Search Results for: Charles Olsen

Catarsis / Catharsis by Lilián Pallares

A 2019 video from the ongoing creative partnership of Colombian poet Lilián Pallares and New Zealand filmmaker and poet Charles Olsen, who wrote:

This was made originally as a book trailer, to capture the essence of Lilián’s latest collection Bestial published in Zaragoza, Spain, by Papeles de Trasmoz, Olifante Editions, 2019. Her collection explores her Afro-Colombian roots and the death of her father. While writing the poems she was taking African dance classes in Madrid and we wanted to capture something of the African influence in this poetry film.

We live in a neighborhood of Madrid with a large migrant population, with people from Senegal, Guinea-Conakry, Morocco, Bangladesh, China, etc., and us (Colombia and New Zealand), and we decided to film this at night in streets with the dancer Marisa Cámara (Guinea-Conakry) and the poet and performer Artemisa Semedo (Galicia/Cape Verde). The music is ‘Zuru’ by the Colombian duo Mitú.

I include Catarsis in my Poesía sin fronteras program exploring translation, otherness, identity and death in cinepoetry from across the Americas, which by the way is available for public screening anywhere in the world — whenever such a thing becomes possible again. In the meantime, you can watch all the films here.

Y sonó la alarma / And the alarm rang by Lilián Pallares


Columbian poet Lilián Pallares is an actress with considerable charisma in this entertaining film-poem by New Zealand director Charles Olsen (Antena Blue). The use of silent-movie-style intertitles for Pallares’ text necessitates separate videos for the Spanish and English versions, but it’s worth it, I think, for the way it accentuates the manic, comic style. Spanish composer and pianist Pablo Rubén Maldonado contributed an original composition for the soundtrack.

El sueño del árbol (The tree’s dream) by Lilián Pallares

A videopoem by Charles Olsen (Antena Blue), intended as a trailer for the book from which the text is sourced: Pájaro, vértigo (Editorial Huerga & Fierro, 2014) by the Colombian writer Lilián Pallares. Be sure to click on the CC (closed captioning) icon to read Olsen’s English translation. The guitar music in the soundtrack is by Quique Meléndez.

Libro de huellas (The Book of Traces) by Ángel Guinda

I’m tethering my life
so the storm doesn’t escape me.

To think
costs the unthinkable.

A series of gnomic pronouncements, as if in response to an unseen interrogator, accompany shots of the poet’s visible traces: his identity papers, fingerprints, and typewritten words. Ángel Guinda stars in this gem of a book trailer, the work of Charles Olsen, a New Zealander currently residing in Spain, and the production company Antena Blue. (Be sure to click the CC icon on the lower right to read the subtitles—a very good English translation.)

This was one of two Olsen/Antena Blue films selected for screening at ZEBRA this year. Olsen wrote about his experience at ZEBRA for the big idea/te aria nui.

The second film poem, included in the section “Wracking Your Brains” – our preoccupations with the past, doubts and spiritual unrest – was a piece we made for the Spanish poet Ángel Guinda, “Libro de Huellas” (The Book of Traces) where, in a series of striking aphorisms, he reflects on memory, religion, and power.


I began making film poems using my own poetry and that of my wife, the Colombian writer Lilián Pallares, with whom I direct the production company Antena Blue, “The observed word”. There is a great freedom to explore all the aspects of the image, sound, text, words, narrative, pace, and as a poet-filmmaker it is not necessarily the poem that has to come first. It may be an image or a personal story that lends itself to a poetic treatment later inspiring the text or a filmmaker may piece together fragments of dialogues, sounds and images to create a collage of words and images.

Read the rest.

Acknowledgements by Louise Wallace

On a sweltering day at the pools, monotony conspires to take us on an ethereal journey. A bored front desk attendant reads the acknowledgments of a paperback and while observing the swimmers she drifts into a daydream.
director’s webpage

New Zealand poet Louise Wallace as interpreted by Auckland-based director Arvind Eriksson and voice actor Elizabeth McRae. This 2021 film is included in a new article by poetry filmmaker Charles Olsen at a general-interest news site, How to film a poem — a wonderful survey of poetry filmmaking in New Zealand in preparation for the first Aotearoa Poetry Film Festival in November (submissions open).

Acknowledgements was a recommendation to Charles by another New Zealand director, Alfio Leotta, who called it “a beautiful, intelligent and funny film that inspired my decision to start experimenting with poetry film.”

Call for work: Aotearoa Poetry Film Festival


New Zealand poetry filmmaker Charles Olsen just wrote to let us know about this fabulous-sounding new festival, scheduled for November 2-3, 2023 in Wellington. Here’s the press release:

Submissions are now open for the Aotearoa Poetry Film Festival 2023
The Aotearoa Poetry Film Festival is an event entirely devoted to the celebration and showcase of poetry film in New Zealand. Poetry film or video poetry is a fast-growing art form that combines poetry, moving images, sound and music. We would like to invite film-makers and poets of any age and backgrounds to participate in the first edition of the Festival which will take place in November 2023 in Wellington. In particular, we encourage the submission of innovative and eclectic takes on poetry film as a distinct media form.
The Festival will feature a poetry film competition, workshops, seminars, poetry readings and retrospectives and it will offer the opportunity to showcase the diversity of poetry film produced both in Aotearoa New Zealand and overseas. The 2023 Aotearoa Poetry Film Festival is organised in collaboration with Victoria University of Wellington.
Submissions open: 1 February 2023
Submission deadline: 15 August 2023
Event: 2-3 November 2023
For more info please contact:

Top Ten: winners of Ó Bhéal Poetry Film Competition

Ó Bhéal winners 2013–2021

Paul Casey and Colm Scully, the judges of the  10th Ó Bhéal Poetry Film Competition hosted a very successful hybrid event on Sunday 27th November. For Moving Poems they are also kindly working on their top ten films of classic poems, as part of a fresh series of Top Tens that will be coming to the site soon (see previous top tens). Until then, here is a top ten to celebrate 10 years of the Ó Bhéal competition with the newly crowned 10th winner included in the list with the nine previous winners.

