I Don’t Own Anxiety, But I Borrow It Regularly by Kelli Russell Agodon

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We can’t plan a party for the apocalypse 
          because friends of the apocalypse know
                    the apocalypse always shows up 
uninvited and with a bag of half-eaten chips.

A film Marie Craven made for a poem by Seattle-based poet Kelli Russell Agodon for the 2019 series of Visible Poetry Project films. Glass journal, where the text originally appeared, included a process note from Kelli:

This poem was written on a poetry date with Susan Rich. I’m not sure what prompted the poem, but I was thinking about loss and death (as one normally does on a Friday) and this poem came from that moment. As someone who carries not only a saint in her pocket, but also anxiety too, I’ve found one of the easiest ways to lose my midnight fears is by knowing sometimes I just need to stand outside on my deck at 2 in the morning to feel secure.

And here are Marie’s process notes from her blog:

In 2017, I followed a series of videos appearing during the month of April, also known as National Poetry Month in the USA, a celebration that is global in various forms as well. These interesting pieces were being published daily by the Visible Poetry Project, based in New York. In mid-2018, I happened to see a call for film-maker submissions for the 2019 VPP series. I sent my application that same night. A few months later, I was delighted to have been selected as one of 30 film-makers from around the world to participate in this year’s series. The process firstly involved reading a series of poems from 60 writers, and returning a shortlist of three poets I might like to work with. VPP soon announced that I was to collaborate with my top choice, the well-known US poet, Kelli Russell Agodon. Kelli and I then started communicating directly, and she sent me a larger collection of poems, three of which I felt drawn to adapt to the screen. I vacillated between two of them for a little while, until Kelli suggested I ‘go with my gut’. At this point I knew the poem of choice would be I Don’t Own Anxiety, But I Borrow it Regularly (eventually shortened to I Don’t Own Anxiety for the film adaptation). I straight-away knew who I would most like to ask to voice the poem, and so I contacted poet and film-maker, Cindy St. Onge, with whom I’ve been fortunate to have prior collaborations. Cindy’s readings of the poem were recorded by Eric Sorenson, both of them in Portland, Oregon. Eric had quickly responded to my call-out on social media for a technician in that city to assist with recording Cindy’s voice. As always, Cindy’s readings of the poem were sensitive, articulate and well-modulated – a joy to receive and work with them. VPP allocated a producer to our project, Alina Sodano, who monitored progress through a series of rolling deadlines leading towards the film’s release date in April 2019. Alina was instrumental in securing the music I most wished for our film, a piece entitled Blames and Revelations, by Matt Howes & Dan Slatter, licensed for our project via Premium Beat. Footage for the film was sourced from royalty-free subscription site, Videoblocks, including work from their contributors, Vadim Key (Belarus), WeAre (Ukraine), ProStock (Slovenia), Oles Ishchuk (Ukraine), glowonconcept (Thailand), and Sergey Gribanov (Russia). Editing is my primary area of interest and pleasure in film-making, which accounts in large measure for my easy embrace of ‘found media’, such as may be sourced on licences like royalty-free, creative commons, copyleft, and public domain. Sourcing media in this way gives me legal permission to adapt, remix and re-create it in my non-commercial videos, each fragment given new life in the new contexts I create. As with Half Measures, written up earlier in this blog piece, the editing challenge for I Don’t Own Anxiety was bringing together the diverse written, vocal, musical and visual elements, to create a film that, in its final form, felt organic and whole. Our film was released on 28 April and will continue to be distributed now with the other films in the 2019 series by the Visible Poetry Project.

Die Ameisen / The Ants by Joachim Ringelnatz

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A 2019 film by Marie Craven. Here’s what she wrote about it on her blog:

The Ants was made for the poetry film competition of the Leipzig Poetry Society in Germany. The challenge was to make a film based on any poem by Joachim Ringelnatz (1883-1934), a cabaret poet and absurd humorist. Most of the Ringelnatz poems I have read are strange and funny, and very short. I chose Die Ameisen/The Ants for its whimsy, and partly because it includes a reference to Australia, where I live. It’s a coincidence too that ants have been a funny and instructive presence in my life. The film is bilingual, in German first and then English. It was a fun film to make, with music created for it by my long-time collaborator, Adrian Carter, and collage art by Kollage Kid. Both of them are in the UK.

The film ended up taking first place in the contest.

