Make America Great Again (Slogan) by David Hahn

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A video collage by multi-media artist, Donna Kuhn, set to composer David Hahn‘s piece, “Make America Great Again”, addressing the contemporary political and cultural landscape of the USA, while alluding to historical ideologies of identity that have led to its present condition.

In a rhythm reminiscent of beat poetry, Hahn voices his own text in a rapid stream of hackneyed national slogans, turned upside-down and inside-out to powerfully convey the deranged zeitgeist experienced by so many US residents, and by masses around the world. His feverish mantras climax in the distilled and obsessive chant, “America, America, again, again, again, America, again, again”.

The video is made up of a kinetic array of visual elements including animated text, digitally-drawn art, abstracted numerical sequences, cartoon images, and superimposition of iconic movie clips with footage from World War II.

Hahn has been composing for 30 years, beginning as a performer on lute, guitar, and mandolin with groups such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony and Opera Orchestras, Boston Musica Viva, the Seattle Symphony, Musica Nel Chiostro in Florence, and the City of London Festival. He served on the faculty at the New England Conservatory, where he co-founded the Boston Renaissance Ensemble, which toured extensively in the US and Europe.

Donna Kuhn’s experimental videos have exhibited internationally since 2004 at film festivals, museums, art galleries and online on literary and poetry sites.

The title of the piece is given on its Vimeo page as “Make America Great Again”, with the titles on the video itself suggesting the alternative name, “Slogan”.

Song of the Soil by Jessica Mookherjee

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Jessica Mookherjee‘s poem “Song of the Soil”, from her collection, Tigress (Nine Arches Press, 2019), is given heartfelt filmic treatment by Helen Dewbery and Chaucer Cameron, under the auspices of their production house, Elephant’s Footprint. According to the book’s webpage,

Jess Mookherjee is of Bengali heritage and grew up in Swansea. She has been widely published in magazines, including Under the Radar, Agenda, The North, Rialto, Antiphon and Ink, Sweat & Tears. She is author of The Swell (Telltale Press) and Joyride (Black Light Engine Room Press) and Flood (Cultured Llama). She was highly commended in the Forward Prize 2017 for best single poem. Jessica works in Public Health and lives in Kent.

The poem expresses a deep connection to the Earth in an elegy of lost origins and disappearing ground. Giving further voice to these themes, the film is imbued with overexposed images of a natural world scorched yellow and burnt brown, and a soundtrack made ominous by ambient bass. Mookherjee’s solemn, rich narration rounds the elements of this powerfully organic piece.

The film is part of a series Helen and Chaucer have been doing for Nine Arches Press. They note that “The film-poems are not only viewed by Nine Arches’ existing readers and online audiences, but are a tool for their poets to engage more easily with their existing and new audiences.” The press, however, does not appear to embed any of the videos on the books’ pages, which is kind of baffling.

L’homme et la mer (Man and the Sea) by Charles Baudelaire

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German film-maker Patrick Müller here adapts to the screen Charles Baudelaire‘s poem, “L’homme et la mer (Man and the Sea)”, from the poet’s most famous collection, Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), first published in 1857. This is his second adaptation of a Baudelaire poem, after Le Chat (2013).

The piece displays a distinctive approach by the film-maker, who shot it on the tiny and mostly obsolete super 8 celluloid format, popularised as a home movie medium from the time of its release by Eastman Kodak in 1965. Müller’s artisanal work includes hand-processing the film himself, then transferring it to the high-quality 4K video format for completion. This combination of analogue and digital creates uniquely beautiful images, with the sensuality of the film grain rendered in uncharacteristic clarity, and the choices in colour grading adding further to the poetry of the visual stream.

The softness and quiet passion of Müller’s voice entices us inwards to the text and the film. As with Caroline Rumley’s, Open Season, shared on Moving Poems yesterday, the soundtrack of L’homme et la mer is punctuated by sudden breaks to silence, as if to give moments of contemplation before beginning anew with the next fragment of the film.

The French-English translation of the poem in the subtitles is by Lewis Piaget Shanks (1878-1935).

Müller’s detailed process notes on the film may be read at filmkorn.org.

Open Season by Caroline Rumley

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From Caroline Rumley, a film-maker/poet I admire greatly, this is Open Season, a melancholy response to living in the USA since 9/11. Rumley’s description on Vimeo:

After reading Albert Samaha’s powerful reporting on the first hate crime after 9/11 in the United States, I was inspired to make this found footage retelling of a glimpse of his story.

Here’s the Buzzfeed article she drew upon for her information and some of the text.

