Nationality: United States

In the Air by Kate Sweeney

A unique poetry film: a hand-drawn animation of poets’ hands from interview snippets that can also be seen as a remix videopoem. Kate Sweeney explains in the Vimeo description:

Created from short elliptical sequences taken from archived interviews with four Bloodaxe poets. I wanted to isolate the gestures used when explaining the poetic, the abstract thoughts they couldn’t express in words alone. Gesture is communication that is also a kind of drawing in the air.

C.K Williams, in his interview with Ahren Warner, muses that “In a sense the final version of any work of art pretends to be an improvisation; even a painting. First the painter puts down the ground on the canvas or the wood then he puts down another layer of something then he begins to put the blocks in and then the last layer, little brush strokes, that look like improvisation”. The archive offers a window through to all those described layers. It tracks the process of producing a poem, a book and in a way, a poet. Inspired by my research in the archive, the animation includes the smudges, rips, mistakes and corrections, of the paper it was drawn on, revealing and incorporating the process into the final version.

Landmine in a Field of Flowers by Matt Mullins

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A recent videopoem from filmmaker-poet Matt Mullins. This is the way the meadows look now where I live, in central Pennsylvania.

Maize Dog by Trevino L. Brings Plenty

Lakota poet, musician and filmmaker Trevino L. Brings Plenty‘s wry send-up of stereotypes of Native Americans. Eva Williams is the actress, and Sky Hopinka and Myron Lameman assisted with cinematography and editing.

I first became aware of Brings Plenty’s involvement with poetry film three years ago: he supplied the voiceover for a book trailer/videopoem featuring Adrian C. Louis, Savage Sunsets. Then last week when I posted Heid E. Erdrich’s latest videopoem and saw his name again, this time credited with the music, I thought I’d better find a web link, and in the process discovered that he was a poet and filmmaker in his own right. The videos on his website include several videopoems, “Maize Dog” among them.

Ber Lin by Jonathan Tel

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Jonathan Tel‘s Commended poem from the Poetry Society‘s National Poetry Competition 2014, as read by Alastair Cook in a film directed by Corinne Silva, with sound by Vladimir Kruytchev. A particular challenge for this film was how to represent the Chinese characters included in the text. I also found the low-key camera work and natural sound a good counterpoint to the poem, which takes the form of a somewhat discursive letter. The statement from competition judge Zoë Skoulding reads:

‘Ber Lin’ connects places by exploring coincidences of sound and sense. The carefulness of expression intriguingly gives the feeling of a translation, even though it is not one. This distancing effect makes us see how language is always on the move, living in juxtaposition with other languages. At the same time the poem gives a sharp sense not just of place, but place as it is imagined and remembered.

Considering that Jonathan Tel is himself American, the choice to have Alastair read it adds another layer of linguistic juxtaposition.

I see by the way that the Poetry Society has a really nice page now for its commissioned poetry films, including a sub-section for the National Poetry Competition 2014 Filmpoems, so if you’re impatient at my slow rate of sharing them here, you can go there and watch them all.

Monster by Jason Armstrong Beck

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Filmmakerpoet Jason Armstrong Beck’s noirish advice on writing a poem from his online project The Journal of Bison Jack. The minimal Vimeo description notes that it was “Shot in Savannah, Georgia 2015.” (See the film itself for additional credits.)

Undead Faerie Goes Great with India Pale Ale by Heid E. Erdrich

I got a bit of a contact high from watching this very hip but undeniably trippy videopoem. Heid E. Erdrich wrote and co-directed it with Jonathon Thunder, who supplied the animation, editing, and sound design. Erdrich recites her poem in the soundtrack over music by Trevino Brings Plenty.

A Day at the Mall Reminds Me of America by Sarah Blake

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Motionpoems has just kicked off its 6th season with this tour de force from the Turkish-American filmmaker Ayse Altinok. The cinematography is by Greg Schmidt and the music by William Orbit.

Sarah Blake‘s poem appears in her debut collection Mr. West, an “unauthorized lyric biography of Kanye West” which Evie Shockley calls “tender without being sentimental, funny without being cruel, and obsessive without being exploitative.” Check out Arisa White‘s interviews with Blake and Altinok at the Motionpoems website. Blake says, in part:

I love the film. I felt like [Ayşe] made me a version of Kanye West’s music video for his song, ‘Flashing Lights’—a version of it just for me and my poem.

And Altinok notes that she deliberately chose a shorter poem with lots of room for cinematic exploration:

“Less words, more story” is very interesting to me in any discipline. I didn’t want to explain the poem, I wanted to duet the words and the meanings explored in the text. When I read the poem, I immediately saw the 14-year-old girl and her world. It wasn’t a struggle to bring her to life. It was a very relevant subject to me. I love youth culture and also visual poetry; this was a heavenly project. […]

After I read the poem I immediately started writing a script. It was more of a shot-list at first. I didn’t bother writing the happenings in a poetic way, I thought the poetry was already written by Sarah Blake, so I only put ideas on paper in a very practical manner. It was literally a list of scenes. I definitely knew my character needed to be the 14-year-old, rather than the woman who is the pregnant narrator. She didn’t seem too interesting to me, like myself—I can never make a film about me, but I want to make films about things I like. Rather, things I find fruitful (story-wise). I also thought my writing sucked, so at that point, I turned to photography. I started looking at pictures, mostly portraits, and created this character, and give her an identity. I felt very free—that was the best part of working with a poem.

In terms of script, though, I had to structure it in a way that felt compelling, and with a sense of beginning, middle, and end. It was a fragile story, I didn’t want to make a big statement, but I didn’t want to create just fluff, with a bunch of beautiful images and no thread, either—it was a gentle balance, not too much story that kills the poem, but not too freestyle that loses its meaning. I wanted people to feel what it’s like to live this character’s life, rather then me telling them how to.

Read the rest.