The Watcher (El centinela) by Jorge Luis Borges

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Alastair Reid’s translation of the Borges poem is narrated by James Wykes in this filmpoem by Celia Qu. The music is by Ulises Conti and Boris Nechljudov. Qu writes:

The poet Borges stated that ‘I feel constrained to be a particular individual, living in a particular city, in a particular time’. His labyrinthian poem ‘The Watcher’ explores self reflection, confinement and split personality.
Throughout the film I aim to portray the division of the self as well as explore the theme of isolation cyclically, as the narrator deconstructs himself into numerous selves. The idea being to covey a ‘confused sense of being’ as universal, relating to everyone and everything.

The Hollow Men by T. S. Eliot

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I think “The Hollow Men” has just found its ideal multimedia interpretation. I remember being utterly enthralled with Eliot’s poem at age 13, and this projection performance video from the artist duo Decomposing PianosJulia Krolik and Owen Fernley—brings it all back. Here’s the description:

T.S. Eliot’s 1925 poem The Hollow Men is spoken in unison by a trio of computer generated voices. Photography, code-generated video, original music and choreography are combined for performance. This work was part of Chipped Off’s wasteAWAY.

Performed: June 4th to 6th, 2015 at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, Kingston ON.
Dancers: Meredith Dault, Tracey Guptill & Helena Marks
Chipped Off: Kim Renders, Robin McDonald and Dan Vena

See Facebook for more on the Chipped Off Performance Collective.

The ABC of Insanity by Andy Parkinson

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One of the more ingenious performance poetry videos I’ve seen. Here are the details from the Vimeo description:

In fond memory of Andy Parkinson who wrote and performed the poem.
Music by Matthew Marks
Part of Insight In Mind produced by Swings and Roundabouts with a Mind Millennium Award and previously seen on Channel 4
Initiated and produced by Penny Arnold
Directed by Daniel Saul 2002

Insight in Mind is a 27-minute video containing 14 poetic pieces, of which this was one.

‘Insight In Mind’ vividly demonstrates how it feels to experience highs and lows, through the use of poetry, visual imagery, photography, animation and music; taking the viewer on an emotional and informative journey.
The 14 poetic pieces are interwoven with the voices of survivors and carers, talking openly about their experiences, married with artworks contributed from mental health survivors.

Throughout the film, with the exception of two performers, everyone you see or hear has personal experience of bipolar disorder or depression, or are carers for people who have these experiences. This includes the recorded voice-overs which were edited together from interviews with survivors and carers. Alongside these spoken sections of the film are over 200 artworks by survivors of bipolar disorder or depression. The poems and artworks were selected from material contributed during the research undertaken by ‘Swings and Roundabouts’.

Andy Parkinson, AKA Andy Postman, was one of the five members of Swings and Roundabouts, and died in 2008. There’s a tribute page to him on the same website. It begins:

Andy Parkinson, also known to many as Andy Postman sadly passed away aged 53 in October 2008 from a sudden heart attack, a condition that runs in his family.

Andy made an incredible contribution to Insight in Mind. He was an inspiration to us during the planning and production of the film, with his stream of infectious and elaborate ideas. He wrote 4 (and adapted another) of the poems in the film and conceived many of the ideas for the filming of 2 of the poems, Mutter and ABC which begin and end Insight in Mind. Andy put an extraordinary amount of careful consideration into the construction of these pieces.

Act by Kate Greenstreet

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“This videopoem is based on the chapter “Act” from my book Young Tambling,” says Kate Greenstreet in the Vimeo description. Young Tambling is “experimental memoir” that includes “poetry, prose, art”; read excerpts on Greenstreet’s website. Here’s the Ahsahta Press catalog description:

Young Tambling resonates with Greenstreet’s relentless exploration of what it means to be human, to need to feel, to make art. Memory, in this book of “experimental memoir,” works something like the narrative tactics of a traditional ballad— “alternate leaping and lingering,” in one formulation. Greenstreet does not dabble in teleological platitudes: the lives crosscutting these poems are not singular but plural and sublime, full of sacrifice and empathy for the lost. In Young Tambling, a life’s meaning is born of its poet’s song, and a memory cannot reveal its truth until it finds its ballad.

