Posts Tagged: Motionpoems

application for the position of abdelhalim hafez’s girl by Safia Elhillo

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Motionpoems’ latest poetry film is directed by Donna Lamar using a poem from Safia Elhillo‘s collection January Children. The Sudanese-American poet stars in the film.

The Robots Are Coming by Kyle Dargan

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A film by Minneapolis-based animator Julia Iverson for Motionpoems — their latest episode, in partnership with Cave Canem. I love the poem by Kyle Dargan, from his 2015 collection Honest Engine.

How Do You Raise A Black Child? by Cortney Lamar Charleston

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Cortney Lamar Charleston’s searing poem, from his forthcoming collection Telepathologies (Saturnalia Books, 2017), is brought to the screen by director Seyi Peter-Thomas, Motionpoems and Station Film:

“This poem is about the precarious balance black parents have to strike in order to raise their kids ‘right,’ ” director Seyi Peter-Thomas says of Lamar Charleston’s piece. “It’s wrenching and thought-provoking.” Seyi’s film perfectly communicates this balance as it follows young Malik and his mother navigating life’s highs and lows. The moments of levity and those of unsolicited sobriety explore the complexity of Malik’s experiences as a part of a larger conversation on race and community within today’s uneasy social and political climate.

Seyi says, “Maybe what’s really being asked is how do we save a black child? And, what are the elements we must save them from? It’s a uniquely American conversation, one we’re all having on some level right now.” He hopes viewers will connect with the humanity in the film and also be prompted to ask and answer some questions of their own.

Motionpoems’ newest season of films are based on poems by black American poets, and presented in association with Cave Canem, a home for black poetry.

View more of Seyi’s work HERE.

Things I Carry Into the World by Cynthia Manick

This unusual and ambitious poetry film, created for the seventh season of Motionpoems by directors Jamil McGinnis and Pat Heywood, includes words from five different NYC poets, as Heywood explained in an email (links added):

The film is an adaptation of the poem ‘Things I Carry Into the World’ by Cynthia Manick. It’s an abstract meditation on the body, the feminine, the everyday realities of being young and black, and the fragility between the manmade and the natural. We worked with an incredible nonprofit, Urban Word NYC, who teamed us up with four poets: Esther Aloba, Nkosi Nkululeko, Makayla Posely, and Trace DePass, the scenes featuring them are actually adaptations of their own poems, heard briefly in the opening scene. We ended up with moments from four separate films, crafted under the umbrella of Cynthia Manick’s original poem. We found adapting poetry into film to be creatively liberating. Sort of like putting together a thematic puzzle; juxtaposing images, observing, asking questions, and finding moments of meditation to digest the poem’s text. We had our theater premiere at the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis on October 27 and our online premiere on NOWNESS on November 6.

The poems excerpted at the beginning are “untitled” by Makayla Posely, “Rule #1” by Esther Aloba, “band-aids & other temporary healings” by Trace DePass, and “From the Inside” by Nkosi Nkululeko. See Vimeo for the complete credits.

At Thirty by Paula Bohince

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A poem by Paula Bohince adapted to film by Thibault Debaveye for Motionpoems, who refer to it on Facebook as

our first crowdsourced voiceover! Thanks to our voiceover artists John W. Goodman, Jeannie Elizabeth, Louis Murphy, Amy Miller, Jennifer Jabaily-Blackburn, Veronica Suarez, Carrie Simpson, Michelle Meyer, Juliet Patterson, Will Campbell, and Clare McWilliams.

Debaveye’s description on Vimeo:

Feeling empty. Null and void. Finding a new identity.
“At Thirty”, a visual poem about this feeling of being there but not being present.
Non-existent silhouette of ordinary people as they go about their lives in everyday chores.

See Motionpoems’ upload for the full credits, and visit their website to read the text of the poem and a brief interview with Bohince.

Once by Meghan O’Rourke

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The title poem from Meghan O’Rourke’s Once (W.W. Norton & Company, 2011), adapted to film by L.A.-based directors Angela & Ithyle for Motionpoems. Logan Polish is the actor, Patrick Jones the director of photography, and John Hermanson of Egg Music composed the original score.

