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.
Poem by Juan Ramón Jiménez (Estío, 11)
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,
Miro al oriente, al poniente,
…Y no sé como saltar
|I don’t know how to leap
from the brink of today
to the brink of tomorrow.
Meanwhile the current bears
Look to the east, the west,
…And I don’t know how to leap
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.
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.
Poem and reading by Sylvia Plath — text here
Video by mishima1970
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.
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.
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.
Poem and reading by T. S. Eliot (text here)
Animation by Everett Wilson, who writes:
I produced the visuals for this poem by T.S. Eliot in the fall of 2001, during my brief time in the Media program at the University of Lethbridge. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, an Animated Rendition of T.S. Eliot’s Poem” appeared in the “highlights reel” of the Melbourne International Student Animation Festival, which traveled to select universities across Australia. After receiving feedback on YouTube, I replaced the original narration with T.S. Eliot’s voice in this 2007 revision.
There are other Prufrock videos on YouTube, but this is by far the best of those I’ve seen.