Kinsugi by Safia Elhillo

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I’ve had some critical things to say over the years about the use of poetry in advertising, but this Under Armour ad does it right. First off, they hire a contemporary poet, Sudanese-American poet Safia Elhillo, rather than re-purposing some out-of-copyright Walt Whitman or whatever, and they give her credit right up front: “words by Safia Elhillo.” (I saw a performance poetry-style ad for Transport for London two years ago that didn’t credit the poet at all.) Second, it actually feels like a real filmpoem: the words and images go together in a fresh and interesting way, suggesting that the poet worked closely with the (uncredited) filmmakers. I’m especially impressed considering how tired and cliched this kind of athlete-triumphing-over-adversity narrative has otherwise become in American television.

Perhaps that’s why the Under Armour advertising people decided to hire poets. This is one of a series of poetry-film ads they’ve produced, each with a tie-in to the Winter Olympics. An article in the Baltimore Sun by Lorraine Mirabella, “Under Armour unveils Lindsey Vonn film ahead of Olympics,” has the whole story:

Under Armour has put out a short film on Lindsey Vonn in its Unlike Any women’s campaign, just days before the start of Winter Games in South Korea, where the world champion skier will compete in her first Olympics since 2010.

The campaign, which celebrates female athletes who shatter expectations, looks at ways in which debilitating injuries and setbacks have served to motivate Vonn. The alpine skier missed the 2014 Olympics because of a serious knee injury. Last year, while training, she broke an arm.

The video is set to a poem by Safia Elhillo, author of last year’s The January Children, who wrote the piece specifically for Vonn. It’s called, “Kintsugi,” the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum.

“This is what I became each wound filled with sunlight to bond my old self to my new,” the poem goes, recited in its debut in the film by the poet.

Under Armour has been working with Elhillo over the past few months on the poem and film, which is a new, remix of Vonn’s original Unlike Any video released last fall.

“It accentuates not just my strengths, but also my weaknesses and my story and coming back from adversity,” Vonn said in a Sun interview in October. “I’m strong because of everything I’ve been through.”

The sports brand launched its Unlike Any campaign in July. Each of five films featured spoken word artists who created poems to fit stories of each of five athletes, Misty Copeland, American Ballet Theater principal ballerina; Alison Desir, founder of Harlem Run Crew; sprinter Natasha Hastings; professional stuntwoman Jessie Graff and Chinese taekwondo champion and actress Zoe Zhang.

Under Armour said the latest Vonn video, coming off her World Cup wins this past weekend, was inspired by the athlete’s “undeniable strength and dedication to her sport…Lindsey is more than ready for gold.”

Still There by Lucy English

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A recent addition to Lucy English‘s collaborative, online poetry-film anthology The Book of Hours by the Indiana-based multimedia poet Matt Mullins.

Terms and Conditions by Tania Hershman

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A videopoem by Helen Dewbery and Chaucer Cameron for the title poem from Tania Hershman‘s debut poetry collection with Nine Arches Press. A song by Tania’s brother Nick Hershman, “You Get What You Deserve”, is also incorporated into the soundtrack, and the interplay between the two texts is part of what makes this work so well, I think.

Bones by Natalie Raymond

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This powerful, incantatory filmpoem stars the author-director, Natalie Raymond, and was shot at the Salton Sea in southern California. The Vimeo description:

An experimental narrative at the intersection of poetry & filmmaking, BONES explores the journey through a selfhood decimated by trauma. Based on poems from the book length manuscript missoula,, which was recently named a semi-finalist for Tarpaulin Sky’s 2017 book prize, BONES is about a daughter’s struggle to come to terms with her separate identity. more info: natalieraymond.com/bones

Directed by: Natalie Raymond
Director of photography: FuJui Freddy Tang
Wardrobe: Sanora Park
Audio & Text: Natalie Raymond

Isto / This by Mariana Collares

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Brazilian writer and interdisciplinary performer Mariana Collares says in the Vimeo description:

In October 2013 I made a call to some women at facebook. I had written a poem about the objectification of women and intended to illustrate it through a video, with the participation of other women who had the same thought.

Hence arose the project that i finally conclude with the help and always accurate direction of Marcello Sahea.

I thank the women who dared to participate in the project by sending pictures of their personal files. I also thank those who, even from afar, share this our desire to contribute to the onset of effective awareness on this subject, still so controversial, and now finds its climax through various events worldwide.

Broken Words by Maria Vella

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A bilingual, Maltese and English videopoem by Maria Vella (words, music and animation) that first appeared in the Australian literary journal Going Down Swinging:

The poem is about my liminal experiences as an immigrant child, caught between the old world and the new world, but never belonging to either one. It is a poem about dual identities: the public one, with broken English, and my secret domestic one, with broken Maltese. ‘Broken Words’ explores the identity that emerges from the language that breaks us.

They include a bio:

Maria Vella was born in Qormi, Malta, in 1980 and immigrated with her parents and younger brother to Melbourne in 1983. She is a video poet, poet and visual artist. Her work has appeared in The Best Australian Poems, Overland and elsewhere. She is a PhD candidate and tutor at Deakin University in Geelong. She is currently working on a collection of bilingual poems.

Hat-tip: The Poetry Film Live group on Facebook.

Blue Moon by Ian Gibbins

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A recent video by Australian poet Ian Gibbins, made by panning along a single, huge, composite image, as he describes in some very helpful process notes:

The underlying sequence of buildings panning along to a beachscape is actually a single still image that I built in Photoshop. It is constructed from about 100 images of buildings around the Adelaide CBD, North Haven, and Brighton. They were photographed on days with bright sunshine and clear blue skies so that the lighting was comparable across the shots. Even so, I needed to adjust colour, brightness, saturation, scale, perspective and so on to get the visual mix right. The blue skies also allowed for easier compositing later on. In the final mix, the background sky was processed to be the same in all assemblies and was derived from the average sky colour in the images. The final Photoshop file is huge: 62,000 x 1800 pixels and about 500 MB. It was assembled from 5 smaller montages, each of which was from a specific location, and each of which contained dozens of layers.

I then took the final composite image into Final Cut Pro X and animated the pan from one end to the other. To save memory, I rendered it, and used the resulting video clip in the final composite. The sky with moving clouds is composited from three sets of vids I took all on the same day, but in slightly different parts of the sky so that the cloud movements were not quite the same. They are sped up and looped to varying degrees. The various flying objects are from a commercial image library that I animated. The final moonrise sequence is taken from the recent lunar eclipse we had (click here to see that). It is composited via an animated mask and a couple of other image processing tweaks. The whole lot was composited using colour keys, background colour gradients, key framed text and opacity animations.

The soundtrack is tin can, a performance I did as part of a Paroxysm Press tribute to David Bowie. The text is inspired by Bowie’s Space Oddity, Arthur C Clarke & Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and NASA’s Pioneer 10 / 11 space probes to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, with all due reference to Homer’s Odyssey. The music is derived from the chord pattern of Space Oddity. You might find a few other references as well…

Ian’s text also demonstrates, I think, why poets can benefit from greater scientific literacy. When was the last time you read or heard a poem about the moon that didn’t still act as if ours were the only moon in the sky?

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