2022 Winner

Jelle Meys – Belgium – La Luna Asoma (The moon appears) (3:37)

Past winners

2013 Winner

Manuel Vilarinho – Portugal – No País Dos Sacanas (In the Land of Bastards) (3:50)

2014 Winner

Marleen van der Werf – Netherlands – Wadland (9:19)

(the full-length film is not available on the web)

2015 Winner

Cheryl Gross – USA – In The Circus Of You (6:07)

2016 Winner

Marie Craven – Australia Dictionary Illustrations (2:13)

2017 Winner

Kayla Jeanson – Canada – Descrambled Eggs (4:14)

2018 Winner

Álvaro Martín – Spain – Accident de Personne (3:35)

2019 Winner

Fiona Aryan – Ireland – Virginia gave me Roses (2:05)

2020 Winner

Peta-Maria Tunui, Waitahi Aniwaniwa McGee, Shania Bailey-Edmonds, Jesse-Ana Harris, Lilián Pallares, Charles Olsen – Māori, Pākehā and Colombian – Noho Mai (5:33)

2021 Winner

Janet Lees – Isle of Man/England – What I fear most is becoming ‘a poet’ (6:10)

Noho Mai by Peta-Maria Tunui

Winner of the 2020 Ó Bhéal Poetry-Film Competition, Noho Mai is a simple, slow and gentle piece, balm in troubled times. It is spoken in the Māori language (te reo), with English subtitles to be found in the closed captions (bottom right of the Vimeo player).

The project was initiated and facilitated by Charles Olsen and Lilián Pallares. Charles is a New Zealander now living in Spain. Conceived at the start of the pandemic, it became an online collaboration between artists in the two countries. The poem was written by Peta-Maria Tunui as part of an exploratory workshop process that also involved contributions from Waitahi Aniwaniwa McGee, Shania Bailey-Edmonds and Jesse-Ana Harris.

Charles has written at length about the film here.

Poesía sin fronteras / Poetry Without Borders

translation, otherness, identity and death in cinepoetry from across the Americas

presented by Dave Bonta as part of REELpoetry/Houston TX, January 24, 2020

Press Release [PDF]


I realized as I was putting this program together that there was a kind of theme to the films, as expressed in the subtitle, and I mention this because I don’t want to give the impression, to people who aren’t as familiar with Latin American poetry, that there isn’t also light and playful poetry south of the Rio Grande! The screening also happens not to include any explictly political poetry—another rich part of the tradition. The borders transgressed in these poems may be political, but are just as likely to be existential, including the borders between self and other, sanity and insanity, and life and death.

But what I most hope to show is that the linguistic divide isn’t nearly as insurmountable as many gringos might suppose, because of the way film can mediate between languages while showing us the world through another’s eyes. We’ll see an array of strategies for handling translation: subtitles in one language and voiceover in another, titles for both languages, voices for both languages, and monolingual versions of films made originally in a different language—the last probably the best strategy for anyone with dyslexia.

The genesis of this program was an online, international collaboration which I instigated in 2015 with a Facebook group called Poetry From the Other Americas, where amateur translators like me with my bad high-school Spanish and professionals like my friend Jean Morris in London, plus people with native-level fluency in Spanish, Portuguese and French, all worked together to translate and raise awareness of Spanish American, Brazilian, and Quebecois poetry. We posted the most successful results in my literary blog Via Negativa ( where you can read the results by clicking on the Poetry From the Other Americas link in the Series section of the sidebar. If you’re a film-maker looking for ideas, I should mention that most of the poems have yet to be adapted to film. But a few have: by me; by the Belgian artist and musician Marc Neys, aka Swoon—one of the most prolific and prominent videopoetry makers of the past decade; and by Eduardo Yagüe, a Spanish director with a background in theater, who formed an on-going collaborative relationship with Jean Morris that’s led to a number of additional films. And just the other week I invited Marie Craven, an experimental filmmaker and musician in Australia who is now my co-editor at Moving Poems, to re-make a film I’d largely failed at several years before, adapting three micropoems by my favorite poet in this whole screening, Alejandra Pizarnik.

In addition, I reached out to several film-makers whose works I’ve featured on Moving Poems over the years. Charles Olsen, a poet and filmmaker from New Zealand living in Spain and his partner, the Colombian poet and actor Lilián Pallares, have made several poetry films together, and we’ll see two of them today. Miah Artola is an artist and creator of interactive installations teaching at the School of Visual Arts in New York, and the short we’ll see by her is part of a still-unfinished experimental documentary about her father’s homeland, Nicaragua, and how it has survived U.S. military intervention. Tomás (formerly Paola) Proaño is an Ecuadorian musician and video artist who learned how to make videopoetry in order to adapt his countryman Efraín Jara Idrovo’s epic lament for the death of his son, from which I’ve selected the fourth of five parts. The finished audiovisual composition earned Proaño a masters in music cum laude from Berklee College of Music. And the program concludes with a light-hearted adaptation of a poem from north of the border—because turn-about is fair play—from Juan Bullón, a Spanish poet and audiovisual professional who teaches videopoetry workshops in Seville.

I’ve included perhaps one or two more of my own videos than is entirely wise, but keep in mind that they were meant to be shared online, at Moving Poems, and don’t look half-bad on the small screen! I feel a bit like a grasshopper among eagles—as Ogden Nash once said at a reading in celebration of the 50th birthday of Poetry magazine—but I will share my most ambitious hops.


