Nationality: United States

Territory by Sarah Rose Nordgren

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The Winter/Spring 2018 issue of TriQuarterly dropped on January 15, and as usual, a suite of three “video essays” selected by Sarah Minor leads it off, this one first. Minor writes:

The essays in this video suite ask us to consider what lies at the bottom of uncanny experiences. Why do some things feel both foreign and familiar to us?

“Space tempts me,” admits the dancer in “Territory” as she moves across a landscape made precisely for her image. Next, the word “space” begins to roll down her face and neck. “Territory” is a project by choreographer Kathleen Kelley and poet Sarah Rose Nordgren. The pair, known as “Smart Snow,” began collaborating when they were teenagers. Their first poetry video began as a diorama built with materials intended for miniature war reenactments and later expanded into an installation featuring live dancers and interactive digital texts. Through several feats of engineering, Nordgren and Kelley projected shrunken text and footage of a dancer into their diorama and filmed the two elements moving together. Across this poetry video we notice that the dancer is at once confined by, but also growing out of, this landscape, the way a child might feel inside a fenced yard, or a refrigerator box with holes cut for windows. “Territory” asks us to think about the everyday places where digital and analog rub up against one another, and can produce a type of confinement. It shows us how compressed spaces, like miniatures, ask us to consider their life-sized counterparts more carefully.

Click through for bios of Kelley and Nordgren.

To Make a Poem in Prison by Etheridge Knight

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The late, great Etheridge Knight recites his poem in this “archival remix” by Daniel Cantagallo, whose work I stumbled across on Vimeo the other night. Here’s the informative description:

It is hard to make a poem in prison, but Etheridge Knight fashioned many, and grateful he did. Born in Corinth, Mississippi, Knight was a Korean War vet who became a drug addict. Eventually put away for armed robbery, he renounced anger and committed his life to poetry while behind bars. His first volume of “Poems from Prison”, cemented his status in the Black Arts movement, and coincided with his release in 1968.

Reading is from Etheridge Knight and footage from 1966 CBS Report, “Men In Cages.”

Learn more: theparisreview.org/blog/2015/03/12/the-space-between-everything/

The link goes to a lecture on Knight by Terrance Hayes.

I was fortunate enough to attend a reading by Etheridge Knight many years ago in the intimate setting of Penn State’s Rare Books Room, which had an impressive collection of books and chapbooks from the Black Arts Movement. Knight’s reading and commentary was a crash course in the dirty dozens and the African American oral poems known as toasts, and dovetailed with my then-intense interest in the blues. Which is a long-winded way of saying I had a lot of aha moments that afternoon.

Sonata by Sam Roxas-Chua 姚

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A beautifully simple, effective video for a stunning poem by the Eugene, Oregon-based poet Sam Roxas-Chua 姚 (Yao).

all roads lead here by James Brush

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“Video adapted from a sequence of haiku-like micropoems in my book Highway Sky,” says James Brush in the Vimeo description. He goes into quite a bit more detail in a blog post, and I was interested to see him come to the same conclusion about video haiku as I did a few years ago: the on-screen images can obviate the need to include up to half the text in a haiku (or every other verse in a renga).

Things got interesting as I was editing. The more I looked at it, I realized I could cut a line from the first haiku which originally read (as published at tinywords):

a hundred miles out
the glow of Los Angeles
desert starlight

The second line seemed redundant with the footage of the LA skyline and city lights. Likewise, I was able to cut the first line from the third haiku as the sunset-over-the-waves image did the work of the first line.

the sun falls to sea
here at the end of the road
nothing left to say

The central haiku was left alone, but I played with the text to try to put it in motion and show the action of the waves erasing the name.

James makes another point in his post which I feel is crucial advice for poetry filmmakers of all stripes:

I liked this process of adaptation. When movies are adapted from books and stories, filmmakers change things. They fire characters and compress scenes in part to save money on paying actors and renting space, but also because there is often no need to say what is shown. Why not something similar with poetry?

I think writers and probably poets especially can get locked into the sanctity of their words and lord knows there are times when that makes sense, but if poetry is to be a conversation even if as in this case with oneself, I think it’s important to let go a little bit especially when changing mediums. My academic background is in film production and screenwriting where the expectation is that the written word is not final so maybe this comes easier for me, but it’s a comfortable way for me to work and I think it’s useful to see where your words can go and a worthwhile exercise to keep playing with what you’ve made and, if you dare, open it up for others to do so as well.

Read the rest.

How To Love Your Introvert by Kevin Yang

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Performance poet Kevin Yang’s poem in a film directed and edited by Vokee Lee, who writes:

The narrative in this music/poem video expresses the thoughts and feelings of being lost, lonely, the comfort of being in your own bubble, all the while the poem is meant to express a possible love letter to an ex-wife/lover/girlfriend. The video and poem itself is meant to be an awakening of “loving & finding”[.]

Aeryn Austin-Elbaz stars, and Ricardo Vasquez—not Kevin Yang—is the narrator. This is part of a short series of spoken word films produced by Motionpoems last year between its regular Seasons 6 and 7.

For those who want to hear and see the poet’s own interpretation, here’s the super popular video (712k views) from Button Poetry:

Cry of the Loon by Kai Carlson-Wee

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An author-made poetry film by Kai Carlson-Wee that was a runner-up in the 2016 Button Poetry Video Contest.

It occurred to me as I re-watched this that the opening sequence of loons calling with the title superimposed is a great example of a circumstance in which it makes sense to break the rule against straight-forward illustration in video- or filmpoetry: so few people nowadays can be assumed to know what a loon call sounds like, and it’s really helpful to know that if you want the full, melancholy effect of the poem. And I like how the images in the film and the text slowly diverge over the next couple of minutes: an uncoupling that seems appropriate for a poem about memory and mortality. Finally we reach the ending sequence — back out on the water with the loons — and learn that the filmpoem is For Roald Carlson (1925-2015). Beautifully done (and a good mate to the in memoriam filmpoem by George and Eleanor Hooker that I posted on Wednesday).

This is a traveling song by Kate Greenstreet

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An author-made videopoem by Kate Greenstreet. As always, she was assisted by Max Greenstreet, listed in the credits as “right hand”. The text is poem #7 in her latest book from Ahsahta Press, The End of Something (where the poems rather than the pages are numbered), and the soundtrack incorporates the 7th track in Greenstreet’s EP drawn from the book, birds in the house. The video first appeared in Typo 28.

The End of Something is, by the way, a beautifully designed book which I read last month with great enjoyment, savoring the openness of the poems, full of imaginative leaps and half-unspoken truths that induce a kind of contemplative mood. This quality makes them ideal for multimedia adaptation, I think. Watch all four of the videopoems from the book, and download the EP, on the book’s website.