Swedish-American poet Rönnog Seaberg and her husband Steve Seaberg invented what they called acrobatic poetry. Rönnog isn’t in this performance, and I’m guessing that’s because it happened after her death in 2007. Steve has posted a number of videos of their acrobatic poems on YouTube and on Vimeo, which houses the nude ones. The acrobats in this performance are Steve Seaberg, Mark Wolfe and Ashkey Winnig. You can find the text of the poem on the Vimeo page.
The Seabergs and their frequent collaborator Mark Wolfe spoke to Art Interview magazine in 2005. Here’s a snippet:
Rönnog Seaberg: […] We have a group now that basically consists of 3 people; Steve, Mark and I and we have an outer circle of people who also appear with us here in Atlanta. We take my poetry, which I recite, and we illustrate it and enhance it with acrobatics to make a visual still life.
Steve Seaberg: It’s like how an illustrator illustrates a poem in a book or how William Blake wrote his own poetry and illustrated it as well. There are all sorts of techniques for doing that. We use 3 dimensional space for our illustration. The poetry, instead of being printed, is actually read by Rönnog so it is a real event and we then perform the illustrations for the poem, which often are acrobatic but not necessarily so. Sometimes we simply pose in positions that seem related to or illustrative of the poem. Her poetry is often divided into verses and each verse we do with different poses. There might be three, four, five, verses to an entire poem. So it’s a series of tableaus. Sometimes it might seem like we are imitating art but we’re not. We’re composing the work ourselves but some of the poses of course are comments on or are taken from or inspired by sculpture going back in the whole history of art. We comment upon things that people do, ways of relating to each other in space. Some are more complicated acrobatically and take quite a bit of training and practice to do. Our goal is to create an image. I guess it is something like talking sculpture. But we have also had people who work with us who do movements. Recently we worked with some dancers.
Rönnog Seaberg: And we also add music quite often with live instruments.
Steve Seaberg: A couple of times we have done this with musicians. They sort of softly improvise while we read the poetry. That is always wonderful, it’s lots of fun to do.
Some poems inspire many YouTube videos, and “My Papa’s Waltz,” by Theodore Roethke, is one of them. This is the only video though that seemed worth sharing here, despite a foreshortened ending. The nicely non-literal mesh of of Roethke’s recording with public-domain footage from archive.org really works for me. Video by epittsburgh.
Here’s a film based on one of Alejandra Pizarnik’s “Dialogues,” which I’ve translated below along with the prefatory text. According to the hard-to-read credits at the end, the director is Carlos Martinez. I love the evocation of classic horror films here.
The rain is expected to pass.
Winds are expected to blow in.
Through love to silence, they say pathetic things.
I wish they’d leave me alone with my new, fresh voice.
No! Don’t leave me!
Words to illuminate the silence.
[Un cuento memorable/A memorable story]
—That black one that laughs from the small window of a streetcar resembles Madame Lamort —she said.
—That’s not possible; there are no streetcars in Paris. Besides, that black one on the streetcar doesn’t resemble Madame Lamort in any way. Quite the opposite: it’s Madame Lamort who resembles that black one. In sum: not only does Paris lack streetcars, but I have never seen Madame Lamort in my life, not even in a portrait.
—You agree with me —she said— because I don’t know Madame Lamort either.
—Who are you? We should introduce ourselves.
—Madame Lamort —she said— and you?
—Your name, I can’t think what it reminds me of —she said.
—Try to remember before the streetcar comes.
—But you just told me there were no streetcars in Paris —she said.
—They didn’t exist when I said it, but one never knows what might come to pass.
—Then let’s wait for it, since we’re waiting for it —she said.
I like poems and poem-like things that can be enjoyed without any knowledge of the language. Hanafubuki says,
It’s me reading a Japanese tongue twister. the word “hato” means pigeon in Japanese.