Nationality: United States

The Almost Prayer by Patricia Killelea

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

An author-made videopoem by Patricia Killelea, reading a poem from her forthcoming collection Counterglow (Mango Publications, 2016). According to the Video Poetry page on her website,

The poems from my forthcoming second poetry collection, Counterglow, are small and serious, and their sparseness prompts questions of space and the need to expand the visual-aural arc of my poetry’s scope. For these reasons, I’ve begun exploring video poetry. I’m excited about these transformations in poetics and the move toward digital experimentation. I began my video-poetry-sound experiments while I was an artist-in-residence at the Santa Fe Art Institute during August 2013.

It is possible that video poems are a way of grounding written speech back in the body, evoking a multi-sensorial experience of language and space. It is also possible that movements in digital poetics against narrative merely reiterate the varied ways in which all experience, language, and life is inherently storied– that is, fragmented structures tell a story of fragmentation, etc. It is likewise possible that the acoustic and visual “compete” with each other as Charles Bernstein suggests (2003) and that we are in the age of poetry “music videos,” a kind of anti-MTV or a poet’s last stand against bullshit assertions that poetry doesn’t matter. It definitely matters, and video poetry makes its materiality all the more substantive.

Visit YouTube to watch more of Killelea’s videopoetry.

Contusion by Sylvia Plath

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

Sylvia Plath would’ve been 83 yesterday, and to mark the occasion, Marc Neys A.K.A. Swoon released this film, Don’t look at me (Contusion).

It’s not the first time I create a work using her poems. But I consider this my best effort to capture something of her spirit.

Contusion was one of the first poems I wanted to make a video for (5-6 years ago) but I never got a satisfying result out of the process. This time tried a film composition with text on screen and I had a clear idea what kind of images to use. […]

I composed a track especially for this project. Called it ‘Don’t look at me’ (and kept the appropriate title for the film composition) [Bandcamp link].

I had to re-edit the length of the composition to the footage I had gathered. Contusion is a rather short poem (compared to some of her other works).

A lot of night and dusk. Dim images. I especially wanted the footage of a swimming lake (deserted and empty) by Bart van der Gaag. Also some snow and winter footage by Jan Eerala, stuff filmed by me and a few pieces of Videoblocks. I composed all the footage to the lines of the poem (using a small and almost unreadable font and placement of the text by times) and the pace and feel of the soundtrack. I also graded some of the footage for an even darker feel.

As I said before; I’m happy with this one.

Play full screen (and preferably with headphones!)

Thirty-Seven Photos from the Bridge by Leonard Gontarek

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

UPDATE: Read Lori Ersolmaz’ essay on the making of the film at Moving Poems Magazine.

This is Fourteen Photos from the Bridge, the winning film from last month’s Big Bridges poetry film contest, sponsored by Motionpoems and the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis, and I’m pleased to say that the filmmaker is someone we’ve regularly featured here: the New York-based, grassroots multimedia content producer and visual storyteller Lori H. Ersolmaz. Here’s some of what she says about it on her website:

My submission was based on the winning poem by Leonard Gontarek, Thirty-Seven Photos from the Bridge. Expressing fourteen of the thirty-seven stanzas, I used original footage shot in Paris and Belgium and filmed locally during summer 2015. I’m especially excited about this award as it provides me with an alternative visual storytelling approach to social issues. I submitted the film in an effort to open dialogue about the current need to address structurally deficient bridges and infrastructure.

There’s a good bio of Leonard Gontarek at the Poetry Foundation.

But Mama, Why Do We Remember? by Sarah Kain Gutowski

It’s rare to see a poet or filmmaker’s very first attempt at videopoetry turn out as successfully as this. Fortunately the poet and co-director Sarah Kain Gutowski wrote a good blog post detailing her collaboration with the videographer, Paul Turano.

Toward the end of July, P.T. (pictured to the left, doing his tech thing) and I began work on our poetry video collaboration. We recorded the audio, then discussed various images and the sequence in the video, looked at some stock footage, brainstormed, etc. Last week, we met on campus with my little helpers, Miss Talkalot and The Boy, and we managed to film a couple of shots of them as the characters from my fairy tale poem, and then also some shots of the surrounding pine barrens, which are lovely.

This exercise is fun but strange and confusing. I have this idea of the poetry video as a piece of art unto itself, separate and distinct from a printed poem, but as we’re creating this piece I feel like we’re making a poetry video like people make music videos — which can be an art unto itself but is also just as often a simplified representation, with visuals, of what happens in the narrative of a song. I’m really hoping to avoid the latter, but I’m not sure if we’re going to get there, to that place where the video poem is lyric and metaphorical and something beyond illustration.

Do read the rest. It’s always fascinating to hear how a beginning videopoet works through the genre’s unique challenges.

The poem originally appeared (in text form) in the Spring 2015 issue of So To Speak: A Feminist Journal of Language and Art.

Testimonial by Rita Dove

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

An animated poem from the Traveling Stanzas public poetry project at Kent State University’s Wick Poetry Center, in which illustrated poetry broadsheets are also given a video form. In this case, the art was the work of Christopher Darling, and the animator was The New Fuel studio. Rita Dove probably needs no introduction.

the light – the shade by Robert Lax

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

Susanne Wiegner‘s most recent 3D animation of a poem by Robert Lax is among the films scheduled for screening this Saturday, October 17, at Visible Verse in Vancouver, North America’s longest-running videopoetry festival.

To me, this is an excellent example of how a good videopoem can open up a difficult or hermetic text. If I’d encountered Lax’s poem on the page, I doubt I would’ve given it more than ten seconds of my attention before becoming irritated or exasperated, but Wiegner’s animation is so compelling and so full of surprises, its seven minutes went by all too quickly. Here’s what she wrote in the Vimeo description:

“the light – the shade” is a poem by Robert Lax that plays with the contrasts and opposites light and shade, with bright and dark, black and white, red and blue. The film begins with a nighttime scenery in a city, moves into a room and starts watching the movement of the shadows on the wall. Finally the camera enters the screen of a laptop and goes deeper and deeper into the poem. The film becomes a journey through the realm of imagination, through spaces and pictures, through letters and words. In that way the minimal language of the poem is unfolded into unexpected pictures.

Cat by Gary Hoare and Joe Cronin

Poet: , | Nationality: | Filmmaker: ,

This delightful videopoem by Gary Hoare and Joe Cronin was the winner in the Best Smartphone Production category at the 2015 Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival. (Watch all six finalists on YouTube.) The internet may already be cracking under the cumulative weight of tens of thousands of cat videos, but I think there’s always room for one that pushes beyond the mere cute factor to ask larger questions about cats, people, and (in this case) worship.

One of the unique features of Rabbit Heart is that they require all films/videos to be made by the author, either alone or in close collaboration with the filmmaker. In this case, I’m not entirely sure which of the named authors did which, but that’s O.K. I guess.