The Mother Warns the Tornado by Catherine Pierce

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Motionpoems‘ latest release is a film by Isaac Ravishankara that transforms Catherine Pierce‘s poem into something that, save for its brevity, approaches a blockbuster movie in style and and emotional impact, complete with a very real-looking tornado at the end. MP’s “citizen journalist” Maggie Roy conducted interviews with both the poet and the filmmaker. Here’s some of what Pierce told her:

On April 27, 2011, the day of the tornado outbreak that killed over 300 people and injured many more, I was in Cullman, Alabama with my husband and infant son when an EF-4 tore through that town. Those moments of waiting while the tornado passed (we were huddled in the lobby bathroom of a Days Inn) really crystallized for me both the intensity of love I had for my child and what real, immediate fear felt like—not fear of something that might happen in the future, but a visceral fight-or-flight fear.

I’d been sort of stuck, writing-wise, since the birth of my son (the sleep deprivation wasn’t helping, either), but I’d been planning to write a series of poems from the point of view of a tornado; after that day, I realized that the scope of that series had to be big enough to include not only the tornado but the lives it impacted. […]

I think the film is incredible. I’m bowled over by how powerful and visceral it is, and also by how beautiful. There are so many small moments here—the lizard, the shot of the boy’s feet, the mother opening her eyes—that just undo me each time I see them, and I love the way the film slowly ratchets up the tension. I knew, from talking with Isaac at the outset of the project, that he connected with the poem exactly as I hoped someone would, but what he ended up making surpassed what I could have imagined. I just love everything about this film, and am so grateful to have been introduced to Isaac’s work.

It’s evident just from watching the film that a lot of care, attention and hard work went into it; the interview with Ravishankara suggests just how much:

I first spoke to Catherine Pierce about the project in the fall of 2014. I knew from the second I read the poem that I wanted to make this piece, and I knew from that moment that it needed to show a mother with a child who was actually her son. It wasn’t until March of this year that I was introduced to Dianna [Miranda] and her son Gus [Buck]. I knew from the moment they invited me into their home that they would be the family around which we would build this piece.

The real feeling of the piece came together in post production. There is absolutely NO WAY this film would have come together the way it did without the amazing insight from our editor, Jamie Foord at Rock Paper Scissors, who just kept making it more and more and more EMOTIONAL with every edit. And then we still had NO IDEA how we were going to make this feeling so tangible, but the team of artists at A52 not only dreamt up the tornado, but made it REAL. Of course, there are the shots where we SEE the thing, but they made sure we FELT it in nearly every shot leading up to the conclusion.

Read the rest. (And here’s the text of the poem.)

Lo Fatal / Mortal by Rubén Dario

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Marc Neys AKA Swoon‘s latest videopoem uses a translation of my own, so it’s entirely possible I’m prejudiced here, but I really like his choice of footage to accompany this century-old poem by the great Nicaraguan innovator of Modernismo. He also made a version in the original Spanish.

We each shared some notes about the poem and the film in a blog post. Quoting oneself is weird, but here’s what Marc wrote, in part:

I probably fell for the poem because of the outspoken naivety in lines like

for there’s no greater pain than the pain of being alive,
no affliction more severe than consciousness.

I wanted to steer away from easy or obvious choices in imagery but I also wanted the footage to be clean and simple (unremarkable almost), yet beautiful in their elusiveness.

In the editing process the starting point was the poem. I put different title blocks along the length of the soundtrack (without the presence of images). Only then I looked for appropriate footage (some of it is mine, others came from archives or videezy, videoblocks and mazwai) and adjusted them (pace and length) to make them fit the title blocks with the lines of the poem. The choice of font and placement of the text on the selected images was the last thing to do.

I still enjoy this way of composing.

Man & Dolphin / Mens & Dolfijn by Hans Faverey

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As with yesterday’s film by Trevino Brings Plenty, this minimalist videopoem works because of the subject’s lack of response to a direct address, confounding the viewer’s expectations. The audio comes from a reading by the poet at Poetry International Rotterdam in 1977, and the video montage was made just last year by JW van Hemert, using footage from Conscience dauphins. Although the poem is mostly in Dutch, one can understand just enough of it to get the point.

Hans Faverey was—judging from the English translations of his poetry on the Poetry International Rotterdam website and at Words Without Borders—a great poet whose work deserves much more international exposure (I only heard of him last week, thanks to a tip from Willem Groenewegen on Facebook).