A charming stop-motion animation by Terry Wragg, who notes that
‘House Clearance’ was first published in Lifting the Piano with One Hand by Gaia Holmes, published by Comma Press (2013).
Terry Wragg is a member of the Leeds Animation Workshop, and had a filmpoem called Working Metal screened in the The Body Electric Poetry Film Festival last year. For more from Gaia Holmes, visit her poetry blog (and, of course, check out her other poetry videos at Moving Poems).
The aim of a poet is not to win prizes. To be famous. To be popular. Even not to produce books. That’s left for the others to decide. The aim of a poet is to leave as much traces as possible during a lifetime. Like seeds we blow in the wind. Like water we flow in all directions. We project fire. We consume everything before we are consumed ourselves.
Socrates had some either/or thoughts about death. Poet Maxine Kumin has some thoughts about those thoughts. Filmmaker Adam Tow adds his thoughts to hers.
It’s with a heavy heart that we note the poet’s own death yesterday at the age of 88 — something Motionpoems couldn’t have anticipated when they chose this as their February selection. Their free emailed newsletter contained an interview with her; I don’t think they’d mind if I quoted it:
MOTIONPOEMS: Why did you decide to cut the Socrates quote with nearly six lines of cosmic imagery?
MAXINE KUMIN: I delayed the quote so I could set up the smallness, the insignificance of our planet in the great reach of space. Otherwise, there couldn’t have been any suspense and hence no poem.
MOTIONPOEMS: There’s an interplay in the poem between up and down, present and future. Your last line, “So much for death today and long ago,” seems inspired by the movement of the smoke, the squirrels, and the nuthatch, and the promise of snow. Why?
KUMIN: You notice it isnt the smoke, its the shadow of smoke, not snow but the promise of snow, tho the critters are real and present. I’m trying to say how evanescent the choice between life and death is, just as Socrates gives us his matter-of-fact but no less terrifying either/or.
MOTIONPOEMS: Motionpoems are used in classrooms a lot. If you were to recommend a writing prompt or exercise using this poem as a model, writing teachers and students might find that very useful.
KUMIN: Anything that gets students reading, especially outside their chosen field, makes a good jumping-off place for a poem. You dont have to be reading Socrates or Faulkner. Im a great jotter down of lines that pique my interest, from the newspaper to something weighty about, say, Jefferson … who was one of the first to bring the mule to this country … That would make me want to write about that hybrid the mule. (I havent but still might.)
As featured in Atticus Review, this is the first of the 12 Moons videopoetry series, a collaboration between California-based poet (and videopoetry columnist) Erica Goss; filmmaker Marc Neys, A.K.A. Swoon; composer/cellist Kathy McTavish; and poetry reader extraordinaire Nic Sebastian. See Erica’s January column at Connotation Press for more on the project. She says, in part:
This artistic collaboration has been an exhilarating experience for me. Part of the fun was waiting to see what the others came up with. I knew I had to get the poems written and delivered, so I made writing them a top priority. As soon as one was finished, I sent it off, and waited to be delighted. Apart from emails, a few phone and Skype calls, we worked independently, each contributing our part.
Marc goes into a bit of detail about the making of this first film in the series at his blog:
I wanted to show only one image: a woman who has, one time, lost all but is still there and still very much a woman.
Let the viewer feel intrusive, like they’re watching a private ritual.
Kathy sent me several snippets of sounds and loops I could play with. Looking for a ominous soundscape to lay Nic’s reading in, I first created a track.
For the ending I wanted a contrast in sound and image.
I chose the view of someone walking on sharp and difficult stones without a clear path.
A found-footage videopoem by Kevin Spenst for a text by Michael e. Casteels, which originally appeared in The Puritan (scroll down for a bio of the poet). Spenst is also a published poet, and told me that this was his first effort at a videopoem based on another poet’s work. See his YouTube channel for more of his poetry videos, and visit Puddles of Sky Press to browse chapbooks by Casteels and others.
There’s also a version without the English subtitles.
(Hat-tip: London Poetry Systems.)