Dave writes: This is una mirada desde la alcantarilla / a glimpse from the gutter, the first Moving Poems production directed by Marie Craven. Alejandra Pizarnik‘s brief poems in Árbol de Diana and other collections have been a huge influence on my own writing, but I was never quite satisfied with the video I made back in 2016 for the excerpts included here. I did however like the translation and readings, done with the assistance of the London-based translator Jean Morris. They were part of the Poetry From the Other Americas series at Via Negativa, a collaborative translation project that gave rise to many of the films I wanted to feature in the Poesía sin fronteras screening at Houston last weekend. So I asked Marie, who hadn’t been part of that project, whether she might want to remix or completely re-do the film, and was delighted when she said yes.
The resulting film helped me see what might have been wrong with my own film: too few images, I think, and neither of them quite strong enough to keep up their end of a dialogue with these verses. Marie’s film shows the importance of thinking laterally, by instinct and rhythm. I was pleased that she ended up retaining my and Jean’s voiceovers; Jean’s success in evoking the vulnerable quality of Pizarnik’s own voice was a stand-out feature of our original film, I thought. But Marie’s re-interpretation ended up being a much stronger fit than that earlier effort would’ve been with the other films in the program.
Two Spanish filmmakers have also had a go at Pizarnik’s micropoetry: Eduardo Yagüe, with Piedras verdes en la casa de la noche, and Hernán Talavera, with Todo hace el amor con el silencio: tres poemas de Alejandra Pizarnik.
Marie writes: A few weeks ago, Dave Bonta invited me to participate in the “Poetry Without Borders” program at REELpoetry, by making a video remix of his 2016 piece, “A Glimpse from the Gutter”, from three poems by Argentinian poet Alejandra Pizarnik (1936-1972). Having previously made a number of films with Dave’s poetry, and being involved in some of his wider projects, I was keen to rise to the challenge.
Like the majority of Australians, I speak only the dominant English. Nonetheless, this is the sixth film I’ve made involving different languages. My interest in doing this has arisen in part from a personal impulse to in some way transcend the xenophobia and racism that has long been a lamentable aspect of my own geographically-isolated culture. Aside from this, and despite being in my late 50s, I retain a child-like wonderment that our single human species communicates in so many richly varied ways. In addition, my film-making over 35 years has been largely directed towards international audiences, via the film festival circuit, and now also the web, where poetry film has by far its greatest reach. I also simply love the expressive sounds of different languages as a kind of music.
Dave translated Pizarnik’s poems with advice and in discussion with Jean Morris, a poet and professional translator. Jean voiced the poems in Spanish, while Dave spoke them in English. For my film, I retained only the text and voices, which I re-arranged and mixed with new music and images. I have remained true to Dave’s impulse in his earlier piece to make a truly bilingual film, spoken in both Spanish and English, and therefore without the need for subtitles.
As in a number of my films, the raw images were sourced from Storyblocks, a subscription website with a vast library of short, random clips from videographers in many different countries. The collection of shots I selected were then transformed via changes to speed, light, framing and colour, and the addition of long dissolves that blend and juxtapose the images via superimposition.
Some of the images I selected touch on the literal meanings of the poems. These direct connections of image to text are sometimes seen at moments other than when they are spoken. The film also contains a number of shots that bear no direct relation to the words. My overall impulse was to create a series of moving images that might form a kind of visual poem in themselves, while remaining connected to the resonances I found in the text and in the qualities of the voices. The final visual element is a faintly-flickering overlay containing animated x-rays of human anatomy.
The music is an ambient piece by Lee Rosevere, who for several years has generously released much of his music on Creative Commons remix licenses, enabling film-makers and other artists to create new works incorporating his sounds. I chose this piece for its slow pace, beatlessness and meditative quality, that left room for the voices to take by far the greatest prominence.
I am delighted to have especially made this film for REELpoetry, where it had its world premiere.
