Nationality: United States

Creased Map of the Underworld by Kim Addonizio

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Kim Addonizio‘s poem was adapted to film by Thomas Bryan Michurski for Motionpoems, where one can also read interviews with the poet and filmmaker. Addonizio’s reaction to the film was very positive:

I (naively) thought there’d be some images from the poem. But like how the words are set against the simple actions & the mood it all creates.

Michurski talks about the attraction of working mostly in advertising, then describes his approach to filming:

I like to prepare, but I don’t like to plan. I have shots in my head that I want, but experimentation is essential for me. I always have my fingers crossed for that surprising moment or happy accident. It’s like carving a marble statue–something good is already in the scene, I just need to chip away and find it.

Can you describe the creative process behind the film for Creased Map of the Underworld?

It was the first poem I read and knew immediately I wanted to work with it. I was drawn to the “innocence of death” idea. At first I struggled with how I could visually play along with the vivid imagery in the poem. The treatment I created was much different, using high contrast black and white, with a much more diverse scene and shot list, more like a music video. I realized as I was in first edit that I didn’t need to illustrate the poem because it was powerful enough. I wanted to add to the idea and not distract from it.

Did you find it more difficult to create a “poetry in motion” as compared to your other films?

The difficulty was removing myself from the need to “make a film about a poem”. I had to separate myself from belief that it had to follow a style, thus becoming a parody of another film. Once I decided that I didn’t care if anyone liked it, it was much easier to let all of the expectations go and just let it be.

What prompted you to use a specific animal to symbolize death?

It was between the girl viewing the body of an older self or discovering an animal. I even entertained a version where those visuals alternated, but the idea of how death sees death gets too twisted and meta in that scenario. The deer works well because its size and innocence matches the girl’s.

What do you hope that the audience will take from watching this film?

I hope they pay attention to an amazing poem told from an alternate perspective. As humans we have an adverse, and sometimes unhealthy reaction to death and we don’t appreciate the necessity and fascinating beauty of it.

Annabel Hess is the young actress, the narration is by Jan Pettit, and David Schnack is credited with cinematography.

Steel and Air: untitled prose poem by John Ashbery

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Motionpoems commissioned this film from the Minnesota-based documentary production company Sparky Stories (Chris and Nick Libbey), who describe it on Vimeo as follows:

Steel and Air. Space and time. In the heart of Minneapolis there is an iconic blue and yellow bridge that crosses interstate 394 and connects the Walker Art Museum sculpture garden with Loring Park. Beyond its physical utility, the bridge offers a perspective to its crossers. A perspective of the interstate traffic, of the city, and of the viewer itself.

Inscribed in its lintel is a poem commissioned by the highly-achieved poet, John Ashbery. This poem discusses, in typical Ashbery obscurity, one’s place in the movement of time. The film, Steel and Air, aims to capture and enhance Ashbery’s poem by chronicling a man’s journey through life and the wonderful, boring, and ultimately finite experiences that come with it. And then it got very cool.

The poem first appeared in Ashbery’s collection Hotel Lautréamont (Knopf, 1992).

Not My Home by José Orduña

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An author-made videopoem by Mexican-American writer José Orduña from the Winter/Spring 2016 issue of Triquarterly (where it’s described as a video essay). This is the first issue with videos chosen and introduced by the new video editor, nonfiction writer and illustrator Kristen Radtke. Here’s what she wrote about “Not My Home”:

In “Not My Home,” José Orduña explores negation. He invites us inside intimate images of a single home—shoes by the door, a stuffed animal on an unmade bed, pencil lines up the wall marking children’s growth. These images are repeated even as the narrator tells us over and over again that the home is not his, that the memories do not belong to him and neither does this story. Yet we as viewers get the feeling he knows this house better than anyone has ever known a home before, and that perhaps that knowledge is exactly why he needs to go about negating it—it is, in a sense, a haunting. Just the slight unease of a subtle breeze, or a motion in the corner of your field of vision, is the sense of a ghost. Orduña’s very short video clips create gorgeous moving snapshots of a disembodied life: Grass twitches. Light shimmers on a teapot. His slow, melancholic images make us ache for the space as much as his narrator seems to.

