One often sees art or photography paired with poems in online and print journals, and it’s a beautiful practice. As with any creative process, it brings disparate elements together to create a third something – a tension, a dialogue, a new perspective. I have wondered on and off for a while how to bring this process to The Poetry Storehouse.
Browsing through online art collections over time, with this poem or that in mind, it became clear to me that any given poem of itself makes selections from a collection of images, if you already discern a broad relationship between the overall image ‘type’ and the poem. So that, looking at a collection with a specific poem in mind, one finds oneself easily selecting half-a-dozen to a dozen images that tell the story of the poem in what seems to you a ‘related’ fashion. For me, this closely resembles the way I select film footage to use in video remixes, with the added advantage that all the ‘footage’ is collected in one place for easy browsing.
Add to that a most nifty capability that ever-user-friendly iMovie provides – the Ken Burns effect, which allows you to change the cropping of a still image over time – starting focused on a small detail, then over several seconds ending up with the whole image visible, for example. There is an actual button labeled ‘Ken Burns’ in iMovie, and it’s quite magical to me. The directional and focal possibilities it offers are almost endless, while being able to control the specific length of time each individual image processes and the transitions between images makes for dynamic possibilities that go far beyond a standard ‘slide show.’
Another key advantage is that this showcasing process allows a radically different poetry to image ratio. In most journals that pair art images and poetry, the ratio is usually one image to one poem. With the still image remix process, however, the poem becomes a single central element around which 6-12 images orbit, each one touching, informing, enhancing an aspect of the language as it goes by. It’s all endlessly fascinating.
The process of deciding how the poem is voiced and selecting a soundtrack is pretty much the same as with regular video remixes.
For this particular remix, I have long been a fan of Peter Ciccariello’s extraordinary digital images, which are so lush and dense and detailed – each a full narration in itself. After a session getting steeped with Peter’s images, I went to the Storehouse to see what might match up and soon found Bernard Henrie’s edgy dystopian piece with its evocative T.S. Eliot quote title. I took it back to the images, and had soon culled nine images that I felt worked well with the poem. Thereafter, the whole thing assembled itself quickly, enabling me to get Peter’s ok to use the images. I started out with a conventional solo piano soundtrack, but got called out on that as a ‘too easy’ choice by a friendly critic I consulted. I changed it to a less facile choice and Bob was your uncle…
Warm thanks to Peter and Bernard for being part of this experience – I’ve learned a lot and look forward to more!
See all video and still image remixes based on poems from the Storehouse at the Poetry Storehouse Vimeo page.