Poet: Sarah Sloat

Grassland by Sarah Sloat

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A Moving Poems production in which I experimented with some abstract live footage meant to evoke animation. I sourced the
text—by American poet Sarah Sloat—from The Poetry Storehouse, where I also used one of the sound recordings, a reading by poet Amy Miller, to pace the titling, but then removed it from the soundtrack.

This replaces an earlier video I made for the same poem that I was never quite happy with, because its point of departure from the text was a bit too obvious and clever for my taste. (That one never made it onto Moving Poems.) The footage this time is a clip of fiber optic tips from Beachfront B-Roll, source of some the least generic free stock footage on the web, and the soundtrack is a public-domain field recording from Freesound.org of a prairie in eastern Oregon, complete with meadowlarks.

Speaking of Freesound, they’re currently on a fundraising campaign to cover their development and maintenance costs, which I’m guessing are not insignificant. Please give if you can. They’re a great resource for filmmakers and audiophiles.

Dictionary Illustrations by Sarah Sloat (2)

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I’ll end the week with a poem by one of my favorite poets, Sarah Sloat, interpreted by one of my favorite poetry-film makers, Marie Craven, in what I think is one of the most effective examples of the kinestatic style in videopoetry that I’ve seen. (Kinestasis is properly defined as “an animation technique using a series of still photographs or artwork to create the illusion of motion,” but I use the term, in the absence of a better one, a bit more broadly, to refer to any faster-than-slideshow series of still images in a video.) Craven’s masterful deployment of images from the Brockhaus Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary (1890-1907) unfolds to music by Podington Bear and the Poetry Storehouse voice recording by a young boy identified only as DM. Someone on Facebook described the overall effect as “sumptuously austere.”

This isn’t the first poetry film to use this text; no less than Marc Neys AKA Swoon has also tried his hand at it. But Craven definitely gave him a run for his money here. Sloat’s text seems especially ripe for videopoetic adaptation, given its musing on the relationship between words and images. Pen-and-ink illustrations in a dictionary break up the columns of text, Sloat says, “like little windows opening / from one side of the brain // to the other.” That’s exactly what happens to me whenever I watch a good videopoem.

Dictionary Illustrations by Sarah Sloat

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Sarah Sloat is an American poet who works as journalist in Germany, and whose poems appear widely in print and online journals—including at The Poetry Storehouse, where Marc Neys A.K.A. Swoon found the text for this film. As he notes in a recent blog post, it’s the first in a series of at least five films based on Poetry Storehouse poems that he has in the works.

I really loved the poem (the visuals) and the reading (so good) by DM.
Making a track for this reading was fun;
[listen on SoundCloud]
Broken rhythms crashing in a fleeting piano. Not much more was needed for this.
For the visuals I wanted to go back to my childhood.
As a kid I loved hanging ’round the local market. The colours, the noise, the shouting, the smell,…
I thought it might be a good idea to match this poem/soundtrack with images and footage from IICADOM.

Combining images from different market places with shots from local animals filmed at several travels. It gives the video the right amount of colour and naïve amazement I was looking for.

A reminder, for any poets who might be reading this: the deadline for submissions to The Poetry Storehouse is coming up on February 28. After that it will transition to archive mode, adding new remixes (including videos) only up through September.