I (naively) thought there’d be some images from the poem. But like how the words are set against the simple actions & the mood it all creates.
Michurski talks about the attraction of working mostly in advertising, then describes his approach to filming:
I like to prepare, but I don’t like to plan. I have shots in my head that I want, but experimentation is essential for me. I always have my fingers crossed for that surprising moment or happy accident. It’s like carving a marble statue–something good is already in the scene, I just need to chip away and find it.
Can you describe the creative process behind the film for Creased Map of the Underworld?
It was the first poem I read and knew immediately I wanted to work with it. I was drawn to the “innocence of death” idea. At first I struggled with how I could visually play along with the vivid imagery in the poem. The treatment I created was much different, using high contrast black and white, with a much more diverse scene and shot list, more like a music video. I realized as I was in first edit that I didn’t need to illustrate the poem because it was powerful enough. I wanted to add to the idea and not distract from it.
Did you find it more difficult to create a “poetry in motion” as compared to your other films?
The difficulty was removing myself from the need to “make a film about a poem”. I had to separate myself from belief that it had to follow a style, thus becoming a parody of another film. Once I decided that I didn’t care if anyone liked it, it was much easier to let all of the expectations go and just let it be.
What prompted you to use a specific animal to symbolize death?
It was between the girl viewing the body of an older self or discovering an animal. I even entertained a version where those visuals alternated, but the idea of how death sees death gets too twisted and meta in that scenario. The deer works well because its size and innocence matches the girl’s.
What do you hope that the audience will take from watching this film?
I hope they pay attention to an amazing poem told from an alternate perspective. As humans we have an adverse, and sometimes unhealthy reaction to death and we don’t appreciate the necessity and fascinating beauty of it.
Annabel Hess is the young actress, the narration is by Jan Pettit, and David Schnack is credited with cinematography.
Steel and Air. Space and time. In the heart of Minneapolis there is an iconic blue and yellow bridge that crosses interstate 394 and connects the Walker Art Museum sculpture garden with Loring Park. Beyond its physical utility, the bridge offers a perspective to its crossers. A perspective of the interstate traffic, of the city, and of the viewer itself.
Inscribed in its lintel is a poem commissioned by the highly-achieved poet, John Ashbery. This poem discusses, in typical Ashbery obscurity, one’s place in the movement of time. The film, Steel and Air, aims to capture and enhance Ashbery’s poem by chronicling a man’s journey through life and the wonderful, boring, and ultimately finite experiences that come with it. And then it got very cool.
The poem first appeared in Ashbery’s collection Hotel Lautréamont (Knopf, 1992).
This delightful film by Tom Jacobsen (Pixel Farm) was one of the winners of Motionpoems‘ Big Bridges Film Festival in Minneapolis last year. Sophie Jacobsen is the actress and Jesse Marks provided the sound mix. The many nods to selfie culture recall some of the best video work of Alt Lit poet Steve Roggenbuck.
For more on the poet, Jessica Jacobs, see her website.
In honor of Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, and in the U.S., Veteran’s Day, here’s a poem by Jehanne Dubrow adapted by Nicole McDonald for Motionpoems, whose monthly email newsletter describes it as “a love letter to all who’ve had a loved one overseas.” The poem is from Dubrow’s new collection The Arranged Marriage (University of New Mexico Press, 2015). Read interviews conducted by Jenny Factor with both the poet and the director on the Motionpoems website. I was impressed by the depth of the McDonald’s feeling for the poem and for literature generally:
The poem itself is so lush, so I experimented tremendously…I felt texture and light was key. A balance of dreamy, stark, and intimate shots. And so the wardrobe also needed to be balanced with this thinking. I adore the dress Britt Bogan wears in the last section, as it captures light so beautifully in its delicate textured details, just as Britt’s character does. […]
Homer has always had an impact on my art, especially his use of Dawn as a character (“rosy-fingered dawn…” I adore those visual transitions.). And Penelope of course was the role model of undisputed patience and blind faith. Buuut, I’ve often wondered what kind of life she lived while she waited? What did she miss out on because of those virtues? Are they virtues…? When do we release the pause button and press play?
I also liked this quote from Dubrow:
I was thrilled that the filmmaker created a visual vocabulary for the villanelle form. She repeats and overlaps images (particularly of a woman who often uses the same gestures or movements again and again) to embody the musical refrains and interlocking rhyme schemes of the villanelle. In this way, the film is a great teaching text; it offers a visual representation of the fixed form, enacting the villanelle’s obsessive rhetoric, its maddening desire to solve the unsolvable.
