This is one of the best student poetry films I’ve seen. Ayesha Raees is from Lahore, Pakistan, a literature student at Bennington College in Vermont who is writing her thesis on videopoetry. She told me she’s been working on this piece for the past eight months, and it shows. The spot-on music is by Sarah Rasines.
Raees’ decision to use just the second stanza of Whitman’s poem gives the text, I think, that quality of incompleteness that Tom Konyves maintains is intrinsic to each element in a true videopoem. (Read the complete poem at the Poetry Foundation website.) Another filmmaker’s take on the poem was recently deleted from Vimeo, so I’m pleased that such a fine new interpretation has appeared to take its place in the Moving Poems archive.
Xiaomiao Wang, a doctoral student at the School of Art at Texas Tech University, worked with poet Beth McKinney to make this film as part of an exemplary, interdisciplinary poetry-film initiative, JOINT: A Poetry/Video Collaboration.
In the fall of 2015, poet John Poch and video artist Alex Henery collaborated to make the video poem Sonnet on Time. This collaboration is one of the several catalysts that led to the JOINT collaboration at Texas Tech University.
Throughout the spring semester of 2016, JOINT: A Poetry/Video Collaboration engaged Texas Tech University (TTU) students of Professors John Poch and Jiawei Gong in creating collaborative works of poetry and video/film throughout the spring semester of 2016. The student pairs met individually to craft a collaborative vision and product, working collectively to study and critique the production of work by collaborating faculty, artists and students. We hope you enjoy our work.
The completed projects were screened on May 3rd at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema to a packed house. Dr. Wyatt Phillips, assistant professor of Film & Media in the Department of English, served as juror of the videos. Having viewed all the work prior to the screening, the Juror’s award winners were announced before all the videos were screened. The Audience Choice Award, collected on ballots after the screenings, was announced the following day.
And Bone Thinning was the film the audience chose. View all the films on the TTU website or the JOINT channel on Vimeo. There’s also more information about the project and the visiting artists (who included the poet Todd Boss, director of Motionpoems).
A Moving Poems production in which I experimented with some abstract live footage meant to evoke animation. I sourced the
text—by American poet Sarah Sloat—from The Poetry Storehouse, where I also used one of the sound recordings, a reading by poet Amy Miller, to pace the titling, but then removed it from the soundtrack.
This replaces an earlier video I made for the same poem that I was never quite happy with, because its point of departure from the text was a bit too obvious and clever for my taste. (That one never made it onto Moving Poems.) The footage this time is a clip of fiber optic tips from Beachfront B-Roll, source of some the least generic free stock footage on the web, and the soundtrack is a public-domain field recording from Freesound.org of a prairie in eastern Oregon, complete with meadowlarks.
Speaking of Freesound, they’re currently on a fundraising campaign to cover their development and maintenance costs, which I’m guessing are not insignificant. Please give if you can. They’re a great resource for filmmakers and audiophiles.
I’ll end the week with a poem by one of my favorite poets, Sarah Sloat, interpreted by one of my favorite poetry-film makers, Marie Craven, in what I think is one of the most effective examples of the kinestatic style in videopoetry that I’ve seen. (Kinestasis is properly defined as “an animation technique using a series of still photographs or artwork to create the illusion of motion,” but I use the term, in the absence of a better one, a bit more broadly, to refer to any faster-than-slideshow series of still images in a video.) Craven’s masterful deployment of images from the Brockhaus Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary (1890-1907) unfolds to music by Podington Bear and the Poetry Storehouse voice recording by a young boy identified only as DM. Someone on Facebook described the overall effect as “sumptuously austere.”
This isn’t the first poetry film to use this text; no less than Marc Neys AKA Swoon has also tried his hand at it. But Craven definitely gave him a run for his money here. Sloat’s text seems especially ripe for videopoetic adaptation, given its musing on the relationship between words and images. Pen-and-ink illustrations in a dictionary break up the columns of text, Sloat says, “like little windows opening / from one side of the brain // to the other.” That’s exactly what happens to me whenever I watch a good videopoem.
The title poem from Meghan O’Rourke’s Once (W.W. Norton & Company, 2011), adapted to film by L.A.-based directors Angela & Ithyle for Motionpoems. Logan Polish is the actor, Patrick Jones the director of photography, and John Hermanson of Egg Music composed the original score.
The Motionpoems website includes an interview with the directors, conducted by poet Jake Lans, that’s really worth checking out, because I think it’s fascinating to see how filmmakers used to working on commercials approach a poetry film assignment. Here’s a bit of it:
Many motionpoems utilize a voice actor to help convey the poem; you chose text. What inspired that decision?
As we were listening to different voices, we realized that any voice actor that we chose would really influence how the poem was understood by the viewer. As we talked about it, we realized that for us the imagination was triggered more authentically by reading than by hearing the poem performed. We really enjoy reading poetry and wanted to stay true to that feeling.
What moved you to choose Meghan O’Rourke’s poem? Did you consult with her while you were adapting?
It’s so young and nostalgic. We decided not to talk to Meghan about the poem because we had a lot of questions about the deeper context of the piece but felt that we needed to go with our own gut reaction after reading it, as one would do when reading a poem normally. We felt that having a greater insight into the poem, having all of our questions answered, would tie us too much to a “real” narrative.
When working with an organization like Motionpoems, how does the creative freedom differ from some of the other projects you have worked on?
It was a lot of fun to have the parameters of the poem and then just go for it. Most of our work is done for products or companies where we have objectives of the client and their culture to really think about (we do a lot of work in other countries) and with this, we could really explore our own motifs and personal mythology.
The latest poetry animation by artist (and Moving Poems Magazine columnist) Cheryl Gross illustrates a poem by her long-time collaborator Nicelle Davis. Additional credits include “Voice: Robert Fisher, Music: David Michael Curry, Performed by: Willard Grant Conspiracy.” Cheryl’s succinct description is also worth quoting:
This video poem tells of the emotional impact that terrorist drills, conducted by police, have on a non affluent community.
A powerful, affecting poem. I like how the viewer/listener gradually comes to understand that what originally seemed like surrealist hyperbole is in fact all too real — though Cheryl’s drawings keep our attention focused on just how wrong and bizarre it is.