See the Motionpoems website for the text. The animator and director is Adam Tow. As with April’s Motionpoem, the free email newsletter contained additional content not archived on the website — an interview with Tow.
Motionpoems: What made you choose this poem to work with?
Adam Tow: After reading all the poems available for this year’s event, ‘Thoreau and the Lightning’ was the piece that I had the strongest connection to. As I read it, I was reminded of my grandfather’s home in the country and the land around it. He was a hard working midwestern man that for some reason I felt had a lot in common with the character in the poem.
MP: What is this poem’s most important moment for you?
AT: For me, the lines that ask if he should “feel humbled” and “give thanks” are the crux of the story. The moving truck and estate sale sign are references to my experiences watching my grandfather’s estate being sold as his health deteriorated. Visually speaking, the tree exploding is my favorite shot.
MP: What was the biggest challenge in turning this piece into a film, and what was your solution?
AT: I struggled with how I wanted to interpret the final sentence of the poem. I had two ideas for what meaning to imply with the visuals (one involving a hearse, the other a moving truck). As far as how to depict things, I wasn’t sure how to show both the positive memories of the past as well as the farm’s abandoned state at the same time. I decided to use a shimmery effect to illustrate his memories overlaid on the farm’s present day appearance.
MP: What did you find most surprising in this process?
AT: It was interesting to see how much you can change the implied message of the poem just by altering a seemingly minor visual element. Also, hearing the music and voiceover for the first time was one of the most exciting moments I’ve had in the last year.
MP: Is there anything else you want to add?
AT: I have to give loads of thanks and credit to Scott Yoshimura (music composition/performance, voiceover) and Logan Christian (audio recording and mixing). I intentionally gave them zero direction and they knocked it out of the park, as I knew they would. Also, many thanks to David Wagoner for agreeing to let me humbly interpret his poem.
The latest release from Motionpoems, and the first of theirs, I think, to mix in some live footage of the poet alongside the animation (which is by Juan Delcan, who was responsible for the most popular of the Billy Collins animations, “The Dead.”). The text appears in Mark Strand’s latest book, Almost Invisible, which is a collection of prose pieces; the poem part of this video is the only lyric poem in the book.
By the way, if you join the Motionpoems free monthly email list, you get additional content which is not included on the website for some reason. This month’s installment expanded on the making of the video, and included some thoughts by Delcan and Strand:
For this motionpoem, filmmaker Juan Delcan shot live video of Mark Strand in his New York City apartment. He combined that video with drawings inspired by those of the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca. “I shot [Mark Strand] in 30 minutes and animated the piece in one afternoon,” Delcan told us. “Sometimes not having time to over-think it is the best.”
Delcan also spent time thinking about the purpose of the relatively new genre of poetry films. “I know there are a lot of purists that think that animating poetry is redundant and stops the reader from picturing its words in their own minds, and that the poem should be left alone. And in a lot of cases they may very well be right. But in the particular case of the poems I’ve worked on I feel they retrofeed each other, bringing it to a different genre.”
In response to the motionpoem, poet Mark Strand told us, “I liked the film’s simplicity, which is very much in keeping with the poem, or so it seems to me.”
Motionpoems are releasing their 2012 crop of animations one a month; this is the first — an animation by Emma Burghardt of a poem by K.A. Hays. Please see the post at the Motionpoems website for the text of the poem and its full publication history.
By the way, if you like what Motionpoems are doing to bring great American poems to the big and small screen (including, hopefully, cable TV), please consider donating to their current fundraising campaign. Unfortunately, they were locked out of a major state arts grant this year due to a little-publicized change in the application process, so their need for donations is especially acute right now.
Amy Schmitt designed and animated this Motionpoem, with assistance from Kelly Pieklo (sound design), Emily J. Snyder (calligraphy) and Vera Mariner (reading). David Mason is the current poet laureate of Colorado. In a press release from Motion504, where she works, Schmitt says, “I was inspired by print design and other traditional media, and I wanted to create a moving illustration of the poem that was not done in a literal way.”
Motionpoems, by the way, has some pretty exciting news: they’ve partnered with David Lehman and Scribner’s Best American Poetry 2011, and are lining up animators to produce videos for poems in the anthology. If this is the kind of thing you’d like to help support, please consider making a donation to their Kickstarter campaign. With 15 days to go, they’ve raised more than $10,000 in pledges toward the $15,000 needed. Click through for the details, including a video that tells the story of how they got started.
From Motionpoems, an illustration of a piece by Madelon Sprengnether in her collection of prose poems, The Angel of Duluth (White Pine Press, 2006). Design and Animation are by Angella Kassube with HDMG Post Design Audio and Effects.
Good advice for anyone making a revolution. According to the note on YouTube,
This motionpoem was created by Jeff Saunders with Scott Olson, Ben Myrick, Adam Tow, Carly Zuckweiler, and Andre Durand. It was shot in Jeff’s studio. The audio is from The Academy Audio Archive POETS.org and was recorded at Poet’s House, March 29, 2004.
Inexplicably, Lux doesn’t appear to have a website or blog, though of course he’s published widely in treeflesh media.
This will be our last post of 2010. Happy New Year!