Walt Whitman’s iconic collection of poems, Leaves of Grass, has earned a reputation as a sacred American text. Whitman himself made such comparisons, going so far as to use biblical verse as a model for his own. So it’s only appropriate that artist and illustrator Allen Crawford has chosen to illuminate—like medieval monks with their own holy scriptures—Whitman’s masterpiece and the core of his poetic vision, “Song of Myself.” Crawford has turned the original sixty-page poem from Whitman’s 1855 edition into a sprawling 234-page work of art. The handwritten text and illustrations intermingle in a way that’s both surprising and wholly in tune with the spirit of the poem—they’re exuberant, rough, and wild. Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself is a sensational reading experience, an artifact in its own right, and a masterful tribute to the Good Gray Poet.
Here’s Allen Crawford’s website. The score for the film, “I Contain Multitudes,” is the work of Ben Warfield, and both Warfield and Kessler are good friends of Crawford, according to his blog post about the trailer. I like what he says about book trailers:
David really did a wonderful job: viewers at first will wonder where the book is, only to realize that they had been seeing it all along. Book trailers are still a relatively new thing, but I think David has set a nice precedent by going with a slower pace and lyrical treatment: there’s no reason why a book trailer should look like a film trailer, after all.
My good friend Bill was kind enough to serve as our “Whitman” (How odd and fortuitous that one of my dearest friends should be a dead ringer for Whitman…)
(Hat-tip: Poets & Writers’ Clip of the Day)
A brilliant animated poem from Zbigniew Czapla, a Polish screenwriter, director, animator, painter and graphic artist. It was recently featured on Tin House Reels, accompanied by one of their usual engaging write-ups.
Zbigniew Czapla created this week’s Tin House Reels feature, This World—a short based on the poem of the same title by Czeslaw Milosz—at the invitation of the Fundacja Pogranicze, as part of a multimedia exhibition at the Museum of Czeslaw Milosz in Krasnogruda. Czapla calls his project “a catastrophic vision and poetic perspective on human life as a set of secrets, accidents, and misunderstandings.”
“Poetry is a difficult subject for animation,” Czapla said. “It should at all costs avoid banality, infantile associations, and overwrought pathos. The text and sound work together around themes, as in jazz improvisation. Topics connect, overlap, and move away from each other in a game of associations.”
“Animated experimental film is a way for me to combine my various fascinations. Painting, music, theater and literature are like pieces of a puzzle, which I try to organize in a new way. If the end result for me is mysterious and unknown, that it is worth doing. The expected effects do not interest me. A lot of the work ends up being unsuccessful, but that always comes with artistic risk.”
This is The Gardener’s Dream, a terrific poetry film by the Moscow-based animator Valeriy Kozhin. It was recently featured in a post by Alison Pezanoski-Browne at Tin House Reels. As Pezanoski-Browne writes,
Kozhin’s film transforms Lewis Carroll’s poem “The Mad Gardener’s Song” into a surrealist adventure that maintains the spirit of the poet’s work and incorporates a wildness that is all Kozhin’s.
The film conveys an abstracted conceit of a logic game. Using paper cut-outs and puppets, porcelain dolls, and minuscule objects, Kozhin draws on images of childhood. Using a color palate rich in natural pigments, his work also feels like more classic animation–a mixture of Marc Davis era Disney and Jan Svankmajer, one of Valeriy’s favorite filmmakers.
“I see a new world with my eyes when I am inside a film,” Kozhin said. “I think that cinema is a young art. We have the great opportunity to make more than we can imagine in animation.”
That imagination, which seems to be equally enamored with the romantic and grotesque, has created an alluring lullaby for those boys and girls who still read under the covers after the lights have been turned off.
Jessop’s On Miles Platting Station is an adaptation of Simon Armitage’s likewise titled poem. A muted collage, it follows an imagined trip on a rickety train from the Pennines into the dangerous crowds of central Manchester.
“I grew up in the same Pennine village as Simon Armitage,” Jessop said, “and would often take this train into Manchester. When I realized he had written a poem based on this journey, I knew I had to adapt it to screen—it being particularly personal as it signified my journey out of childhood into adulthood and my own life in Manchester.”
Do click through and read the rest. As with everything in Tin House Reels, the write-up is thorough and engaging. It’s great to see a major literary magazine prioritizing “videos by artists who are forming interesting new relationships between images and words,” and unlike certain other august literary organs, they’re not demanding web exclusivity and preventing other people from sharing and embedding their videos. Yay!
First, a translation by Manolis Aligizakis included in the Vimeo description:
There is a door in the night that only the blind see,
darkness makes the animals hear better,
and him, staggered, not from being drunk,
but from his futile effort to climb
up to the tower we once lost.
And now for the rest of the description:
An animated interpretation of the Greek poet Tasos Livaditis’s “Night,” Afroditi Bitzouni conceived her video “when my laptop was broken.” “At that time,” she explains, “there was nothing better to do other than flipping the pages of my fairytales and reading my favorite poems. I was reading [the poem ‘Night,’] every night for months. The illustrations [in my video] were based on a drawing I had done on the bottom of the poem in the book.”
Afroditi Bitzouni is a member of Indyvisuals Design Collective. She studied Product and Systems Design Engineering at The University of the Aegean, as well as Animation at The Glasgow School of Art. Her work has appeared in the Athens Video Art Festival, LPM (Live Performers Meeting), the Athens and Epidaurus Festival, and other venues.
The sound was produced by DJ Enthro of Psyclinic Tactix.
There isn’t much about Livaditis on the web in English, but I found this blog post helpful.
Tasos Livaditis (Athens, 1922-1988) was a Greek poet. Livaditis studied law at Athens University, but soon his gift for creating poetry was discovered. He had a strong political commitment in the political left movement, and because of that he was condemned, led to exile and has been kept in prison from 1947 till 1951, among others on the island of torture Makronisos, together with Yannis Ritsos, Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Katrakis.
In 1946 the journal Elefthera Grammata published a first article . In 1952 his first volume of poems appeared battle on the edge of the night. Between 1954 and 1980 he worked as a literary critic for the newspaper Avgi. Some of his books were banned in the 1950s because of their seditious content.
Tasos Livaditis got a number of national and international awards for his poetry and was considered one of the outstanding Greek poets of the last century.
The video was uploaded by Tin House, a well-regarded print literary magazine with a growing online component, including a weekly series called Tin House Reels, where this video was featured on January 9th. Tin House Reels features “videos by artists who are forming interesting new relationships between images and words,” and is open to video submissions (though for some reason only of work that has not previously appeared on the web).