A Moving Poems production. I uploaded this to Vimeo five months ago but never got around to sharing it here, side-tracked by my trip to Berlin for the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival a week later. And then when two of Amy Miller’s poems got made into such superlative films by Lori Ersolmaz (“Backward Like a Ghost“) and Eduardo Yagüe (“I Was Grass“), I sort of forgot about my own, more primitive effort. But I was reminded of it again by the rising tide of anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia around the world. This videopoem with its hopefully not too obvious calligraphic touches was meant as a gesture of deep respect to the aural and visual qualities of a great literary civilization.
The text is from the Poetry Storehouse and was first published in Faultline. I used some Creative Commons-licensed footage from Equiloud (Uwe Schweer-Lambers), rearranged and turned black-and-white—the colors of ink and paper. I thought Miller’s understated reading from the MP3 file at the Storehouse could carry the video without any additional sounds, especially since the poem’s all about reading. Like the insects in Equiloud’s macro shots, literate human beings are thoroughly absorbed and enmeshed in the warp of text. (In Latin, text means “woven.”)
The writer, editor and videopoet Dustin Luke Nelson also tried his hand at a remix of Miller’s text. He took a very different approach:
It’s fascinating how much variation there can be in how we see or hear a given text.
Dale Wisely has acknowledged the Belgian filmmaker Marc Neys A.K.A. Swoon as one of the major influences on his recent foray into videopoetry. Here Swoon returns the favor with a video remix of one of Wisely’s poems from The Poetry Storehouse. He shared some process notes on his blog.
I found this poem perfect for a ‘filmcomposition with txt on screen’ type of video.
First I made a re-edit of a track I made earlier to give me a nice timeframe and a ‘mood’ to work with.
For some reason I wanted animals (crawling, floating, …) in this video. Browsing different footage providers gave a good collection of jellyfish, crows, a worm, insects,…
I combined these with shots of nature, agriculture, hunting (all very moody) and tried out what lines from the poem worked best with what image. I still think it’s a fun way of ‘composing’ a videopoem.
Appropriately, my first project for 2015 returns to a subject I first wrote about in 2004. Beyond the legacy of the Nuyorican writers, I can’t fully explain the pull of the place. But when I’m there, when I’m roaming the Lower East Side, there is poetry.
And there are poets from there. Some heralded, others not so much, but I’m honored to speak this poem into existence, to them and for them. And I’m even more honored that Advocate of Wordz chose to record me reciting it at various places on the Lower East Side, including those iconic Baruch Houses at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge.
More soon, gente. For now, enjoy the poem.
Dale Wisely has been making videopoems at a great rate, playing with a variety of techniques and approaches. Here, a Babel of voices and text gradually gives way to a poem in the soundtrack and (partially) on the screen. Howie Good is one of the hardest working and most widely published poets on the internet; it’s always a pleasure to add to his archive here.
Performance poet and musician Ngoma Hill was the first person to be featured in a terrific series of web videos filmed, directed and edited by the artist and poet known as Advocate of Wordz. His Director of Wordz series—”digital films and performance art videos consisting of Spoken Word Artist, Poets, Singers, Emcees, and Storytellers”—is now up to six episodes; I’ll post more of them in the coming weeks.