El otro / The Other
dir. & trans. Dave Bonta (2017)
poet Rosario Castellanos (Mexico, 1924-1975)

I couldn’t believe my luck when I found this footage on one of those free stock photo sites. There’s nothing stock about it! As soon as I saw it, I thought of the Castellanos poem—the translation that had kicked off the whole Poetry From the Other Americas project. I contacted the uploader to get the performer’s name, Stephanie Leathers, and make sure that she was fine with it, too. Evidently it was a rehearsal for a piece of performance art


La canción del espejo / Song of the Mirror
dir. Eduardo Yagüe (2015)
poet Rafael Courtoisie (Uruguay, 1958- )
trans. Jean Morris

Eduardo writes,

When I started to make videos I thought that it would be great to have subtitles translated into English in order to have more audience, or at least try to. It was a great help to be invited to be part of the Facebook Group Poetry from the Other Americas, where I met Jean Morris, who is very important to my projects. I am so grateful to her, to her sensibility and huge knowledge of Spanish; she became a very important part of the process (sometimes long process) of making a video. I especially remember with profound respect how she translated La canción del espejo and the care and love she put into this work. Another project that was very important was Antesala Altísima, where Jean and Estefanía (whose knowledge of English is also huge) had so interesting conversations via mail about the convenience of one or another word, and was a privilege of learning for me. Jean is an amazing professional and her support (like yours) has been very important in the way I feel myself as an artist, you both gave me confidence and I am always grateful to this.


Catarsis / Catharsis
dir. & trans. Charles Olsen (2019)
poet Lilián Pallares (Colombia, 1976- )

Charles writes,

This was made originally as a book trailer, to capture the essence of Lilián’s latest collection Bestial published in Zaragoza, Spain, by Papeles de Trasmoz, Olifante Editions, 2019. Her collection explores her Afro-Colombian roots and the death of her father. While writing the poems she was taking African dance classes in Madrid and we wanted to capture something of the African influence in this poetry film.

We live in a neighborhood of Madrid with a large migrant population, with people from Senegal, Guinea-Conakry, Morocco, Bangladesh, China, etc., and us (Colombia and New Zealand), and we decided to film this at night in streets with the dancer Marisa Cámara (Guinea-Conakry) and the poet and performer Artemisa Semedo (Galicia/Cape Verde). The music is ‘Zuru’ by the Colombian duo Mitú.

In 2020, Lilian and Charles have been awarded a year-long Arts Residency at the Matadero Madrid Centre for Creative Arts on the theme of ‘Childhood, Play and Public Spaces’. For more on their creative partnership, see


Verde embeleso / Green Enchantment
dir. & trans. Dave Bonta (2015)
poet Juana Inés de la Cruz (New Spain/Mexico, 1648-1695)

I roped in my Via Negativa co-author Luisa Igloria to contribute a reading for the soundtrack. The norm for videopoems of translated texts is to put the original language in the soundtrack and the translation in subtitles, but I decided to reverse that here, just as an experiment. I wanted to make the poem feel less foreign to an English-language audience.

I thought of the poem only after I filmed the meadow footage featured in the video. The original plan for this videopoem was to have that, the titling, and nothing else. But mid-way through the editing process, I woke up early one morning with the idea of adding crowds of people as an overlay. One thing led to another, I found some crazy-ass 1960s TV ads in the Prelinger Archives, and a few days later I had something that seemed to work. For the music, I used a public-domain guitar interpretation of Albéniz from Wikimedia, reasoning that something from the 19th century would help bridge the gap between the 17th and 21st centuries.

To my mind, a videopoem that doesn’t reinterpret the text in a manner different from what its author intended isn’t a real videopoem. But as Lorca much later showed, verde (green) is one of those words with an almost unlimited number of connotations. So this is more than a translation; it’s a complete re-imagining. Then again, human nature hasn’t changed in the last 400 years, and deciding to live in the moment rather than living in hope is, if anything, wiser than ever.


Mortal (English version of Lo fatal)
dir. Marc Neys (2015)
poet Rubén Dario (Nicaragua, 1867-1916)
trans. Dave Bonta

Spanish version

Marc writes,

On working with other languages: it’s a cliché maybe, but for me poetry is music and music has no ‘language’ even when used as text on screen as in Lo Fatal.


El caballo ahogado / The Drowned Horse
dir. Miah Artola (2016)
poet Pablo Antonio Cuadra (Nicaragua, 1912-2002)

Miah writes,

This poem depicts Nicaragua’s long struggle against American imperialism and I wanted to depict the resilience and power of the Nicaraguan people in their recitation of this poem. It was recited by random Nicaraguans throughout Granada, San Marcos and Masaya and most of the participants were familiar with the poem.

Nicaragua is often called ‘The Land of the Poets’ as the most remote village to the busiest town and the old and young alike, have an impressive knowledge of the country’s literary figures as well as international poets and writers. There is enormous esteem placed upon poets in Nicaragua and top government posts have been filled with poets, especially during its strongest period when the Sandinista party was still for the people.


Ofertorio / Offertory
dir. Eduardo Yagüe
poet Amado Nervo (Mexico, 1870-1919)
trans. Dave Bonta

Eduardo writes,

I see culture as global and I’ve always thought that my background is not only my Spanish culture, which I love with all my respect (from the medieval jarchas to Antonio Machado or Lorca and, of course, Cervantes and all the theater and poetry from El Siglo de Oro or the amazing poets and writers from Iberoamérica), but also English, U.S. and European, and that is thanks to translators, basically. I think that part of my sentimental and cultural education are equally Lorca, Shakespeare, Whitman, Luis Rosales or Sam Shepard… And if speaking about cinema I usually think on Lynch, Buñuel or Bergman, and there are not many differences between them (and many others), artists taking risks and giving deep works to the whole world.


