The last Poetry Storehouse remix I’ll be featuring this week was made by Othniel Smith three months ago for a poem by Lissa Kiernan. Together with a video by Swoon that we previously shared here, it’s included on the multimedia page of a website for Kiernan’s fantastic new book, Two Faint Lines in the Violet, which I happen to be in the middle of reading. The publisher is Negative Capability Press, and when I went to check them out online, I was impressed to see that they had gone to the trouble to set up an independent website for the book. (The norm for American publishers is to have, at best, a separate page in the online catalogue, and possibly also a page for the author in some other section of their site which may or may not link to the catalogue page.) The two video embeds appear as images in a slider at the top of the page with a brief description at the bottom of each image, and when clicked, the videos are responsive, meaning they automatically resize to fit any screen. Overall, a very pleasing presentation. I hope other poetry publishers take note.
Though Othniel Smith’s interpretations of poems are sometimes too literal for me, this one has just the right degree of allusiveness (and elusiveness) for my taste. Kiernan evidently thought so too, commenting on Vimeo, “Thank you, Othniel – you brought this poem to life! Love especially the dancing feet shot, the pre-natal scene, and the final few shots.” They go on to talk about the original film that the remix borrows most of its footage from, Marriage Today (Alexander Hammid, 1950) — “certainly an interesting film coming from an experimental filmmaker on his second marriage,” Smith notes.
Incidentally, congratulations to Othniel for getting four of his Storehouse poetry films selected for screening at The Outcasting: Fourth Wall Festival in Cardiff! I like what he had to say about the importance of online resources such as The Poetry Storehouse:
Primarily a scriptwriter (e.g. “The Story Of Tracy Beaker” for CBBC), I have been making poetry films for a few years, in an attempt to enhance my skills in respect of visual story-telling. The existence of online resources such as The Internet Archive, Flickr Commons and Librivox means that there is plentiful material in the public domain for the unschooled video editor to play with. Having made films of poems by such historic figures as Shakespeare, Lord Byron, Emily Dickinson and R.S. Thomas, I was delighted to discover The Poetry Storehouse. This has given me the opportunity to apply my imagination to the work of contemporary poets, and to obtain their feedback which has, thus far, been largely positive.
Although it may seem to some regular visitors that I post videos from The Poetry Storehouse too often, in reality, I don’t post them nearly often enough, given the glut of good videos landing there these days, and I’m getting rather far behind as a result. Case in point: Nic Sebastian uploaded this remix of a poem by Jessie Carty a full month ago. This is a beautiful remix, I thought, and it seems especially appropriate for Carty to join the ranks of the envideoed at the Poetry Storehouse given her history as editor of the groundbreaking YouTube-based literary magazine Shape of a Box.
With all the vacations Moving Poems has been taking, I’ve fallen behind on the 12 Moons videopoetry collaboration between Erica Goss (words), Marc Neys/Swoon (concept, camera and directing), Kathy McTavish (music) and Nic Sebastian (voice). As usual, it debuted online at Atticus Review. This is the 8th moon. Neys called Goss’ text
A powerful poem that needed enough room (I love the line ‘Give it your blood, one drop at the time’) to breathe.
One storyline of images (very close to the poem) in black and white was more than enough against the beautiful reading & soundtrack by Nic and Kathy.
I personally love this one and think it’s the perfect showcase of what the collaborative and creative powers of four individuals can lead up to.
Atticus Review doesn’t seem to have an archive for just the 12 Moons series (apart from its Mixed Media category, whose RSS feed I strongly recommend adding to one’s feed reader subscriptions). But click on the 12 Moons tag to view all eight posted so far at Moving Poems.
A video collaboration between Michael Dickes (concept, camera) and Marc Neys/Swoon (editing, music) featuring the words and voice of Gessy Alvarez, with some additional footage from the Prelinger Archives and an appearance by a young actor, Ava Dickes.
One fascinating thing about this collaboration is that Michael Dickes’ original edit, with substantially the same images and the identical soundtrack, is also on Vimeo. Comparing them gives a sense of his and Neys’ different approaches to videopoetry:
I find Dickes’ approach a little less high-brow (for lack of a better term; I’m afraid I’m not a very sophisticated critic) but still reasonably subtle and nuanced. Left completely to his own devices, I’m not sure Neys would’ve included yolk imagery for a poem that so prominently features egg yolks, but to me as a viewer, seeing imagery of some of the things mentioned in a lyric text is not an annoyance as long as the film avoids out-right, narrative-style illustration. Plus, of course, it’s striking footage, which I gather is part of what made Neys so willing to take on the project. Here’s what he blogged about it:
La Curandera is a text by Gessy Alvarez that first appeared in here.
Some time ago Michael Dickes asked me to help him out with a soundtrack for a video he was going to make. I used Gessy’s reading and came up with this track: [SoundCloud embed]
Last week Michael came up with his video for this track. I liked it and I especially loved the structure and the colour of the yolk he had filmed. He asked if I was up for my own edit.
Yes. He provided [me] with all the source material he had used and I played around with the same concept. Concentrating the visual storylines on the yolk, baby, girl, woman.
I had such fun just editing. Cooking’s fun with the right ingredients…
The next issue of Awkword Paper Cut should be out soon, I’m guessing, so we’ll get to see how Dickes presents the two videos. In the meantime, it’s worth mentioning that APC has a well-curated channel on Vimeo, which showcases poetry films along with some other videos of literary interest. Check it out.
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.