Filmmaker E’lisha Holmes, A.K.A. E’lisha Jule, approached Langston Hughes’ three-line poem in the same way some poetry filmmakers like to approach haiku, with the text coming at the end as a culmination of, or a response to, the footage. Given the subject matter here, this approach allows an effective, oblique resolution of the film’s mounting tension.
This may be my favorite Motionpoem to date. The title poem from Melissa Studdard‘s new collection is impressive in itself, but it would’ve been so easy for a filmmaker to ruin it by choosing conventionally “cosmic” imagery, or by illustrating some of the more quotidian images in the text. Instead, as director/producer Dan Sickles told Rosemary Davis in an interview,
My way into this poem was an experiential familiarity. It’s an articulation of a moment of utter presence, where a mundane activity provides a portal to divine contact. The poem is elemental, and speaks of nature, life, and death. I wanted to aid in an ethereal, celestial experience of Melissa’s words through film, to inspire a feeling rather than a literal interpretation.
What was the first image you thought of after reading this poem?
The first image I thought of after reading the poem was a shot of the entire planet floating in space. Ultimately, that inspiration boiled down to this idea that size, a juxtaposition of micro and macro shots, and fluidity/liquidity in camera movement were the basic ground rules for how we approached production. […]
I was in Puerto Rico for the premiere of my last film, Mala Mala, which we shot on the island over the course of three years, and that’s when we shot this, the day after our premiere. I was after a particular tone expressed in the poem, which I felt could be best represented by the raw, dense, natural landscape in Aguas Buenas and surrounding towns outside of San Juan.
And his approach resonated with Studdard, as well:
I love it! In fact, it is specifically because they avoid the predominant metaphor and related images that they are able to so skillfully tease out subtext. I felt much more understood than I would have if they’d simply shown someone eating a pancake and drinking tea. By pairing the textual imagery with this new visual imagery, they further elicit the sense of creation, sustenance, and elemental divinity at the heart of “I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast.” Rather than timidly toeing the periphery of the poem, they brave the thick inner brushland and cut new paths back out. That is as it should be. They’re not here to merely represent my poem. They’re here to create a new work of art.
I figured it would only be a matter of time before someone created a viral videopoem on Vine. (This has also been uploaded to YouTube.) The author, Simply Sylvio, is “Vine’s first avant-garde gorilla,” according to Mashable.
Sylvio’s Vine feed is a treasure chest of drama, comedy, animation and abstract art, all in the form of six-second looping videos. He’s taken a cinematic approach on the platform, showcasing his travels and everyday routines for his 300,000 followers.
Sylvio doesn’t speak, but he once wrote to us: “Vine became the perfect way to capture all of the small, quiet moments on the road that would otherwise have been lost.”
Sylvio himself may not claim that this is a videopoem, but I think it fits the classic, Konyvesian definition to a T.
Presented as a multimedia object of a fixed duration, the principal function of a videopoem is to demonstrate the process of thought and the simultaneity of experience, expressed in words — visible and/or audible — whose meaning is blended with, but not illustrated by, the images and the soundtrack.
The playful manipulation of a Google search recalls the screenshot poetry of Google Poetics. The search acquires a certain pathos, the frantic flailing of the eponymous inchworm remaining open to interpretation no matter how often we re-watch it on Vine’s infinite loop. Given that inchworms are also commonly referred to as loopers, there may also be a certain self-reflexivity at work.
I do think it’s better with the sound off, though. That’s just cheesy.
Based on a poem by U.S. poet R.A. Villanueva, this was commissioned by London’s 2015 Dance Film Festival UK—”a collaboration between the dancer/choreographer, Julie Ann Minaai, and Garrett and Garrett, a brother-sister team of filmmakers,” as Villanueva told me via email. Michael and Katie Garrett work for a variety of clients, but according to the Dance Film Festival UK website,
their real passion lies in filmmaking for the arts, particularly, poetry, dance and music. They have won several awards for their dance and poetry pieces as well as producing a documentary which won the Channel 4 short documentary award at the Kendal Mountain Film Festival. […]
The piece “You will drown for poems” is a continuation of their love of collaborative arts projects and mixes poetry with movement for the screen. The key theme in this piece is that of the migrant artist and it reflects upon the importance of one’s work as a link to home and sense of belonging.
I’ve seen a lot of innovative dance-centered poetry films over the years, but this is the first aquatic one that I can remember, and Julie Ann Minaai‘s choreography takes full advantage of the dream-like movement of fabric and diffuse lighting available underwater. The evocative music is credited to Cato Hoeben. As for the poem, it originally appeared in Lantern Review: A Journal of Asian American Poetry, and carries the dedication “for Dennis Kim, 1983-2005.”
Double Life in REM State […] has all the dreamlike quality and strange reality that I look for in a poem. […] The poem was perfect for text on screen (and I love the line ‘Dreams are always about the dreamer’)
I started collecting footage for certain lines (insects, animals, nature, movement, and a few haunting ones)
Meanwhile I also began working on a fitting soundtrack;
Once I had all my building blocks, I could start ‘composing’.
Image by image, placing lines, adjusting pace,…
It’s what I call fun.
Motionpoems’ latest, a Vimeo Staff Pick, is a pencil animation by Matt Smithson A.K.A. man vs magnet of a poem by Stacey Lynn Brown. Yaa Asantewa provided the voiceover and Joshua Smoak composed the music.
“Citizen journalist” Jeannie E. Roberts conducted interviews for Motionpoems with both the poet and the filmmaker—check them out. Brown says, in part:
“Undersong” is both an elegy and an ode to the poet Jake Adam York, who died at the age of 40 in December 2012. Jake was a poet of extraordinary depth, courage, wisdom, and empathy. His life’s work, a project entitled “Inscriptions for Air,” was an excavation of race and involved writing an elegy for every single man, woman, and child who were martyred in the Civil Rights Movement. He was a white man from Alabama who confronted the challenges and implications and devastation of racism head on, and the literary world is so much richer for his work—and so much more bereft for the work that will not follow.
Poetry is, in many ways, the only language I have at my disposal to say certain things, and this poem is an example of that. As a poet from the South, I wanted to pay homage to the visual landscape that connected us, to evoke the places we’re both from in an effort to encapsulate origin while memorializing just how far from there we journeyed in our thoughts and actions and words.
And Smithson’s description of his process is extremely impressive:
The process of creating the Motionpoem for “Undersong” was two-fold. Once I had decided on a direction and concept, I spent quite a bit of time researching specific locations that I felt best captured the visual quality described in the poem. Traveling through the South, through rural Virginia, North and South Carolina, West Virginia, and Kentucky, I filmed a variety of places, people, and details that I planned to use in the creation of this Motionpoem. Not every piece of footage was used, but this process helped further connect me to many of the places Stacey Lynn Brown describes, places echoing with a storied past.
The process I used to create the visual style of this Motionpoem involved the labor intensive process of tracing each image by hand to give the piece a handmade quality. Using the filmed footage as a starting point for most of the scenes, I merged the reality with my stylized interpretation, taking creative liberty in the development of each moment.
A new film by artist and poet Dave Richardson using a text and reading by Charlotte Pence. As the Vimeo description notes, “Normalization of Deviance” appears in Pence’s collection Many Small Fires, just out from Black Lawrence Press.