This is Filmpoem 50, a collaboration between Scottish filmpoet Alastair Cook and 20 other poets hailing from Scotland, England, Ireland, the U.S., South Africa and Belgium. I have a rule against posting films containing my own poetry to Moving Poems, but in this case my lines account for only 1/20th of the poem, so I decided not to be precious about it. Besides, it’s too important a poetry film not to feature. The composition process involved Alastair sending each writer a snippet of found film. To quote his original email:
You can be trite, erudite, short or shorter (no more than three or four lines) but the brief is this—Americana, the 1950s, travel.
All the clips are from the same batch of film and the artistic conceit is that a narrative will thread through these. This batch of film has this family move through America over the years, these boys grow up and some of the footage I have is heart-wrenching, always tinged with the salient and sombre fact that I source these from house-clearances, that the death of the filmmaker releases this footage to me.
The official description, from Vimeo and the Filmpoem website, reads:
Watch Alastair Cook’s brand new film, three years in the making, with new writing by twenty of the world’s best poets, sountracked by composer Luca Nasciutia and read by poet Rachel McCrum – screens worldwide from Autumn 2016. New ekphrasis work by poets John Glenday, Vicki Feaver, Stevie Ronnie, Janie McKie, Brian Johnstone, Jo Bell, Andrew Philip, Linda France, Dave Bonta, Angela Readman, Michael Vandebril, Gerard Rudolf, George Szirtes, Emily Dodd, Ian Duhig, Rachel McCrum, Robert Peake, Polly Rowena Atkin, Pippa Little and Vona Groarke.
This was originally planned as Filmpoem 40, but got delayed for a number of reasons, during which I believe the concept changed and matured a bit. I list Alastair as the chief poet here because it was his concept from start to finish, and he edited and moved around the submissions after they all came in. The decision to have a single narrator was, I think, a good one, but it’s amazing how well the conjoined text holds together on its own. Clearly, this is an approach to filmpoetry/videopoetry composition deserving of further experimentation. Alastair had been building on what he learned in making his Twenty Second Filmpoem back in 2012, which also involved 20 poets and some found footage.
In other Filmpoem-related news, I see that there will be a fourth Filmpoem Festival, or series of festivals, dubbed Filmpoem Sixteen, though it doesn’t sound as if we can expect an open call:
Filmpoem Sixteen will focus on a series of invited curated events. The first of these is at the Hauge Centre in Ulvik in Norway, where Alastair is artist in residence in May. Alastair has directed The Sword, a new film working with Hauge’s incredible landscape poetry, alongside readings by John Glenday, cinematography by James Norton and sound by Luca Nasciuti; the film will premier on May 12th. Alongside this new film, the Hauge Centre will screen a Scottih retrospective of Alastair’s work and selected works by others from the Filmpoem Festival submission archive.
Check back for further announcements as our new director Helmie Stil brings her own flavour to Filmpoem.
New Orleans-based poet Carolyn Hembree and director John Lavin (Bloodrush Films) have collaborated on a videopoem that really raises the bar for poetry book trailers. The book, Rigging a Chevy into a Time Machine and Other Ways to Escape a Plague (Trio House Press, 2016), has already won two awards as a manuscript: the 2015 Trio Award, selected by Neil Shepard, and the 2015 Marsh Hawk Press Rochelle Ratner Memorial Award, selected by Stephanie Strickland. The trailer is equally impressive, featuring Hembree’s dramatic, incantatory voiceover and a spellbinding blend of unsettling images. As beer writers like to say about exceptionally tasty brews, this is very moreish. And just a bit inebriating.
A thought-provoking author-made videopoem from Cindy St. Onge with well-chosen stock footage and music by Caveone. You can read St. Onge’s description on Vimeo, though I feel the film is best approached without knowing what she had in mind initially.
Writer and filmmaker John Bresland, the former video editor for TriQuarterly, made this videopoem for David Trinidad’s haiku collection using clips from the soap opera that prompted the haiku. It appeared in the November 2015 issue of Blackbird, accompanied by a commentary by Gregory Donovan which is essential reading if, like me, you’re too young to remember Peyton Place, “the very first American prime-time soap opera.” It was, he says, “one of the first televised programs in the U.S. to deal frankly with sexual themes, which revealed the hypocrisy and masked immorality beneath the misleadingly peaceful façade of small-town American life.”
In David Trinidad’s Peyton Place: A Haiku Soap Opera (Turtle Point Press, 2013) he has whipped up a haiku concoction to respond, with an energy both antic and erotic, to each of the over 500 episodes of the complete run of the television program. Reading this series of poems, carefully constructed within the confines of a taut form yet unleashing a sardonic and often laugh-generating appreciation of the oddities of a now-dated television drama, one is struck by an experience on the page that brings the television series back into the mind’s eye with a pointed mix of humor, pathos, and social critique.
Meanwhile, the imaginative adaptation by John Bresland, collected, edited and enhanced into an equally layered, genre-challenging video essay, employs actual clips from the television program with the texts of Trinidad’s poems superimposed and narrated. Bresland builds upon Trinidad’s frank exploration of the many dimensions of “the male gaze” and further examines the looking generated not only by the camera’s eye, but also by our own changed vision of a set of cultural moments and icons that time and history have inescapably altered. Bresland’s video piece provides its own unique experience that arises from the atmosphere generated by Trinidad’s book while also plunging us into an even more pointed sense of the absurdities and strange possibilities of realization available in the now transformed and reconstituted images of what was once, and is now again, Peyton Place.
Usually, the American poet and electronic literature expert Matt Mullins makes his own poetry films, but for this one he teamed up with Spanish director Eduardo Yagüe, providing only the poem, voice and music. The poem is dedicated to the Soviet artist Eva Levina Rozengolts (1898-1975), a drawing of whose appears in the credits. According to the Museum of Russian Art website,
Eva Levina-Rozengolts was one of the few Soviet artists who managed to creatively transform and express the trauma of Stalinist repression in a striking visual language.
Trained in the celebrated VkHuTeMas, the hotbed of early Soviet avant-garde, Eva Rozengolts worked as a textile designer and later a copyist at the Soviet Artists’ Union production studios. She was arrested in 1949 and sentenced to ten years of exile in the depth of Siberia where she lived in a settlement on the Yenisei river, in the Krasnoyarsk region. She was assigned to work as a woodcutter, wall painter, and later medical assistant. After returning from exile, she regained her creativity, undeterred by age and failing health. In fact, it was after her return from Siberia, that her talent came into its own. Unknown to the broad public, her work stirred the attention of the new generation of unofficial artists that emerged after Stalin’s death. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Eva Levina-Rozengolts became recognized as one of the outstanding figures of the ‘lost’ artistic generation of the Stalin era.
Yagüe shot the film in Stockholm with actress Carolina Rosa.
This short video by Allen Wheeler in support of Ed Madden’s poetry collection Ark has two things I love: time-lapse photography and a single, continuous shot from one position. The flooded field in the shot is presumably even more full of light than the field referenced in the text, but given the nature of photography, it’s hard to see how anything less would have worked. The piano music by Kai Engel was found on the Free Music Archive, according to the credits.
A video by Lisa Seidenberg with text on screen from The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Volume 1. Though the text wasn’t a poem in its original context, its poetic quality taken out of that context and its juxtaposition with lyrical images and a dark ambient score make this more of a videopoem than anything else, I’d say. The Vimeo description reads:
A quote from the writing of Anais Nin, known best for her erotic memoirs is interpreted through dream-like expressionistic images and tantalising original score by composer Karl Warner. Filmed in Antibes, France.
For more of Seidenberg’s work, see her Vimeo channel.