The deeply clever and always entertaining American poet Albert Goldbarth meets his match in director Chris Jopp. This is one of Motionpoems’ latest releases (click through for the text of the poem), and it was “made possible through a partnership with Graywolf Press.” Supplemental materials on the Motionpoems website include interviews with Goldbarth and Jopp by Rosemary Davis. I particularly liked this last bit of the latter:
MOPO: Have you done any collaborations like this before? What was it like to work with Albert?
JOPP: I have not collaborated with poets before. After hearing Albert did not own a computer, I thought about calling him. I then heard, that he was a fan of letters so I decided to write him a letter through the mail. I always feel like I can communicate better through text anyhow and this was a way to more thoughtfully pick his brain without the nerve-racking reality of this award winning poet breathing on the opposite end of the telephone. In fact, I think our “analog” correspondence influenced the way I made the film. I wanted it to feel genuine and authentic, and something about sending and receiving actual inked letters through the mail made me stick to that idea.
Albert was very receptive through the whole conceptual process and then sort of handed me the reigns and was like, “Alright, you have my thoughts and concerns, and think I trust you, so GO FOR IT!” So now I’m just following my own intuition! He said, at the screening he’d either shake my hand or punch me in the nose. Hopefully, the first.
MOPO: What has this project done for you? Learn anything?
JOPP: It has changed the way I think about poetry.
This is a fascinating experiment: a poetry book trailer of sorts that’s also a collage videopoem by another poet, Rachel Eliza Griffiths. Here’s the description from Vimeo:
A visual poem based upon the poetry collection of the same title, “Woman Without Umbrella”, by Victoria Redel. Published by Four Way Books, 2012. The visual poem incorporates various spoken lines gathered from the poet’s collection and employs associative thematic imagery inspired by Redel’s work.
Directed/Edited by Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Associate Producer: Joseph A.W. Quintela
Make-Up Artist: Cassi Renee
Narrator: Gabriel Don
Kudos to Redel and Four Way Books for giving permission for such an innovative remix.
Spanish director Eduardo Yagüe used a still image of Camille Claudel (“Camille Claudel à 20 ans” by César D.R.) as well as his own footage and music by Four Hands Project in this film of a poem by Kathleen Kirk from the Poetry Storehouse. The poem also appears in Kirk’s chapbook, Interior Sculpture: poems in the voice of Camille Claudel (Dancing Girl Press, 2014).
Yagüe has made not one, but two films based on this poem. They couldn’t be more different. Here’s the other one:
The translation is Yagüe’s own. The music this time is by archiv ev noise. Broken Figure was filmed in October 2014 in Stockholm, while Figura Rota was filmed the following month in Madrid. I wonder to what extent the different locations and languages may have helped produce such divergent results. But perhaps the real marvel is how the two films nevertheless exist in dialogue with each other in something approaching an apotheosis of translation.
Happy Holidays to all Moving Poems readers/viewers. This is a joint production of Moving Poems and Via Negativa, where Luisa A. Igloria and I blog daily poems. Via Negativa began in mid-December 2003, and this time of year “when nights are longest” has always seemed full of creative possibilities to me. So I found a mysterious, dark but light-filled home move at the Prelinger Archives, selected and arranged some of the images into a composition that made sense to me, emailed the link to Luisa and asked her if she thought she could find a poem in it. Indeed she could! After a little back-and-forth about the title and opening lines, she settled on a final form for the text and sent me a reading that she recorded with her mobile phone. I found a Creative Commons-licensed sound recording on SoundCloud through my usual method of clicking on random links and trusting in serendipity: it’s a field recording by Marc Weidenbaum of Phil Kline’s “Unsilent Night” boombox procession passing a certain point in the streets of San Francisco on December 18, 2010.
Moving Poems will be taking the rest of the week off, but will be back on the 29th.
I’m guilty of a lot of oversights and memory failures, but it’s hard to believe I never got around to posting this visually stunning film featuring the exiled Cambodian American spoken-word poet Kosal Khiev. Directed by Masahiro Sugano, it was released in 2011 by Cambodia-based Studio Revolt and was screened at the 2012 ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival in Berlin, where it won a prize for Best Poem Performance on Film.
In the Vimeo description for Why I Write, Sugano shared a lengthy essay about how he came to meet and work with Khiev. I particularly liked this bit:
The truth is. I don’t really understand poems. It’s mostly the language issue. English is my second language. I don’t really hear lyrics in songs. Forget rappers. Poetry usually passes over my head as well. So what he was giving, I did not really get. Those rhymes confuse my immigrant ears. But I got what he was telling. It wasn’t the word. This guy knew what it was all about. He was making it real. He captivated me despite my limitation on poetic appreciation. It was very clear to me from the very first line. It wasn’t the poetry. It was him. He was showing and revealing himself, his emotions, through the vehicle of words called poetry. I had this incomprehensible chills in my spine throughout his performance. This is called transcendence. There are few people in the world who can move you beyond category or background. He was one of them. He was transcending his genre of spoken word poetry. His poetry did not call for comprehension. It only engaged and revealed, for which you do not need knowledge. That’s where he was playing. And it was kicking my ass.
He performed another piece for me. I learned soon afterwards spoken word artists use the word “kick” to mean perform. So instead of perform or share a piece of poetry, you “kick” a piece. I’m not a very cool person so I would make you blush if I said something like, “Can you kick a piece?” So I am not using that term, but I think it’s like the official term. Anyhow, the dude “kicked” another piece for me. And we said good-bye.
I can’t believe I’d never run across this terrific poetry-dance film before today, when a Google video search for Gwendolyn Brooks’ most famous poem turned it up. The YouTube description reads:
National Dance Institute’s Celebration Team performs “We Real Cool” in an NDI original movie short. Scenery by Red Grooms. Poem by Gwendolyn Brooks. Choreography by Amy Lehman. (movie contains full credits)
There’s a more populist aesthetic at work here than in most of the dance videos I’ve shared, and it’s also a proper film, not merely a documentary video of a dance performance. And no wonder: it was the work of Emile Ardolino, “a dance-film maker of exceptional sensitivity” according to his 1993 obituary in the New York Times. He was best known as the director of Dirty Dancing and Sister Act. The obituary continued: “He had an eye and an imagination that seemed to understand intuitively how to lend the immediacy of film to an art that often requires the distance and framing of a stage.”
The overhead shot of the kids imitating a pool game was my favorite part, but the device of having them emerge from a painting was brilliant, too. You might be wondering, as I was, how Ardolino and these celebratory dancers are going to deal with the poem’s morbid last line without resorting to melodrama. I think they pulled it off.
National Dance Institute (NDI) is
a non-profit arts education organization founded in 1976 by ballet star Jacques d’Amboise.
Through in-school partnerships, workshops, and public performances, NDI uses dance as a catalyst to engage children and motivate them towards excellence.
It sounds as if the NDI had a lot to do with Ardolino’s subsequent box-office success, judging from the Times obituary.
It was Jacques d’Amboise, a principal dancer with the City Ballet, who set Mr. Ardolino on his Hollywood career with an invitation to direct “He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin’.” An account of Mr. d’Amboise’s work with children, which won Mr. Ardolino the 1983 Academy Award for best documentary feature, two Emmys, a Peabody Award and other honors.
We Real Cool was made the very same year as Dirty Dancing, according to a timeline on the NDI site.
- A Celebration of Literature unites important American writers, composers, visual artists and choreographers to create short, theatrical ballets for children. “We Real Cool” is created from the poem by Gwendolyn Brooks, and is filmed in a vacant lot in New York City’s Lower East side, with a backdrop mural designed by Red Grooms.