If I post a lot of films by Marc Neys A.K.A. Swoon (while still failing to quite keep up with his output), it’s because he’s continually trying new things and not falling into a groove. This is an especially good example of that, blending two poems by two different poets, Meg Tuite and David Tomaloff, into a new whole, and taking its title from an unpublished chapbook they’ve co-authored, Everything But the Sky. It appeared at Gnarled Oak on April 10, along with some explanatory text:
Poem “No Code” & voice by David Tomaloff
Poem “I am walking beside me” by Meg Tuite
Essentially, EVERYTHING BUT THE SKY explores the way that dream logic and interpretation often work in context to ordinary events taking place within our daily lives. Think of it as reverse dream interpretation–each of David Tomaloff’s poems is a dream poem whose images might have been the manifestation of the thoughts, emotions, and events that each of Meg Tuite’s flash pieces describe before it. In this way, each pair of poems is a complete set, and, likely, one could begin to see a greater narrative as one begins joining these sets. –David Tomaloff
I created a soundtrack around David’s own narration of his poem and presented that scape with a (horizontal split screen) film composition with Meg’s poem appearing as text on screen. –Swoon
Having one text appear on-screen while another is delivered via voiceover is an interesting and I think effective way to translate a collaborative poetry project into film. There are some additional process notes on Swoon’s blog, as well as the text of both poems.
This appeared when Moving Poems was on hiatus this past summer, but I got to see it on the big screen at the Filmpoem Festival in August, where it was shown as an example of filmmaker-poet collaboration where the images preceded and inspired the poetic text. It’s part of a growing body of collaborations between Swoon (Marc Neys) and the American poet David Tomaloff (see his Moving Poems archive page for more). Neys blogged some rather extensive process notes in the form of a conversation with Tomaloff:
[Swoon]: Images will come from this video: http://archive.org/details/Mommartz_3_Glaser_1968
I’m doing a re-edit of that archive material and Maybe I want to add excerpts from ‘Das Kapital’ by Marx as titles. One thing missing: a poem that reflects greed, money – power, crisis, banks, the whole bubble of money driven economics that led to the different crises we had,…
Nothing literally…hints, atmosphere… Are you up for it? Let me know what you think…”
– TIME –
[David]: “…As for the new prompt, I can definitely give it a shot. I’ll see if I can conjure up a draft within the next couple of days. Is that ok?”
– TIME –
S: “Yes, sure. Take your time…I’m happy you want to go for it…”
– TIME –
D: “So, this is a draft. It’s a little more upfront than some of the other stuff I’ve written for you, I think. That said, it’s still pretty surreal. I want to still tweak it a bit, read it aloud a few times, etc”
– TIME –
S: “Yes! Yes. Fantastic title. Love the quotes.
Good imaging. The last line ‘Currency is a plot of land to which the wingless birds have marched us—on which we are sold the means to dig ourselves a more efficient kind of grave’ is spot on…
So yes, you’re definitely on to something. Tweak as you like and see fit.”
This is part of an international project among 14 different artists, “Seven Sins / Seven Virtues,” as Swoon explains in a blog post. He used C.S. Lewis’ definition of gluttony in The Screwtape Letters as a guide.
We might complain about unimportant defects in a product, the temperature in the room, or the color of a laundry basket. There is a certain amount of discomfort to be expected in life, but the Glutton will have none of it. Instead of becoming strong by suffering the minor inconveniences of life, the Glutton insists on being pampered. No one dares to point out how petty or foolish they are. In fact, some celebrities are praised for their excessive perfectionism, as though it were a virtue.
Swoon‘s video for a micro-chapbook [PDF] by David Tomaloff uses public-domain footage from the Ivan Besse Collection at the Prelinger Archives, shot in Britton, South Dakota in the late 1930s. Tomaloff contributed the reading, while the concept, editing and music were all Swoon’s work. He posted some process notes at his blog:
Origami Poems Project is fun. You get all these great poems in a highly original form.
But in this case it was not only the form.
‘Seafarer’ struck me immediately as a piece that I wanted to do something with.
For the images I wanted to use the superb footage of Ivan Besse again.
I wanted to tell a story with the footage. A story that touches some parts of ‘Seafarer’ but could also open up completely different interpretations of the work as a whole or some of its details.
Jaguar is a journey through a city. Underground and in the open air.
Imminent danger, a city full of people, unaware.
The poems are read by the authors. They include, in order of presentation, “You Are Jaguar,” by David Tomaloff; “Surfacing,” by Ryan W. Bradley; “You are the sound of sleepwalk waking,” by Tomaloff; and “You Are Jaguar” by Bradley. The poems are found in a recent book from Artistically Declined Press, You Are Jaguar.
Swoon blogged a bit about the film. He quotes Tomaloff on the making of the chapbook:
We wrote the poems 2 lines at a time without exception and very little discussion on where it was going. Then we edited all of the work separately, putting our own personal touches to work that was not wholly our own. Then we set the book up something like a bi-lingual book (side to side), signifying that each poem (left and right) are, in very real ways, translations of each other. In the end, I feel the reader makes the two manuscripts one. It’s one of those collaborations where NONE of it would have happened without two people; I know I couldn’t have written it myself!
Videopoem chapbooks are a rarity yet, and I don’t know of any others that are six videos long. Swoon Bildos completed this sequence a month ago, adapting each of the six sections of David Tomaloff‘s e-chapbook from Gold Wake Press. He added a one-word title drawn from the text to each video, and modified the over-all title just a little. Without further ado, here’s
The overall ‘storyline’ I put in these videos is a personal one, but others might see or pick up different meanings. I just hope they evoke something. It doesn’t matter if it’s not what David or I intend, but that’s the fun of poetry and videopoetry.
Tomaloff describes his intention with the poems generally, and adds:
My part in the presentation was simply the recording of the poems themselves, in which I sought to unify the voices by reimagining the pieces as field notes read into a recorder by an observer who is becoming increasingly embroiled in what is being observed.
I also did a close “reading” of the videos for my personal blog, Via Negativa, as part of a month-long challenge I’ve set myself to read and blog about a different collection of poems every day. Here’s what I had to say.
Swoon Bildos and David Tomaloff collaborated on a videopoetry triptych called PROOF, which has its own website. I didn’t want to split it into three posts since I think the videos are best watched together and in the intended sequence:
Update (1/5/12): Swoon and Tomaloff are the featured artists of the month at CoronationPress.com for their creation of this triptych. The accompanying interview is full of fascinating details about their collaboration and methodology.