Riqueza / Wealth
dir. & trans. Dave Bonta (2011)
poet Gabriela Mistral (Chile, 1889-1957)

One of my first successful videopoems, made back in 2011. Who’d have thought a Chilean poem and an Irish folk song (“The Foggy Dew” on pennywhistle, by British software developer Chris Kent) would go together so well? But the mix of sweetness and melancholy was just right, I thought.

This is one of those videopoems that began with some of my own footage (of a spinner who wishes to remain anonymous). When I thought about what sort of poem to match it with, Gabriela Mistral came to mind almost right away — those who know her work will understand what I mean.

Dicha can mean happiness, joy, good luck, or good fortune. Many translators, influenced by the title and the “stolen” part, have gone with “fortune,” but I think it’s better to keep our options open. So often, the simplest poems are the hardest to translate.

Re-edited and re-sized to 16:9 ratio in 2020 for the REELpoetry screening.


Historia de mi muerte / Story of My Death
dir. & trans. Dave Bonta (2015)
poet Leopoldo Lugones (Argentina, 1874-1938)

I really like stationary single-shot videopoems. The shot has to be sufficiently suggestive and interesting, of course, and relate to the text in several possible ways. The goal is to put the watcher/listener/reader in a contemplative frame of mind maximally conducive to the reception of poetry.

I translated the poem (with some invaluable assistance from Alicia E-Bourdin on Facebook) specifically with the intent of pairing it with this footage of cabbage white butterflies—which, when I shot it, I already recognized as having a certain Lugones-like feel. So it was just a question of finding the right poem.

This almost didn’t make the cut for the program, due to the lack of sharpness in the footage, but among other things I wanted to show off the approach to bilingual subtitling I’d hit upon for the video.


A media voz / Under My Breath
dir. Eduardo Yagüe (2018)
poet Blanca Varela (Peru, 1926-2009)
trans. Jean Morris

Eduardo writes,

English and Spanish are not so far apart, we are part of the same culture, and the time we are living in makes approaching and mixing with other cultures very productive. Generally speaking, this is what I think videopoetry is doing, mixing genres, artistic languages and sensibilities. I am also thinking about Spanish language being so important in USA, despite bad politicians.


una mirada desde la alcantarilla / a glimpse from the gutter
dir. Maria Craven (2020)
poet Alejandra Pizarnik (Argentina, 1936-1972)
trans. Dave Bonta and Jean Morris

Marie writes,

A few weeks ago, Dave Bonta invited me to participate in this “Poetry Without Borders” program at REELPoetry, by making a video remix of his 2016 piece, “A Glimpse from the Gutter”, from three poems by Argentinian poet, Alejandra Pizarnik (1936-1972). Having previously made a number of films with Dave’s poetry, and being involved in some of his wider projects, I was keen to rise to the challenge.

Like the majority of Australians, I speak only the dominant English. Nonetheless, this is the sixth film I’ve made involving different languages. My interest in doing this has arisen in part from a personal impulse to in some way transcend the xenophobia and racism that has long been a lamentable aspect of my own geographically-isolated culture. Aside from this, and despite being in my late 50s, I retain a child-like wonderment that our single human species communicates in so many richly varied ways. In addition, my film-making over 35 years has been largely directed towards international audiences, via the film festival circuit, and now also the web, where poetry film has by far its greatest reach. I also simply love the expressive sounds of different languages as a kind of music.

Dave translated Pizarnik’s poems with advice and in discussion with Jean Morris, a poet and professional translator. Jean voiced the poems in Spanish, while Dave spoke them in English. For my film, I retained only the text and voices, which I re-arranged and mixed with new music and images. I have remained true to Dave’s impulse in his earlier piece to make a truly bilingual film, spoken in both Spanish and English, and therefore without the need for subtitles.

As in a number of my films, the raw images were sourced from Storyblocks, a subscription website with a vast library of short, random clips from videographers in many different countries. The collection of shots I selected were then transformed via changes to speed, light, framing and colour, and the addition of long dissolves that blend and juxtapose the images via superimposition.

Some of the images I selected touch on the literal meanings of the poems. These direct connections of image to text are sometimes seen at moments other than when they are spoken. The film also contains a number of shots that bear no direct relation to the words. My overall impulse was to create a series of moving images that might form a kind of visual poem in themselves, while remaining connected to the resonances I found in the text and in the qualities of the voices. The final visual element is a faintly-flickering overlay containing animated x-rays of human anatomy.

The music is an ambient piece by Lee Rosevere, who for several years has generously released much of his music on creative commons remix licenses, enabling film-makers and other artists to create new works incorporating his sounds. I chose this piece for its slow pace, beatlessness and meditative quality, that left room for the voices to take by far the greatest prominence.

I am delighted to have especially made this film for REELPoetry, where it is having its world premiere.

My next film-making project this year will be the completion of a film started in 2019 called “Metamorphosis”, based on a poem by Jean Morris, and featuring Spanish actor Pedro Luis Menéndez. It is the first film I am collaboratively directing, with Spanish film-maker, Eduardo Yagüe.


sollozo por pedro jara, IV (Weeping for Pedro Jara, IV)
dir. Tomás Proaño (2016)
poet Efraín Jara Idrovo (Ecuador, 1926-2018)
trans. Cecilia Mafla Bustamante

Tomás writes,

The poem sollozo por pedro jara (1978) is an elegy written by Efraín Jara Idrovo after his son Pedro’s suicide. It can be seen as his masterpiece because of its expressiveness and the meticulous work done on structure, which was inspired by musical serialism, specifically by Stockhausen’s Klavierstück XI and Boulez’s Piano Sonata No. 3, as stated by the poet. This poem consists of 63 verses divided into 5 series, and each series has three parallel developments. In the first edition of this poem, Jara Idrovo shares suggestions on how the poem could be read and combined and this is interesting, especially, for the oral performance of this piece and for
interdisciplinary approaches.

