Director Tova Beck-Friedman calls this “A cine-poem about the space between suffering and life lived. It’s also about survival and the unforgotten pain.” Dancer Juliet Neidish’s interpretation of the poem, choreographed by Beck-Friedman, is juxtaposed with archival footage for maximum emotional effect.
Susan Rich is the poet, and I was stunned to read an open letter on her blog detailing how the film was commissioned by the Visible Poetry Project and then censored at the very last moment, apparently for being insufficiently pious about the Holocaust! An astonishing and outrageous decision. All the more reason to share it here, then, of course (though I’d intended to anyway, before I’d read Rich’s post). I’ve been happy to see it getting well-deserved attention on social media, as well. As Rich notes in her open letter,
If there were ever a time to support each other, that time is now. The best art pushes and challenges us to the point of discomfort.
Luisa’s poem is exquisitely lyrical, as with all the writing I’ve read from her at Via Negativa, where the poem for this film was originally published. As with much of her work, it contains deep, melancholy reflections on being a woman travelling life’s seasons.
A friend tells me
her daughter once confided:
I want a life
different from yours.
I’ve been there,
and also been that wish.
Emily Kalish’s cinematic treatment of the poem is understated and beautifully formed, with a visual focus on twilight shades of lilac, a colour at once gentle and emotive. It features the close, intimate figure of a woman alone with trees and sky, as well as at home, where we see her crafting needle work. The translation from page to film imbues the poem with a new level of meaning, suggesting creativity as a kind of companion, or a thread holding a woman steady through pain and uplift over time.
Based in Los Angeles, Emily received her MFA in Film Production from USC School of Cinematic Arts. She is currently a freelance cinematographer shooting projects in NYC, Panama, and Paris.
Luisa has been writing at least a poem a day since 2010, most of them published. Her work has been widely awarded, including the Philippines’ highest literary distinction, the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. In 1996 she became the first Filipina woman of letters installed in the Palanca Literary Hall of Fame. Other recognition includes the Charles Goodnow Endowed Award for Creative Writing from the Chicago Bar Association, the Illinois Arts Council Literary Award, and the George Kent Prize for Poetry.
Visible Poetry Project is now calling for submissions from poets and film-makers internationally for their 2020 season, with an emphasis on artists who may be marginalised. Production of the films will take place over the end of 2019 into early 2020, leading up to the release of at least 30 new poetry films in April, National Poetry Month in the USA.
The Flame in Mother’s Mouth is a collaboration between poet Dustin Pearson and film-maker Neely Goniodsky. It is another film shared here at Moving Poems as among the best from the Visible Poetry Project.
As a participating film-maker in this year’s project, I had the good fortune to read this emotionally affecting poem before it became a film. At the start of the production process, we considered about 200 poems by 60 writers before indicating the poet we’d most like to be our collaborator. This process may have happened in the reverse too, with the writers considering the work of many film-makers. It would be interesting to know. Either way, The Flame in Mother’s Mouth was in the top three poems from all I read, and Neely Goniodsky has done a fabulous job with her animated screen adaptation. My only hesitation is the very abrupt ending. I even wondered if this might be a technical error in the rendering of the film.
Since 2017, VPP has been releasing a video a day during the month of April—National Poetry Month in the USA. Various celebrations of poetry also take place around the world at this time, many of them involving daily writing prompts. One poet I know does most of their writing at this time of year. Another began writing in April 2018, with one of his poems now published in an anthology. All in all it’s a good time of year for poetry, and via the VPP, for videopoetry as well.
The call for entries to poets and film-makers around the world for their 2020 season is online now, officially opening on 1 September and closing on 31 October. I highly recommend filling out the simple application form if you are a poet or film-maker interested in expanding skills, both as an individual artist and in collaboration.
The visual stream is jazzily constructed of “found footage” from various free sources. This is in sync with the sample-based hip-hop and house music referred to but never heard in the film. Narration is by the poet, who appears in the film as well, accompanied only by the warm sound of vinyl static—warm like her strong, expressive voice.
The poem is beat-driven, funky. It conveys myriad elements of cultural identity, past, present and future:
Who we are is undefined. Might be infinite. Variable. A mystery unsolved, but not yet ready to exit.
Gen.er.a.tion X, n. People born between 1960 and 1980. Some were alive with the last survivors of enslavement.
Danielle Eliska describes herself as a “black archivist”, her life’s work to tell stories of powerful women, the Black Diaspora and the state of Black culture. She is the founder of multimedia production house Meraki Society.
Shalewa Mackall belongs to a community of artists embracing Sankofa, a word in the Twi language of Ghana that translates to “Go back and get it”. The term relates to the Asante Adinkra symbol, often represented by a bird with its head turned backwards while its feet face forward, carrying a precious egg in its mouth. This symbolises moving forward in full awareness and embrace of what has preceded, historically and culturally.
The piece was written by Christina Rau, who describes it as “sci-fi fem poetry”. As a lover of astronomy, this possibly self-invented genre intrigues me, especially as it is expressed in this fresh poem, unusual in choice of language. As if to demonstrate the generic form in its title, Christina’s collection, Liberating The Astronauts (Aqueduct Press), was published in 2017, the year before the making of Kepler’s Law.
Among cultural involvements such as teaching and facilitation of writer’s groups, Christina serves as Poetry Editor for The Nassau Review. Dana’s animated videos are designed to appeal to his young daughter, who inspires his current creative work.
Filmmaker: Amrita Singh
Filmmaker: Laurice Oliveira
Filmmaker: Jane Glennie
A poem from Canadian poet Doyali Islam‘s second collection, heft, gets three different film interpretations, thanks to the wondrous Visible Poetry Project, which released these on April 12. I’ll take the liberty of lifting their bios for each of the filmmakers (though Jane Glennie is probably already familiar to many Moving Poems readers):
Amrita Singh is a writer/director born in Chennai and raised in Chicago. She’s currently attending NYU Tisch’s Graduate Film Program and developing her thesis film about a ruthless spelling bee wunderkind and her immigrant family.
Born in Brazil, Laurice Oliveira bravely moved to NYC with the ambitious hope of becoming a filmmaker. In her long journey to The Big Apple, Laurice met the unseen people and listened to unheard voices. From people of the poorest Brazilian slums to abused immigrant workers in the US, Laurice has made her goal to tell the stories of people that often do not have the privilege of being seen or heard by society.
Jane Glennie is an artist, filmmaker and typographic designer. Previous projects include an installation at The National Centre for the Written Word in the UK, and the publication of ‘A New Dictionary of Art’. Her videopoetry has been awarded a special mention at the Weimar Poetry Film Award in Germany and she was a finalist for Best Production One Minute or Under at Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival 2018. Poetry films have been selected for festivals in the UK, USA, France, Germany, Ireland and Singapore.