Nationality: United States

Poem (I lived in the first century of world wars) by Muriel Rukeyser

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Julia VanArsdale Miller of Manual Cinema directed this affecting film, which includes shadow puppets, live actors, and animation by Lizi Breit. Here are the full credits.

In this startling animation of Muriel Rukeyser’s “Poem (I lived in the first century of world wars),” two lives unfold in split screen, one during the tumultuous world events of 1968, the other 50 years later against a new landscape of uncertainty and ever-present digital technology.

The film was produced by the Poetry Foundation just last year, part of a new focus on poetry videos on their website, which I was excited to discover recently. When I started this website ten years ago, the Poetry Everywhere series of animations produced by the Poetry Foundation (in association with docUWM at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) was one of the major caches of poetry animations on YouTube, and though they were made by university students and therefore not as sophisticated as the series of Billy Collins animations that had been produced by JWTNY a few years earlier, they were plentiful and my standards were low, so they had a lot to do with turning Moving Poems from a short-term gallery into a long-term blog. I’d always hoped that the Poetry Foundation would devote more of its considerable endowment to producing poetry films some day. It looks as if that day might finally be here.

New Arctic by Allain Daigle

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The latest issue (#155) of Triquarterly came out on January 14, opening as usual with a section of video essays/cinepoems, including this one by Allain Daigle, which is described as a cinepoem on Vimeo but labeled a video essay on the website. His bio at the latter location reads:

Allain Daigle is a PhD candidate in Media, Cinema, and Digital Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is currently writing his dissertation, which historicizes the industrialization of lens production between the late 19th century and the 1920s. His work has appeared in Film History, [in]Transition, The Atlantic, and TriQuarterly.

In “An Introduction to Video Essays” in TQ 155, Sarah Minor writes,

Using a style that sets high-quality footage to the pace of slow breathing, Allain Daigle’s “New Arctic” thinks about the future of our planet without using images of landscape. In this project, Daigle shows us a house being built from the inside: industrial lighting, radio waves, breaths that rise in parcels. He asks us to consider the changes “our skin doesn’t notice” that mean our children will “dream about icebergs,” because “the new Arctic,” of course, is an oxymoron.

The videos in this suite trick us into seeing three familiar technologies in unfamiliar ways. Each piece showcases the variety of formats, structures, and new media that today’s literary videos might take on.

Read the rest… and then watch the other two videos.

When You Are Quiet by Laura Theobold

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This quietly terrifying 8mm short by Andrew Theodore Balasia is a video trailer for Laura Theobald‘s new book, What My Hair Says About You, from Sad Spell Press. According the publisher’s description,

These poems break down the self—plucking the sun out of the sky, throwing bones at the void—while courting issues of identity, gender, sex, love, and loss in biting, blunt vernacular. What My Hair Says About You is a jilting confessional debut, with an ear pressed to a flowery, bone-littered floor.

Household Tips for a New Era by Joanna Fuhrman

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This brilliant author-made videopoem seemed like a good one with which to start a new season of regular posts at Moving Poems. Joanna Fuhrman is the author of five books of poetry, including Pageant (2009), winner of the Kinereth Gensler Prize from Alice James Books; and The Year of Yellow Butterflies (Hanging Loose Press, 2015). Her page at the Poetry Foundation website notes that

Her poetry is humorous and surreal, mining references from pop and high culture. Writing about Fuhrman’s work for BOMBLOG, Susie DeFord observed that Fuhrman “takes the best of the surrealist and narrative poetry, weaving social and personal stories with extreme wit, imagination.”

These qualities are certainly on display here and in the other nine videopoems which she’s recently uploaded to Vimeo. “Witty” was the first word that came to my mind when I started browsing through her work. And it’s always great to see a widely published poet with serious video-making chops.

Good Bones by Maggie Smith

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Motionpoems’ latest release is based on U.S. poet Maggie Smith‘s viral poem. As director Anaïs La Rocca explains,

In the summer of 2016, Maggie Smith sat in a Starbucks in Bexley, Ohio, and wrote a poem. “Life is short, though I keep this from my children,” it began. Smith had no idea that she was setting down the first lines of a work that would seize the mood — and social-media accounts — of so many people in the tumultuous year that was 2016.

A year later, Director Anais La Rocca teamed up with Maggie Smith to bring this poem to life in the short film “Good Bones”.

Good Bones is a heartfelt work that grapples with pain, injustice, unfairness and disillusionment— all in a fantastical story told through the eyes of a six year old girl and the voice of her mother.

Written, directed, produced and post produced by an all female team, this film embodies the power, strength and courage within women, and our responsibility to pass on and teach this courage to our little girls.

In the film, the mother takes on the role of a real estate agent: “I am trying/ to sell them the world. Any decent realtor, walking you through a real s***hole, chirps on about good bones: This place could be beautiful, right? You could make this place beautiful.”

For the text of the poem, see Waxwing, where it originally appeared — or get hold of Smith’s 2017 collection, also titled Good Bones.

Regina by Lina Ramona Vitkauskas

Lithuanian-American-Canadian poet Lina Ramona Vitkauskas has been directing a series of short but powerful cinepoems for her collection White Stockings with the help of visual artist Tess Cortés (editing, arrangement and score). Watch the others on Vimeo. They deserve many more views than they have received so far.

You’re Dead, America by Danez Smith

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If you liked This is America, the Childish Gambino rap video by Hiro Murai, you’ll be riveted by this latest film from Motionpoems. Serbian-American director Jovan Todorovic‘s interpretation of a Danez Smith poem is surely one of the most searing and impactful poetry films in Motionpoems’ history. See Todorovich’s website for the full credits.

The film debuted online not at Motionpoems but at Nowness, which included this quote from the director:

America and the American dream is an emotion, and it used to be an attainable dream. This sentiment is quickly dissolving. My wish is to address this despair purely on an emotional level. This is a poetic short film that explores what has happened to the idea of the American Dream… a visceral meditation on the idea of death and decay… and finally, rebirth.

They go on to interview Todorovich “about social sickness, alienation, and poetry’s relationship to film.” It’s worth reading in full; I’ll just quote the last bit:

NOWNESS: A poem is such a mercurial, elusive thing. What was it like turning a poem into a film?

Jovan: It was an exciting and specific process for me precisely because the inspiration was a poem. Because this poem creates feelings through the juxtaposition of very sensory pictures, scenes and moments I was inspired to construct the film similarly. Rather than writing by consciously building meaning I turned to some of my dreams and built the script and scenes around what I feel about the world today. This kind of ‘open’ process of building scenes allowed me to work with all authors on the film in a way where they would have space to put their own experiences and feelings about the theme while staying in line with the emotional tone and context that I’ve initially based the scenes upon.

The poem originally appeared in Buzzfeed on November 9, 2016—the day after the election of Donald Trump—and was reprinted in Smith’s celebrated 2017 collection Don’t Call Us Dead. It’s the latest episode in Motionpoems’ Season 8, “Dear Mr. President,” which has been pretty sensational so far. Kudos all around.