The Fucking Titanic by Dave Lordan

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Irish poet Dave Lordan’s stirring recitation is backed up by music from Sunn O))) and an inspired cut-up of a movie about the Titanic, A Night to Remember (1958). Though I post a lot of videos that remix old film footage here at Moving Poems, I thought it was pretty unusual to make such a lengthy poetry film all from a single source—and one on the same subject as the poem. So I asked the video editor, Eamonn Crudden, to comment. Here’s what he wrote.

I made the video for “The Fucking Titanic”in about 20 hours over two days. Dave knew that his book of prose experiments—First Book of Frags—was about to come out and asked me to get involved in making a video for one of the pieces.

He left the choice of piece up to me and I picked the Titanic one because, reading it online months earlier, I had been struck by the ‘voice’ of the poem—a proletarian female voice cursing her fellow passengers on the Titanic, and the world generally, from beyond a watery grave. I imagined her voice condemning those on the upper levels of the ship, to reliving the disaster over and over for all eternity.

That thought was the hard work in the process of making something for Dave! The rest was really just a mechanical process. I knew that with any dramatized reconstruction I could get my hands on I could capture that thought. It would be as simple as putting the ‘voice’ in the piece over footage of the disaster in progress.

I have made a number of quite experimental films in the last few years—constructing new stories using original monologues (of my own usually) and combining these with edits of my own footage and footage drawn from films that come to hand. Dave knew about my approach so I guessed, without ever directly asking him, that he’d be OK with a piece made through appropriation.

He made a rapid voice recording at my request and e-mailed it to me. I decided to work by having a look at A Night To Remember—an old black and white film about the Titanic. I downloaded and started to watch a just-OK rip of it ‘in’ Final Cut Pro. As I viewed it, sometimes at double and triple speed, I started to strip out all of the dialogue scenes, keeping the unfolding action sequences, and started to make a sub-selection of resonant images that would suit being looped. I knew the moment I first tried looping some of those more resonant shots over the reading and the soundtrack by Sunn O)) that I had a crescendo to build up to. I then started into editing a fast summary of what was left of the film when the dialogue was removed and immediately knew that the almost ‘nouvelle vague’ feel that resulted, combined with a crescendo based on loops, would work as an approach for the whole piece.

I don’t feel bad or guilty about this kind of appropriation at all. It is not as if I or Dave will profit from the venture. I think the quite compelling nature of the result justifies the approach. I am primarily an editor and editing to me is a creative activity. The creative part of my work on it was a simple choice of music and of an existing text to rifle for imagery. Maybe it is useful to compare this approach to VJing? I don’t think there is ‘originality’ in the video—but as a little machine to heighten the intensity of Dave’s piece I think it works. That’s enough for me. I heartily recommend this cheap and dirty approach to others who want to give their poetry and writing a visual element.

To order a copy of First Book of Frags, see the Wurm Press website.

Daffodils by William Wordsworth

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Judging from YouTube, Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” must be one of the most popular poems to make into a video, but none of the versions I’ve seen quite made the cut — until now. Polly Zwolinski is a linguistics student at Kings College, London, planning to write her thesis on film poetry, and if this video is any indication, she really grasps what makes a good filmpoem work. Not only is the juxtaposition of film and text images nicely oblique and suggestive, but by transposing such a quintessentially pastoral poem to the urban sphere, Zwolinski has a good chance of expanding its audience.

Migrations by Dave Richardson

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A gem of a videopoem by poet and filmmaker Dave Richardson.

Note that, polished as it appears, this is still a first draft, according to Richardson. In a comment at Vimeo, he wrote:

Always happy to share works in progress. My “first draft” might just be someone’s “final draft.” I think this motion piece is in good shape now.

Lebensweisheitspielerei by Wallace Stevens

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A film by the Greek composer, musician, filmmaker and video artist Makis Faros, who writes in the Vimeo description:

The project is based on a poem of Wallace Stevens titled “LEBENSWEISHEITSPIELEREI”.
The lyrics : “The proud and the strong Have departed” marks a huge portion of the history of the African states calling for their independency at the decades of 60 and after. People who were cut off from their land, used to be dependent on slave labor and within a culture imposed on them, had to stay stool when their invaders departed. These mechanisms can also be found at the contemporary consumer societies of the western world. The video focuses on the endless vicious game of them: those who remain, between desire and the “grandeur of annihilation”

This was uploaded by Vital Space Projects, who have a number of other interesting experimental films on Vimeo.

Sandburg and Photograph by Lennart Lundh

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A simple but effective videopoem. Nic S. used a text from The Poetry Storehouse contributed by Illinois-based writer and photographer Lennart Lundh, but as she notes at her blog, the video imagery came first.

For this one, I started with the footage and then searched for the poem.

One of the challenges for a videopoem maker not yet handy with his or her own camera (that would be me) is finding video footage that a) works and b) is copyright-free and c) is either free or inexpensive. There are a few sites (eg Motion Elements or OrangeHD) that put up video clips for free use, and I trawl them regularly, downloading and saving footage against future need. The clip subjects are super-odd and almost comically random and nearly always fall in the ‘you never know’ category.

In this case, I found a series of shots taken of and through the side rear view mirror of a car. They struck me as metaphorically powerful and I went back through the Storehouse poems, deliberately looking for one which would match the metaphor. Lennart’s elegantly tragic simple/complicated piece, with its telescoping rearward/forward depiction of time and space jumped out at me very quickly.

Read the rest.

Telegram by Amy MacLennan

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For all you lovers, here’s a videopoem by the indefatigable Belgian filmmaker Swoon (Marc Neys).

Since the beginning of The Poetry Storehouse last year, a gentle stream of new arrivals and voices filled up the shelves. It was about time I went shopping for words again.
It’s such a fun place to nose. Different styles, themes, voices and ideas… This time the poem ‘Telegram’ by Amy MacLennan caught my eye. […]

The images came fairly easy. I wanted a very subtle, understated almost, scenery. slow movements, details of bodyparts and a slow veil of colour…
The video practically made itself…it felt right from the start. A good sign.

The poem first appeared online in Linebreak, and in print in MacLennan’s chapbook Weathering (Uttered Chaos Press, 2012).

Nic S. (who provided the reading used in the soundtrack) interviewed Amy MacLennan for our ongoing series of interviews at the Moving Poems Forum with poets and remixers who have provided or worked with material from The Poetry Storehouse. Here’s what MacLennan had to say about “Telegram”:

I never expected to hear that kind of music, see that kind of video, hear that kind of voice merged into something that I had provided words for. The pacing was crazy interesting for me. I saw other things in my own poem that I wouldn’t have thought before because I was too attached to the rhythms of “Telegram.” I watch this now and think, “Wow. My words were the beginning to THIS? Oh my goodness!”

Be Drunk (Enivrez-vous) / Bądźcie Pijani by Charles Baudelaire

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A Polish-language videopoem with English subtitles (sorry, French people) by Gaba Sibilska, who says in the Vimeo description:

It’s an attempt to re-interprate Charles Baudelaire’s poem in a way that fits in our world – world of young people. It’s the inevitable future that frightens the youth. In the juvenile joy of life and affirmation of fun, one can find denial, lies, fear, despair, a desperate attempt to escape from the reality. Eventually, though, every young person must realize that however change of perception may ease the fear, it has no affect on time. And no matter how distant it seems, the end of carefree youth will come one day…

Here’s the French original.