Not the Stars by John Dofflemyer

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This videopoem is a teaser for a forthcoming feature-length poetry documentary, The West, by filmmaker, composer and video artist H. Paul Moon (Zen Violence Films). According to the Vimeo description, it

Features poem “Not the Stars” written and recited by John Dofflemyer. Music composed and performed by Josh Coffey, with Jacob Siener. Additional camera by Bradley Winegar and Shang Ik Moon.

For more on John Dofflemyer, check out the wonderful poetry and ranching blog that he maintains with his photographer wife Robbin: drycrikjournal.

Here’s how the website for The West describes the full-length film:

This is an in-progress feature documentary about Western folklife, cowboy poets, and the American frontier. Pushing boundaries of documentary style, the film complements spoken poetry with artfully devised tableaus and landscapes that visualize the narrative themes of the poems, evincing stories of hardship and perseverance in today’s ranch culture. Surrounding this, interviews with folklorists, musicians, ranchers, and the cowboy poets themselves create an educational and historical context for this exploration, forming insightful ruminations on the West: not just a place or a moment in history, but a state of mind. Among all that seriousness, the cowboy’s lighter side will manifest in live performances and profiles from famous Western musicians like Don Edwards and Ian Tyson, and comedic monologues from legends in Western folklore like Baxter Black.

Before the current post-production stage of development, things kicked off in late 2012, when renowned historian and author Michael Wallis sat for an interview to give his insights on the West, laying a foundation for the West as “not just a place, but a state of mind.” Principal photography began around the annual occasion of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering at Elko, Nevada in January 2013, and continued at the 2014 Gathering. Icons of this culture, like Temple Grandin, Wallace McRae, Joel Nelson, John Dofflemyer, Baxter Black, Paul Zarzyski, Henry Real Bird, Amy Hale Auker, Don Edwards, The Quebe Sisters Band, Dave Stamey, Gail Steiger and many more are now in-the-can, with more footage to come. Release is planned for sometime in 2017.

In the meantime, a module from the feature-length documentary, of Joel Nelson’s reading of his poem “Equus Caballus” combined with footage from the ranch of John Dofflemyer, has been an Official Selection in the 2014 Visible Verse Film Festival at the Cinemateque in Vancouver, Canada, and in the 2015 Trail Dance Film Festival at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, Oklahoma.

It sounds as if it will be an engaging and entertaining film. Moon told me in an email that he’s “heading now into concentrated post-production editing after wrapping most of the principal photography.” Visit the website to read bios of all the people involved in the production, follow news about the project, sign up for the email newsletter, and more.

Advice Dyslexic by Lisa Vihos (3)

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Last year, I shared two videos made with Lisa Vihospoem “Advice Dyslexic”: one by Dale Wisely and one by Marc Neys AKA Swoon. Now Marie Craven and Nigel Wells have given us two more. Craven explained on Facebook that she and Wells had challenged each other to each make a short video out of the poem over the long holiday weekend, and both decided to use Nic S.’s voice recording in their videos.

Both of the videos take a fairly literal, illustrative approach to the text, but for once, this seems to work, I think because the poem is so playful. The videos simply build upon that playfulness, keeping things light and fast-moving.

The City Inside, Part 2 by Tim Cumming

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The conclusion of poet-filmmaker Tim Cumming’s new film of a poem about London. Though the entire film is over 13 minutes long, the repetition of certain images and tropes serves as a connective glue, and the language has sufficient energy to make the film seem much shorter than it is. (Watch Part 1.)

The Day I Was Born by John Guzlowski

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A powerful poem and reading by the Polish-American poet John Guzlowski is paired with filmmaker Dean Pasch’s abstract imagery, carefully choreographed with the soundtrack. In the Vimeo description, Pasch writes:

John Guzlowski wrote a poem about his own birth – called ‘The Day I Was Born’ – for an online project I created:

He sent me a recording of this he had made – and I created a piece of music and wove his recording and the music together.

I’ve been sitting on the audio creation for quite some time. I’ve thought about how I would like to make a film using it. I had many different ideas of what images I could use / would like to use. Finally I decided on non-figuration.

Click through to read the prose poem.

Falling Lessons: Erasure One by Beth Copeland

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Directed by Anh Vu for Motionpoems, this interpretation of a poem by Beth Copeland has been winning fans by the score on both old and new media. It was featured on PBS NewsHour:

Sometimes, what a poem does not say is the most important part.

That’s what Beth Copeland found while writing “Falling Lessons: Erasure One,” a poem that explored her father’s experience with Alzheimer’s disease.

Before his death four years ago, Copeland wrote a longer narrative piece about the last few years of his life. But then, she did something unusual: she deleted most of it.

That process of erasure was a way to put herself in her father’s place, replicating what had happened as his disease progressed.