The Motionpoems website includes an interview with the directors, conducted by poet Jake Lans, that’s really worth checking out, because I think it’s fascinating to see how filmmakers used to working on commercials approach a poetry film assignment. Here’s a bit of it:

Many motionpoems utilize a voice actor to help convey the poem; you chose text. What inspired that decision?
As we were listening to different voices, we realized that any voice actor that we chose would really influence how the poem was understood by the viewer. As we talked about it, we realized that for us the imagination was triggered more authentically by reading than by hearing the poem performed. We really enjoy reading poetry and wanted to stay true to that feeling.

What moved you to choose Meghan O’Rourke’s poem? Did you consult with her while you were adapting?
It’s so young and nostalgic. We decided not to talk to Meghan about the poem because we had a lot of questions about the deeper context of the piece but felt that we needed to go with our own gut reaction after reading it, as one would do when reading a poem normally. We felt that having a greater insight into the poem, having all of our questions answered, would tie us too much to a “real” narrative.

[…]

When working with an organization like Motionpoems, how does the creative freedom differ from some of the other projects you have worked on?
It was a lot of fun to have the parameters of the poem and then just go for it. Most of our work is done for products or companies where we have objectives of the client and their culture to really think about (we do a lot of work in other countries) and with this, we could really explore our own motifs and personal mythology.

Read the rest.

Falling Lessons: Erasure One by Beth Copeland

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Directed by Anh Vu for Motionpoems, this interpretation of a poem by Beth Copeland has been winning fans by the score on both old and new media. It was featured on PBS NewsHour:

Sometimes, what a poem does not say is the most important part.

That’s what Beth Copeland found while writing “Falling Lessons: Erasure One,” a poem that explored her father’s experience with Alzheimer’s disease.

Before his death four years ago, Copeland wrote a longer narrative piece about the last few years of his life. But then, she did something unusual: she deleted most of it.

That process of erasure was a way to put herself in her father’s place, replicating what had happened as his disease progressed.

“I became interested in the idea of erasure, because I felt that the process of erasure is a reflection of what happens to people when they have memory loss,” she said. “I found out as I was doing it that the distillation process made the poems stronger.”

“Erasure One” is the first in a series of three pieces. In each successive poem, Copeland used the same technique, erasing parts of the previous poem and distilling it to the words that are left behind.

Writing the series helped her understand more about her father’s mind near the end of his life, she said. “I had time to really reflect on the process that he had gone through … I think I did learn more about my father’s experience,” she said.

Director Anh Vu, working with the organization Motionpoems, brought Copeland’s poem to the screen in a short film. The film interweaves images of the natural world with books, papers and other evidence of academia — a combination of her father’s passions, Copeland said.

Copeland wrote more extensively about her parents, who both experienced dementia, in a new manuscript titled “Blue Honey,” which is seeking a publisher. “Writing about what happened to both of my parents has been an opportunity for me to process a lot of the feelings that family members have when they have someone in the family with some type of dementia,” she said.

A Staff Pick on Vimeo, Falling Lessons: Erasure One was also one of the first two Motionpoems to be released on YouTube by Button Poetry, which has, I believe, the most popular channel for poetry videos, with 502,636 subscribers and 109,923,559 views to date. Almost all the videos they share on YouTube and on their Tumblr blog are straight-forward documentary videos of readings or recitations, many of which they produce themselves, with a heavy emphasis on material from the spoken word community. So it’s been interesting to see the enthusiasm with which their fan base has reacted to Falling Lessons: Erasure One, uploaded on March 17, and The Mother Warns the Tornado, the Isaac Ravishankara film based on a poem by Catherine Pierce, which they uploaded on March 4. The former has been played 15,206 times and the latter 22,037 times—about average for Button Poetry videos. What is perhaps more astonishing is that the comments for both videos are entirely positive so far—apparently YouTube trolls haven’t discovered Button yet?—suggesting that the supposed gulf between performance poetry and mainstream poetry may not actually exist, and that we all need to do a better job of reaching out to this most obvious and receptive new audience for poetry film. Typical reactions to the two Motionpoems videos include: “Utilizing the power of film and score with poetry was a beautiful idea”; “I absolutely LOVE these motion poems, the perfect combination of visual artistry and spoken poetry”; “I would love to see more videos that are actually stories to poems! I was left speechless at the end of this. The poem itself is amazing but the addition of the visuals made it that much more powerful”; and “Please make a million of these.”

Click through to Vimeo for the full credits. Oddly, the film has not been featured as an “episode” on the Motionpoems website just yet, so I suspect there may be some interviews or other bonus materials in the offing. Keep an eye out for that.

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