Scottish poet and novelist Jim Murdoch recently had three poems added to The Poetry Storehouse, and remixers (including Murdoch himself) have taken to them with enthusiasm. I don’t generally care for poems about poetry, but the self-reflexive nature of “As Is” poses an intriguing challenge to filmmakers. Marie Craven was the first to make a video for this poem, and I rather liked her simple text animation. Then Lori H. Ersolmaz made this video, which blows me away. The moments of darkness between lines (read by Nic Sebastian) is reminiscent of a trailer for a blockbuster movie, and the taut, rhythmic correspondence of (mostly) abstract images to words, combined with the dramatic soundtrack, added to that impression. Poetry is an edge-of-your-seat adventure, this film suggests. Well, I’ve always thought so.
With all the vacations Moving Poems has been taking, I’ve fallen behind on the 12 Moons videopoetry collaboration between Erica Goss (words), Marc Neys/Swoon (concept, camera and directing), Kathy McTavish (music) and Nic Sebastian (voice). As usual, it debuted online at Atticus Review. This is the 8th moon. Neys called Goss’ text
A powerful poem that needed enough room (I love the line ‘Give it your blood, one drop at the time’) to breathe.
One storyline of images (very close to the poem) in black and white was more than enough against the beautiful reading & soundtrack by Nic and Kathy.
I personally love this one and think it’s the perfect showcase of what the collaborative and creative powers of four individuals can lead up to.
Atticus Review doesn’t seem to have an archive for just the 12 Moons series (apart from its Mixed Media category, whose RSS feed I strongly recommend adding to one’s feed reader subscriptions). But click on the 12 Moons tag to view all eight posted so far at Moving Poems.
Irish poet Kevin Barrington is doing interesting things with spoken-word video these days — here, with the help of filmmaker Mark Cantwell. The poem’s cynicism may be a little on the heavy side, but it works for me. (For Americans and others who may be clueless about soccer/football, “Man United” is Manchester United Football Club, one of the most successful teams in English football.)
A video collaboration between Michael Dickes (concept, camera) and Marc Neys/Swoon (editing, music) featuring the words and voice of Gessy Alvarez, with some additional footage from the Prelinger Archives and an appearance by a young actor, Ava Dickes.
One fascinating thing about this collaboration is that Michael Dickes’ original edit, with substantially the same images and the identical soundtrack, is also on Vimeo. Comparing them gives a sense of his and Neys’ different approaches to videopoetry:
I find Dickes’ approach a little less high-brow (for lack of a better term; I’m afraid I’m not a very sophisticated critic) but still reasonably subtle and nuanced. Left completely to his own devices, I’m not sure Neys would’ve included yolk imagery for a poem that so prominently features egg yolks, but to me as a viewer, seeing imagery of some of the things mentioned in a lyric text is not an annoyance as long as the film avoids out-right, narrative-style illustration. Plus, of course, it’s striking footage, which I gather is part of what made Neys so willing to take on the project. Here’s what he blogged about it:
La Curandera is a text by Gessy Alvarez that first appeared in here.
Some time ago Michael Dickes asked me to help him out with a soundtrack for a video he was going to make. I used Gessy’s reading and came up with this track: [SoundCloud embed]
Last week Michael came up with his video for this track. I liked it and I especially loved the structure and the colour of the yolk he had filmed. He asked if I was up for my own edit.
Yes. He provided [me] with all the source material he had used and I played around with the same concept. Concentrating the visual storylines on the yolk, baby, girl, woman.
I had such fun just editing. Cooking’s fun with the right ingredients…
The next issue of Awkword Paper Cut should be out soon, I’m guessing, so we’ll get to see how Dickes presents the two videos. In the meantime, it’s worth mentioning that APC has a well-curated channel on Vimeo, which showcases poetry films along with some other videos of literary interest. Check it out.
This short film about surfing in the North Sea proves that a television-friendly filmpoem need not be literal or simplistic. The gorgeous scenery, imaginative shooting and subtle interplay between voiced text and images are evidently working for many viewers. A staff pick on Vimeo, it has so far garnered 143,000 views on the web, was broadcast on the U.K.’s Channel 4, “has won a variety of awards at film festivals, and was shown at SXSW,” according to the poet, Daniel Crockett.
Perhaps it resonates with so many viewers because it’s more than just a film about surfing; it shows how a members of a surfing community understand their relationship with a wild place. Chris McClean (producer and director) and Mark Waters (cinematographer and editor) are associated with the blog Doggerland:
The North Sea is a source of food, a source of fuel – oil and gas, a playground for catching waves or simply a mass of water that needs to be navigated. Few are aware its these cold grey waters that cover a prehistoric landscape that once joined England to Europe. Yet between 18000 and 5500 BC, global warming raised sea levels to the extent that this area known as Doggerland was engulfed by water and the area that had been home to mankind disappeared. This entire land sank beneath the North Sea. Is it this former land that we North Sea surfers now surf.
We are the Doggerland groms, heavies, hippies and kooks.
The surfers in the film are Gabe Davies, Pete Eyre, John John Florence, Nathan Florence, Dylan Graves, Chris ‘Guts’ Griffiths, Ritchie Sills, and Balaram Stack. Lewis Arnold and Chris McClean supplied additional footage. William Evans was the sound engineer, and they used a song by UNKLE in the soundtrack. Crockett’s poem was read by Jeff Hordley.
I’m told that in some MFA poetry classes, budding poets are discouraged from writing about the moon. Are they also discouraged from writing about love and death, I wonder? The moon is a touchstone in almost every culture, and according to the latest science, not only was it birthed by our own planet after a fiery collision with an asteroid, but it’s known to have played an essential role in stabilizing the earth’s rotation enough to allow the evolution of life, despite its own utter lifelessness. So it seems clearer than ever that banishing the moon from poetry would be a sad and solipsistic exercise.
The fact remains, however, that modern poets need to “make it new.” Claudia Serea‘s poem at The Poetry Storehouse works precisely because it challenges the powers we have traditionally imputed to the moon, including the way we out-source our longings to it. (Read the text.)
Videopoets working with Serea’s text have a further problem, it seems to me, inasmuch as the moon — especially an unnaturally close/large one — is such a stock image in the movies, freighted with associations that may or may play well with the poem. Nic Sebastian was the first to attempt a video remix (above), using her own reading and a soundtrack by Jarred Gibb. Then Lori H. Ersolmaz made this:
And finally, here’s Jutta Pryor’s take:
Pryor’s soundtrack — my favorite of the three — uses a soundscape by Neal Ager as well as the poet’s own reading, which I prefer to Sebastian’s mainly because of her accent, which to my WASPy ears sounds more “foreign” and thus better suited to a poem in the moon’s voice. None of the filmmakers managed to avoid using footage of the moon, though Ersolmaz came the closest by turning her moon into a screen for other, earthly footage. And I liked the way Pryor made an almost Wizard of Oz-like switch from pale, seemingly moonlight images to saturated colors, extending her film into a wordless montage that serves to expand the poem outwards, suggesting possible connections between artificial light and nighttime violence.
I don’t think any of these films constitutes a definitive interpretation of the poem (if there can be such a thing), but each has something in it that I like, and after watching all three, I find myself wanting to try to write yet another poem about the moon.