Snowmen by Agha Shahid Ali

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

Poem by Agha Shahid Ali (reading by Carl Hancock Rux) — text here

Animation by Kyle Jenkins for the Poetry Foundations’ Poetry Everywhere series

A posthumous volume of Ali’s collected poems, The Veiled Suite, has just been released. He was a master who died much too young. As for the video, I’m not sure it adds anything to the poem or not.

Patricia Smith at the Lizard Lounge

Poet: | Filmmaker:

Patricia Smith is the reigning queen of slam, with four National Poetry Slam individual championship titles under her belt, and she’s a very fine poet on the page as well — her most recent book, Blood Dazzler, was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award. So who better to kick off the spoken word category here? And with the inclusion of the Jeff Robinson Trio, this performance takes us back to the 1950s jazz-club roots of the modern American poetry reading tradition. My only gripe with this video is that it doesn’t supply the title of the poem.

For more on the Lizard Lounge Poetry Jam and the Jeff Robinson Trio, see their website. They’re in Cambridge, Massachusetts, apparently, and they do this every Sunday. For more videos, see their YouTube channel.

Yo no sé cómo saltar (I Don’t Know How to Leap) by Juan Ramón Jiménez

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

Poem by Juan Ramón Jiménez (Estío, 11)

Reading and video by sonolopez (Javier López Clemente)

Here’s the poem, which I think should be in the public domain by now, together with my translation (feel free to offer corrections in the comments).

Yo no sé cómo saltar
desde la orilla de hoy
a la orilla de mañana.

El río se lleva, mientras,
la realidad de esta tarde
a mares sin esperanza.

Miro al oriente, al poniente,
miro al sur y miro al norte…
Toda la verdad dorada
que cercaba al alma mía,
cual con un cielo completo,
se cae, partida y falsa.

…Y no sé como saltar
desde la orilla de hoy
a la orilla de mañana.

I don’t know how to leap
from the brink of today
to the brink of tomorrow.

Meanwhile the current bears
this afternoon’s reality
into despairing seas.

Look to the east, the west,
look to the south and to the north…
all that golden truth
that encircled my soul,
complete with its own sky,
collapses, false and broken.

…And I don’t know how to leap
from the brink of today
to the brink of tomorrow.

I imagine Jiménez is rolling at his grave at the video’s use of the soundtrack from The Matrix — he was pretty uptight, I hear — but it works for me.

Interview with Mairead Byrne

Poet: | Nationality:

I’ve been reading Mairead Byrne’s cryptic, quirky blog Heaven for some three years now, so I was excited to come across this gem of an interview on YouTube — perhaps the most perfect interview with a poet ever captured on video. The title, “The Poet’s View,” appears to be a reference to a DVD of the same name produced by the Academy of American Poets, which includes portraits of John Ashbery, Louise Glück, Anthony Hecht, Kay Ryan, and W. S. Merwin.

The video appears on Byrne’s own YouTube channel. The interviewer isn’t credited.

Daddy by Sylvia Plath

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker: ,

Poem and reading by Sylvia Plath — text here

Video by mishima1970

1lNTYK2U15c

Another video with the same poem, this time by Jim Clark, who makes

Virtual Animated movies of great poets reincarnated through the wonders of computer animation reading their best loved poems and presented in the style of old scratchy movies.

My Entrepreneurial Spirit by Aaron Fagan

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

Poem by Aaron Fagan, video by Jeffrey Texas Schell

In an article in the March/April 2009 issue of Poets & Writers — published coincidental to the launching of this website (chalk it up to zeitgeist) — Alex Dimitrov writes,

The sharing of video poems began sometime in 2005, when artists discovered YouTube as a tool through which they could easily distribute their work and reach a broad audience. Aaron Fagan, author of the poetry collection Garage (Salt Publishing, 2007), describes seeing an early video poem that “began with a line about standing in the kitchen slicing an orange, and sure enough the video showed someone standing in a kitchen slicing an orange. The literality seemed to be the pitfall this potential genre was falling into right out of the gate.”

Collaborating with his friends, visual artists Jeffrey Schell and K. Erik Ino, Fagan made several videos for poems from Garage and tried to avoid such a literal approach. One of these videos, “My Entrepreneurial Spirit,” features a collage of images, ranging from footage taken in a moving car to a woman walking on a rooftop, that cannot be explicitly traced back to the narrative of the poem but nonetheless add a rich texture of meaning. For Fagan, working with video is “yet another among many Hail Mary shots to get poetry some attention or readership,” he says.

The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

Poem by Langston Hughes (read by Allen Dwight Callahan) — text here

Video by Four Seasons Productions

Most of Four Seasons’ videoems strike me as too literal and cliched in their interpretations. This is one of the few I kind of liked.