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.)
I’m really pleased with the results of David’s piece—in terms of its quality of production and fullness of vision—and I’m honored that he examined and expanded my poem with such attentiveness to detail. The film captures the speaker’s dependence on her surroundings to make sense of her sensual experience, and it offers surprising visual nuance.
The unfurling of color and movement that the amaryllis provides feels necessary. Though in many ways the amaryllis serves to represent the lyrical speaker driving the poem, it feels like a surreal presence, which I quite like. I’m also really interested in the quivering soundtrack. It expresses the omnipresence of the snow and seems to hold the melt within it. Kellie Fitzgerald’s lush reading captures a longing that’s definitely present in the poem, and she gives it a force that makes me blush!
The November selection from Motionpoems is by their co-founder Angella Kassube, and I think it’s one of the best they’ve ever made. The minimalism here really works for me, in part perhaps because I like Dean Young‘s poem so much. The soundtrack (by Carly Zuckweiler) is a perfect match to Tim Nolan’s reading.
Good to see a major player in American poetry film use a reading from someone other than the author. It’s kind of surprising to me that poetry film makers rely so heavily on poets’ own readings, given that all too often we are the least inspired oral interpreters of our own words.
The September offering from Motionpoems is an animation by the co-director herself, Angella Kassube. Visit their website for the text. This is another selction from Best American Poetry 2011. Bridget Lowe is a young poet from Kansas City with a first book due out next year from Carnegie Mellon University Press.
Motionpoems’ free email newsletter quoted Kassube on the making of the film:
“From the beginning I knew I had to use the correct face and the correct eyes. But the line ‘World, there are two baskets / on my back’ – I didn’t know what to do with that. I built the section several times. I knew I didn’t want to use images of two baskets and fill them with something. I had already thought about how many definitions there are for the word ‘WORLD,’ and I had decided that World should be inside her head. There are the city and other images that represent outside influences on her world, but it is how she reacts to those things that creates her World. I realized she could look in two different directions and that could be a way to interpret the two baskets.”
The use of those eyes also stood out to Bridget: “The beautiful illustrations Angella used to tell the story (the eyes–so perfect!) balance explanation and mystery impeccably. Her timing as a director is likewise inarguably impeccable. Angella’s vision has compelled me to rethink how I read, and therefore present, my own work. What a gift.”
Here at Motionpoems, we’re always excited when we learn one of our films has inspired a poet to consider her work in a new light. Bridget continued, “The thing that most surprised and excited me about Angella’s interpretation was her ability to illuminate a playfulness in the poem that I hadn’t previously noticed fully. I knew the poem was one of pleading and desperation, but Angella’s version cut through some of that heaviness and landed in a place more like wondrous awe, which is what the poem announces itself to be from the beginning. I thought that was brilliant.”
The Motionpoem for July is short and sweet, the work of Scott Olson and Jeff Saunders. Visit the post at Motionpoems.com for some interesting viewer reactions (and to leave your own). And as usual, the monthly email sent out to subscribers included statements from both the poet and one of the filmmakers. Hirshfield said, in part:
“The Cloudy Vase” is very short–the whole video takes perhaps 20 seconds. Yet somehow, falling into the glass of the vase in the film is also infinite and outside of time. That mirrors perfectly what I myself find so paradoxical and thrilling about very short poems–the collision of brief and large. And the brutality of having to throw out a beloved’s gift of flowers is in there too.
I visualized the poem existing in its own space and time, stripped of any unnecessary visual connotations, distractions, or references, where any and every viewer/listener could step directly into the experience and be totally present for a few brief moments, hear the words, and be taken in.