I’m told that in some MFA poetry classes, budding poets are discouraged from writing about the moon. Are they also discouraged from writing about love and death, I wonder? The moon is a touchstone in almost every culture, and according to the latest science, not only was it birthed by our own planet after a fiery collision with an asteroid, but it’s known to have played an essential role in stabilizing the earth’s rotation enough to allow the evolution of life, despite its own utter lifelessness. So it seems clearer than ever that banishing the moon from poetry would be a sad and solipsistic exercise.
The fact remains, however, that modern poets need to “make it new.” Claudia Serea‘s poem at The Poetry Storehouse works precisely because it challenges the powers we have traditionally imputed to the moon, including the way we out-source our longings to it. (Read the text.)
Videopoets working with Serea’s text have a further problem, it seems to me, inasmuch as the moon — especially an unnaturally close/large one — is such a stock image in the movies, freighted with associations that may or may play well with the poem. Nic Sebastian was the first to attempt a video remix (above), using her own reading and a soundtrack by Jarred Gibb. Then Lori H. Ersolmaz made this:
And finally, here’s Jutta Pryor’s take:
Pryor’s soundtrack — my favorite of the three — uses a soundscape by Neal Ager as well as the poet’s own reading, which I prefer to Sebastian’s mainly because of her accent, which to my WASPy ears sounds more “foreign” and thus better suited to a poem in the moon’s voice. None of the filmmakers managed to avoid using footage of the moon, though Ersolmaz came the closest by turning her moon into a screen for other, earthly footage. And I liked the way Pryor made an almost Wizard of Oz-like switch from pale, seemingly moonlight images to saturated colors, extending her film into a wordless montage that serves to expand the poem outwards, suggesting possible connections between artificial light and nighttime violence.
I don’t think any of these films constitutes a definitive interpretation of the poem (if there can be such a thing), but each has something in it that I like, and after watching all three, I find myself wanting to try to write yet another poem about the moon.
A poem by American poet Derek J.G. Williams, translated into video by Australian vocalist and media maker Marie Craven with the help of Dementio13 (music) and the Prelinger Archives (footage). The reading is by Nic Sebastian for the Poetry Storehouse, where Craven found the poem. She also credits the POOL group on Facebook, “an open creative community group engaged in shared media conversations,” which seems to be playing an increasingly important role in videopoem collaboration around Poetry Storehouse material.
Nic Sebastian isn’t content to manage The Poetry Storehouse and record audio tracks for many other people’s video projects; she continues to make poetry videos herself with a surer and surer hand. This video, one of her most recent, is among her best so far, I think. The text is one of six poems by Cynthia Atkins that appeared at the Storehouse earlier this month. The soundtrack, which strikes me as a particularly good match for the words and footage, comes from freesound.org user Peridactyloptrix.
A wide-ranging and fascinating interview with Nic Sebastian has just been posted at Creative Thresholds. About videopoetry Sebastian says, for example:
[T]he poem on the page is THE character in the page production. In a video production, the page poem remains a central character, but is not THE character in the same way. The page poem threads the poet’s story into the video, but other important elements join to play different roles in telling the story the film-maker found in the poem. Which, in the best video productions, is a related but different story, one that moves the original narrative forward in ways the poet may or may not have envisaged. The best video productions, in my view, are not merely a reflection of the original poem, not merely an attempt to recast/reproduce the poet’s narrative in visual form – they add something to the original narrative, they move it forward.
Do read the rest.
Moving Poems will be on holiday all next week. See you in August.
Two different video remixes of footage from the Prelinger Archives using a text by Janeen Rastall sourced from The Poetry Storehouse. While neither is a perfect video (both end too soon and too abruptly for my taste, for example), I think each is interesting, and together they show how approaches can diverge even when using largely the same material and techniques. Both are black and white with a 4:3 aspect ratio, last for 51 or 52 seconds with a cut every 6-10 seconds, and intersperse moments of allusiveness or departure from the text with moments of more literal illustration. But while Othniel Smith seized upon the goddess imagery in the title and first line, Marie Craven took the bursting seeds of the second line as her point of departure. They also differ in their soundtracks, Smith opting to use the poet’s own reading without accompaniment and Craven mixing Nic Sebastian’s reading with music by SK123.
Nic Sebastian’s latest video remix incorporating a text from the Poetry Storehouse uses a soundtrack by Elan Hickler. The poet, Jen Karetnick, blogs at A Body at Rest. See her full collection of poems at the Storehouse for a bio.
A brief Eric Burke poem at the Poetry Storehouse made into a film by Jutta Pryor with music by Masonik. The poem originally appeared in A cappella Zoo before its second life in the Poetry Storehouse, and frequent Storehouse contributor Othniel Smith has also envideoed it.
This film by Jutta Pryor is especially interesting for what it does with the soundtrack, a psychedelic interweaving of the reading by Nic Sebastian and a track called “The Ritual and the Delusion Part 1,” by the musicians’ collective Masonik. The poem, by Chicago-based poet Jenene Ravesloot and first published in CC&D Magazine, is from the Poetry Storehouse, where Sebastian herself has also posted her own, quite different video for the same text.