All this week I’m going to be featuring recent poetry films by Marie Craven. When she joined Moving Poems as an editor last year, our initial instinct was to avoid sharing her own films too often to avoid the appearance of favoritism, but I’ve recently changed my mind about that. Marie has become one of the most prominent filmmakers in the international poetry film scene, and it’s silly to pretend otherwise. So it’s catch-up time! Especially since Marie has just caught up on her blog, and I can simply quote her process notes for most of these films.

Plasticpoems by Fiona Tinwei Lam

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A brilliant concrete videopoem directed and produced by Canadian poet Fiona Tinwei Lam with animation by Nhat Truong and sound design by Tinjun Niu. The Vimeo description notes that

This short animated video depicts two concrete/visual poems by poet Fiona Tinwei Lam from her collection of poems Odes & Laments about marine plastic pollution.

It won the Judges’ Award for Best Poetry Video, REELpoetry Houston 2020, which is how I knew about it: I was one of those judges.

The Ugly Daughter by Warsan Shire

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Ugly is an outstanding animated film directed by Anna Ginsburg, from The Ugly Daughter, a powerful poem by Warsan Shire, who speaks her own words in this piece.

The poem is published in English and German at the fabulous Lyrikline website in Germany. The writer’s bio there says this:

Warsan Shire was born in 1988 in Kenya to Somali parents, she grew up in London… She won her first prize at an international slam event and is now the editor of the magazines Literary arts mashup and Spook. She leads workshops, in which poetry is used as a tool to try to overcome personal traumas.

The same poem was earlier choreographed and performed as a dance piece by Ella Misma. Two different video versions of this are here and here.

The film’s animation appears to be strongly influenced by the body movement in Misma’s choreography, which is graceful yet dynamic. The outstanding original artwork by Melissa Kitty Jarram is richly expressive and affecting.

The Blue from Heaven by Stevie Smith

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Stevie Smith‘s poem is brought to life through the magic of Norwich-based animator and professor Suzie Hanna. Here’s the description on Vimeo:

Glenda Jackson provides the voice of poet Stevie Smith in this animated interpretation of her extraordinary 1950’s poem ‘The Blue from Heaven’. Suzie Hanna has adapted and animated the poet’s own drawings to communicate her rueful, wistful, comic, and melancholy themes with music and sound design by Phil Archer. In Stevie Smith’s awkward world, King Arthur banishes Guinevere to the palace, and he enters the blue from heaven.

Sonámbulo / The Sleepwalker by Theodore Ushev

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A surrealist journey through colours and shapes inspired by the poem Romance Sonámbulo by Federico García Lorca. Visual poetry in the rhythm of fantastic dreams and passionate nights.

This is a poetry film only in the sense that it takes its inspiration from one stanza of Lorca’s, but it’s a brilliant animated homage to Spanish surrealism that reminded me of everything I love about the whole Generation of ’27, which includes so many of my favorite poets and artists. It’s difficult to imagine 20th century poetry and art without this incredible flowering of talent in the years leading up to the Spanish Civil War. U.S. poets who came of age in the 1960s were heavily influenced by Spanish poetry in translation; I’d say it was equal in impact to translations of classical Chinese and Japanese poetry. For me, getting a bilingual anthology of 20th-century Spanish poetry as a Christmas present when I was 11 was a life-changing experience. I doubt I would’ve become a poet otherwise.

Anyway, here’s a serviceable English translation of “Romance Sonámbulo”, followed by the original.

For more about the film, see its webpage. Theodore Asenov Ushev is a Bulgarian animator, graphic designer, illustrator and multimedia artist based in Montreal.

Ode all’ansia / Ode to Anxiety by Milena Tipaldo

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Ode to Anxiety is a half-minute film by Milena Tipaldo, an animator and illustrator in Torino, Italy. It is an outstanding text-on-screen film. Though it was made three years ago, it is even more relevant now.

The animation is distinctive, created from Tipaldo’s line-sketch illustrations. The text on screen is graphically well-blended with the drawings. It appears largely in Italian with smaller lettering in English on the bottom left and right of the screen. The overall rhythm of the film is fast and sharp.

The poem is written playfully and also speaks strongly about anxiety, describing it as a “faithful companion”. This will have special meaning to anyone who has lived with high anxiety over time, even before our world turned upside down. Now so many more of us are experiencing it at greater intensity.

There are only two credits at the end of the film, for Milena Tipaldo’s animation, and Enrico Ascoli for sound design. The latter is fantastic, creating a musical texture of lively, comic sounds, with a touch of flamenco guitar at the end.

I assume the poem is by Tipaldo. It is published in English in the video notes at Vimeo.