To me, this is gorgeous, though possibly also “a blinding punch to the eyelids,” as the first line of the source text by Dustin Luke Nelson says. Swoon (Marc Neys) discovered the poem at the Poetry Storehouse, and describes his process in a blog post.
The idea for the visuals came fairly easy… I saw failed pictures, heard white noise, thought of a stream of incomprehensible and random images (randomly plucked from the net, as if some kind of collective memory) against clean cut footage of high office buildings. Once I collected the images I wanted, I edited and alternated to the pace and rhythm of the soundtrack.
Nelson also blogged about the video.
The wonderful Marc Neys, aka Swoon, has posted a new videopoem that uses, as text, a poem of mine that was originally published in Opium titled “Today I will be a compensated spokesperson.”
I really like what he did with it. It’s a beautiful collage and soundscape that makes me think about the poem a little differently.
That’s the scary thing about posting work to the Poetry Storehouse (see below) for anyone to remix. You don’t know what will emerge from their work. It’s out of your hands. You hope that it goes well, but passing off something you care about makes you (read: me) instinctively believe that things will go terribly awry. This piece, for me, represents one of the great potentials that exists in that Not-Knowing: it might produces new associations, new juxtapositions to tease something different out of the text than how it existed on the page/screen. You might find something unexpected in your own work.
My poem was taken from The Poetry Storehouse, a platform for multi-media artists to find poems for raw material and remixing. I have done a couple videos with other poets’ work from there as well. It’s a good place with good poems and good videos.
A new Moving Poems production. I was browsing recent clips at the Beachfront B-Roll blog and was taken by a plume of rising smoke, which struck me as just the right sort of image for a poem I’d just read at the Poetry Storehouse that features a small forest of white birches. The author is Massachusetts-based poet Jennifer Martelli. After searching SoundCloud and the Free Music Archive in vain, I finally found a track on ccMixter that seemed to fit. I was going for a Tom Waits kind of vibe, and I’m delighted to report that Martelli (with whom I’d never previously communicated) liked the video, and said some kind things about my reading as well. It really does take a leap of faith to submit one’s poems to the Poetry Storehouse and let random strangers mess around with them.
A few technical process notes: I’m now using MAGIX Movie Edit Pro, following a recommendation by Marc Neys, and am finding it to be a better fit for my needs and abilities as an amateur filmmaker than what I’d been using before, Adobe Premiere Elements. After uploading the finished video to Vimeo, I decided to add closed captioning, inputting the poem line-by-line as it appears in the published text so that even people with normal hearing can still benefit from turning on the captions (CC button, lower right) and seeing how the poet chose to arrange her words. I also discovered that the WebVTT file generated by Amara can be subsequently tweaked in a simple text editor (I used Notepad) to correct typos or finesse start and stop times before uploading it to Vimeo. While I like the results, this is a poem with a lot of enjambment, so I’m not sure whether my desire to display original line breaks should have trumped the need of viewers for a potentially smoother read. I welcome feedback on that point.
A film by Lori H. Ersolmaz, incorporating Nic Sebastian’s reading of a poem by Sally Bliumis-Dunn at The Poetry Storehouse. Two other video remixers have also tried their hand at this poem, Paul Broderick and Nic Sebastian herself, but Ersolmaz’s film is in a class by itself.
The visuals took me some time to figure out.
Different approaches, different ideas resulted in at least three completely different videos.
None of them were what I thought was needed.
Number four hit all the right notes:
Sunlight, straight lines, bright colours, slightly experimental and a strange overall atmosphere…
Happy with this one.
The last Poetry Storehouse remix I’ll be featuring this week was made by Othniel Smith three months ago for a poem by Lissa Kiernan. Together with a video by Swoon that we previously shared here, it’s included on the multimedia page of a website for Kiernan’s fantastic new book, Two Faint Lines in the Violet, which I happen to be in the middle of reading. The publisher is Negative Capability Press, and when I went to check them out online, I was impressed to see that they had gone to the trouble to set up an independent website for the book. (The norm for American publishers is to have, at best, a separate page in the online catalogue, and possibly also a page for the author in some other section of their site which may or may not link to the catalogue page.) The two video embeds appear as images in a slider at the top of the page with a brief description at the bottom of each image, and when clicked, the videos are responsive, meaning they automatically resize to fit any screen. Overall, a very pleasing presentation. I hope other poetry publishers take note.
Though Othniel Smith’s interpretations of poems are sometimes too literal for me, this one has just the right degree of allusiveness (and elusiveness) for my taste. Kiernan evidently thought so too, commenting on Vimeo, “Thank you, Othniel – you brought this poem to life! Love especially the dancing feet shot, the pre-natal scene, and the final few shots.” They go on to talk about the original film that the remix borrows most of its footage from, Marriage Today (Alexander Hammid, 1950) — “certainly an interesting film coming from an experimental filmmaker on his second marriage,” Smith notes.
Incidentally, congratulations to Othniel for getting four of his Storehouse poetry films selected for screening at The Outcasting: Fourth Wall Festival in Cardiff! I like what he had to say about the importance of online resources such as The Poetry Storehouse:
Primarily a scriptwriter (e.g. “The Story Of Tracy Beaker” for CBBC), I have been making poetry films for a few years, in an attempt to enhance my skills in respect of visual story-telling. The existence of online resources such as The Internet Archive, Flickr Commons and Librivox means that there is plentiful material in the public domain for the unschooled video editor to play with. Having made films of poems by such historic figures as Shakespeare, Lord Byron, Emily Dickinson and R.S. Thomas, I was delighted to discover The Poetry Storehouse. This has given me the opportunity to apply my imagination to the work of contemporary poets, and to obtain their feedback which has, thus far, been largely positive.
Although it may seem to some regular visitors that I post videos from The Poetry Storehouse too often, in reality, I don’t post them nearly often enough, given the glut of good videos landing there these days, and I’m getting rather far behind as a result. Case in point: Nic Sebastian uploaded this remix of a poem by Jessie Carty a full month ago. This is a beautiful remix, I thought, and it seems especially appropriate for Carty to join the ranks of the envideoed at the Poetry Storehouse given her history as editor of the groundbreaking YouTube-based literary magazine Shape of a Box.
Scottish poet and novelist Jim Murdoch recently had three poems added to The Poetry Storehouse, and remixers (including Murdoch himself) have taken to them with enthusiasm. I don’t generally care for poems about poetry, but the self-reflexive nature of “As Is” poses an intriguing challenge to filmmakers. Marie Craven was the first to make a video for this poem, and I rather liked her simple text animation. Then Lori H. Ersolmaz made this video, which blows me away. The moments of darkness between lines (read by Nic Sebastian) is reminiscent of a trailer for a blockbuster movie, and the taut, rhythmic correspondence of (mostly) abstract images to words, combined with the dramatic soundtrack, added to that impression. Poetry is an edge-of-your-seat adventure, this film suggests. Well, I’ve always thought so.