Nationality: United States

How Do You Raise A Black Child? by Cortney Lamar Charleston

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Cortney Lamar Charleston’s searing poem, from his forthcoming collection Telepathologies (Saturnalia Books, 2017), is brought to the screen by director Seyi Peter-Thomas, Motionpoems and Station Film:

“This poem is about the precarious balance black parents have to strike in order to raise their kids ‘right,’ ” director Seyi Peter-Thomas says of Lamar Charleston’s piece. “It’s wrenching and thought-provoking.” Seyi’s film perfectly communicates this balance as it follows young Malik and his mother navigating life’s highs and lows. The moments of levity and those of unsolicited sobriety explore the complexity of Malik’s experiences as a part of a larger conversation on race and community within today’s uneasy social and political climate.

Seyi says, “Maybe what’s really being asked is how do we save a black child? And, what are the elements we must save them from? It’s a uniquely American conversation, one we’re all having on some level right now.” He hopes viewers will connect with the humanity in the film and also be prompted to ask and answer some questions of their own.

Motionpoems’ newest season of films are based on poems by black American poets, and presented in association with Cave Canem, a home for black poetry.

View more of Seyi’s work HERE.

For Gasoline by James Brush

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Earlier this week, Spanish filmmakers Javi Zurrón (Myblue Audiovisual) and Eduardo Yagüe simultaneously released these two films based on the same poem by the Texas-based writer James Brush, from his collection of road poetry, Highway Sky. In the Myblue Audiovisual version, Brush’s recitation is in the soundtrack, with Yagüe’s Spanish translation in titling; in his own film, Yagüe reads the translation and the original appears on the screen. In their footage and soundtracks, the two films are completely different but complementary, interpreting the text in a similar manner. Aida Riesgo of Myblue Audiovisual stars in both, and Javi Zurrón is the male actor in Yagüe’s Gasolina.

The romance of the automobile is as old as pop music, but usually it’s some specific hot car or motorcycle, not gasoline itself, that is depicted as an object of desire. These videopoems feel simultaneously new and deeply indebted to the music video tradition, not in the soundtrack but in the iconography (a scene of a rock concert, a Ramones t-shirt, a tattoo, etc.).

Inner Flamingo by Sandra Beasley

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The D.C.-based poet Sandra Beasley has made three new videos in support of the paperback edition of her book Count the Waves, due out next week from Norton. This was my favorite of the three, but you can check out the others and read all about her process in a very thorough post at her blog (I love how her ideas to promote the book include “promoting the new and forthcoming books I love by others–because I believe that to give to a community is to get a community”), concluding with a number of annotated links to other poetry films and videos she admires.

The music is “Raidenaick” by Marceau. Beasley’s comments about her use of music were especially interesting to me:

I keep my videos short, under two minutes, but that’s just a personal preference. Also, I feel strongly that the best results come when you can find a piece of music whose length genuinely matches your voiceover, versus cropping something down. There’s a magic to how the crescendos and shifts in pacing–of an artwork created independently of your poem–can accent the turns in the text. (Somewhere in there lies a theory of the organic volta.)

Read the rest.

Things I Carry Into the World by Cynthia Manick

This unusual and ambitious poetry film, created for the seventh season of Motionpoems by directors Jamil McGinnis and Pat Heywood, includes words from five different NYC poets, as Heywood explained in an email (links added):

The film is an adaptation of the poem ‘Things I Carry Into the World’ by Cynthia Manick. It’s an abstract meditation on the body, the feminine, the everyday realities of being young and black, and the fragility between the manmade and the natural. We worked with an incredible nonprofit, Urban Word NYC, who teamed us up with four poets: Esther Aloba, Nkosi Nkululeko, Makayla Posely, and Trace DePass, the scenes featuring them are actually adaptations of their own poems, heard briefly in the opening scene. We ended up with moments from four separate films, crafted under the umbrella of Cynthia Manick’s original poem. We found adapting poetry into film to be creatively liberating. Sort of like putting together a thematic puzzle; juxtaposing images, observing, asking questions, and finding moments of meditation to digest the poem’s text. We had our theater premiere at the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis on October 27 and our online premiere on NOWNESS on November 6.

