A Moving Poems production in which I experimented with some abstract live footage meant to evoke animation. I sourced the
text—by American poet Sarah Sloat—from The Poetry Storehouse, where I also used one of the sound recordings, a reading by poet Amy Miller, to pace the titling, but then removed it from the soundtrack.
This replaces an earlier video I made for the same poem that I was never quite happy with, because its point of departure from the text was a bit too obvious and clever for my taste. (That one never made it onto Moving Poems.) The footage this time is a clip of fiber optic tips from Beachfront B-Roll, source of some the least generic free stock footage on the web, and the soundtrack is a public-domain field recording from Freesound.org of a prairie in eastern Oregon, complete with meadowlarks.
Speaking of Freesound, they’re currently on a fundraising campaign to cover their development and maintenance costs, which I’m guessing are not insignificant. Please give if you can. They’re a great resource for filmmakers and audiophiles.
I’ll end the week with a poem by one of my favorite poets, Sarah Sloat, interpreted by one of my favorite poetry-film makers, Marie Craven, in what I think is one of the most effective examples of the kinestatic style in videopoetry that I’ve seen. (Kinestasis is properly defined as “an animation technique using a series of still photographs or artwork to create the illusion of motion,” but I use the term, in the absence of a better one, a bit more broadly, to refer to any faster-than-slideshow series of still images in a video.) Craven’s masterful deployment of images from the Brockhaus Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary (1890-1907) unfolds to music by Podington Bear and the Poetry Storehouse voice recording by a young boy identified only as DM. Someone on Facebook described the overall effect as “sumptuously austere.”
This isn’t the first poetry film to use this text; no less than Marc Neys AKA Swoon has also tried his hand at it. But Craven definitely gave him a run for his money here. Sloat’s text seems especially ripe for videopoetic adaptation, given its musing on the relationship between words and images. Pen-and-ink illustrations in a dictionary break up the columns of text, Sloat says, “like little windows opening / from one side of the brain // to the other.” That’s exactly what happens to me whenever I watch a good videopoem.
Last year, I shared two videos made with Lisa Vihos‘ poem “Advice Dyslexic”: one by Dale Wisely and one by Marc Neys AKA Swoon. Now Marie Craven and Nigel Wells have given us two more. Craven explained on Facebook that she and Wells had challenged each other to each make a short video out of the poem over the long holiday weekend, and both decided to use Nic S.’s voice recording in their videos.
Both of the videos take a fairly literal, illustrative approach to the text, but for once, this seems to work, I think because the poem is so playful. The videos simply build upon that playfulness, keeping things light and fast-moving.
The music in the soundtrack is, as usual, Marc’s own composition. It’s also included on his Timorous Sounds album.
Double Life in REM State […] has all the dreamlike quality and strange reality that I look for in a poem. […] The poem was perfect for text on screen (and I love the line ‘Dreams are always about the dreamer’)
I started collecting footage for certain lines (insects, animals, nature, movement, and a few haunting ones)
Meanwhile I also began working on a fitting soundtrack;
Once I had all my building blocks, I could start ‘composing’.
Image by image, placing lines, adjusting pace,…
It’s what I call fun.
Back in April, I shared Dale Wisely’s video interpretation of this poem from the Poetry Storehouse; here’s Swoon’s version. This is the first I can remember that Swoon (Marc Neys) has put himself in a videopoem as an actor (assuming that’s acting, and not just the way he starts each day). The result makes an extremely effective fit with this unsettling text.
(Update) Marc has posted some process notes to his blog. Here’s a snippet:
I felt like making a small series of videos with myself in front of the camera again (it’s been a while), this being the first one, another for a poem by Yves Bonnefoy coming up later this year. I love working from the safe and confined place that is my home. Setting up the camera, finding the right angle… exploring the possibilities and getting the most out of almost nothing.
I wanted the video to be subtle, almost no movement or action. A silent dialogue between me and a bust of my father (made by my sister). Slightly absurd and somewhat sensitive.
A film by Lori H. Ersolmaz using both voiceover and text-on-screen for the poem by the Chicago-based poet and therapist Nina Corwin. Ersolmaz found the poem at The Poetry Storehouse and the archival footage at Pond 5 and the Internet Archive.