Embroidered by Andy Bonjour

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Andy Bonjour‘s brief, deceptively simple videopoem about his wife’s embroidery was selected for Visible Verse 2014 and the “Parallel Worlds” programme at ZEBRA. Videopoetry critic Erica Goss included it in a list of ten stand-out films from the 7th ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival. It’s a gem of a video, and demonstrates that sometimes closely aligned footage and text can really work together, producing not a feeling of redundancy but something more like gestalt.

Tiny Openings Everywhere by Kallie Falandays

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The poet and reader here, Kallie Falandays, runs Tell Tell Poetry, a site dedicated to “making poetry fun again,” and true to form, this is a fun piece — and a bit of a departure for Swoon (Marc Neys), both in the high-energy style of the reading and the way it’s incorporated into the film. As he says in a recent blog post,

I found the poem at The Poetry Storehouse, but it was Kallie Falandays’ jagged reading that made me pick this up.

I first created a soundtrack where her reading could be the spiky centerpiece. [Listen on SoundCloud.]

The visuals for this one came fairly easy. A string of footage (found and filmed) was edited close to the rhythm and pace of the soundscape. I wanted everyday objects (almost still life) juxtaposed with images of the everyday rat race. For some reason that works well and results in an overall strange atmosphere.

I was prompted to post a second Swoon videopoem this week by the realization that I have missed quite a few good ones this year. I think that’s excusable, though, given that he’s released 70 poetry films in 2014 (so far), collaborating with poets both famous and obscure from all over the world. Considering how many of his films have appeared in festivals and exhibitions, not to mention on this and other websites, it’s fair to say that Neys is doing more to bring poetry to the screen than any filmmaker alive — all on a shoestring budget.

My Handwriting by Dan O’Brien

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This is the most recent of three short videopoems by Ruben Quesada based on texts from Dan O’Brien‘s new poetry collection Scarsdale. (The other two are “Greenwich / Isle of Dogs” and “Breaking the Ice.”) Scarsdale was published last month in London by CB Editions, but an American edition is due out next year from Measure Press, according to the description on Vimeo.

It’s great to see a poet and editor of Quesada’s stature getting into videopoetry. He’s been at it for at least six months, judging from his output on Vimeo, and as this video demonstrates, he already has a pretty deft touch.

Incident by Amiri Baraka

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An exemplary use of collage in this videopoem by Rachel Eliza Griffiths, incorporating the Eric Garner footage along with other shots of police brutality and newspaper-headline-style snippets of text. The description at Vimeo:

My name is Rachel Eliza Griffiths. I am a black poet who will not remain silent while this nation murders black people. I have a right to be angry.

“Incident” by Amiri Baraka read by Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Visual Text include references & lines from
Allen Ginsberg’s “America”
Carrie Mae Weems “From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried”
Gil Scott-Heron, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”

The inclusion of multiple voices in a videopoem is something that doesn’t happen very often, for some reason, but I think it’s very effective here. Rachel Eliza Griffiths is a poet and photographer whose “literary and visual work has been widely published in journals, magazines, anthologies, and periodicals including Callaloo, The New York Times, Poets & Writers, The Writer’s Chronicle, Crab Orchard Review, Mosaic, RATTLE,” and many others. See her website for more.

As I was preparing this post, I noticed that the video has also just been featured at Cultural Front.

The poem and confluence of words, still images, and disturbing video footage come to us quickly within the span of 141 seconds. Multiple viewings are necessary to grasp all that Griffiths presents here. She really stretches the boundaries of poetry, video, and artistic protest. Her contribution is a really distinguishing moment in the production of #BlackPoetsSpeakOut and beyond.

It’s encouraging to see the prominent role of poets and poetry in what is increasingly looking like a new American civil rights movement. Since I wrote about #BlackPoetsSpeakOut at Moving Poems Magazine the other week, videos with that hashtag have continued to appear online and number in the hundreds now. And there was an excellent article by Matt Petronzio in Mashable, of all places: “Refusing silence: Black poets protest and mourn in verse.”

As Black Poets Speak Out grows, more and more poets are reading their original work. But most people so far have read the work of famous poets, such as Lucille Clifton, Langston Hughes and Claude McKay, as well as renowned contemporary poets, including Evie Shockley and Cornelius Eady.

“I think most people are doing other people’s work initially, because that work is there and still, unfortunately, relevant. And that’s the thing about poetry — when it was used in the Black Arts Movement as protest poetry, it was because it was an immediate response. It was something to do quickly,” [Jonterri] Gadson says.