The poems excerpted at the beginning are “untitled” by Makayla Posely, “Rule #1” by Esther Aloba, “band-aids & other temporary healings” by Trace DePass, and “From the Inside” by Nkosi Nkululeko. See Vimeo for the complete credits.

Od’e Miikan / Heart Line (Moose version) by Heid E. Erdrich

The latest videopoem collaboration between Heid E. Erdrich (poetry, voiceover), Jonathan Thunder (animation), and Trevino Brings Plenty (music)

arose out of Erdrich’s vision and understanding of Ojibwe/Anishinaabe star knowledge as told to her by elders and in the Ojibwe Star Map.nativeskywatchers.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/NSW_OjibweNorth.pdf
In Ojibwe cosmology, the figure seen hunting corresponds to the constellation known to others as Scorpio. Mooz corresponds to the constellation known to others as Pegasus. The Wolf Trail or Ma’iingn Miikan is the motion of the stars across the year, also known as the ecliptic.

This poemo exists in two forms, one with Heid’s voice auto tuned to wolf sounds and one with Heid’s voice auto tuned to moose sounds. You can here composer Trevino Brings Plenty talking about the process here: youtube.com/watch?v=mwIo5THOPNA

This poem film was created to align with the large, interactive animated creatures Wolf and Moose, the Creative City Challenge 2016 Winner that was directed by artist Christopher Lutter with collaborative partners Heid E. Erdrich, Kim Ford, Karl Stroerzinger, Coal Dorius, and Missy Adzick.

What Leslie Meant to Say by Cindy St. Onge

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A brief, author-made videopoem by Cindy St. Onge, responding to a voicemail which she’s included at the beginning of the video. This is the the sort of simple, straight-forward video remix that, to my mind, any working poet these days should learn how to make as a matter of course, because sometimes a poem needs to be more than just words on a page. As St. Onge noted on Vimeo:

The video, not the poem, is my response to the much-too-chipper voicemail notifying me that my best friend’s ashes are ready to retrieve. The title gave me the idea for the video, so I changed the first person confessional poem to second person, and achieved a bit of satisfaction.

Off the Trail: poetry by Michael McClure and Gary Snyder

This film, a selection from the longer experimental documentary Headlands Lookout by Jacob Cartwright and Nick Jordan, was awarded the prize for Best Poetry Film at this year’s ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival “For a pre-apocalyptic journey [with] a perfect guide in a stitched uniform into a world that’s going to unravel itself.” Here’s how Jordan describes it on his website:

Walk the path, sit the rains, grind the ink, wet the brush, unroll the broad white space….Lead out and tip the moist, black line.

Gary Snyder’s invocation to the muse of a Chinese scroll painter sets the tone in a short film adapted from Cartwright and Jordan’s longer work, Headlands Lookout.

Filmed in former US military barracks, and in the long-abandoned homes and circular library of Gary Snyder and Zen philosopher Alan Watts, Off the Trail follows a central protagonist, a soldier from another era, as he performs a series of actions and rituals. The uniformed figure paints Chinese nature symbols, chants, meditates and wanders dreamlike through a rolling Californian landscape of fog-shrouded hills, coastal defences and dense woodland valleys. Scenes are accompanied by haiku and poetry readings from Michael McClure and Gary Snyder, and the disembodied voice of Alan Watts, ruminating upon the passage of time and our perception of the ‘wild’.

As someone who studied Japanese and Chinese literature at university, there were parts of this that made me wince — the inept brush calligraphy, for example, and occasionally simplistic or misleading characterizations of Daoist and Buddhist thought — but I do recognize the historical importance of mid-20th-century writers such as Watts and Snyder in bringing East Asian thinking to a Western audience, however colored by Orientalism their versions of it may have been. And there’s no denying the beautiful cinematography and intriguing almost-narrative here, not to mention the innate fascination of the ruins where it was shot.

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