the words. But it’s the way she weaves drawing after drawing combined with typography around the soundtrack that reels you in. You feel surrounded by the images, overwhelmed by each pen stroke. The drawings appear to be simple, but are alive and full of detail.

In the Circus of You serves a dual purpose as a poetry film and a trailer for a poetry collection of the same name, with animations of four of its poems: “Down the Trapeze of Bird Bones,” “The Clown in My Gut,” “I Know How to Bark,” and “Entering the Big Top of the Self Requires Help.” According to a page at the author’s website,

In the Circus of You morphs cultural clichés into living language again. This collection deals with themes of sanity, motherhood, monogamy, creative impulse, appropriation, and self-creation to create a sideshow of abnormalities that define what it is to be human. Poet Nicelle Davis and illustrator Cheryl Gross create a grotesque peep-show that opens the velvet curtains on the beautiful complications of life. The poems and images in this collection create a novel in verse where dead pigeons talk, clowns hide it the chambers of the heart, and the human body turns itself inside out to born again as a purely sensory creature.

This circus will be brought to you by the good people at Rose Metal Press in Spring of 2014.

Worm Moon by Erica Goss

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This is Part III of 12 Moons, the collaborative videopoetry project from Erica Goss (text), Nic Sebastian (voice), Kathy McTavish (music) and Marc Neys, A.K.A. Swoon (music, concept, camera, and direction) for Atticus Review:

12 Moons is an artwork combining poetry, voice, music and video. Twelve poems written by Erica Goss form the narrative. The poems move through a year of full moons, reflecting the hidden influence of the moon on one person’s life. Kathy McTavish’s original music adds complexity to Nic Sebastian’s intense and compelling narration, framed by Swoon’s precise editing of sound and image, which creates a miniature universe for each poem within the context of the project.

Marc writes:

It’s a fun, yet slightly mysterious poem. I wanted simple footage, bright colours and ‘wormlike’ movement and I found some (shadows shot while hiking).
Just as with the first 2, I wanted the ending to turn away from the visual storyline.

Fun news about the project; Erica Goss and I will present the whole project (all 12) during an artist talk at the Zebra Poetry Film Festival in Berlin later this year.

Among Barmaids by Paula Bohince

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American poet Paula Bohince took second prize in the 2013 National Poetry Competition from the U.K.’s Poetry Society with “Among Barmaids,” interpreted elegantly by filmmaker Idil Sukan in a commission by Filmpoem and Felix Poetry Festival.

From the National Poetry Competition judges: ‘There was a metal door that took both hands/ of a strong man to open’ – so begins this taut, impressive poem, going on to say that the barmaids did this daily, then ruled benignly the enclosed world ‘sealed in submarine darkness’ behind the door. With remarkable economy, the poem manages to construct an extremely detailed picture of the rituals of the bar-room, the lives of the barmaids – whose tattooed skin bears the history of ex-lovers and drugged-out children – and the lives of the drinkers ‘who wore their trade on their fingers – coal or dirt or grease’, and who played songs on the jukebox about cheating women. The voice of the poem speaks in the first person plural, like a Greek chorus. Perhaps this is what lends the poem its power – the directness of the choral tone, the precision of the detail, the staccato delivery. The choral voice delivers an incantation of great warmth in a cold place. This is brought home in the final image of the children brought to the bar by the men, when their wives needed peace, to be spun on a make-believe dance-floor by the ministering barmaids, trying to turn ‘despair into a party’. {Matthew Sweeney}

For the text of the poem, see the Poetry Society website.

Love on a Night Like This by Josephine Abbott

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A Kate Sweeney film, commissioned by Filmpoem and the Felix Poetry Festival in association with the Poetry Society. This is one of three films for the winners of the Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition 2013.

