It was midnight in Melbourne when I wrote Nailing Remembrance after feeling a cold fire burning in me. I had just finished reading about the journey of a girl from my valley in Afghanistan in the late 1800s. A princess turned into a slave, she was elegant and in-love, layered and lonely, resilient and secretive. Besides the brutal political context of the time and her painful destiny, this poem is capturing her layers of inner feelings, sense of loss, vibrant and violent moments of the time and the strength in her struggle. Nailing Remembrance is a window into the museum of a forcefully forgotten self.
Words and voice are by Lucy English; film, grading, editing and music by Marc Neys AKA Swoon — his most recent contribution to The Book of Hours project. It features orphaned home movie footage from IICADOM (The International Institute for the Conservation, Archiving and Distribution of Other People’s Memories).
The great Chilean poet Nicanor Parra died on January 23 at the age of 103, so I wanted to make a video for one of his poems as a tribute, especially since there didn’t seem to be any real videopoems or poetry films of his work on the web. I asked some fellow fans of Latin American poetry on Facebook for suggestions of poems, and “El hombre imaginario” came up. It had been translated before—by Edith Grossman, no less—but we all found her decision to depart from the plain meaning of the text in order to imitate the word order of Spanish odd and unfortunate. The Spanish poetry-filmmaker Eduardo Yagüe is a member of the group, and agreed to read the poem for the soundtrack when I mentioned I had an idea for a videopoem. I found the music—an accordion track by the composer Steven O’Brien—on Soundcloud, and the footage was something I’d downloaded from the one-person stock video channel Beachfront B-Roll a while ago.
Two different appreciations of Parra have appeared in major North American literary magazines in recent days: “Nicanor Parra, the Alpha-Male Poet” by David Unger in The Paris Review blog, and “Remembering Nicanor Parra, the Almost Immortal Chilean Poet” by Alejandro Zambra in The New Yorker.
The essays in this video suite ask us to consider what lies at the bottom of uncanny experiences. Why do some things feel both foreign and familiar to us?
“Space tempts me,” admits the dancer in “Territory” as she moves across a landscape made precisely for her image. Next, the word “space” begins to roll down her face and neck. “Territory” is a project by choreographer Kathleen Kelley and poet Sarah Rose Nordgren. The pair, known as “Smart Snow,” began collaborating when they were teenagers. Their first poetry video began as a diorama built with materials intended for miniature war reenactments and later expanded into an installation featuring live dancers and interactive digital texts. Through several feats of engineering, Nordgren and Kelley projected shrunken text and footage of a dancer into their diorama and filmed the two elements moving together. Across this poetry video we notice that the dancer is at once confined by, but also growing out of, this landscape, the way a child might feel inside a fenced yard, or a refrigerator box with holes cut for windows. “Territory” asks us to think about the everyday places where digital and analog rub up against one another, and can produce a type of confinement. It shows us how compressed spaces, like miniatures, ask us to consider their life-sized counterparts more carefully.
Click through for bios of Kelley and Nordgren.
The late, great Etheridge Knight recites his poem in this “archival remix” by Daniel Cantagallo, whose work I stumbled across on Vimeo the other night. Here’s the informative description:
It is hard to make a poem in prison, but Etheridge Knight fashioned many, and grateful he did. Born in Corinth, Mississippi, Knight was a Korean War vet who became a drug addict. Eventually put away for armed robbery, he renounced anger and committed his life to poetry while behind bars. His first volume of “Poems from Prison”, cemented his status in the Black Arts movement, and coincided with his release in 1968.
Reading is from Etheridge Knight and footage from 1966 CBS Report, “Men In Cages.”
The link goes to a lecture on Knight by Terrance Hayes.
I was fortunate enough to attend a reading by Etheridge Knight many years ago in the intimate setting of Penn State’s Rare Books Room, which had an impressive collection of books and chapbooks from the Black Arts Movement. Knight’s reading and commentary was a crash course in the dirty dozens and the African American oral poems known as toasts, and dovetailed with my then-intense interest in the blues. Which is a long-winded way of saying I had a lot of aha moments that afternoon.
Back in 2012, we held our first-ever event. It was at St Kevins Arcade, overlooking the city. We sat on worn wooden chairs and talked about why we hadn’t left Auckland. Tiny Ruins sang, and Hera Lindsay Bird read from a crumpled piece of paper.
The poem she read that Friday night was Children are the Orgasm of the World. It was unexpected and electric, with the kind of deliciously awkward humour that moms of the future would surely have. We loved it.
Four years on, Hera’s launching her long-anticipated debut collection of poetry, Hera Lindsay Bird, and we’re excited to be celebrating the ocassion with a video of that first poem we heard (animated by Frances Haszard, who also illustrated our remarkable Mint Chicks oral history vid).
(Hat-tip: David Graham at the V-V Talk group on Facebook.)