Click through to watch the other two video essays Radtke chose. I’m pleased to see that the magazine still leads off with its video selections, though I hope that the absence of videos identified as “cinepoetry” is only temporary. (Perhaps they just aren’t getting enough submissions.)

The Meeting Ran Long by Eric Blanchard

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A new, text-on-screen-style videopoem by Australian artist Marie Craven using a text by American poet Eric Blanchard and sections of three hand-processed, experimental films. Craven recently shared some process notes as a part of a blog post about her recent videopoetry remixes.

After putting together a first videopoem last year based on the poetry of Eric Blanchard, I went exploring more of his writing to be found on the web. I was especially drawn to a prose poem called ‘The Meeting Ran Long‘, published in Literary Orphans. The piece created for me a sense of daydreaming in an empty room in a transitional moment of solitude, evoking a short stream from the unconscious mind. I started experimenting with how I might present this as text on screen and settled on simply deconstructing the written piece into component phrases that might reveal or give rise to new resonances in the unconscious spaces of the writing itself. Once I had transferred all the text to the screen, I cut the visual phrases to an experimental music piece by C.P. McDill, a sound artist whose work I have followed and admired since about 2008. The track, ‘Iced Coffee‘, was sourced from The Internet Archive, where it is freely available for remixing on a Creative Commons licence. For the images I went to Vimeo and did some searches on key words in their large pool of videos also available for remixing via Creative Commons. I discovered the work of the Mono No Aware group and selected three hand-processed films by Rachael Guma, Ashley Swinnerton and David Beard. Aside from being wonderful experimental film pieces in themselves, each flowed in a kinetic way that reminded me of the pace of thoughts, memories and images as they flow through a human brain. I put these together with a universal film leader from an old vaudeville show to come up with a first draft of the video. I then sent it to the poet to ask his permission to proceed with a final version. Eric kindly agreed. After a little reworking, this is the video that emerged.

A Dream Within a Dream by Edgar Allan Poe

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Poe’s 1849 poem in a 2014 adaptation by Catalonian poet Josep Porcar with cinematography by Tomás Baltazar, a voiceover by Tom O’Bedlam and a Catalan translation by Txema Martínez Inglés in subtitles. The actor is Luis Carvalho.

Message4u by Cecelia Chapman and Jeff Crouch

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Artists Cecelia Chapman and Jeff Crouch have collaborated on a number of videos over the years, some of which — like this one — can be seen as videopoems. The soundtrack is by Halo Svevo, and Christa Hunter appears in the video along with footage from 1956 film On Guard! by IBM. There’s also a small folded book and CD.

Message4u is a video and folding book based on email conversations between myself and Jeff Crouch about knowledge, democracy, technology and the computer and oracle as repositories of knowledge and prediction.

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Noman’s Land Common by Robert Peake

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A new videopoem by Robert Peake (poem, concept) and Valerie Kampmeier (original music). With all the thousands of poetry videos I’ve watched over the years, I’ve never seen someone use footage shot through a kaleidoscope before—leave it to an endlessly inventive tech geek and poet like Peake to come up with it. I find the effect mesmerizing and an apt complement to the text. As usual, he’s posted the poem at his blog, along with some process notes:

With the tenth anniversary of the birth and death of our son James fast approaching, I find myself writing about the ongoing effects, including sudden and overpowering moments of grief. The text came first. I then shot time-lapse of clouds through an inexpensive toy kaleidoscope using a Raspberry Pi camera. I also shot real-time nature footage through the same kaleidoscope by holding it up to my smartphone camera. Valerie composed and performed the music. The title refers to a nearby patch of common land in North Hertfordshire that we frequent. One year, after extensive tilling, a field adjacent to the common erupted in red poppies, not unlike the no-man’s land of the First World War.