Marc Neys, A.K.A. Swoon, probably needs no introduction here. Nor was this the first time he’s ever worked with a poem by Luisa A. Igloria, though this may be my favorite of their collaborations to date. And their usual working order was reversed, because Luisa’s poem was written in response to a “first draft” of the video, one of the three prompts in the Poetry Storehouse First Anniversary Contest. Poetry judge Jessica Piazza selected Luisa’s poem as a runner-up:
In that future which pressed
ever closer toward us, time was a room
whose shape we could no longer determine.
In every city, men stood on platforms
gesticulating and making pronouncements.
Armored tanks rolled into the last
encampments, leaving tracks in the river’s
boiled mud. We knew when to flee,
what to gather up, what to leave behind.
We walked deeper into blind forests,
climbed as high as our feet allowed
up the thinned hair of trees. They let us
cocoon there, they let us make hammocks.
At night, we watched as distant flares
limned the unnavigable horizon.
At night, some of us told stories,
making shadows with our hands
to mimic the movement of wings.
Marc explained how he put together the video used in the contest:
I had footage of several Psychic TV performances by Allan Chumak. Once, I re-edited a bunch of them for a collab with another poet, but that didn’t happen. The cuts were not wasted and waited on the shelves for another occasion.
Around the time of the Poetry Storehouse contest proposals, I thought it might be a good idea to put those two pieces of footage together. For the purpose of viewing quality I added an extra layer of light and colour to the Ephemeral Rift recordings. Not really a match, but an interesting pairing.
I created a track and edited the different pieces loosely to the music, hoping it would give some writers an idea.
Luisa told us:
My writing process in response to Marc’s video, which resulted in the poem “Foretold,” was to open two screens on my computer: on the left side, Marc’s video, and on the right, the first page of a new (blank) Word document. I decided that I was going to compose—start immediately to write—as soon as the video started. Almost all of the poem’s lines were generated exactly in this manner, with very slight revisions afterwards (mostly having to do with lineation and spacing, tightening some of my word choices). In Marc’s film, the images—and their strategic juxtaposition—were immediately striking, as was his choice to strip them of sound and instead use music and ambient sound. Though I realized they may not have had anything specifically to do with each other, their pairing in the film’s sequences began to suggest an underlying narrative to me, filled with foreboding and portent. The occurrences of repetition in the film suggested that. The closeups of hands and mouths spoke to me of something both very intimate and very distant, and in some instances those mouths looked as if they could very well be on the verge of varying emotions: rage, for instance; or pleasure, or fear.
Once I got Luisa’s poem, it all came together perfectly. Suddenly these images and their pairing become very political. Nic S. provided a very suitable reading for the track. It all needed a bit of re-editing (in length and pace), but the main visual idea is still the same, but much more powerful because of Luisa’s fantastic poem.