Items of Value to a Dying Man by Kristin LaTour

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This Poetry Storehouse remix by Nic Sebastian deploys still images by artist Peter Gric and a soundscape by Jarred Gibb for a strangely compelling and disturbing accompaniment to Kristin LaTour’s poem.

The astounding reception of this kinestatic video might offer some lessons for those interested in videopoetry as a way to reach new and larger audiences. In a post on her personal blog, Sebastian pondered “What happens when a poetry video gets 3,000 plays in 5 days?” I encourage everyone to click through and read the whole post, which is much more angst-ridden than boastful (we poets do not always handle success well). I particularly liked this part:

A poem has no life outside its interaction with people. When they are not being interacted with, poems lie dead in the dark, where they are purposeless, and meaningless.

The role of the curator, remixer or publisher of poetry is to maximize the number of interactions each poem has with people. In the hands of the successful curator/publisher, the poem lives in interaction repeatedly and reaches a higher level of its interaction potential than poems in the custody of less successful handlers.

That’s the role of the curator/publisher in the scheme of things poetry. But it doesn’t have to be their motivation. This is where I got confused. If things go well, more people will interact with poems as a result of my remixing and curating. If things don’t, they won’t. But that’s not why I do what I do. I do what I do because I like voicing poems, I like exploring the technology of putting poems online in different ways, I like the challenge of combining poetry and digital imagery in video, and experimenting with sound.

To Find Stars In Another Language by Elizabeth Bradfield

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Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending a poetry reading by Elizabeth Bradfield at Penn State, which concluded with this videopoem projected onto the wall behind her, following a section of haibun riffing off photos that used Powerpoint. It was great to see multimedia casually included as part of a very well-attended reading in an academic setting — though Bradfield herself works not in academia but as a naturalist-interpreter on Cape Cod, which showed, I think, in the ease and common touch with which she introduced her poems. The students seemed very energized by the reading, even before the multimedia portion, and following a 20-minute question-and-answer period, they formed a lengthy queue to buy her books and get her autograph. It was gratifying to see a good poet get the sort of reception she deserved, for once. I bought a copy of her 2010 book Approaching Ice, a personal take on the history of polar exploration, and am enjoying it immensely.

Though this video and its two companions (one of which, Deliquescence, I shared last December) represent Bradfield’s first foray into videopoetry, she and her collaborator Demet Taspinar seem to have all the right instincts. In part, I think, this is because they proceeded ekphrastically: footage first, then the words.

A collaboration between video artist Demet Taspinar, who made this film, and me (Elizabeth Bradfield) who wrote a poem to it. Demet made the movie when working in Antarctica, which is where we met aboard an expedition ship. She was the ship’s doctor; I was a naturalist. We’ve made three of these collaborations so far. First published on “The Rumpus” as video and also as a printed poem in April, 2013.

And here’s that Rumpus post.

Planter’s Moon by Erica Goss

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With all the excitement on social media about last night’s eclipse, I thought I’d jump on the lunar bandwagon and share the 4th installment of 12 Moons, the collaborative videopoetry project from Erica Goss (text), Nic Sebastian (voice), Kathy McTavish (music) and Marc Neys, A.K.A. Swoon (music, concept, camera, and direction) for Atticus Review. This one uses footage from The Plow that Broke the Plains, Pare Lorentz’ poetic documentary about the Dust Bowl, which, I suggested here last year, may be seen as a sort of epic filmpoem in its own right. Marc says in his process notes:

First time I read the poem (before there was a reading or a soundtrack) I thought of this fantastic documentary by Pare Lorentz.
I started to work with certain parts of the film (treated them, gave them a colour) and tried to put them in a split screen.
Once I had a basic montage, I awaited Nic’s reading to work on a soundscape with musical blocks provided by Kathy.

I said it before and I will say it again. Cooking’s fun and easy when you have great ingredients. All the pieces fitted perfectly and lifted each other to a higher plane. I only had to do a small re-edit of my basic montage once the soundtrack was made.

Foresight by Roche “Roach” Du Plessis

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A well-produced performance poetry video from Emote Record Company, “a record label dedicated entirely to the recording, distribution, promotion, and support of spoken word artists and the spoken word community.” Du Plessis is one of several artists recorded in what appears to be someone’s living room in Johannesburg. (View more at Emote’s YouTube channel.)

Scoring and Additional Recording by Paul Elliott
Edited, Mixed and Mastered by Simon Strehler
Videographers: Ett Venter, Bernard Brand

Special Thanks to Clive Thomson and the Thomson family, the greatest hosts on Earth.

It’s no secret that I’m not the biggest fan of spoken word and slam-style poetry. But the outrageous rhymes on “Orwell” sold me on this one. Plus I applaud the emphasis on audio and video production. Emote’s website, spokenwordcollective.com, was just launched last month, so they’re obviously just getting off the ground. I hope they go far.

Brother carried the poppies by Theresa Senato Edwards

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A Nic Sebastian remix of a poem in the Poetry Storehouse by Theresa Senato Edwards. Sebastian re-purposed some stock footage to gorgeous and disturbing effect, and the music she chose really carries the film. Here are her process notes:

For this haunting poem on abuse by Theresa Senato Edwards, I used both film and still image elements – first time I have combined the two.

For the backdrop of the bleak disastrous relationship, I used darkened stock footage of what was originally a relatively cheerful sunshiney scene of an abandoned house in a field. Once darkened, it looked lonely and empty – a context in which forbidden activity could easily take place unchecked. To begin, end and punctuate the piece, I slowed down and darkened stock footage of a summer lightning storm to represent the abuser.

For the victim, I used a stock still image from StockVault which suggested muffling and suffocation to me. I used the image as a fade-in at three different places in the film, each time adding a different Ken Burns effect to it – panning away, towards, across. The hollow ‘alien drone’ soundtrack was by Speedenza, one of my freesound.org favorites.

Many thanks once more to Theresa for sharing this powerful piece at the Poetry Storehouse.

Sebastian’s chronicle of her education as a videopoem-maker is really turning into a valuable resource for others who want to learn the craft. I advise either following her blog on WordPress.com, as I do, or else subscribing to the Videopoems category link in an RSS feed reader.

There are a lot of yous in this poem and one of them is you by John Mortara

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An author-made videopoem by John Mortara for a special, all-video edition of Shabby Doll House. Don’t let the hand-held shakiness fool you — this is a well-edited video with a number of imaginative juxtapositions of text and image. I was also impressed that the voiceover remained fully intelligible despite the relative loudness of the music (which is by Garrett Kemp).

Sundowning by Matt Mullins

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A collaboration between Marc Neys and Matt Mullins, who writes:

Alzheimer’s/Dementia includes a phase called sundowning during which the afflicted cannot shake the sense that there is somewhere else they must be, regardless of where they are. This includes the need to go “home” even if one is already home. The videopoem comments on this condition even as it comments on how Alzheimer’s/Dementia takes the sufferer “away” from loved ones while that loved one is still in their presence.

Editing original footage/Music: Swoon (Marc Neys)

Direction/Poem/Recitation/Audio-Visual Composition: Matt Mullins