I started this project as part of my M.Mus. thesis project. The main goal was to compose music for this elegy by finding creative approaches to translate its emotional content and avant-garde structure into a musical composition arranged for guitar. This is the musical aspect of the frame I wanted to provide for this poetry. The five resulting audio tracks are part of five audiovisuals, which include a recitation, ambient sounds, footage and video editing that supports the emotional environment and English subtitles based on a translation by Dr. Cecilia Mafla Bustamante.

Regarding the translation, at certain times she preferred to change some verses in order to produce rhymes. I admire her work, especially because the metaphors she changes in order to preserve original rhymes are similar to the original and yet provide new images and beauty, which makes this a very thoughtful translation.

Watch all five parts on Vimeo.


Despedida / Farewell
dir. Marc Neys (2015)
poet Cecília Meireles (Brazil, 1901-1964)
trans. Natalie d’Arbeloff

Marc blogged at the time:

My mother passed away.
This is a tribute to her and the way she directed her own ending.


Piedra negra sobre una piedra blanca / Black Stone on a White Stone
dir. Dave Bonta (2017)
poet César Vallejo (Peru, 1892-1938)
trans. Jean Morris, Natalie d’Arbeloff, & the Poetry from the Other Americas group

This is so far the only time I’ve paid for stock footage to use in a videopoem. (I’m not opposed to that; I’m just cheap.) The music really makes this one work, I think.

Translating by committee can be a challenge. In this case, I think one or two lines never got complete buy-in from everyone. But it’s such an iconic poem, I just had to envideo it.


Vuelvo a la noche / Back in the Night
dir. Eduardo Yagüe (2019)
poet Mía Gallegos (Costa Rica, 1953- )
trans. Jean Morris

Eduardo’s most recent film (as of January 2020), continuing his collaboration with translator Jean Morris, is the final piece of his TRILOGÍA DE LA SOLEDAD (Trilogy of Solitude), which began with an adaptation of a piece by a Spanish poet, Pedro Luis Menéndez: La vida menguante (Waning Life), and continued with the previously shared A media voz. He says the trilogy is “sobre la soledad y el vacío existencial, creativo y amoroso” (about solitude and existential, creative, and romantic emptiness).


And the Alarm Rang (English version of Y sonó la alarma)
dir. & trans. Charles Olsen (2013)
poet Lilián Pallares (Colombia, 1976- )

Spanish version

Charles writes,

Inspired by the cinematic techniques of Georges Méliès such as differences in scale, the actor appearing multiple times in the same frame, and the language of silent cinema, we had a lot of fun taking the poem off the page and into film. Lilián Pallares is both the poet and actress and we filmed it in the streets of Madrid, constructing a bed from a cardboard box to support the pillow so we could easily carry it around. Why try to film real ants on sugar when you can film a giant paper cut-out ant on large salt grains?

I’m interested in the use of translation as a way to understand another culture, both the physical translation – Lilián from Colombia to Spain and me from New Zealand to the UK before moving to Spain – and the move into a new language in my case. We both were writing when we met in 2009, but Lilián encouraged me to start writing and reading my poems in Spanish and introduced me to the local poetry circuits in Madrid. Lilián had studied Audiovisual Communication at Universidad del Norte, Barranquilla and I came from a Fine Arts background and had recently begun filming, and so we complimented each other and learned from one another.

The flamenco pianist Pablo Rubén Maldonado composed the music especially for the video. We had previously worked together on my flamenco short film ‘La danza de los pinceles’ (‘The dance of the brushes’) and we have performed together with Lilián and the flamenco dancer Selene Muñoz with our show ‘Agita flamenco’. Moving to Spain in part to study flamenco guitar has connected me with the world of flamenco and provided amazing opportunities.

The internet has also been very important in my creative work. With poetry I have run the online Spanish poetry competition Palabras Prestadas and the last four years I have run the equivalent, ‘Given Words’, in New Zealand for National Poetry Day, so I receive hundreds of poems from New Zealand and across the Spanish-speaking world. Lilián and I have also collaborated with musicians and dancers in Madrid, the Netherlands, and in the United Kingdom, on poetry film and performance projects.

In this case the starting point was to make a film inspired by the French film director Georges Méliès, and we chose Lilián’s poem ‘And the alarm rang’ from her first collection Voces Mudas (Silent Voices) because it told a simple story that gave room for surreal treatment. She wrote the poem in Madrid as a way to comment on the daily grind as she worked in jobs that weren’t satisfying creatively so it was fun to play with her poem in the streets and metro (subway) of Madrid.

The translation of the poem for the film was quite straightforward as the text is inserted between the images. In other text-on-screen pieces where the text is integrated with the image I will also do two versions. In pieces with voice I have recorded separate soundtracks in Spanish and English, especially for my own poems, or if the Spanish text is in the voice of one of the actors then I prefer to use subtitles rather than dub the voice. I sometimes question whether I shouldn’t just do my poetry films in only one language and use subtitles – there is something attractive about this that accentuates the different cultural contexts, and it maybe makes the audience feel like they are having a more ‘cultural experience’ – but I also want to make the work accessible so the English viewer can appreciate it immediately as a Spanish audience does when it is in Spanish and visa-versa. I guess this works best where the poet speaks and writes in both languages.


