“Video adapted from a sequence of haiku-like micropoems in my book Highway Sky,” says James Brush in the Vimeo description. He goes into quite a bit more detail in a blog post, and I was interested to see him come to the same conclusion about video haiku as I did a few years ago: the on-screen images can obviate the need to include up to half the text in a haiku (or every other verse in a renga).
Things got interesting as I was editing. The more I looked at it, I realized I could cut a line from the first haiku which originally read (as published at tinywords):
a hundred miles out
the glow of Los Angeles
The second line seemed redundant with the footage of the LA skyline and city lights. Likewise, I was able to cut the first line from the third haiku as the sunset-over-the-waves image did the work of the first line.
the sun falls to sea
here at the end of the road
nothing left to say
The central haiku was left alone, but I played with the text to try to put it in motion and show the action of the waves erasing the name.
James makes another point in his post which I feel is crucial advice for poetry filmmakers of all stripes:
I liked this process of adaptation. When movies are adapted from books and stories, filmmakers change things. They fire characters and compress scenes in part to save money on paying actors and renting space, but also because there is often no need to say what is shown. Why not something similar with poetry?
I think writers and probably poets especially can get locked into the sanctity of their words and lord knows there are times when that makes sense, but if poetry is to be a conversation even if as in this case with oneself, I think it’s important to let go a little bit especially when changing mediums. My academic background is in film production and screenwriting where the expectation is that the written word is not final so maybe this comes easier for me, but it’s a comfortable way for me to work and I think it’s useful to see where your words can go and a worthwhile exercise to keep playing with what you’ve made and, if you dare, open it up for others to do so as well.
Performance poet Kevin Yang’s poem in a film directed and edited by Vokee Lee, who writes:
The narrative in this music/poem video expresses the thoughts and feelings of being lost, lonely, the comfort of being in your own bubble, all the while the poem is meant to express a possible love letter to an ex-wife/lover/girlfriend. The video and poem itself is meant to be an awakening of “loving & finding”[.]
Aeryn Austin-Elbaz stars, and Ricardo Vasquez—not Kevin Yang—is the narrator. This is part of a short series of spoken word films produced by Motionpoems last year between its regular Seasons 6 and 7.
For those who want to hear and see the poet’s own interpretation, here’s the super popular video (712k views) from Button Poetry:
It occurred to me as I re-watched this that the opening sequence of loons calling with the title superimposed is a great example of a circumstance in which it makes sense to break the rule against straight-forward illustration in video- or filmpoetry: so few people nowadays can be assumed to know what a loon call sounds like, and it’s really helpful to know that if you want the full, melancholy effect of the poem. And I like how the images in the film and the text slowly diverge over the next couple of minutes: an uncoupling that seems appropriate for a poem about memory and mortality. Finally we reach the ending sequence — back out on the water with the loons — and learn that the filmpoem is For Roald Carlson (1925-2015). Beautifully done (and a good mate to the in memoriam filmpoem by George and Eleanor Hooker that I posted on Wednesday).
An author-made videopoem by Kate Greenstreet. As always, she was assisted by Max Greenstreet, listed in the credits as “right hand”. The text is poem #7 in her latest book from Ahsahta Press, The End of Something (where the poems rather than the pages are numbered), and the soundtrack incorporates the 7th track in Greenstreet’s EP drawn from the book, birds in the house. The video first appeared in Typo 28.
The End of Something is, by the way, a beautifully designed book which I read last month with great enjoyment, savoring the openness of the poems, full of imaginative leaps and half-unspoken truths that induce a kind of contemplative mood. This quality makes them ideal for multimedia adaptation, I think. Watch all four of the videopoems from the book, and download the EP, on the book’s website.
I can’t mark the first loneliness, the elongated pause, inkless and imagining magnolias. Or the first guilt, terrain of peaches overripe and trespassed with rigid fingers. Or the first haunt, a gas station bathroom swarmed with flies, slack spirits dangling from their mouths. Or the first love, tide of hyacinth, tide of red mud, chorus of elderly song. Or the first love, inebriated child wandering along snowy tracks. Or the first love, holding you by the wrists, shaking you like a bell.
This just appeared in my Vimeo feed yesterday, but I thought it was too good a companion for Friday’s and Thursday’s videos to hold it in the queue.
This author-made videopoem by the Oregon-based poet Cindy St. Onge is
the first in a series of Japanese/English poems that are part of process which is reflective and purgative. Soundtrack created with Garage Band, footage sourced from Videoblocks and Shutterstock, and edited with Movie Maker.
Read the text (in both languages) at St. Onge’s blog.
Intrigued, I contacted Cindy to ask if she’d like to say anything more about her process. She wrote:
These poems that are coming through are what I call ‘telegraphed,’ in that there is little contrivance involved until the revision happens. The meaning of “…Mouth” wasn’t clear to me until I had completed the video.
The poems are rooted in my difficult relationship with Japanese culture, after being married to a Japanese man many years ago. The mystery, to me, is the sudden and spontaneous telegraphing. Honestly, I don’t understand it. At this point, I’m just trying to be a good conduit for the poems, and if I get closure, even better.
As for the bilingual process, the poems were drafted in English with a smattering of Japanese, and I realized as I recited one of the poems that I loved how the Japanese sounded, how the word felt in my mouth, and determined to translate the whole poem — as an experiment. I haven’t spoken Japanese in 25 years, so I had to research most of it, relearning the language, really. As the translation got underway, the Japanese shaped the English revision of the poems, so there was this back-and-forth construction happening. It’s riling up memories, but it’s very satisfying at the same time.
A poetry film directed and with music by the author, Jessica Rigney. The text was published in Salomé, a new “online literary magazine for emerging female writers,” as part of their Body issue (July 2017). It’s interesting seeing such perennial literary themes — sex, fertility, female body as landscape — treated from an entirely female point-of-view. When I watched this for the first time, it seemed at once very familiar and entirely new.