Somewhat parenthetically, I can’t help noticing that in a year of poetry films produced in partnership with VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, this is one of the few that also has a female director, which presumably reflects a gender imbalance in the filmmaking industry at large. In the international poetry-film and videopoetry scenes specifically, however, many of the most innovative directors and animators right now are women: people such as Kate Greenstreet, Kathy McTavish, Martha McCollough, Lori Ersolmaz, Cheryl Gross, Kate Sweeney, Helen Dewbery, Marie Craven, Ebele Okoye, Nissmah Roshdy, Susanne Weigener, Anzhela Bogachenko, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, and Motionpoems’ own Angella Kassube. It will be interesting to see whether this continues to be the case as poetry film attracts more attention, or whether men will gradually take it over as so often happens when an art or profession becomes more prestigious. I hope that those of us who care about the genre can help prevent that from happening by making special efforts to enlist, reward, and draw attention to female directors.
UPDATE: Read Lori Ersolmaz’ essay on the making of the film at Moving Poems Magazine.
This is Fourteen Photos from the Bridge, the winning film from last month’s Big Bridges poetry film contest, sponsored by Motionpoems and the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis, and I’m pleased to say that the filmmaker is someone we’ve regularly featured here: the New York-based, grassroots multimedia content producer and visual storyteller Lori H. Ersolmaz. Here’s some of what she says about it on her website:
My submission was based on the winning poem by Leonard Gontarek, Thirty-Seven Photos from the Bridge. Expressing fourteen of the thirty-seven stanzas, I used original footage shot in Paris and Belgium and filmed locally during summer 2015. I’m especially excited about this award as it provides me with an alternative visual storytelling approach to social issues. I submitted the film in an effort to open dialogue about the current need to address structurally deficient bridges and infrastructure.
There’s a good bio of Leonard Gontarek at the Poetry Foundation.
Motionpoems are really going from strength to strength these days. October’s offering is a powerful, highly effective film based on a poem by Michalle Gould. The film was directed by Diego Vazquez Lozano and Statten Roeg of Detachment East with a talented cast of actors and original music by Lozano and Claudio Aguilar Riquenes. (See Vimeo for the full list of credits.)
Motionpoems also produced a short video of Gould discussing her reaction to the film—
as well as a longer, text interview about the poem, conducted by Kevin Danielson. The whole thing is worth checking out, but I particularly liked Gould’s concluding remarks:
I really enjoyed the experience of seeing my poem made into a film. What I love about poetry is that there are so many different ways to read a poem, and having a film made out of your poem is a really unique way to view someone else’s perspective on your work and what they get out of it. Because I wrote this poem so quickly and instinctively, I’m not sure I had ever really sat down and reflected on what I actually meant by it, and I think this whole process has helped me understand it better than I did before.
Gould also blogged about the premiere of Motionpoems’ 2015 crop of films last May.
This may be my favorite Motionpoem to date. The title poem from Melissa Studdard‘s new collection is impressive in itself, but it would’ve been so easy for a filmmaker to ruin it by choosing conventionally “cosmic” imagery, or by illustrating some of the more quotidian images in the text. Instead, as director/producer Dan Sickles told Rosemary Davis in an interview,
My way into this poem was an experiential familiarity. It’s an articulation of a moment of utter presence, where a mundane activity provides a portal to divine contact. The poem is elemental, and speaks of nature, life, and death. I wanted to aid in an ethereal, celestial experience of Melissa’s words through film, to inspire a feeling rather than a literal interpretation.
What was the first image you thought of after reading this poem?
The first image I thought of after reading the poem was a shot of the entire planet floating in space. Ultimately, that inspiration boiled down to this idea that size, a juxtaposition of micro and macro shots, and fluidity/liquidity in camera movement were the basic ground rules for how we approached production. […]
I was in Puerto Rico for the premiere of my last film, Mala Mala, which we shot on the island over the course of three years, and that’s when we shot this, the day after our premiere. I was after a particular tone expressed in the poem, which I felt could be best represented by the raw, dense, natural landscape in Aguas Buenas and surrounding towns outside of San Juan.
And his approach resonated with Studdard, as well:
I love it! In fact, it is specifically because they avoid the predominant metaphor and related images that they are able to so skillfully tease out subtext. I felt much more understood than I would have if they’d simply shown someone eating a pancake and drinking tea. By pairing the textual imagery with this new visual imagery, they further elicit the sense of creation, sustenance, and elemental divinity at the heart of “I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast.” Rather than timidly toeing the periphery of the poem, they brave the thick inner brushland and cut new paths back out. That is as it should be. They’re not here to merely represent my poem. They’re here to create a new work of art.