An improvised dance interpretation of a poem by Hawai’i-based poet Ruth Thompson from her latest book, Crazing. The dancers are Jenn Eng, Claudia Hagan, Anna Javier, Chloe Oldfather, Catherine Rehberg, and the poet herself. Camera, editing and audio are by Don Mitchell. The music is from the Miró Quartet.
Szymborska’s most widely anthologized poem in a film interpretation by Pat van Boeckel, using footage shot on Sado Island, Japan, including (at the very end) a sculpture by Karin van der Molen. The usual English translation by Stanizław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh from View With a Grain of Sand is given as onscreen text, with the poet’s own recitation in the soundtrack. I suppose some might find the images of an abandoned Buddhist temple a bit too obvious here (“great empty halls”, “two thousand years”), but I thought they made a perfect fit. The music is by Max Richter — the very same track van Boeckel used more recently for the documentation of his Rilke-inspired video installation.
Thinking about how the entirely preventable tragedies of the so-called War on Terror unfolded after September 11, 2001, and agonizing about what we might’ve done to stop it, language breaks down. From poet Andrea Assaf and the Art2Action theater group, including video artist Pramila Vasudevan, “Eleven Reflections on September” is
a poetry/spoken word, multimedia performance on Arab American experience, Wars on/of Terror, and “the constant, quiet rain of death amidst beauty” that each autumn brings in a post-9/11 world. This production is based on the series of poems Andrea Assaf has been writing since 2001, spanning the fall of the towers, the on-going wars, and the current revolutions and conflicts sweeping through the Arab world. Aesthetically, the poems explore the disintegration of language in the face of violence, prejudice, and unspeakable horror; as such, they progress from lyrical to abstract and broken. The annual witnessing of autumn leaves becomes a metaphor for the fallen–soldiers and civilians … This multi-disciplinary project includes performances with interactive media design and live music; community dialogues; visual arts exhibits; open mics, panels and opportunities for action through partnerships with Iraq Veterans Against the War and other peace organizations.
The Vimeo description for this video reads:
An excerpt from “Eleven Reflections on September” by Andrea Assaf
Poem # 11: Judgment
Post-script 1: Traveling
Video Art by Pramila Vasudevan.
Sound Design for “Judgment” by Owen Henry & Keegan Fraley.
Choreographic Assignment: Raise me from the dead. From the metaphorical underworld to the heavens. Once you have lifted my body-spirit from the ground, help me travel to the afterlife. Travel with me, and send me on my way.
Cue: After the poem “Judgment” ends (repeating “just stop” 3x), the Daf pulses three times, followed by a chapreez — and the ritual to raise the dead begins. It will continue through the end of “Traveling”.
Movement during the re-mixed/voiceover section of “Judgment”: I am responding to the fragmented, falling, exploding words with my body — torso, arms and head only, while kneeling on the ground. This section is my descent into the underworld, so to speak — or simply my disintegration, from which you will raise/remake me…
A note on “Traveling” — This poem is an English translation of Mohamed Bouazi’s suicide note to his mother, posted on his Facebook page. Tarek al-Tayyib Muhammad ibn Bouazizi, a 26-year old Tunisian fruit vendor who quit high school to work and support his mother and sisters, set himself on fire on December 17, 2010, after his wares were confiscated … A fire that sparked the revolution now known as “The Arab Spring”. His last note is pure poetry, his final act pure protest. The poem, by Andrea Assaf, was published by Mizna in the Spring 2012 issue on “Literature in Revolution.”
Visit the Eleven Reflections on September channel on Vimeo to watch other excerpts from the piece, including live performance videos.
I really hate to say this but this is the truth, there is no Iraq now.
