Nationality: United States

All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace by Richard Brautigan

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Richard Brautigan‘s famous 1967 poem may be treated as holy writ by Silicon Valley dipshits who pray for the advent of the singularity, but that doesn’t stop it from being a fascinating cultural artifact in its own right. So I was pleased to see this fine student film by Edward Phillips Hill, which also includes something I’ve never seen before: process notes right in the end credits.

  • stop animation because it’s a physical/tactile medium
  • the other images that flash by are either screen captures of social media or images taken from my phone camera while looking at social media, in essence looking through the technology seeing what is being ignored
  • the music was chosen as it resembles a techno song yet played by acoustic instruments, thus furthering the duality of modern life & the constant push and pull between ‘technological’ life and ‘real’ life

The Long Deployment by Jehanne Dubrow

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In honor of Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, and in the U.S., Veteran’s Day, here’s a poem by Jehanne Dubrow adapted by Nicole McDonald for Motionpoems, whose monthly email newsletter describes it as “a love letter to all who’ve had a loved one overseas.” The poem is from Dubrow’s new collection The Arranged Marriage (University of New Mexico Press, 2015). Read interviews conducted by Jenny Factor with both the poet and the director on the Motionpoems website. I was impressed by the depth of the McDonald’s feeling for the poem and for literature generally:

The poem itself is so lush, so I experimented tremendously…I felt texture and light was key. A balance of dreamy, stark, and intimate shots. And so the wardrobe also needed to be balanced with this thinking. I adore the dress Britt Bogan wears in the last section, as it captures light so beautifully in its delicate textured details, just as Britt’s character does. […]

Homer has always had an impact on my art, especially his use of Dawn as a character (“rosy-fingered dawn…” I adore those visual transitions.). And Penelope of course was the role model of undisputed patience and blind faith. Buuut, I’ve often wondered what kind of life she lived while she waited? What did she miss out on because of those virtues? Are they virtues…? When do we release the pause button and press play?

I also liked this quote from Dubrow:

I was thrilled that the filmmaker created a visual vocabulary for the villanelle form. She repeats and overlaps images (particularly of a woman who often uses the same gestures or movements again and again) to embody the musical refrains and interlocking rhyme schemes of the villanelle. In this way, the film is a great teaching text; it offers a visual representation of the fixed form, enacting the villanelle’s obsessive rhetoric, its maddening desire to solve the unsolvable.

Be sure to read the rest (and see Vimeo for the full credits).

Somewhat parenthetically, I can’t help noticing that in a year of poetry films produced in partnership with VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, this is one of the few that also has a female director, which presumably reflects a gender imbalance in the filmmaking industry at large. In the international poetry-film and videopoetry scenes specifically, however, many of the most innovative directors and animators right now are women: people such as Kate Greenstreet, Kathy McTavish, Martha McCollough, Lori Ersolmaz, Cheryl Gross, Kate Sweeney, Helen Dewbery, Marie Craven, Ebele Okoye, Nissmah Roshdy, Susanne Weigener, Anzhela Bogachenko, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, and Motionpoems’ own Angella Kassube. It will be interesting to see whether this continues to be the case as poetry film attracts more attention, or whether men will gradually take it over as so often happens when an art or profession becomes more prestigious. I hope that those of us who care about the genre can help prevent that from happening by making special efforts to enlist, reward, and draw attention to female directors.

Break and Remake by Martha McCollough

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A new videopoem by artist and poet Martha McCollough always makes me do a little dance of pure delight. Break and Remake debuted on Atticus Review a week ago, and I’ve held off on sharing it till now (not wanting to steal their thunder) only with great difficulty. Here’s how McCollough introduced it:

Break and Remake came out of thinking about the recombined creatures in myths and in the margins of medieval manuscripts. The whole video is broken and reassembled, as are the griffins, chimeras, and other monsters within the video. The text is also a hybrid, combining overheard remarks, a line from a song by Son House and computer-generated text from spam.

The Colors We Ascribe by Emi Mahmoud

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Death loves my people, the way they fall asleep at its feet…

Sudanese-American poet Emtithal “Emi” Mahmoud is originally from Darfur, and is now a senior at Yale. She was crowned the 2015 Individual World Poetry Slam (iWPS) Champion on October 10, and has just been featured in The Guardian: “Darfur poet triumphs in international poetry slam.” Here she is performing at the National Poetry Slam in a video from Button Poetry, a Minnesota-based organization that “produces and distributes poetry media, including: video from local and national events, chapbooks, collaborative audio recordings, scholarship and criticism, and many other products.” On YouTube, they release a new poetry video every day.

Click through to the Guardian to read “Mama,” the poem with which Mahmoud won the iWPS championship.

Tiny Machine by Dave Malone

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An author-made videopoem by Dave Malone that also functions as a trailer for his book O: Love Poems from the Ozarks (TS Poetry Press, 2015). The music is by Wayne Blinne. (H/t: tweetspeak.)

The Almost Prayer by Patricia Killelea

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An author-made videopoem by Patricia Killelea, reading a poem from her forthcoming collection Counterglow (Mango Publications, 2016). According to the Video Poetry page on her website,

The poems from my forthcoming second poetry collection, Counterglow, are small and serious, and their sparseness prompts questions of space and the need to expand the visual-aural arc of my poetry’s scope. For these reasons, I’ve begun exploring video poetry. I’m excited about these transformations in poetics and the move toward digital experimentation. I began my video-poetry-sound experiments while I was an artist-in-residence at the Santa Fe Art Institute during August 2013.

It is possible that video poems are a way of grounding written speech back in the body, evoking a multi-sensorial experience of language and space. It is also possible that movements in digital poetics against narrative merely reiterate the varied ways in which all experience, language, and life is inherently storied– that is, fragmented structures tell a story of fragmentation, etc. It is likewise possible that the acoustic and visual “compete” with each other as Charles Bernstein suggests (2003) and that we are in the age of poetry “music videos,” a kind of anti-MTV or a poet’s last stand against bullshit assertions that poetry doesn’t matter. It definitely matters, and video poetry makes its materiality all the more substantive.

Visit YouTube to watch more of Killelea’s videopoetry.

Contusion by Sylvia Plath

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Sylvia Plath would’ve been 83 yesterday, and to mark the occasion, Marc Neys A.K.A. Swoon released this film, Don’t look at me (Contusion).

It’s not the first time I create a work using her poems. But I consider this my best effort to capture something of her spirit.

Contusion was one of the first poems I wanted to make a video for (5-6 years ago) but I never got a satisfying result out of the process. This time tried a film composition with text on screen and I had a clear idea what kind of images to use. […]

I composed a track especially for this project. Called it ‘Don’t look at me’ (and kept the appropriate title for the film composition) [Bandcamp link].

I had to re-edit the length of the composition to the footage I had gathered. Contusion is a rather short poem (compared to some of her other works).

A lot of night and dusk. Dim images. I especially wanted the footage of a swimming lake (deserted and empty) by Bart van der Gaag. Also some snow and winter footage by Jan Eerala, stuff filmed by me and a few pieces of Videoblocks. I composed all the footage to the lines of the poem (using a small and almost unreadable font and placement of the text by times) and the pace and feel of the soundtrack. I also graded some of the footage for an even darker feel.

As I said before; I’m happy with this one.

Play full screen (and preferably with headphones!)