Poet: Payson R. Stevens

Entropic Void by Payson R. Stevens

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It’s always fun to find poetry films made by innovators working in isolation from others in the field, since they bring a completely fresh outlook and approach. In the case of Payson R. Stevens, his unique background in science/science communication on the one hand and art and design on the other included helping to

pioneer the field of interactive multimedia starting in 1987. He produced and directed ten acclaimed educational CD-ROM titles on Earth science and environmental subjects, two of which debuted at the Smithsonian Institution’s 1995 Ocean Planet Exhibition. In 1994, InterNetwork received the Presidential Design Award for Excellence from Bill Clinton for the CD-ROM science-journal prototype, Arctic Data InterActive.

The above video is an example of a new type of work that Stevens has trademarked: Video Tone Poems.

In October 2013, a trip to the spectacular Ajanta and Ellora ancient caves in the state of Maharastra, India catalyzed a new integration of my creative expression through video, poetry, photography, and music. I call this work Video Tone Poems™ (VTPs). A tone poem is classically defined as a piece of orchestral music, usually in one movement, on a descriptive or rhapsodic theme.

I believe the Video Tone Poems™ may be a new auteur genre, using all the visual, poetic, and musical tools and technologies to express a unified vision of one individual’s expression in multiple creative arts. Of course, living in the isolation of Behta Pani/Flowing Waters (our Himalayan retreat), I may be deluded or perhaps watching my shadow reflecting on my studio walls…while Plato laughs.

Stevens divides the VTPs into three categories based on the type of message. Entropic Void belongs in the “Afflicted Messages” category, “meditations on the human condition, the environment, and technology, all interacting in this, The Age of Anthropocene (described as the global impacts of human behavior which include climate change, species invasion and extinction, etc.).” Stevens told me in an email, “I screened the VTPs in New Delhi last October and at the San Diego Museum of Art in Feb to a full house and enthusiastic response.”

I’m not sure how I feel about message-oriented poetry in general, but I like this videopoem a lot. There is nothing remotely touristic about his gaze; the people shown are just people, not exoticized others, in keeping with the poem’s hortatory “you.”