Just a few days ago I read a lovely poem called ‘Solar Therapy’ by Alaska-based artist and writer, Michele S. Cornelius and published in the multi-media literary journal, Gnarled Oak. As it happened, I already had images and music on hand, edited together and waiting for a poem that would mix well with them. I recognised the potential in Michele’s piece straight away and completed this video in the 24 hours following the poem’s first public appearance. The music is by Western Australian ensemble, Masonik, whose soundscapes I’ve appreciated over a number of years. This track is called ‘Bending Light For The Magi‘. I sourced it at the Pool group on Facebook, where it was posted on offer for remix. The images are from the royalty-free stock footage site, VideoBlocks. With a minimal piece like this the small details become magnified. I spent a surprising amount of time on minutiae in the editing, especially deciding how to present the phrases of the poem on the screen and where and when the text should best be placed. In the end, as is often the case, simple seemed best.
Click through to read Marie’s process notes on three of her other recent videopoems, as well.
When is a sound poem a found poem? When it’s Marie Osmond Explains Dadaism with Auto-Subtitles, one of the latest uploads by UK videopoet Ross Sutherland as past of his 30 Videos/30 Poems project for the Poetry School. He’s been doing some really interesting stuff with remix, swapping in his own voice-overs for existing videos, but in this case all he’s done is share the results of turning on the auto-subtitling function for a YouTube video of Marie Osmund explaining Dada and reciting Hugo Ball‘s “Karawane.” The software’s “misreadings” are at times wonderfully apropos. And then there’s Marie, in her yellow bathrobe and 80s hair… I don’t think I’ve gotten this much joy from a web video since Cat Wearing A Shark Costume Cleans The Kitchen On A Roomba.
Now, you may be saying to yourself, why in the heck was Marie Osmond holding forth on Dada and and sound poetry? It turns out she was a regular host of the TV show Ripley’s Believe It or Not! in its 2nd series, which ran from 1982-86 on the American ABC Network. The TV show derived from a long-running syndicated feature in American newspapers—kind of the original “news of the weird.” According to the Wikipedia article,
Character actor Jack Palance hosted the popular series throughout its run, while three different co-hosts appeared from season to season, including Palance’s daughter, Holly Palance, actress Catherine Shirriff, and singer Marie Osmond. The 1980s series reran on the Sci-fi Channel (UK) and Sci-fi Channel (US) during the 1990s.
Six of the segments hosted by Osmond have been uploaded to YouTube, including another one about a poet, Renée Vivien. I’m not sure who the director was for this particular show (which apparently aired on 29 September 1985), but it didn’t go unnoticed. According to a post at Dangerous Minds,
In 1993, Rough Trade records put out Lipstick Traces, a “soundtrack” to the book by Greil Marcus. It’s one of my favorite CDs of all time, with tracks by The Slits, Essential Logic, The Raincoats, The Mekons, Buzzcocks, The Gang of Four, Jonathan Richmond and the Modern Lovers, Situationist philosopher Guy Debord and others. It’s an amazing collection, but one track in particular stands out from the rest, a recitation by none other than Marie Osmond, of Dada poet Hugo Ball’s nonsensical gibberish piece from 1916, “Karawane.”
The post goes on to quote the liner notes from Lipstick Traces:
As host of a special (Ripley’s Believe It or Not) show on sound poetry, Osmond was asked by the producer to recite only the first line of Ball’s work; incensed at being thought too dumb for art, she memorized the lot and delivered it whole in a rare “glimpse of freedom.”
Great upload and interesting video, but Ripley didn’t appear to get their dada facts quite right…
‘Karawane’ was performed and written by Hugo Ball, and was also performed in 1916 at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich as the video says. But his costume for that show was a kind of ‘Cubist’ tube-esque costume made from different coloured sheets. It can be easily found in images online.
The ’13’ costume discussed in the video was worn by Theo Van Doesburg, not Hugo Ball, in 1922 when he performed ‘Does At Mid-Lent’ at the Bauhaus.
This info is from the book ‘Dada’ edited by Rudolf Kuenzli. As a product of its time, though, this clip is fascinating.
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that this is not quite the strangest video of “Karawane” on the web. That honor belongs to Lucas Battich’s binary code translation. Still, kudos to Ross Sutherland for recognizing the re-Dadaifying potential of YouTube auto-subtitling.
A poem from John Poch‘s new book Fix Quiet, winner of the 2014 New Criterion Poetry Prize, turned into a film by Alex Henery. The Vimeo description notes that it was “Shot in Lubbock Texas over the Thanksgiving weekend.”
This is the second Poch-Henery videopoem I’ve posted (Shrike was the the first). I reached out to Poch by email for more information about their working relationship. He told me that Henery is his nephew, and that he makes rock videos for Run for Cover Records, as well as playing in the UK-based melodic hardcore band Basement. (The guitar music in the soundtrack is his work, played on the $30 toy guitar shown in the video.) I asked to what extent they collaborated on the video, and Poch replied,
We definitely worked together a lot on this, and I made a lot of suggestions for changes toward this final project. I took him around in my red truck to a lot of the scenic sites in Lubbock, and he just shot the footage. And some around our house of my girls. Nevertheless, but for the poem, it’s all his work.
