News and views about videopoetry and filmpoetry, plus some of the best poetry videos on the web.

Moving Poems weekly digest

Upcoming poetry-film screenings: Minneapolis, Edinburgh, Lublin and London

May 21 in Minneapolis
Motionpoems Season 6 World Premiere.

Two screenings: 6:00pm and 8:00pm with a half-hour panel discussion taking place after the 6 pm screening. Each screening will last less than 60 minutes and will be hosted by Motionpoems Artistic Director Todd Boss and MPR ‘movie maven’ Stephanie Curtis. Many featured poets and filmmakers will be on hand. It’ll be a night of great poetry brought to cinematic life!

May 24 in Edinburgh

Filmpoem Festival Fifteen at Hidden Door.

Filmpoem Festival 15 will be an open­-ended series of events and screenings. After our successful Antwerp festival in 2014, we are working this year with The Poetry Society and a series of universities and poetry festivals, presenting Filmpoem’s established mix of poetry­film, live film performance, poets, filmmakers, and discussions.

May 28 in Lublin, Poland

A screening of films from the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival as part of Festiwal Miasto Poezji (City of Poetry Festival).

June 13 in London

Mahu in Video at the Hardy Tree Gallery.

The emerging medium of poetry film or cinepoetry, crossing poetic principles with video art has often been overtaken by limited, dualistic collaborations. This evening aims to screen the more complex understandings of this new potentiality, another weapon in the pocket of the contemporary poet – the moving image. Co-curated by Dave Spittle & Gareth Evans
– Films from Joshua Alexander, David Kelly-Mancaux, Simon Barraclough, Caroline Alice Lopez, Robert Herbert McClean & more

June 21 in London

PoetryFilm Solstice at The Groucho Club.
Submissions are now being considered for this event, the post says. Here are the guidelines.

Please note that, contrary to what I had previously suggested here, the Laugharne Castle Poetry and Film Festival does NOT appear to be happening this year. (I had mis-read the website.)

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Sonnet 29 by William Shakespeare

“In disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,” a reincarnated Bard finds inspiration outside the Old Town Bar at Union Square, Manhattan. John Hayden directed this film for The Sonnet Project. Tom Degnan is the lead actor.

The background information on the sonnet’s page at the website includes this interesting tidbit:

The feeling of uselessness, outcasting, and disgrace in this poem is thought to be related to the 1592 closing of London playhouses as [a] result of an outbreak of the plague, causing Shakespeare and other actors to live with small wages, and be looked upon as filthy by town society.

Also, click the “actor” tab there for more information about Degnan than either IMdB or Wikipedia currently provide.

Needless to say, if Shakespeare were alive today, he’d be writing screenplays for television, and probably penning rap lyrics in his spare time.

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I Would Like to Go On A Bike Ride by Denise Newman

A minimalist, author-made videopoem:

Images and initial sound by Denise Newman
Singing by Dame Joan Sutherland “Rose Softly Blooming” from the opera Zemira and Azor

Newman, who also teaches college undergraduates, has somehow managed to get snails to collaborate on videopoems. I asked her how she did it, and she replied:

Aren’t those snails talented? No training and it only took one shot. I worked with other snails after that but had to become a “snail whisperer” to get them to cooperate.

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555 by Ross Sutherland

This is #29 in Ross Sutherland‘s “30 Videos/30 Poems” digital residency at The Poetry School. His description at Vimeo reads:

The relationship between screens and metaphor seemed like a good way to bring this residency towards a close.

How does TV like to portray itself? Short answer: usually as an oracle of some kind, or as a device to show a character’s inner thoughts. It’s right up there with “tortured protagonist looks in a cracked mirror.”

Although I know I’ve seen it a hundred times, these scenes are hard things to seek out on the web. If anyone can name any more, please comment below! I’d like to make a super-cut someday.

(Comment at Vimeo, not here, if you have suggestions for Ross.)

I wonder if anyone’s ever used footage of people watching videopoetry in a videopoem? Now that would be meta!

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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.

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One Story by Cristina Norcross

This Swoon (Marc Neys) film for a Poetry Storehouse poem by Cristina Norcross remixes footage from kenji kawasawa and Colby Moore. Swoon’s blog post about the film includes an interesting reaction from the poet:

Our lives are separate, yet we are bonded – part of an organic whole. Perhaps we are becoming more and more isolated. I would like to believe that there is hope for us to find common ground – to rediscover the beauty of our human connection.