Perhaps that’s why so many people, even outside Black Poets Speak Out, are turning to poetry, after their own words fail them. In the wake of tragedy, it can help make sense of the senseless; iconic black poets’ words are painfully timeless.

While purely documentary videos of poetry readings can be wonderful, I’ll remain on the lookout for those that incorporate video remix and other elements of true videopoetry to share here. Any and all tips are appreciated. I’d also encourage poets who might be interested in following Griffiths’ example to check out our list of online resources for videopoem makers.

Proof: a poetic glimpse into the archives of Bloodaxe Books

A poetry film/documentary hybrid. The filmmaker, Kate Sweeney, describes it in the Vimeo description as

A poetic glimpse into the archives of the North East [UK] poetry publisher Bloodaxe Books, the contents of which were recently purchased by Newcastle University.
The film was made by artist Kate Sweeney in collaboration with poets Tara Bergin and Anna Woodford in spring 2013

Anna Woodford and Tara Bergin both held residencies at the archive. Bergin talks about her fondness for archives in a video introduction to the film. The same site (CAMPUS social network) gives a fuller explanation of how Proof came to be:

In 2013, Newcastle University acquired the archive of Bloodaxe Books, one of the most important
contemporary poetry publishers in the world. Two poets and recent PhD graduates, Anna Woodford and Tara Bergin, were asked to take a look into the as yet un-catalogued boxes to gain an initial sense of the archive’s scope and potential. To document their findings, they teamed up with artist Kate Sweeney to make a short ‘poem-film.’ They called it ‘Proof’.

“It was very strange and very interesting,” Bergin says.

The film includes guest appearances by Bloodaxe authors Gillian Allnutt, Simon Armitage, John Hegley and Anne Stevenson.

Cold Moon by Erica Goss

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We buy longing, our faces
aggressive and breakable

on the cusp of winter.

The perfect poetry film for the holiday season. This is the final part of the 12 Moons series, the year-long videopoetry collaboration between Marc Neys A.K.A. Swoon (concept, camera and direction), Erica Goss (poetry), Kathy McTavish (music), and Nic Sebastian (voice), presented by Atticus Review. Marc wrote:

As with the other 11, Kathy provided me with a great soundtrack. Moody and floating on ‘loneliness’. Perfect for Nic’s reading and the poem itself.
Reading and hearing the poem gave me the idea of using images of people shopping for the holidays. I filmed these for another project (Day is done), but this was a perfect match.

It’s like Erica said after viewing the video: “In “Cold Moon,” the young woman’s expression captures the essence of the poem: that holiday shopping is a poor excuse for spirituality, and that faith is still an unexplained phenomenon.”

So this was the last of the series. All of these were made over more than a year ago, but I still have great memories working on these. My gratitude also goes out to Atticus Review and Moving Poems for giving those videos an extra home.
Showing these 12 at Zebra Festival in Berlin this year was a highlight, but collaborating with those three was the best reward.

I Can’t Breathe: poems for Eric Garner by Daniel J. Watts and Bettina Judd

From WalkRunFly Productions, here’s a unique performance poem by Daniel J. Watts which took the form of a well-coordinated, flash-mob-like demonstration four months ago, in response to the choking death of Eric Garner at the hands of police. In light of the recent failure of a grand jury to indict the officer who killed Garner, and the growing, nation-wide movement against racist police behavior, it is sadly more relevant than ever. Here’s the description from Vimeo:

On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner, a 43-year-old Staten Island man died after being placed in a choke hold by police. His death sparked national outrage.

More than 100 Broadway stars, directors, choreographers, designers, and technicians gathered at the police precinct in Times Square to express their thoughts on the killing of Eric Garner.

WalkRunFly Productions (Warren Adams & Brandon Victor Dixon) partnered with poet Daniel J. Watts, MSNBC’s David Wilson from thegrio and more than 100 Broadway stars, directors, choreographers, designers and technicians in Times Square, to express their thoughts on the killing of Eric Garner.

WalkRunFly Productions

Produced By
Warren Adams & Brandon Victor Dixon

Poem written and performed by
Daniel J. Watts

Edited by
Darryl Harrison
Visual Architect

Videographers
Lowell Freedman, Antonio Thompson, Darryl Harrison, And Jesse Guma

The whole incident was captured on video by a bystander, and at least one poet — Bettina Judd — has remixed the footage into a videopoem. Judd is no stranger to innovative videopoetry, and it shows: she uses contrast and layering to good effect, including verses from the Bible (where breath is often equated to the soul and to the breath of God), preparing the viewer/listener for a sardonic, unsettling conclusion.

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