The Almost Prayer by Patricia Killelea

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An author-made videopoem by Patricia Killelea, reading a poem from her forthcoming collection Counterglow (Mango Publications, 2016). According to the Video Poetry page on her website,

The poems from my forthcoming second poetry collection, Counterglow, are small and serious, and their sparseness prompts questions of space and the need to expand the visual-aural arc of my poetry’s scope. For these reasons, I’ve begun exploring video poetry. I’m excited about these transformations in poetics and the move toward digital experimentation. I began my video-poetry-sound experiments while I was an artist-in-residence at the Santa Fe Art Institute during August 2013.

It is possible that video poems are a way of grounding written speech back in the body, evoking a multi-sensorial experience of language and space. It is also possible that movements in digital poetics against narrative merely reiterate the varied ways in which all experience, language, and life is inherently storied– that is, fragmented structures tell a story of fragmentation, etc. It is likewise possible that the acoustic and visual “compete” with each other as Charles Bernstein suggests (2003) and that we are in the age of poetry “music videos,” a kind of anti-MTV or a poet’s last stand against bullshit assertions that poetry doesn’t matter. It definitely matters, and video poetry makes its materiality all the more substantive.

Visit YouTube to watch more of Killelea’s videopoetry.

LONG RONG SONG by Ottar Ormstad

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The Norwegian concrete poet Ottar Ormstad and Russian composer Taras Mashtalir form the duo OTTARAS, currently looking for live performance venues. This video was produced in collaboration with Russian video artist Alexander Vojjov, and “exists in different versions made for screening and live performance,” according the Vimeo description.

Projected on a grid of particles that at times seem ordered, while sometimes chaotic and always in flux, Ormstad’s constructed language poetry is exposed and read by the author while performing to Mashtalirs pulsating music. Is everything connected to one another in the sphere that is shaping before the viewer’s eyes? How does language relate to the atmospheric scapes Vojjov creates of numbers, geometric forms and abstract shapes? LONG RONG SONG (2015) conveys Ormstad’s language research project that is based on AUDITION FOR FENOMENER UTEN BETEGNELSE (Audition for Phenomena without a Name), his second book of concrete poetry (2004). In the video, Ormstad reads through a cycle of 5 poems that present combinations of four letters made of an artifical language system that he has created and which may, or may not result in words commonly used in latin languages. […] Raising awareness of electronic poetry and sonic ecology, attracting new audience to a potent yet to come genre is the inspiration for this collaboration.
The video is produced in HD 16:9 in color, stereo, duration 05:26
Animation: Alexander Vojjov
Music: Taras Mashtalir
Concrete poetry, voice & production: Ottar Ormstad
© Ottar Ormstad 2015

I find it a mesmerizing hybrid of concrete and sound poetry—a great example of how an effective video can make avant-garde poetry approachable.

To be a Ghost by Rosemary Norman

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With Halloween and Day of the Dead looming, here’s a film from the long-time videopoetry collaborators Stuart Pound (images) and Rosemary Norman (words). The synopsis from Vimeo:

A ghost actor haunts his screen life, and is haunted by it, to the clicking of a projector. What you see is scraps of film under a microscope, with its sprocket holes, oily colour, and accumulated fluff and dust.

Contusion by Sylvia Plath

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Sylvia Plath would’ve been 83 yesterday, and to mark the occasion, Marc Neys A.K.A. Swoon released this film, Don’t look at me (Contusion).

It’s not the first time I create a work using her poems. But I consider this my best effort to capture something of her spirit.

Contusion was one of the first poems I wanted to make a video for (5-6 years ago) but I never got a satisfying result out of the process. This time tried a film composition with text on screen and I had a clear idea what kind of images to use. […]

I composed a track especially for this project. Called it ‘Don’t look at me’ (and kept the appropriate title for the film composition) [Bandcamp link].

I had to re-edit the length of the composition to the footage I had gathered. Contusion is a rather short poem (compared to some of her other works).

A lot of night and dusk. Dim images. I especially wanted the footage of a swimming lake (deserted and empty) by Bart van der Gaag. Also some snow and winter footage by Jan Eerala, stuff filmed by me and a few pieces of Videoblocks. I composed all the footage to the lines of the poem (using a small and almost unreadable font and placement of the text by times) and the pace and feel of the soundtrack. I also graded some of the footage for an even darker feel.

As I said before; I’m happy with this one.

Play full screen (and preferably with headphones!)

Hi Jack by Thabiso Nkoana

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A brilliant South African videopoem about homelessness from filmmakers Lesiba Mabitsela and TAUNYANE (Mandlakatixo Shonhiwa) and poet Thabiso Nkoana, AKA Wordsmith, adapting Nkoana’s poem “Hi Jack.” Mabitsela notes that

The idea of perspex over cloth came during flashbacks of visits to my grandmother. The need to display but at the same time protect that which is valuable. It forces us all to reflect on our value systems and which of those systems benefit the people of Cape Town.

Red Line Haiku by Brian Kirk

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A collaboration between Irish poet Brian Kirk and filmmaker Bao Zhu. Here’s how Kirk introduces it on his blog:

This is my poem film Red Line Haiku which was commissioned by South Dublin Libraries as part of the Red Line Book Festival 2015. The film was shown at the Civic Theatre Tallaght on Wednesday 14th October and Thursday 15th October as part of the festival.

The film maker was Bao Zhu, a student at Ballyfermot College of Further Education and we filmed in September 2015. My thanks to Bao who did a excellent job!

Shots of, or taken from, moving trains are a staple in poetry film, but seldom is the text focused on the train (or in this case tram) itself. The Red Line is one of two lines in Dublin’s light rail system, running “in an east-west direction through the city centre, north of the River Liffey, before and travelling southwest to Tallaght, with a fork to Citywest and Saggart,” according to the Wikipedia.

Literary festivals commissioning poetry films is a great trend, if it is a trend yet. I hope so! I’m running across more and more instances of it.

Thirty-Seven Photos from the Bridge by Leonard Gontarek

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UPDATE: Read Lori Ersolmaz’ essay on the making of the film at Moving Poems Magazine.

This is Fourteen Photos from the Bridge, the winning film from last month’s Big Bridges poetry film contest, sponsored by Motionpoems and the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis, and I’m pleased to say that the filmmaker is someone we’ve regularly featured here: the New York-based, grassroots multimedia content producer and visual storyteller Lori H. Ersolmaz. Here’s some of what she says about it on her website:

My submission was based on the winning poem by Leonard Gontarek, Thirty-Seven Photos from the Bridge. Expressing fourteen of the thirty-seven stanzas, I used original footage shot in Paris and Belgium and filmed locally during summer 2015. I’m especially excited about this award as it provides me with an alternative visual storytelling approach to social issues. I submitted the film in an effort to open dialogue about the current need to address structurally deficient bridges and infrastructure.

There’s a good bio of Leonard Gontarek at the Poetry Foundation.