It’s kind of cool that even though the poet is not foregrounded in the way he might be in a spoken-word-style poetry video, he still appears in profile, unidentified, as the driver of the truck. Also, given the general influence of music videos on contemporary videopoetry, it’s fascinating to see what someone who makes rock videos for a living does with a poem. The relationship between the text and the accompanying shots is as elliptical and allusive as it gets, even as the shots themselves are sharply focused and charismatic. As with the work of such filmmakers as R.W. Perkins or Marie Craven, the populist/accessible and the experimental happily co-exist.
I see that in a tweet from 5 April, Poch mentions “a huge video project with TTU grads” in the works for next year, so it sounds as if we can expect much more from him. As he says in a follow-up tweet: “Video poems are probably a huge part of the future of poetry.”
Alastair Cook of Filmpoem directs, with cinematography by James William Norton and sound by Luca Nasciuti. “The Day the Deer Came” was the Second Prize winner in the UK’s 2014 National Poetry Competition. The Vimeo description notes that “Filmpoems of the top three winning poems have been commissioned in partnership with Alastair Cook and Filmpoem. Filmpoems of all eleven winning poems will be available to watch later this year, and will tour at festivals around the country and beyond.”
For more on the poet, Joanne Key, see her page at the Poetry Society website.
“As part of Bristol Poetry Festival 2014, Liberated Words Poetry Film Festival asked for films on the theme of Gloucestershire WWI poet Ivor Gurney’s The High Hills Have a Bitterness, to commemorate the anniversary of the 1914-18 war,” notes the Vimeo description. I posted one of the other submissions, by Othniel Smith, last June. This one is by Helen Dewbery. Animated text, layered images and industrial soundtrack all come together very well. The Liberated Words description continues:
This film brings out the sense of loss: loss of self, the environment and industry. The quarries of the Mendip Hills, many of which are long gone and are now geological sites of Special Scientific Interest, are places to reflect on the ‘soul helpless gone’. The active quarries are used for road construction and other building work. It doesn’t take an expert to realise that they too will one day run out.
Helen is an associate member of the Royal Photographic Society and works in collaboration with poets to produce film poems and collections and images.
a completely crazy idea dreamed up by Ross Williams from NY Shakespeare Exchange. 154 sonnets, 154 NYC locations, 154 actors. It’s a tapestry of cinematic art that infuses the poetry of William Shakespeare into the poetry of New York City. It’s huge, it’s visceral and it’s right here.
It became apparent that each sonnet was not simply a ‘video’ – not simply an actor standing at a monument reciting a sonnet – but a short independent film. Every single sonnet required time and effort beyond our imagining. But the finished product! Each one is expansive, narrative – a work of art.
We decided to focus on the journey rather than the destination – the Project will not be finished by April. But that’s ok. In fact, it’s more than ok because the Project has exploded into a sprawling, barely controllable, ever-growing, ever-changing tribute to Shakespeare’s art, New York City, and the artists that live here. And we love it.
I’ve barely begun to explore the films on the website, but I like what I’ve seen so far. They do seem to be quite varied in their approaches to the poems, imaginatively filmed and well acted. I love the whole idea of this project, and have added it to the recommended links on the front page of Moving Poems as well as to our links page. Here’s what the Times had to say about this film:
The [New York Shakespeare Exchange] group, which started the project in 2013, just completed its 100th film: Sonnet 27, starring Carrie Preston, an Emmy award-winning actress, and filmed on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, It will premiere April 8 on the Sonnet Project website and app.
Ms. Preston and the director, Michael Dunaway, met their share of surprises too, while filming Sonnet 27, about an obsessive love creating a jangle of nerves. Ms. Preston plays a married commuter on her way home, exhausted but excited by a workplace affair. But the drive over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, in a hired car, went smoothly. Too smoothly. “We were hoping for a traffic jam — it’s the perfect metaphor for being stuck in your own mind at the end of a long day — and we filmed at rush hour, but the traffic flowed perfectly,” Ms. Preston said.
Ms. Preston said she, Mr. Dunaway, and Karin Hayes, the co-director, went back over the bridge 10 times to get the shots they wanted, running up a much higher than expected bill. “What we forgot about was the toll,” Mr. Dunaway said. “I chalk it all up to the sacrifices we make for art.”
And finally, some notes about the use of the Sonnet Project website: Clicking on a sonnet/image on the front page gallery brings up a page with not only the YouTube embed of the film but also, if one scrolls down past the photo stills of the NYC location and the Next and Previous links, a tabbed menu with Text Analysis, Location, Actor, and Film Team. The analysis also reproduces the text of the sonnet, followed by an informal commentary in a populist style. Here, for example, is what they say about Sonnet 27:
Sonnet 27 plays with the duality of night and day, with day being full of work and night full of beauty because that is when the speaker can think on his lover.
Here Willy reflects on how thoughts of his beloved keep him awake, and even in darkness the image floats before him, like a jewel on a night-dark background, making the night beautiful. By day he is made weary by work and travel, and by night rest is denied him, for he has to make journeys in his mind to attend on the loved one, who is far away.
This sonnet is the only one in the canon that is pangrammatic. A pangram or holoalphabetic composition uses every letter of the alphabet at least once!
The other tabs are equally informative. I’ll be interested to see whether the app is as useful as the website. Have I mentioned I love this project? Many thanks to Erica Goss for bringing it to our attention with a link on Twitter earlier this week.