Situation 6 (Stop And Frisk) by Claudia Rankine

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One of a series of “Situation” videos created by Jamaican-American poet Claudia Rankine in collaboration with her husband, the photographer John Lucas, using texts from her award-winning, genre-bending poetry collection Citizen: An American Lyric (2014). This one employs a technique I find very effective in maintaining viewer interest during longer videopoems: interweaving separate stories in the footage and voiceover to create a kind of dialectical tension. What doesn’t happen, or might happen, becomes as important as what does.

Thanks to PBS NewsHour for this upload. For more on Rankine’s collaboration with Lucas, see the interview at BOMB Magazine that I quoted from last September when I posted “Situation 5.” All six Situation videos may be viewed on Rankine’s website (Flash required).

Reading Arabic by Amy Miller

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A Moving Poems production. I uploaded this to Vimeo five months ago but never got around to sharing it here, side-tracked by my trip to Berlin for the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival a week later. And then when two of Amy Miller’s poems got made into such superlative films by Lori Ersolmaz (“Backward Like a Ghost“) and Eduardo Yagüe (“I Was Grass“), I sort of forgot about my own, more primitive effort. But I was reminded of it again by the rising tide of anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia around the world. This videopoem with its hopefully not too obvious calligraphic touches was meant as a gesture of deep respect to the aural and visual qualities of a great literary civilization.

The text is from the Poetry Storehouse and was first published in Faultline. I used some Creative Commons-licensed footage from Equiloud (Uwe Schweer-Lambers), rearranged and turned black-and-white—the colors of ink and paper. I thought Miller’s understated reading from the MP3 file at the Storehouse could carry the video without any additional sounds, especially since the poem’s all about reading. Like the insects in Equiloud’s macro shots, literate human beings are thoroughly absorbed and enmeshed in the warp of text. (In Latin, text means “woven.”)

The writer, editor and videopoet Dustin Luke Nelson also tried his hand at a remix of Miller’s text. He took a very different approach:

It’s fascinating how much variation there can be in how we see or hear a given text.

My Mother Speaks to me of Suicide by Dave Lordan

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Pádraig Burke of the production company Runaway Penguin directed and edited this filmpoem-performance video hybrid. Though some of the shots struck me as a bit too literal, they were balanced by other, more oblique images, and Dave Lordan‘s intense delivery was a good fit for the dire subject-matter of the poem. “My Mother Speaks to me of Suicide” appears in his collection The Lost Tribe of the Wicklow Mountains (Salmon Press, 2014).

Incidentally, Runaway Penguin takes its name from one of my favorite Werner Herzog scenes… which also relates, in a strange way, to the subject of Lordan’s poem.

The Society for the Prevention of Something by Dale Wisely

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Dale Wisely has acknowledged the Belgian filmmaker Marc Neys A.K.A. Swoon as one of the major influences on his recent foray into videopoetry. Here Swoon returns the favor with a video remix of one of Wisely’s poems from The Poetry Storehouse. He shared some process notes on his blog.

I found this poem perfect for a ‘filmcomposition with txt on screen’ type of video.
First  I made a re-edit of a track I made earlier to give me a nice timeframe and a ‘mood’ to work with.
For some reason I wanted animals (crawling, floating, …)  in this video. Browsing different footage providers gave a good collection of jellyfish, crows, a worm, insects,…

I combined these with shots of nature, agriculture, hunting (all very moody) and tried out what lines from the poem worked best with what image. I still think it’s a fun way of ‘composing’ a videopoem.

Poetics Lesson at the Baruch Houses by Rich Villar

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Another great spoken-word video from Advocate of Wordz, this time featuring writer, editor, activist, and educator Rich Villar, who wrote about it in a January blog post:

Appropriately, my first project for 2015 returns to a subject I first wrote about in 2004. Beyond the legacy of the Nuyorican writers, I can’t fully explain the pull of the place. But when I’m there, when I’m roaming the Lower East Side, there is poetry.

And there are poets from there. Some heralded, others not so much, but I’m honored to speak this poem into existence, to them and for them. And I’m even more honored that Advocate of Wordz chose to record me reciting it at various places on the Lower East Side, including those iconic Baruch Houses at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge.

More soon, gente. For now, enjoy the poem.

Late by Keith Sargent

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An author-made videopoem by the creative director of the British design company immprint. It was nominated for best editing at the Liberated Words Poetry Film Festival 2014. Keith Sargent gave this background:

My father was dying of cancer, I was in London and he was in Kent, a 45 mile distance; this would normally take one and a half hours. On the 8th of August at 8.30 a.m. I received a call from my Mum who passed the phone to my Dad, he said “I love you. Night, night.” At 10 a.m. I received a call from his nurse saying he was very close (to dying). I set off. I arrived at 1.15. I was late. He had gone. I held his still warm hand (Mum had wrapped him in duvet to keep his body warm). I missed him. I miss him.

Liberated Words’ Vimeo upload description goes on to say:

Keith Sargent is creative director of multi-disciplinary design company immprint ltd and has worked as an educator, illustrator, filmmaker and graphic designer since graduating from the RCA in 1988. His films have been commissioned for commercial projects and screened at Bath Mix, Zebra, Athens and Visible Verse poetry film festivals.

director / scriptwriter / editor / music: Keith Sargent
cast: Keith Sargent, Stan Sargent, Rebecca Sargent, Stanley Sargent

Since my friend Rachel Rawlins saw this film at Liberated Words’ March 5 screening at The Little Theatre in Bath and really liked it, I asked her if she’d be willing to write a short review. We don’t get to hear very often from fans of poetry film who are neither poets nor filmmakers. Here’s what she sent along:

I love the way this video poem manages in a deceptively simple way to juxtapose so many of the profound dualities around life and death. There’s the physical rootedness of warmth and cold as well as our subjective experience of time, both forwards and backwards. The soundtrack and film unite to give a sense of slow, almost underwater/otherworldliness whilst narrating an experience of considerable tension and stress where the need for speed is central. The use of text on the screen is something I often have great difficulty with (perhaps as a result of a dyslexia-like inability to process letters easily) but its use here—slow, deliberate and carefully planted within the physical visual environment of the film—really works for me. I find the overall experience utterly immersive.

What I don’t like (and actually makes my toes curl) is the addition, one by one, of crosses above the heads of the three adults in the family photograph. I’m happy there wasn’t the usual slow focusing in on the child’s face or suchlike but I feel there’s no need to use any device to underscore the fact that he’s the last one left. We’ve already been told that.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree by William Butler Yeats

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I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey…

By situating the action of this animated short in the “pavements grey” rather than the “bee-loud glade,” director, scriptwriter and editor Don Carey was able to avoid the trap of too-literal illustration while drawing attention to the poem’s longing and suggestion of despair. The ending is brilliantly ambiguous.

According to the Vimeo description, Innisfree was “produced by the students of the animation department at the Irish School of Animation, Ballyfermot College of Further Education, 2013.” It won best animation at the 2014 Royal Television Society awards, and has been screened at several festivals, including the Cork Spring Poetry Festival, the 7th ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival in Berlin, and the Liberated Words Poetry Film Festival 2014 in Bristol (and again last week at their “Reflections” screening in Bath).

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