From director Roxana Vilk and Al Jazeera’s Artscape: Poets of Protest series, here’s a short (25-minute) bio pic from 2012 featuring the Iraqi poet Manal Al-Sheikh and her life in exile with her two children in Norway. Interspersed throughout the film are a number of short poems treated filmpoem style, with the poet’s recitation in Arabic accompanied by on-screen English translation. Ian Dodds was the cameraman, and Ling Lee edited. Vilk has a mini essay accompanying the film on Vimeo that is worth reproducing in full:
FILMMAKER’S VIEW: Keeping the protest alive
By Roxana Vilk
I was really keen that we have an Iraqi poet in the Poets of Protest series. When I read Manal Al Sheikh’s fiery work I was immediately captivated, as she seemed to truly encapsulate the essence of a poet and activist combined.
As Manal says: “When you are a person from a country like Iraq you automatically have some anger inside you and this anger, if you are a poet or a writer, you can transfer it as an explosion in your text.”
Manal is originally from Nineveh in northern Iraq, one of the oldest and greatest cities in antiquity and a place renowned for its multi-cultural society. Since the 2003 invasion, Nineveh has been the scene of some of the bloodiest and most violent fighting.
“I witnessed everything, the bombing, the struggle between the parties, all these make you angry, so I protest with my text,” the poet explains.
However, Manal’s work as an outspoken poet and journalist in Iraq was fraught with danger and her life was constantly under threat. She had to make the heart-breaking decision to leave her country and her family and seek refuge with her two young children in Norway.
“For me as a female writer in Iraq, just being female it was of course a challenge; just to live there in a normal way with my thoughts and my ambitions for a future. But really I can say the main change in my life was becoming a single mother in that society. Suddenly I found myself a widow, a very young widow,” Manal reflects.
I travelled with Ian Dodds, the director of photography, to Stavanger in Norway in January 2012, during the depths of the Norwegian winter, as temperatures were plummeting to an unforgiving -20 degrees Celsius. Filming the stark contrast of the snowy cold white landscapes against Manal’s stories of Iraq made her struggle to have her voice heard all the more poignant.
At a time when it is dangerous to speak out in Iraq, especially as a woman, Manal had to travel half way around the world to keep her protest alive.
Our film follows Manal closely as she works through crafting a new poem, before presenting it to a public audience. Manal is a truly extraordinary poet, brave and defiant, at a time when Iraqi female voices are increasingly being silenced.
About the series:
Poets of Protest reflects the poet’s view of the change sweeping the Middle East and North Africa through its intimate profiles of six contemporary writers as they struggle to lead, to interpret and to inspire.
Poetry lives and breathes in the Middle East as in few other places.
Doug Spice directs an adaptation of Wilfred Owen’s classic anti-war poem, written 99 years ago but still (sadly) as relevant as ever, in which a reading of the poem is juxtaposed with a scene of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. There are many, many video adaptations of this poem on the web, but most fall into the trap of too-literal interpretation, and few have anything like the production values of this short film. Let me just paste in the complete description from Vimeo.
In 1917, while recovering from shell shock in a Scottish war hospital, Wilfred Owen wrote “Dulce Et Decorum Est,” considered by many to be the preeminent poem of World War I. Owen was later returned to the front, only to be shot and killed on November 4, 1918 – one week before the end of the war.
Today, 95 years later, tens of thousands of US and NATO troops serve out a 10th year of combat in Afghanistan, and continue to struggle and die against a resilient and determined enemy. Doug Spice’s single-take short film, also entitled “Dulce Et Decorum Est,” adapts Owen’s classic poem to the circumstances of the modern day, and a situation of grief and torment all too many soldiers, families, and friends are once again familiar with.
Director: Doug Spice
Producer: Sonia Pineda
Featuring: Chris Starr, Daniel Haff, Dave “Storm” Huffman, Rob Gruspe, Jake Daniel Kelly, Zak Holman, Clint Slosson
DP/Steadicam Operator: Thom Valko
Camera Assistant: Aaron Bennett
Production Assistant: Alex Igidbashian
Makeup: Rose Lopez
Editor & Sound Editor: Aaron Bennett
Rotoscope Artists: Alex Igidbashian, Rose Lopez
VFX/Compositing: Doug Spice
Music: “Cosmic Wanderings” by Austin Wintory
Special Thanks: Joe Toledo
Production and post-production: Psychic Bunny