When I first sat down to write the poem, “One Story,” I was actually in the middle of watching Charlie Kaufman’s film, Synecdoche, New York (2008), with Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The dialogue and concept of the film struck a chord with me, and I was unable to wait until the end, to start writing down thoughts. I was transfixed by the notion of how our separateness and isolation is actually a dream.

We are all one. We are all part of the same story. From this seed, I fleshed out images of people I knew or people I had seen on the street. The actress learning her lines on a threadbare couch, sitting on hope, was (and still is) me and my fellow poet, artist, songwriter friends. We are all dreaming about having our ideas take shape – having them take flight.

When I found out that Marc Neys was developing a video remix for my poem, I was quite excited to see how he would interpret the words through the lens of film, images, and music. From the first glimpse, I was captivated by the balloons and mesmerized by the atmospheric sounds and voices underneath the recording of my poem. Each time I view the film, I see more details that have meaning for me. Marc truly captures the bustling, city feeling of many individuals sharing space. He also skillfully conveys how each person is unique. Each balloon finds its own direction, and yet at the end, the balloons form concentric circles. There is a never-ending string that connects us. We belong to one another. You are those feet drifting back and forth in the hammock. You are the father holding a toddler on your shoulders. These images are a glimpse and a gift. Even the very end of the film leaves an echo of how we connect: “What is your name? Mary? That is beautiful. That is a beautiful name.”

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Tom Konyves at Poetryfilmkanal on “Redefining poetry in the age of the screen”

Poetryfilmkanal have just launched a new series of short, guest-contributed commentaries on “the fascination of poetry-film,” beginning with the Canadian videopoetry pioneer Tom Konyves. I found his essay, “Redefining poetry in the age of the screen,” admirably clear and precise. He begins by discussing semantics, anticipating, I think the usual objection from British and German commentators that film is better word than video.

Man Ray’s »cinépoème« and Maya Deren’s »filmpoem« sang the praises of film at a time when commercial/entertainment ventures first threatened the aesthetic potential of the new art form of film; it was not about exploring a new form for poetry. In the early ’80s, William C. Wees recognized that the use of poems had become prevalent in short films; he differentiated these »poetry-films« from »film poems«, i.e. poetic films, including films without words. Substituting »video« for »film« effectively deflected the »mystique« of celluloid from the conversation.

Konyves also suggests that terms in which poetry follow rather than precede film- or video- are preferable if you want to give primacy to the poetry rather than to the film. This is certainly true for English, where word-order plays a key role in semantics. Given how international and multilingual poetry-film and videopoetry have become, however, I think it’s incumbent on all of us who think critically about the genre(s) to try to understand how a poetry-first or film-first emphasis might best be expressed in each language.

In the second part of the essay, Konyves strikes a distinctly conciliatory, even ecumenical tone for someone best known in recent years for a manifesto:

Similarly, not all texts, including written-poems, can be expected to produce a desired new meaning when juxtaposed with images. If the written-poem was originally perfect, it would not need to be completed with images. Yet videos are made to promote these written-poems and are most worthwhile; otherwise these poems would not reach a wide public. Their »meaning« is not intended to change nor will it change in a visual context.

I’m not sure I agree that there’s such a thing as a perfect, finished poem, and therefore I like to imagine that it might be possible for a true videopoem to be made with any poetic text. But that’s kind of an absolutist position, I guess, and could easily be used to devalue films/videos that are simply made to promote poems, rather than recognizing them as equally worthwhile as Konyves does.

Brief as it is, I found the essay thought-provoking. Regular visitors to Moving Poems won’t be surprised to hear that I very much agree with Konyves’ over-all emphasis on videopoetry as poetry. My own, upcoming essay in this series will be much sloppier in its terminology, I’m afraid. In part, that’s because of my role as a blogger/curator rather than a theorist or critic: I tend to accept whatever terms poets and filmmakers themselves use for their creations. But I do fear that my use of “videopoetry” as the catch-all category at Moving Poems has muddied things a bit.

Fortunately, we have Tom Konyves to step forward periodically and clarify things as only he can. Go read.

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