Walt Whitman’s iconic collection of poems, Leaves of Grass, has earned a reputation as a sacred American text. Whitman himself made such comparisons, going so far as to use biblical verse as a model for his own. So it’s only appropriate that artist and illustrator Allen Crawford has chosen to illuminate—like medieval monks with their own holy scriptures—Whitman’s masterpiece and the core of his poetic vision, “Song of Myself.” Crawford has turned the original sixty-page poem from Whitman’s 1855 edition into a sprawling 234-page work of art. The handwritten text and illustrations intermingle in a way that’s both surprising and wholly in tune with the spirit of the poem—they’re exuberant, rough, and wild. Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself is a sensational reading experience, an artifact in its own right, and a masterful tribute to the Good Gray Poet.
Here’s Allen Crawford’s website. The score for the film, “I Contain Multitudes,” is the work of Ben Warfield, and both Warfield and Kessler are good friends of Crawford, according to his blog post about the trailer. I like what he says about book trailers:
David really did a wonderful job: viewers at first will wonder where the book is, only to realize that they had been seeing it all along. Book trailers are still a relatively new thing, but I think David has set a nice precedent by going with a slower pace and lyrical treatment: there’s no reason why a book trailer should look like a film trailer, after all.
My good friend Bill was kind enough to serve as our “Whitman” (How odd and fortuitous that one of my dearest friends should be a dead ringer for Whitman…)
(Hat-tip: Poets & Writers’ Clip of the Day)
Poems about falling in love are a dime a dozen, but when was the last time you heard a memorable poem about falling out of love? Spanish director Eduardo Yagüe rises to the challenge of matching images and sound (and some very effective moments lacking images and sound) to such a poem by the great Argentinian writer Julio Cortázar. (Note that this is probably NSFW since it contains full frontal nudity.) Laura Cuervo is the actress. The music is by Podington Bear (Chad Crouch) and the director voices the poem.
Thanks to Luis Yagüe for the highly serviceable English translation in the titling. The director has also uploaded a version without subtitles.
The last Poetry Storehouse remix I’ll be featuring this week was made by Othniel Smith three months ago for a poem by Lissa Kiernan. Together with a video by Swoon that we previously shared here, it’s included on the multimedia page of a website for Kiernan’s fantastic new book, Two Faint Lines in the Violet, which I happen to be in the middle of reading. The publisher is Negative Capability Press, and when I went to check them out online, I was impressed to see that they had gone to the trouble to set up an independent website for the book. (The norm for American publishers is to have, at best, a separate page in the online catalogue, and possibly also a page for the author in some other section of their site which may or may not link to the catalogue page.) The two video embeds appear as images in a slider at the top of the page with a brief description at the bottom of each image, and when clicked, the videos are responsive, meaning they automatically resize to fit any screen. Overall, a very pleasing presentation. I hope other poetry publishers take note.
Though Othniel Smith’s interpretations of poems are sometimes too literal for me, this one has just the right degree of allusiveness (and elusiveness) for my taste. Kiernan evidently thought so too, commenting on Vimeo, “Thank you, Othniel – you brought this poem to life! Love especially the dancing feet shot, the pre-natal scene, and the final few shots.” They go on to talk about the original film that the remix borrows most of its footage from, Marriage Today (Alexander Hammid, 1950) — “certainly an interesting film coming from an experimental filmmaker on his second marriage,” Smith notes.
Incidentally, congratulations to Othniel for getting four of his Storehouse poetry films selected for screening at The Outcasting: Fourth Wall Festival in Cardiff! I like what he had to say about the importance of online resources such as The Poetry Storehouse:
Primarily a scriptwriter (e.g. “The Story Of Tracy Beaker” for CBBC), I have been making poetry films for a few years, in an attempt to enhance my skills in respect of visual story-telling. The existence of online resources such as The Internet Archive, Flickr Commons and Librivox means that there is plentiful material in the public domain for the unschooled video editor to play with. Having made films of poems by such historic figures as Shakespeare, Lord Byron, Emily Dickinson and R.S. Thomas, I was delighted to discover The Poetry Storehouse. This has given me the opportunity to apply my imagination to the work of contemporary poets, and to obtain their feedback which has, thus far, been largely positive.
Although it may seem to some regular visitors that I post videos from The Poetry Storehouse too often, in reality, I don’t post them nearly often enough, given the glut of good videos landing there these days, and I’m getting rather far behind as a result. Case in point: Nic Sebastian uploaded this remix of a poem by Jessie Carty a full month ago. This is a beautiful remix, I thought, and it seems especially appropriate for Carty to join the ranks of the envideoed at the Poetry Storehouse given her history as editor of the groundbreaking YouTube-based literary magazine Shape of a Box.
Scottish poet and novelist Jim Murdoch recently had three poems added to The Poetry Storehouse, and remixers (including Murdoch himself) have taken to them with enthusiasm. I don’t generally care for poems about poetry, but the self-reflexive nature of “As Is” poses an intriguing challenge to filmmakers. Marie Craven was the first to make a video for this poem, and I rather liked her simple text animation. Then Lori H. Ersolmaz made this video, which blows me away. The moments of darkness between lines (read by Nic Sebastian) is reminiscent of a trailer for a blockbuster movie, and the taut, rhythmic correspondence of (mostly) abstract images to words, combined with the dramatic soundtrack, added to that impression. Poetry is an edge-of-your-seat adventure, this film suggests. Well, I’ve always thought so.
With all the vacations Moving Poems has been taking, I’ve fallen behind on the 12 Moons videopoetry collaboration between Erica Goss (words), Marc Neys/Swoon (concept, camera and directing), Kathy McTavish (music) and Nic Sebastian (voice). As usual, it debuted online at Atticus Review. This is the 8th moon. Neys called Goss’ text
A powerful poem that needed enough room (I love the line ‘Give it your blood, one drop at the time’) to breathe.
One storyline of images (very close to the poem) in black and white was more than enough against the beautiful reading & soundtrack by Nic and Kathy.
I personally love this one and think it’s the perfect showcase of what the collaborative and creative powers of four individuals can lead up to.
Atticus Review doesn’t seem to have an archive for just the 12 Moons series (apart from its Mixed Media category, whose RSS feed I strongly recommend adding to one’s feed reader subscriptions). But click on the 12 Moons tag to view all eight posted so far at Moving Poems.
Irish poet Kevin Barrington is doing interesting things with spoken-word video these days — here, with the help of filmmaker Mark Cantwell. The poem’s cynicism may be a little on the heavy side, but it works for me. (For Americans and others who may be clueless about soccer/football, “Man United” is Manchester United Football Club, one of the most successful teams in English football.)