Lockdown by Simon Armitage

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A brilliant music video/videopoem hybrid directed by Daniel Broadley for a new single by LYR, adapting a poem by Simon Armitage, the current poet laureate of the U.K. and all-’round mensch. I love the involvement of people under lockdown and the incorporation of visual text—it gives the video a real populist feel, while simultaneously gesturing toward visual and concrete poetry. And as music I think the soundtrack succeeds in being both catchy and inventive.

There was a Guardian article about the collaboration between Armitage and the band, but it didn’t say anything about the video, so I’ll quote the YouTube description instead:

Lockdown is a new song by LYR, featuring Florence Pugh and Pete Wareham of Melt Yourself Down. The song is set to a poem by poet laureate Simon Armitage, written in response to the coronavirus restrictions. ‘Lockdown’ moves from the outbreak of bubonic plague in Eyam, Derbyshire in the 17th century – when a bale of cloth sent from London inadvertently brought fleas carrying the plague – to the poem Meghadūta by the Sanskrit poet Kālidāsa, which follows the legend in which an exile sends words of reassurance to his wife in the Himalayas via a passing cloud.

The song was recorded and filmed remotely at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Proceeds from the release will go to Refuge, a UK-based charity providing specialist support for women and children experiencing domestic abuse. The video was directed by Daniel Broadley. Filmed in Bristol in May during lockdown, he asked locals to partake in the project from a safe distance, resulting in a series of smile-inducing clips.

Daniel says:
“I’m constantly looking for positives within this negative period of our lives. This project allowed me to reach out to Bristol locals from all walks of life, people who are outside my circle whom I would normally not have the pleasure of meeting, let alone collaborating with. Even at a distance I felt a wonderful connection with these people who all poured their time and energy into bringing this piece of work to life.”

For each download sold in the UK or accounted to Mercury KX in the UK, Mercury KX will donate £0.50 to Refuge (Registered Charity number 277424). 150 paid or ad funded streams shall count as 1 download.

Download it here.

The Eyes Have Woods by Shanna Compton

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This author-made filmpoem adapts a text from Shanna Compton‘s new collection (Creature Sounds Fade), for which it serves as a trailer. Compton notes that although all readings and launch events have been canceled in response to the pandemic, the book is still scheduled for release by late summer or early fall, and is now available for preorder from Black Lawrence Press.

“The Eyes Have Woods” originally appeared in American Poetry Review.

Post updated 21 May to correct launch information.

Embarkation by Shin Yu Pai

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Writer and artist Shin Yu Pai told us that

“Embarkation” was created with Scott Keva James and commissioned for the Ampersand Live! showcase in Seattle in Fall 2019. We initially created the piece as a performance-based work with a two-channel video projection (one on my body, and one on a screen behind me on stage); and then adapted it as a film. “Embarkation” also recently showed at Cadence Festival.

The YouTube description supplies additional background:

Embarkation reimagines the traditional Wang Yeh Boat Burning Festival, a Taoist ritual, that takes places in the southern port town of Donggang, Taiwan, every three years. A life-sized boat is built by the community and loaded with the hopes and the fears of the people. The gods are then invoked to pilot the barge up to the heavens in a send-off of fireworks and flames.

Footage of the festival was provided by Ye Mimi, a gifted filmpoet in her own right.

Patti Smith at the Punch and Judy Theater by Jim Daniels

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Patti Smith at the Punch and Judy Theater is the latest film from Matt Mullins, a collaboration with Michigan poet Jim Daniels.

Jim’s poem was inspired by the experience of seeing Patti Smith in the ’70’s at a small theater in the Detroit area. By coincidence, Matt went to the same theater to see movies as a child.

Since watching their film I’ve read Jim’s poem in print, and watched a live version of “Gloria” by Patti Smith.

For the film’s sound composition, Matt has sampled just the first powerful line of Patti’s voice in “Gloria”. In audio editing he rearranges the sung phrases to form a new, minimal, poem-song in itself. This is in sympathetic contrast to the printed words of Jim’s poem, which appear on the screen. It’s as if they are two poems side by side.

Matt says of his approach to making the piece: “It’s pretty raw intentionally as I was trying to catch that Patti Smith vibe.”

I find it hauntingly emotional, deep, original.

When We Get Lonely, It Will Be Together by Melissa Studdard and Kelli Russell Agodon

“Meet the Queens of Quarantine Poetry” is Houston Public Media‘s only slightly clickbaity title for this seamless blend of interview and videopoem. From the YouTube description:

In this time of quarantine and self-isolation, two friends have been co-writing a series of poems inspired by the coronavirus pandemic.

Houston poet Melissa Studdard and Seattle poet Kelli Russell Agodon connect across the miles through Zoom to read their poem “When We Get Lonely, It Will Be Together” and to describe what it means to create art during a pandemic.

Dave McDermand and Joe Brueggeman handled the recording and editing, and Catherine Lu did the interviews. Lu tweeted that it was “Possibly [the] coolest project I’ve done for @HoustonPubMedia.”

I follow both poets on social media and have been reading their collaboratively written quarantine poems with great interest, so it was wonderful to get some background on how the project evolved: out of their pre-existing habit of writing together in a virtual shared study space, using video conferencing software and reading each other’s drafts on Google docs. It’s great that they’re letting the rest of us read over their shoulders, as it were, especially given the pressure from literary journals to hide all one’s poetry away in order to keep it eligible for submission. I advise following Kelli and Melissa on Twitter, where they post the drafts as jpegs. Here are links to some of the more recent ones, posted on April 21, April 22, April 25, April 27, May 5two on that day, and May 8.

Twenty Times by Caroline Rumley

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This deservedly won the Audience Award at the 2020 REELpoetry/Houston TX festival in January, where I first saw it and was moved by the juxtaposition of disturbing imagery — either actual police body camera footage, or a very good simulacrum of it — with the speaker’s sedate description of her own backyard: a powerful indictment of the racism and class divisions permeating American society, where Black men risk death by police or vigilante shooting every time they go out the door, even into their own grandmother’s backyard. Rest in peace, Stephon Clark. I wish this videopoem didn’t still feel so necessary and relevant.

Twenty Times was runner-up in the Atticus Review 2019 Videopoem Contest. Marc Neys, the contest judge, wrote:

“Twenty Times” is a powerful political and poetic video. The use of ‘lo-fi’ imagery adds to the suspense and darkness of the video. The contrast with the every day life described in the poem sets the perfect base for the message.

Click through for a bio of Rumley, and visit her website for links to all her films.

Přehlídka / A Parade by Jaromír Typlt

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A new videopoem by Marc Neys in response to a text and reading by Czech poet Jaromír Typlt, translated for the English subtitles by David Vichnar. The footage is from Jan Eerala, and the music is Neys’ own. He quotes Typlt in the Vimeo description:

The central image of the poem is the “postcard rack”, but the second meaning is now also the meaning of corona-restrictions of the international movements: I wrote the poem in my Paris isolation (confinement).

Typlt added this in a blog post (adapted from a Google translation):

There are two dangers to “filmed poems”: either they illustrate the text too literally with a picture, or they are so loose that they are interchangeable with anything else. And that is why for me SWOON (Marc Neys), a video artist from Belgium, is such a remarkable phenomenon: he can open a space free enough for the text, and at the same time close-fitting. […] The film A Parade is our third collaboration after In the Sign (2013) and Instincteia (2014). This time the voice recording was not made in the studio, but in makeshift conditions at the same window in Paris where the whole strange vision was born on April 10, 2020…