I’ve been somewhat lax in posting new material here because of server instability at my webhost, which has resulted in frequent, short outages. I’m working to resolve this. In the meantime, here’s a video I made myself last week, which grew out of a translation project at Via Negativa, Poetry from the Other Americas. I posted some process notes there, too. The main thing I guess is that the footage of the construction site at sunset had come first, shot out the back bedroom window of the house where I’m staying in north London. The footage somehow made me think of these Pizarnik poems, which it seemed to me might form a unity with it. I shot the other footage purposefully for the video a few feet from the back door. Then I called on my friend Jean Morris for help in the voiceover, and drew on her superior understanding of Spanish to help polish my translations.
I’ve never seen a bilingual videopoem with both languages alternating in the soundtrack (though I’m sure someone must’ve done it before), so this was a bit of an experiment. I think it works—if it works—because the poems are short, and because each relates to the video imagery in a different way. But I suspect the same could be done with a single, longer poem if the languages were to alternate stanza by stanza. If anyone experiments further along these lines, do let me know.
Incidentally, if the post title seems a little familiar, that’s because the Spanish filmmaker Eduardo Yagüe has also made a film with three (different) poems from Pizarnik’s Árbol de Diana, Green Stones in the House of Night.
Piedras Verdes en la Casa de la Noche and Green Stones in the House of Night are Spanish and English versions of the same poetry film by Spanish director Eduardo Yagüe, which includes and responds to three poems from Alejandra Pizarnik‘s brief but epoch-making collection Árbol de Diana (Diana’s Tree). I’ve just been reading and re-reading the marvelous new translation by Yvette Siegert, which was longlisted for the 2015 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. I went back and watched this film with fresh appreciation, having read the verses Yagüe includes in their original context (where they are nos. 6, 8, and 20, with a line from no. 35 supplying the title). The translations by Luis Yagüe in Green Stones in the House of Night are serviceable enough, but if you’re not fluent in Spanish, do get Siegert’s translation to experience the whole collection in its full, luminous intensity.
I wanted to start the New Year with one of my favorite poets. This is Todo hace el amor con el silencio: tres poemas de Alejandra Pizarnik by Hernán Talavera. Here are the three texts along with some rough translations. (Feel free to suggest improvements in the comments.)
en la otra orilla de la noche
llévame entre las dulces sustancias
on the other side of night
take me among sweet substances
|[no. 22 de “Árbol de Diana”]
en la noche
|[from “Tree of Diana,” #22]
in the night
La niña que fui
De lágrimas se nutrirá mil años.
The girl I was
Fed on tears for a millennium.
Here’s a film based on one of Alejandra Pizarnik’s “Dialogues,” which I’ve translated below along with the prefatory text. According to the hard-to-read credits at the end, the director is Carlos Martinez. I love the evocation of classic horror films here.
The rain is expected to pass.
Winds are expected to blow in.
Through love to silence, they say pathetic things.
I wish they’d leave me alone with my new, fresh voice.
No! Don’t leave me!
Words to illuminate the silence.
[Un cuento memorable/A memorable story]
—That black one that laughs from the small window of a streetcar resembles Madame Lamort —she said.
—That’s not possible; there are no streetcars in Paris. Besides, that black one on the streetcar doesn’t resemble Madame Lamort in any way. Quite the opposite: it’s Madame Lamort who resembles that black one. In sum: not only does Paris lack streetcars, but I have never seen Madame Lamort in my life, not even in a portrait.
—You agree with me —she said— because I don’t know Madame Lamort either.
—Who are you? We should introduce ourselves.
—Madame Lamort —she said— and you?
—Your name, I can’t think what it reminds me of —she said.
—Try to remember before the streetcar comes.
—But you just told me there were no streetcars in Paris —she said.
—They didn’t exist when I said it, but one never knows what might come to pass.
—Then let’s wait for it, since we’re waiting for it —she said.