El hombre imaginario / The Imaginary Man
dir. & trans. Dave Bonta (2018)
poet Nicanor Parra (Chile, 1914-2018)

As I wrote in my blog when I first posted this, the great Chilean poet Nicanor Parra died on January 23, 2018 at the age of 103, so I wanted to make a video for one of his poems as a tribute, especially since there didn’t seem to be any real videopoems or poetry films of his work on the web. I asked some fellow fans of Latin American poetry on Facebook for suggestions of poems, and “El hombre imaginario” came up. It had been translated before—by Edith Grossman, no less—but we all found her decision to depart from the plain meaning of the text in order to imitate the word order of Spanish odd and unfortunate. Eduardo Yagüe agreed to read the poem for the soundtrack when I mentioned I had an idea for a videopoem. I found the music—an accordion track by the composer Steven O’Brien—on Soundcloud, and the footage was something I’d downloaded from the one-person stock video channel Beachfront B-Roll a while ago.


Your Dog Dies / Tu perro se muere
dir. Juan Bullón (2019)
poet Raymond Carver (USA, 1938-1988)

Juan writes,

I’m a Spanish film maker and writer. I write with creative, narrative or poetic intention for about twelve years. I come from the audiovisual world (television and advertising mostly). In recent years I have attended several creative writing workshops. Now, far from audiovisual as a profession, I dedicate myself to writing and coordinate a creative writing workshop in Seville. It is a workshop to experience the fact of creating and feeling literature. We try to go beyond writing or correct narrative, poetic, autobiographical or reflective texts, beyond knowing techniques and writing tricks. Creativity is the goal without end. We give great importance to reading aloud as a way to recognize and work the literary voice of each one, and also, we experiment with the audiovisual format as another way of learning to know how to interpret our texts, to voiceover them, and act on them. Video-poems are another part of the creative process and the recognition of each as an author, it is another way of creative knowledge. The essential is to pose, think and act, and in our case, create from writing to let go and leave our point of view, and be able to share it. And this ability to narrate and tell should be transferable to another means of expression, as another complement, as another revelation of our creative capacity.

Transferring our texts (or those of other authors) to an audiovisual format, relying on the image and music to create these video-poems is a challenge where the fundamental is the literary burden of the text. We do not consider it as a struggle between the greater or lesser relevance of the image, music or text. The written is the important, it’s essential, then, the interpretation and performance of these texts with a suggestive audiovisual dress. The direction and production of these video-poems must be guided by the simplicity and speed of creation in the event that they are self-produced or by taking advantage of what the internet offers with the royalty-free images and music that can be used and shared, with that democratization of the media. In turn, the video-poems we make are posted on the internet for anyone’s free enjoyment, helping to fill in that great library of Babel.

Moving the texts to an audiovisual format is a part of the creative process, a moment of enjoyment and self-knowledge. The important thing is to act, to be and to write it.

Marsh by Paul Casey

The writer of the poem in this video, Paul Casey, is an important figure for poetry in Ireland, especially in Cork. The poem is named for his home city, which comes from the Irish word for marsh.

Spoken in the video by Aidan Stanley, Marsh is a lament. The poem is unusual in being from the point of view of a place, anthropomorphised with a subjective voice. Paul’s avowed interest in history comes to the fore in this piece, spanning a vast sweep of time, from an ancient untouched land to a contemporary urban location.

Environmental themes shadow the development of the city over its long history, from free earth to “buses and pipes”. Between the poles is first the appearance of humans, with “A Celtic hunter slowing his currach”.* In later generations the human appears in the form of “merchants and markets”. In a time of British rule, “Oil street lamps lit stocks and paupers”. Finally the marsh has transformed into a place where “mobile phones and mini-skirts flirt my name”.

The video is by David Bickley, who is a musician as well as a film-maker. He composed the soundtrack of Marsh especially for it, using audio collected at a marsh in Carrafeen, West Cork, the location of the shoot. These recordings were then mixed with ambient musical sounds. The stunning, almost abstract images of the marsh landscape were shot looking directly down from far above with a drone camera. They are a magnificent yet serene expression of the sense of origins evoked in Paul’s poem.

In an interview about Marsh, Paul states that music is central to his writing, saying “without it there is simply no poem”. The song of this poem is in the voice of a “sagacious witness, persisting across the ages… that wise gentle spirit of sparse words (time)”.

Paul’s advice to poets is to “read a poem every day from a known poet, then another from an unknown poet. And write a poem every day too, no matter how short or ridiculous. Eventually you’ll be equipped for a masterpiece… It’s up to the gods then.”

As a contrast to David Bickley’s beautiful rendering of Marsh, there’s another video of Paul reading it himself in the modern-day incarnation of the city of Cork.

Paul’s great contribution to poetry in Cork includes working with the elderly through poetry appreciation. He is most known to the poetry film community world-wide as the founder and director of Ó Bhéal, organising the yearly poetry film competition in association with the IndieCork Film Festival.

The finalists in this year’s competition have just recently been announced. They include a number of film-makers and poets who might be familiar to Moving Poems followers, such as Stuart Pound and Rosemary Norman, Caroline Rumley, Jack Cochran and Pamela Falkenberg, Charles Olsen, Matt Mullins, Lucy English and Sarah Tremlett, Jane Glennie, Janet Lees, and more.

* A currach is a type of Irish boat with a wooden frame, over which animal skins or hides were once stretched.

National Poetry Library Instagram Poetry Film Winners

The world’s first Instagram poetry exhibition ran from Thursday, April 26 to Sunday, July 1, 2018 at the UK’s National Poetry Library. Jane Glennie, whose Being and Being Empty — previously posted to Moving Poems — was one of the fifteen filmpoem winners included in the exhibit, was kind enough to share a program [PDF] with me when I noticed a photo of it in a brief news post about the exhibit on her website. That program is the source of the list of winners below. I have added links to play the films, since it’s a daunting task to search for them on the individual Instagram pages, or among the 1,771 posts (as of 28 July 2018) to #instapoetrylib on, which is where all the entries are archived, and which is still active, if you would like to contribute a film even though the contest has ended; some of the more recent posts to be found on #instapoetrylib are photographs documenting the exhibit rather than new poems.

