I knew I wanted to stay away from illustrating the words or being too literal with the imagery. I wanted to create something that would be its own thing but would be a perfect companion to the poem. I spent a lot of time making these decisions before I got into the work, and I’m glad I did it that way. I was able to steer my own direction because of the rules I had laid out for myself early on.
MOPO: What are some of the stylistic influences you saw coming to bear on the film?
CRAIG: I had been watching a lot of really early animation films, one in particular called “The Idea” by Berthold Bartosch. It was based on a woodcut graphic novel by Frans Masereel. I had been watching that kind of work coming into this project. When I start a project I tend to pull a lot of artwork, paintings and things that I can respond to in some way. That helps me get towards ideas I like.
Do read the whole interview; Craig makes a lot of interesting points. And there’s an interview with Stephen Dunn on the same page which is also worth checking out. The last question concerns the film:
MOPO: I’m wondering about the whole idea of taking a poem and making a short film out of it, and this sort of hybrid art that Motionpoems is pioneering. Is presenting a work in a different medium akin to the difficulty of linguistic translation in your opinion? What would you share with us about why you consented to be a part of this Motionpoems season and growing body of art — what were you hoping or wanting?
DUNN: I have no expectations. My poem itself is a translation of experience. I would hope that you all would try to be true to the poem’s spirit and tone, but I also know that another medium will interpret in ways I can’t foresee.
Bryan Hanna composed the score.
The deeply clever and always entertaining American poet Albert Goldbarth meets his match in director Chris Jopp. This is one of Motionpoems’ latest releases (click through for the text of the poem), and it was “made possible through a partnership with Graywolf Press.” Supplemental materials on the Motionpoems website include interviews with Goldbarth and Jopp by Rosemary Davis. I particularly liked this last bit of the latter:
MOPO: Have you done any collaborations like this before? What was it like to work with Albert?
JOPP: I have not collaborated with poets before. After hearing Albert did not own a computer, I thought about calling him. I then heard, that he was a fan of letters so I decided to write him a letter through the mail. I always feel like I can communicate better through text anyhow and this was a way to more thoughtfully pick his brain without the nerve-racking reality of this award winning poet breathing on the opposite end of the telephone. In fact, I think our “analog” correspondence influenced the way I made the film. I wanted it to feel genuine and authentic, and something about sending and receiving actual inked letters through the mail made me stick to that idea.
Albert was very receptive through the whole conceptual process and then sort of handed me the reigns and was like, “Alright, you have my thoughts and concerns, and think I trust you, so GO FOR IT!” So now I’m just following my own intuition! He said, at the screening he’d either shake my hand or punch me in the nose. Hopefully, the first.
MOPO: What has this project done for you? Learn anything?
JOPP: It has changed the way I think about poetry.
A poem by Nathan Anderson from Best American Poetry 2013, adapted for Motionpoems by Carolyn Figel of MPC with additional animation by Andrew Montague, voiceover by Daniel Silverman, and sound design by Michael Scott.
The Best American Poetry blog has a brief post quoting Anderson about the poem:
This poem started when a few lines (a shadowy echo of what would become the speaker’s voice) surfaced while I was working on another project. As the speaker’s voice developed and the context began to take shape, I became interested in how this particular speaker responds and, more broadly, how all of us respond, when the daily pressures of a life become seemingly unmanageable.
Visit the video’s page on Motionpoems for the text of the poem.
I see from her website that Carolyn Figel has “An ongoing personal project of illustrating delicious sandwiches I find online.” No wonder this poem caught her eye, then.
Motionpoems‘ latest production was directed by Georgia Tribuiani, an adaptation of a poem by Mark Wunderlich. The Motionpoems website includes bonus materials for the video: interviews with the filmmaker and poet by Jeannie E. Roberts, who writes:
As I watched Georgia Tribuiani’s motionpoem, “White Fur,” I was instantly drawn into her world of light, color, and contrast. Tribuiani sets the scene beautifully and powerfully within Switzer Falls, a wooded area in the San Gabriel Mountains, Los Angeles County. The albino deer, depicted as an African-American albino man, runs barefoot through the woods, where he follows the banks of a stream, eventually stopping to look at his reflection within a pool of water. Tribuiani imagines a story that is, in her own words, suggested: She envisions the albino deer as Narcissus: a young man, mesmerized by his own reflection, who falls in love with it and eventually drowns. Though not necessarily the intent of Mark Wunderlich’s poem, Tribuiani creates a stunning metaphor, a poem within a poem. All great poetry has layers, and this director has found another layer with thought-provoking elegance and creativity.
This latest Motionpoems animation is by Keri Moller. The poem is from Bob Hicok’s collection Elegy Owed. The Motionpoems monthly email newsletter included this brief exchange with the poet. I like his suggestion for a writing exercise:
MOTIONPOEMS: How did this poem begin?
BOB HICOK: Seeing vultures and loving vultures for being underrated as beauty queens (and kings).
MOPO: What’s your favorite moment in the poem, and why?
HICOK: When it’s over. So i can go work on my shed.
MOPO: Motionpoems are used in classrooms a lot. If you were to recommend a writing prompt or exercise using this poem as a model, writing teachers and students might find that very useful.
HICOK: Go outside. Thrust your arms out like the wings of a vulture. Run in circles around what you imagine to be a grave. Come back in. Write a poem in which you wonder why you didn’t run in circles around what you imagine to be a garden. Put flowers in the garden and a child eating dirt. This may be way too specific. Open your notebook. Write your mind.
This is Hicok’s second poetry film from Motionpoems. The first, “Having intended to merely pick on an oil company, the poem goes awry,” made by Joanna Kohler, remains one of my all-time favorites of theirs. But this one’s also a gem. Something of Hicok’s droll, off-kilter wisdom seems to have infected both filmmakers.
Socrates had some either/or thoughts about death. Poet Maxine Kumin has some thoughts about those thoughts. Filmmaker Adam Tow adds his thoughts to hers.
It’s with a heavy heart that we note the poet’s own death yesterday at the age of 88 — something Motionpoems couldn’t have anticipated when they chose this as their February selection. Their free emailed newsletter contained an interview with her; I don’t think they’d mind if I quoted it:
MOTIONPOEMS: Why did you decide to cut the Socrates quote with nearly six lines of cosmic imagery?
MAXINE KUMIN: I delayed the quote so I could set up the smallness, the insignificance of our planet in the great reach of space. Otherwise, there couldn’t have been any suspense and hence no poem.
MOTIONPOEMS: There’s an interplay in the poem between up and down, present and future. Your last line, “So much for death today and long ago,” seems inspired by the movement of the smoke, the squirrels, and the nuthatch, and the promise of snow. Why?
KUMIN: You notice it isnt the smoke, its the shadow of smoke, not snow but the promise of snow, tho the critters are real and present. I’m trying to say how evanescent the choice between life and death is, just as Socrates gives us his matter-of-fact but no less terrifying either/or.
MOTIONPOEMS: Motionpoems are used in classrooms a lot. If you were to recommend a writing prompt or exercise using this poem as a model, writing teachers and students might find that very useful.
KUMIN: Anything that gets students reading, especially outside their chosen field, makes a good jumping-off place for a poem. You dont have to be reading Socrates or Faulkner. Im a great jotter down of lines that pique my interest, from the newspaper to something weighty about, say, Jefferson … who was one of the first to bring the mule to this country … That would make me want to write about that hybrid the mule. (I havent but still might.)