Stuart Pound and Rosemary Norman have been collaborating on videopoems for 24 years now, but their work has lost none of its freshness or surprise. When I click on one of Pound’s videos in my Vimeo feed, it’s with the expectation that it won’t resemble too closely anything he’s done before. And so it was with this animation.
“The angry sleeper stalks his dreams/hard from night to night”. Dirk Bouts’s 1470 painting of demons carrying sinners off to Hell is the starting point for this not-quite-serious animated nightmare. Pachelbel’s famous canon played on a musical box is the accompaniment.
A videopoem by the Russian Latvian collective Orbita (“Orbit”), made in 2001—I assume on videotape—and uploaded to Vimeo six months ago. Artur/Artūrs Punte and Diana Palijchuk are credited with making the video, the text is by George Uallick and Zhanna Shibalo, and The Trilobitum Coitus supplied the music. I love the fast-paced, playful energy here, making me re-play it multiple times despite not feeling that I entirely understand it. The main thing is, it’s fun and imaginatively shot and edited, and I remain intrigued.
One of my favorite poetry publishers, Brooklyn-based Ugly Duckling Presse, came out with an excellent bilingual anthology, Hit Parade: The ORBITA Group, in 2015. You can read Kevin M.F. Platt’s introduction, along with several of his translations, online at Deep Baltic. Here’s an excerpt that may or may not shed light on what exactly Uallick and Shibalo mean by “pits overgrown with ancestors” and “the hair of literature”:
Paradoxically, while they eschew nostalgia for the Soviet past, the poets of Orbita are the actual heirs to the legacy of cutting edge and experimental culture characteristic of Latvia in the last Soviet decades. Orbita is an intentionally trans-ethnic and trans-linguistic phenomenon. And this is one of the keys to its success: theirs is an avant-garde of cosmopolitan hybridity. In distinction from the majority of Russian cultural production of the Baltic region, these poets transcend marginality and provincialism by forming a literary bridge between ethnic enclaves, languages, and cultures.
Note: Long-time readers of Moving Poems may recall that I uploaded an earlier, lower-resolution YouTube version of this video back in 2011. Rather than simply edit that post, I decided to delete it and post afresh so others can enjoy re-watching it as much as I did.
Set on a Melbourne tram, Stander Under Anvils is from Australian film-maker Martin Kelly, and features the luminous presence of poet Bronwen Manger, who speaks her text live to camera for most of the film. It is one of several video poetry pieces that Martin has produced in a media partnership with Ian McBryde.
As with many of Bronwen’s poems, there is an enticing sense of mystery here, perhaps even a suggestion of perversity. I find shadowy and unfamiliar meanings arising from the subtle twists of soft-spoken words, ostensibly directed towards a brother. The final, almost-not-there glance at the camera creates for me a perfectly sly ending to a piece that draws me in by being quiet.
Martin is best known in the international video poetry community as co-creator of Spree, a highly-regarded video of a poem by Ian. In Spree too, the writer appears speaking the text direct to camera, inter-cut with vivid flashes of associative imagery.
Martin says of the ongoing collaboration he has with Ian:
…We hope to provide both a window into the world of poetry for those who may otherwise pass it by, but we also aim at contributing to and developing the unique genre of video poems.
Ian makes an uncredited appearance in Stander Under Anvils, as a blind passenger sitting next to Bronwen on the tram, who suddenly turns to give her a key word.
The visual stream is jazzily constructed of “found footage” from various free sources. This is in sync with the sample-based hip-hop and house music referred to but never heard in the film. Narration is by the poet, who appears in the film as well, accompanied only by the warm sound of vinyl static—warm like her strong, expressive voice.
The poem is beat-driven, funky. It conveys myriad elements of cultural identity, past, present and future:
Who we are is undefined. Might be infinite. Variable. A mystery unsolved, but not yet ready to exit.
Gen.er.a.tion X, n. People born between 1960 and 1980. Some were alive with the last survivors of enslavement.
Danielle Eliska describes herself as a “black archivist”, her life’s work to tell stories of powerful women, the Black Diaspora and the state of Black culture. She is the founder of multimedia production house Meraki Society.
Shalewa Mackall belongs to a community of artists embracing Sankofa, a word in the Twi language of Ghana that translates to “Go back and get it”. The term relates to the Asante Adinkra symbol, often represented by a bird with its head turned backwards while its feet face forward, carrying a precious egg in its mouth. This symbolises moving forward in full awareness and embrace of what has preceded, historically and culturally.
The piece was written by Christina Rau, who describes it as “sci-fi fem poetry”. As a lover of astronomy, this possibly self-invented genre intrigues me, especially as it is expressed in this fresh poem, unusual in choice of language. As if to demonstrate the generic form in its title, Christina’s collection, Liberating The Astronauts (Aqueduct Press), was published in 2017, the year before the making of Kepler’s Law.
Among cultural involvements such as teaching and facilitation of writer’s groups, Christina serves as Poetry Editor for The Nassau Review. Dana’s animated videos are designed to appeal to his young daughter, who inspires his current creative work.
Rich posts daily at his blog, RichRant. The constant stream of inspired writing is marvelous, some of it existential, some political, some funny, frequently all three, and almost always on key.
The selection and editing of archival film is the work of a master. Any film-maker who has worked with footage from the Prelinger Archives will appreciate the countless hours that must have gone into finding all the shots, that are then cut to the fast rhythms of Rich’s voice.
Chris’s virtual home is at Patreon, where can be found a blackly hilarious account of his life and aims as a film-maker/writer/human. The synopses of his short fiction are alone worth the visit.
The ongoing collaboration between Rich and Chris has produced several videos so far, of which a small collection can be found on this playlist at YouTube.