The winning films were apparently announced via comments/DMs on the individual Instagram posts. At the exhibit, the films were on a screen on a continual loop, while the selected image poems were exhibited on the walls. After having spent some time reviewing the films posted to #instapoetrylib, I believe that the 15 selected poetry films were chosen to represent the breadth and variety of work posted to Instagram — from films of poets reciting their poems, to spoken word performance films, to Instagram as poetry notebook, to found poetry films, animated poetry films, and the kinds of film poems Moving Poems typically celebrates.

Poets were only supposed to submit one entry per person, but many of the poets and the National Poetry Library itself did not appear to have taken this rule seriously. Some of the winners submitted more than one entry, and one winner subverted the Instagram video limits by submitting a longer film in two parts. Of the 1771 entries, there are approximately 114 poetry film postings (of which 44 were submitted by one poster,

Here are the winning films, listed in order from the exhibition program. (Readers of this post via feed readers or the email newsletter may have to click through to Moving Poems Magazine to watch the videos.)

NHS Crisis by Thomas ‘GhettoGeek’ Owoo (@ghettogeektv)

This might be the Instagram version he submitted to the contest. This link is to a pinned post on the GhettoGeek twitter page, which includes a link to the complete 4:31 version on YouTube.

A slam or spoken word reading style combines with dynamic graphics and imagery in politically powerful ways. Owoo has produced a number of variant works on this and other subjects on his YouTube channel and a range of social media sites.

A Spring Day by Annabel Wilson (@annabelwilsonart)

This is the post on her Instagram page announcing that her film was selected to show in the exhibition. This link is to the film on her Facebook page.

When she first posted the film to Instagram, she commented: “I wrote a poem last week on one of the first spring-like mornings- it came from that feeling that walking out on a clear morning gives, just as the sun comes up in all of its glory. It’s a sunrise, dawn poem, but also a hope and happiness poem. I have created this simple animation as a different kind of way to share it on World Poetry Day!”

The Art of Narcissism by Akora @parthenocarpy
This is the only video posted to on her Instagram page. This is a link to the performance button on her Instagram page about performing at the National Poetry Library exhibit opening.

For many of the poets posting on Instagram, a film documents the performance of a poem, as does this one.

Being and Being Empty by Jane Glennie (@jane_glennie)

Above is the film on her Instagram page; this is the film on her Vimeo page.

Her description of the film: “How to be a mother … who is this being that I am? Wanting to be half-full with the joy of play, a job well done, and the softness of a bed to sink into at the end. Feeling half-empty with a busy brain that won’t shut down and twitches into awakening too early. Feeling overwhelmed by the chores and feeling rubbish as a result because surely that’s really not important. Tossing and turning and struggling to make a zingy start to each new day.”

A flicker film technique is a visceral representation of both the delight in and the fragmented and distracted attention of motherhood.

Boob Haiku by Fatima Al Rayes (@fatimaspoems)
Here’s the film on her Instagram page. It is the only post on the page.

A film Fatima describes as “a haiku” documents the performance of writing out the poem and making a simple illustration using time compression.

Dice by Annie Rockson (@gyallikeannie)

This is the film on her Instagram page. Here it is on her YouTube page.

A filmed performance of a spoken word poet, “Dice,” “black dots trapped in a white box,” is a trope for the various traps that constrain black lives behind “a smokescreen of racial equality.”

En Silencio by Charles Olsen (@colsenart)

This is the film on Olsen’s Instagram page. Here’s his website.

Charles Olsen translates his poem from Spanish to English in the comments on his Instagram post: “In silence/water trickles down the bark/Leaves shine/like a flight of fish/and the forest/becomes a black sea/Like you/when we are together.” His spare film consists of close shots of the bark, leaves, and forest described in the poem in superimposed titles, but makes no attempt to depict the black sea of the relationship, which he leaves to our imagination.

Esprit Ya Pouvoire by Vid’or Tampa (@PTPlays)
This is the film on her Instagram page.

Another filmed spoken-word performance, this one in honor of International Women’s Day. The comments on the Instagram post provide a translation of the poem to English: And the one who birthed you./And the one who fed you milk./And the one who made you laugh when sadness got into your heart./And the one who cooked porridge for you./And the one who fed you fufu./And the one who carried you on her back/ in her arms./And the one who stood you up each time you fell./And the one who taught you./And the one who wiped away your tears.
And the one who encouraged you;/Gave you advice./And the one who stands up for you./And the one who makes you laugh./And the one who shows you love./And the one who has faith in you./And the one who beats her chest for you./ And the one who sings for you./Bredrin, look left and look right. /She is there and we are all there. /You have grown up in the spirit of power./Recognise us. 

Kaki by Sheena Baharudin (@sheenabaharudin)
The film as it appears on Naharudin’s Instagram page.

Her comments when she posted the Instagram film: “Today is World Poetry Day! Submitting this bilingual piece for the #instapoetrylib call made by the @nationalpoetrylibrary . Inspired by the Zapin, a traditional Malay dance that focuses on the movement of the feet. Fyi, if the words sound familiar, it’s because this is the performed version of my previous #swipeleftpoetry post. Check them out.”

The tight fixed frame that cannot contain the dancing feet work in dialectic with the poem in what is another meditation on the joys and constraints of motherhood.

Public House by Laurie Bolger (@lauriebolger)

The film on Instagram. Here’s the link to Bolger’s website.

“A little poem about pubs” is how the author described this when she posted it, and it does have the casual feel of a cellphone film.