“I became interested in the idea of erasure, because I felt that the process of erasure is a reflection of what happens to people when they have memory loss,” she said. “I found out as I was doing it that the distillation process made the poems stronger.”

“Erasure One” is the first in a series of three pieces. In each successive poem, Copeland used the same technique, erasing parts of the previous poem and distilling it to the words that are left behind.

Writing the series helped her understand more about her father’s mind near the end of his life, she said. “I had time to really reflect on the process that he had gone through … I think I did learn more about my father’s experience,” she said.

Director Anh Vu, working with the organization Motionpoems, brought Copeland’s poem to the screen in a short film. The film interweaves images of the natural world with books, papers and other evidence of academia — a combination of her father’s passions, Copeland said.

Copeland wrote more extensively about her parents, who both experienced dementia, in a new manuscript titled “Blue Honey,” which is seeking a publisher. “Writing about what happened to both of my parents has been an opportunity for me to process a lot of the feelings that family members have when they have someone in the family with some type of dementia,” she said.

A Staff Pick on Vimeo, Falling Lessons: Erasure One was also one of the first two Motionpoems to be released on YouTube by Button Poetry, which has, I believe, the most popular channel for poetry videos, with 502,636 subscribers and 109,923,559 views to date. Almost all the videos they share on YouTube and on their Tumblr blog are straight-forward documentary videos of readings or recitations, many of which they produce themselves, with a heavy emphasis on material from the spoken word community. So it’s been interesting to see the enthusiasm with which their fan base has reacted to Falling Lessons: Erasure One, uploaded on March 17, and The Mother Warns the Tornado, the Isaac Ravishankara film based on a poem by Catherine Pierce, which they uploaded on March 4. The former has been played 15,206 times and the latter 22,037 times—about average for Button Poetry videos. What is perhaps more astonishing is that the comments for both videos are entirely positive so far—apparently YouTube trolls haven’t discovered Button yet?—suggesting that the supposed gulf between performance poetry and mainstream poetry may not actually exist, and that we all need to do a better job of reaching out to this most obvious and receptive new audience for poetry film. Typical reactions to the two Motionpoems videos include: “Utilizing the power of film and score with poetry was a beautiful idea”; “I absolutely LOVE these motion poems, the perfect combination of visual artistry and spoken poetry”; “I would love to see more videos that are actually stories to poems! I was left speechless at the end of this. The poem itself is amazing but the addition of the visuals made it that much more powerful”; and “Please make a million of these.”

Click through to Vimeo for the full credits. Oddly, the film has not been featured as an “episode” on the Motionpoems website just yet, so I suspect there may be some interviews or other bonus materials in the offing. Keep an eye out for that.

Children of the Nephilim (excerpt) by Cindy St. Onge

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This author-made videopoem by Cindy St. Onge juxtaposes footage from Trump rallies with footage from Nazi concentration camps, along with other images. The choice of music for the soundtrack (by the Masonik collective) feels especially inspired. The Vimeo description:

This video is based on a poem which was originally titled “Free Range Citzens.”
Have you noticed that with the proliferation of technology and mobile devices, that we so rarely look up anymore? We should wonder about that.
Poem, concept and editing by Cindy St. Onge. Footage from Videoblocks, Cindy St. Onge, CSpan, Right Side Broadcasting. Soundtrack by Masonik.
Full text of poem can be read here:

St. Onge has posted two versions of the videopoem; here’s the other.

Destination by Carol Novack

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A poem by the late American poet Carol Novack in a film adaptation by the Belgian-Canadian filmmaker Jean Detheux, who notes on Vimeo that

This is the second film I made based on a text written and recited by Carol Novack (1948-2011).
The first one, “Civil War,” is here
The text of “Destination” (and “Civil War”) can be found in the book “Giraffes in Hiding: The Mythical Memoirs of Carol Novack.” (
Music by Don Meyer.
The images dialog with the narrative while following their own logic.
The images were made from a series of photos taken by my son Georges (he was 15 at the time of writing these lines) during a trip to Belgium, photos he then assembled in beautiful panoramas (used here as well).
Here’s an example: (other movies made with his help are here:

I processed his images in a variety of applications (Still Life, Studio Artist and especially, Final Cut Pro).

Carol Novack died of cancer on December 29, 2011. She had so much left to live, to share, to write!
May she have found her town!

There’s a good bio of Jean Detheux online in Madhat 15, accompanying another film made with a Carol Novack poem, Refuge. I particularly like this bit:

[Detheux] focuses on the importance of the hand gesture in image making (“le geste révélateur”), and especially, on the exploration of “inherent animation” (that which is done/found “by accident”), avoids “smarts” like the plague, believes that the conceptual approach is at a dead-end.