From the National Poetry Competition judges: ‘This poem, built on motion, powerfully presents the balancing act of loving another human being. It depicts both the simplicity and enormity of that act, and our powerlessness in the face it, reduced as we are to “sea-birds in the teeth of a gale.” We loved the atmosphere and detail – that plastic pot skittering on a path, birds “made helpless as plastic bags”… This is a poem in which the personal and universal, the minute and the enormous, do more than co-exist: they are one and the same thing.’ {Julia Copus}

For a bio of Josephine Abbott and the text of the poem, see the Poetry Society website.

Eventually you will be dead but today you are not by Steve Roggenbuck

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One recent addition to the Links page that’s proving especially useful in expanding my horizons is a Blogspot site from Laura Theobald, a poetry MFA student at Louisiana State University: irreducible: a study on the concept and genre of poetry film. Among other things, she’s led me to take another look at Steve Roggenbuck, who must be one of the most prominent videopoets not to have been featured on Moving Poems so far, for the simple reason that I find him annoying as hell. I realize the annoyingness (which includes intentional misspelling) is all part of his sincerely ironic, internet-savvy schtick; but since most of his videos are hand-held, vlog-style spoken word pieces, they also haven’t held my interest aesthetically. This one, however, incorporates some found video of subjects other than the poet’s face. As Theobald puts it:

This poetry-video, titled “Eventually you will be dead but today you are not,” is a good example of Roggenbuck’s poetry-film aesthetic: a handheld camera is pointed by the poet directly at himself in close-up, often off-centered, partially out-of-frame, walking outdoors, “in nature”; ambient music accompanies the entirety of the film; Roggenbuck speaks directly into the camera; and the film is heavily edited, with short, quick intervals between shots. The overall tone is high-energy, full of impact, intense. In the case of this particular film, shots of the poet speaking into the camera are interlaced with “found” (appropriated) images from popular films and videos (“Independence Day,” “Air Bud,” Rebecca Black’s viral video for “Friday,”) and audio clips of motivational speakers—these images coincide with the poet’s “textual” references to popular culture: “Carlos Mencia,” “The Rock,” “Will Smith,” “Bagel Bites,” etc.

Like most of Roggenbuck’s videos, this one raises a number of questions about its terms. Roggenbuck has published three books/e-books of poetry that themselves push the boundaries of ideas about poetry by making the same sort of moves that we see in this video: by making pop-culture references (Justin Bieber), by using “internet speech,” jokes, and witticisms, and an “internet-y” conversational tone. None of these factors are, alone, groundbreaking, but, together, as we see in the video, they form an end product that somehow breaks from our traditional (or even nontraditional) understanding of poetry. In his videos, the characteristics that define Roggenbuck’s written works are intensified by the fact that Roggenbuck seems to be improvising the lines of the “poems” that he speaks into the camera. Whether or not he does in fact improvise, I don’t know for sure. I suspect (from interviews, blog posts, and the quality of the content) that some time is spent rehearsing or planning the scenes he films. Regardless, the videos seem to challenge collective notions about poetry, as Roggenbuck himself seems to recognize—specifically in his video “am i even a poet anymore?” Explicitly here Roggenbuck seems to raise a number of questions about poetry and literature and to dismiss conventional means of disseminating literature as outdated. He advocates, instead, a broader view of literary activities.

Read the rest of Theobald’s post (which also includes an analysis of a Kate Greenstreet film). Whatever else might be said about Roggenbuck, his work certainly represents a sort of apotheosis of the selfie culture. I’m sure this won’t be the last time I’ll be featuring it here.

Spiegel / Mirror by Sylvia Plath

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Plath’s poem, translated into Dutch by Lucienne Stassaert, is read by Swoon (Marc Neys) as part of the soundtrack for this impressionistic new film (for which he has helpfully also supplied English subtitling). “It’s dark, anything but clear (like a mirror), full of fleeting spirits,” he writes.

Marc seems to be going through an unusually productive period right now, so I may be posting two Swoon videopoems a week until I catch up.