Love Loving by Sanah Ahsan (@psychology_and_poetry)
Her poem on Instagram.

Another film that documents a poet reading her poem. Sanah comments on her Instagram post, “Tonight has been incredible. I performed a piece that explored culture, mental health and identity as part of an upcoming @bbcthree documentary. Such a BLESSING to listen to and share honest stories about #mentalhealth in the #lgbtcommunity. Thank you for having me.”

Somewhere, Nowhere by Mark J. Rigby @filmmaker_markjrigby
These are the links to the film on his Instagram page; the film was submitted in two parts. This is the link to his website.

In his comments on the Instagram post, Rigby notes that he wrote, performed and directed this film, which he describes as a “spoken word video … borne out of volunteer work for acting and drama workshops centred on homeless and vulnerable adults.” However, he does not film himself reciting his poem, and his piece has more of the feel of a music video.

Southwark Love Song by Claire Trevién (@ctrevien)

The film on her Instagram page. This is her poetry website.

In her comments, Trevién describes her piece as a “#poetryfilm of #foundpoetry collected around Southwark, London Bridge, etc.” This in one of a series of her poetryfilms that find a poem in the camera framing of portions of street signs, names of buildings, advertisement art, and more. The sound is whatever the camera mic records in real time. The technique is tantalizing, and certainly permits the intentional roughness of execution.

MAN by Tommy Evans (@tommya_manevans)

This is the film on #instapoetrylib. I believe this is the film on his Instagram page, although I don’t see either #instapoetrylib or @nationalpoetrylibrary in the comments.

Here is a longer version on his YouTube page; both of the Instagram films appear to be excerpts from the longer work. Here’s a post on his Twitter page about his film being exhibited at the National Poetry Library.

A spoken word poet performance that uses the jarring contrasts between medium shots and tight close-ups to suggest the contradictions in the social construction of masculinity.

We be in No Thing by Jason Kofi-Haye (@surf._ace)

This is the poem as it appears on #instapoetrylib. I could not locate this version on his Instagram page, but there are many variants of this work, which is an instance of a year-long project to use Instagram as a kind of artist’s sketch pad. This tendency to post variants, works-in-progress, and rough drafts is a strategy he uses not only on his Instagram page, but also on his other web and social media sites. To see more examples, search Instagram for #WeBeinNoThing.

And finally, one possible winner who got notified, but apparently wasn’t exhibited:

Receipt for our Romance, by Jade Cuttle (@jadecuttle)

That’s the film as it appears at #instapoetrylib.

The poem is represented as a cash register receipt, which the camera simply scrolls down. I find the technique quite clever, albeit probably unrepeatable.

More information on the National Poetry Library exhibit

There have been four posts on the National Poetry Society website: Instagram poetry; Celebrating Instagram Poetry at National Poetry Library; Instagram poetry is here – find out more in our podcast; and A new generation of poets emerges on Instagram. This last post, in which Jessica Atkinson, the National Poetry Library’s Digital Co-ordinator, discusses four of the Instagram poems included in the exhibition and what makes them stand out, is particularly interesting, since it provides some insight into the curation process.

And finally, stay tuned to the blog at, which promises a review of the exhibition.

For more information about Instagram poets and poetry, here is a brief online bibliography:

Voices of the new ‘Instagram poets’ | Financial Times

The Life of an Instagram Poet | The New Yorker

Why Rupi Kaur and Her Peers Are the Most Popular Poets in the World | New York Times

The Poetry of Instagram | BBC Radio 4

Can Instagram Make Poems Sell Again? | Publishers Weekly

12 Instagram Poets to follow | HuffPost
Is It OK To Make Fun Of Instagram Poets? | Luna Luna Magazine

Instagram poets society: selfie age gives new life and following into poetry | The Guardian

And finally, an interview with Marisa Crane, who says,

I didn’t necessarily mean to cultivate such a large Instagram following. It all happened pretty organically, and I think it helps that I began posting my work right before the boom of Instagram poetry (which is going downhill now, and fast). I can remember sitting on my couch in 2012 reading a poem by Tyler Knott Gregson, which had been typed on a typewriter. He had thousands of likes on a piece that was, in my opinion, pretty basic. Not to say that it wasn’t intriguing or good, but it was short and easily digestible, which made it perfect for people scrolling quickly. I figured I’d take a stab at it, so I began posting some of my shorter poems on my Instagram, which had about 300 followers at the time. I even forgot to put my name under a few of them. For a while, nothing happened, and I didn’t care. I wasn’t posting to become Instagram famous. Then, I think sometime in 2014 some bigger poetry accounts, like Christopher Poindexter, began reposting my work, and it snowballed from there. I don’t particularly enjoy the medium anymore, as I feel that it’s on its way out. Instagram changed their algorithm, and it hurt engagement for a lot of people. I’m basically just riding it out until it becomes null and void.

Read the complete interview on Bekah Steimel’s blog. (Thanks to Dave Bonta for the link.)

There might be something in this: Maybe today everyone wants to be a poet, just like everyone wants to be a filmmaker. But when there are 5,000 submissions to some film festivals for the 60 or 70 spots available for films to be screened, maybe there is also something to be said for being able to post poems or films to social media sites, despite the overwhelming numbers that soon cry out for curation by means other than the viral. I believe Moving Poems is a valuable community in that regard.

Cuerpos de Agua (Water Bodies) by Lilián Pallares

Half videopoem, half music video, this new film from antenablue — director Charles Olsen and poet Lilián Pallares — features Pallares acting and supplying the voiceover together with a musical arrangement of her poem by Nestor Paz and Manuel Madrid from Poesía Necesaria. Be sure to click the closed captioning (CC) icon to access Olsen’s English translation.