There Are Bullets in This Poem by Jan Bottiglieri, Chris Green, cin salach, and Tony Trigilio

This is Semi-Automatic Pantoum, directed by Matt Mullins, made to accompany the collection Semi-Automatic Pantoums: A Collaboration on Gun Violence [PDF] by the Chicago-based collective Poetic Justice League. According to their origin story,

In 2018, in the season of Donald Trump and longing for another time, Chris Green was driving down a Chicago road to see his poetic super heroes Jan Bottiglieri, cin salach, and Tony Trigilio. He proposed The Poetic Justice League, a group for poetic non-silence on the big issues of the day. They dreamed up PJL to unfold group poems, to wake up poets and readers to a sense of newborn responsibility. [links added]

The pantoum is one of those forms with repeating lines, which makes it a good if macabre fit for the subject of semi-automatic weapons and the semi-automatic reactions of various political factions to the American epidemic of mass shootings. Matt Mullins added some lines of his own to the video, but otherwise the text is the same as “There Are Bullets in This Poem” (page 5 of the collection). As Matt said in an email on Monday,

It’s intensely disturbing that these horrific mass shooting events just won’t stop happening (I write you this the morning after we realize that families can’t even go to a food festival without being murdered by someone with an assault rifle.) American gun violence has gone far beyond insanity, and yet, as we all know, the politicians in the palm of the NRA will do nothing.

To write your own semi-automatic pantoum, see the collective’s instructions for teachers.

The Poetic Justice League hopes that high school students form their own PJL chapters! You will receive a PJL hat and will be included in all publishing and promotional ventures . . . and we will continue to include you in all future PJL political poetry adventures.

The only requirement is that students contribute their own collaborative political poems modeled after PJL projects. For now, we’re seeking semi-automatic pantoums–we will post the pantoums on our site.

City Swans by Bernard O’Rourke

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Bernard O’Rourke is an Irish writer, film-maker, and spoken word artist, new to Moving Poems. Filmed along Dublin’s Grand Canal, his City Swans reflects discontent and restlessness within the enclosures of city life. The poem is richly voiced by Bernard himself, woven into the melancholy whimsy of Brendan Carvill’s guitar chords. As an ensemble, the piece evokes a sense of sky-born hope glimpsed in lowly places. It was a finalist in 2018 for the Ó Bhéal Poetry Film Prize at the IndieCork Film Festival, Ireland.

Alphonso’s Jaw by Sarahjane Swan and Roger Simian

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Recently I became part of an international collective of artists called Agitate:21C. In its short existence, it has attracted about 300 outstanding experimental, avant-garde, and generally ‘other’ artists from around the world, including film-makers, poets, curators, critics, lovers of the arts, and just about any kind of alternative creator, focused on any medium, genre, style or form.

Originally part of a larger art installation created for Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival, Alphonso’s Jaw was the first poetry film I found via A21C. It is written and directed by Scottish artists Sarahjane Swan and Roger Simian, also known as Avant Kinema. Sarahjane appears in the film and voices the piece in English and French. I find it virtuosic in its fusing of word, soundscape and image, as well as deeply moving in its meditation on the timeless horrors of war in the lives of individuals.

This is an excerpt from what the artists have to say on the film’s page at Vimeo:

The installation, and our subsequent short film, were inspired by our fascination for two objects we discovered amongst Edinburgh University’s Anatomy Collection: (1) the cast of a disfigured face; (2) a prosthetic jaw constructed on an early nineteenth century battlefield.

Through some research we unearthed the story of Alphonse Luis, a young French gunner struck by shrapnel at the Siege of Antwerp, 1832. Having suffered horrific facial injuries, losing his lower face, Alphonse’s quality of life was eventually improved when the Surgeon-Major and a local Belgian artist collaborated on the construction of a silver prosthetic jaw, painted in flesh tones and adorned with whiskers.

We uncovered historical accounts of Alphonse Luis’ injury, surgery, recuperation and rehabilitation in medical journals of the day, and drew on these for an exploration of identity, disfigurement and reconstruction.

In Alphonso’s Jaw we imagine that Alphonse Luis has become dislocated from history to exist outside of any specific time or place, trapped in eternal convalescence, soothed by the dreams of his Battlefield Muse, who is equal parts Night Nurse, Scheherazade and Beauty from Beauty and the Beast. Luis’ Battlefield Muse is, in turn, both horrified and fascinated by her patient.

The poem, titled “Beauty and the Silver Mask,” can be read at Avant Kinema’s blog, in both its full English version and the short fragment of it spoken in French, which was translated by Raymond Meyer.