A novel approach to poetry-filmmaking, and one that fits the poem well: cycling through the text again and again, in different voices, the way a musical round is sung. Elizabeth Wilkins directs.
A film by Demet Taspinar with poem and voice-over by Elizabeth Bradfield. The fascinating back-story of their collaboration, as described on Vimeo, suggests that the images may have elicited the text to some extent:
A collaboration between video artist Demet Taspinar, who made this film, and me (Elizabeth Bradfield) who wrote a poem to it. Demet made the movie when working in Antarctica, which is where we met aboard an expedition ship. She was the ship’s doctor; I was a naturalist. We’ve made three of these collaborations so far. This one was published (in video and as a printed poem) in Alaska Quarterly Review.
the author of Interpretive Work (Arktoi Books/Red Hen Press, 2008), which won the Audre Lorde Award and was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, and Approaching Ice (Persea Books, 2010), a book of poems about Arctic and Antarctic exploration that was a finalist for the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets.
The editing is thoughtful and draws the viewer inside the story (I love the jump cuts between the introvert close-ups of the woman and the loud and intimidating girls). Nicolaou did an amazing job in translating the poem to this day and age with respect and love for the original words, accenting the power of Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry. And when it’s over, I want to see it again.
See the column for more on the filmmaker and her thoughts about Elizabeth Bishop and the film-making process, which are all very interesting. She says in part:
“Where are the dolls who loved me so…” is actually an incomplete fragment of a poem, unpublished until 2006. To me it is a beautiful, sad piece – filled with longing for love and comfort, complicated feelings of abandonment, frustrations with idealized femininity, and despair at not measuring up or fitting in. I used the poem as a starting point to explore a middle-aged woman alone in the world – a self-exile of sorts. Maybe she’s grappling with repressed desires, maybe she’s got some of those feelings of not measuring up. Wanting to be one of those perfect women – impervious to age and unforeseen emotions; and hating them at the same time. The film is impressionistic and dreamy, but more overt than both the poem and probably Bishop’s public self. Having read up on Bishop, I worked in a few references to some of her other work – stuff that the Bishop scholars might catch. Beyond that, it’s very much the world of present-day Toronto, as opposed to Nova Scotian 1910’s. I was excited to cast Megan Follows (of Anne of Green Gables fame) as the lead. When I saw the photo of Bishop on Wikipedia, the resemblance struck me immediately. I’m hoping to do a feature about Bishop with Megan in the future.
Megan Follows granted an interview to AFter Ellen in which she talks a bit about the film. Here’s one exchange:
AE: Because it is such a dreamy, non-formed piece, how did you get yourself in the mindset of that character, E? What interested you about her journey?
MF: You know, it was somewhat guerilla filmmaking for sure. What is interesting is when we shot in the club, the club was live and it was just really a club that was happening. There were some signs that said there might be a film crew walking around and we used a very subtle camera. So we just went into that club and started to dance.
It was pretty funny because it was very, very loud in there. And we couldn’t hear each other over the sound of the music. We had to devise hand signals. So often times my character was dancing with her eyes closed. I would no idea if the camera was still rolling or if they’d moved on to a different shot. A couple of times I got pretty intimate with people who were dancing who had nothing to do with the film. And then I’d be like, “Oh, I’m sorry, I guess we’re not rolling. If you could please get off of me, I have to go find my crew.” [Laughs] So, we had some fun.
This Nic Sebastian video remix of a poem from The Poetry Storehouse uses unexpected imagery to suggest perhaps some different things about God from what the author of the text, Donna Vorreyer, had in mind — but that’s as it should be, I think. (Vorreyer called the video “haunting.”)
I’m really pleased with the results of David’s piece—in terms of its quality of production and fullness of vision—and I’m honored that he examined and expanded my poem with such attentiveness to detail. The film captures the speaker’s dependence on her surroundings to make sense of her sensual experience, and it offers surprising visual nuance.
The unfurling of color and movement that the amaryllis provides feels necessary. Though in many ways the amaryllis serves to represent the lyrical speaker driving the poem, it feels like a surreal presence, which I quite like. I’m also really interested in the quivering soundtrack. It expresses the omnipresence of the snow and seems to hold the melt within it. Kellie Fitzgerald’s lush reading captures a longing that’s definitely present in the poem, and she gives it a force that makes me blush!
This appeared when Moving Poems was on hiatus this past summer, but I got to see it on the big screen at the Filmpoem Festival in August, where it was shown as an example of filmmaker-poet collaboration where the images preceded and inspired the poetic text. It’s part of a growing body of collaborations between Swoon (Marc Neys) and the American poet David Tomaloff (see his Moving Poems archive page for more). Neys blogged some rather extensive process notes in the form of a conversation with Tomaloff:
[Swoon]: Images will come from this video: http://archive.org/details/Mommartz_3_Glaser_1968
I’m doing a re-edit of that archive material and Maybe I want to add excerpts from ‘Das Kapital’ by Marx as titles. One thing missing: a poem that reflects greed, money – power, crisis, banks, the whole bubble of money driven economics that led to the different crises we had,…
Nothing literally…hints, atmosphere… Are you up for it? Let me know what you think…”
– TIME -
[David]: “…As for the new prompt, I can definitely give it a shot. I’ll see if I can conjure up a draft within the next couple of days. Is that ok?”
– TIME –
S: “Yes, sure. Take your time…I’m happy you want to go for it…”
– TIME -
D: “So, this is a draft. It’s a little more upfront than some of the other stuff I’ve written for you, I think. That said, it’s still pretty surreal. I want to still tweak it a bit, read it aloud a few times, etc”
- TIME -
S: “Yes! Yes. Fantastic title. Love the quotes.
Good imaging. The last line ‘Currency is a plot of land to which the wingless birds have marched us—on which we are sold the means to dig ourselves a more efficient kind of grave’ is spot on…
So yes, you’re definitely on to something. Tweak as you like and see fit.”