‘Metanoia Lost’ – process notes for a video remix

Poems on big metaphysical themes are some of the most rewarding to work as video remixes, because they leave the visual field wide open and give the remixer real opportunities to insert him or herself into a poem’s narrative and move it forward in complementary but different ways. This lovely poem by Risa Denenberg at The Poetry Storehouse was a case in point. I read it as beautifully capturing one of those devastating moments of big doubt we sometimes encounter.

Which is where it got personal. The belief I try to live by is that we are lying fallow during such bleak periods, and that, their awfulness notwithstanding, they are at the same time periods of underground preparation, restoration and growth. So I went with that approach. I thought rain, with its double connotation of weeping/mourning and of life-inspiring nature, was the perfect backdrop metaphor. I found two ‘rain’ clips that complemented each other once I gave them the same color filter and got a big thrill out of applying the ‘Ken Burns’ effect in my editing program to both. This handy capability makes it look as if a clip actually captured with a static camera was taken with a moving camera. As always, the gliding effect needs to be applied judiciously, but I felt it added just the right element of dynamism to the two background clips.

For the cross-fades, I chose images with very personal connotations for me, but which I thought added the right ‘universal’ overtones of the twin companions, loss and hope. All of them jumped out at me as being ‘right’ as I flipped through my clips library. Ending with the bear family at the end might perhaps be a more upbeat conclusion than originally intended in the piece, but the image was insistent, so I went with it. The soundtrack with its lonely piano and melancholy motif and underlying energy was by Mustafank and really felt like rain to me.

This was a lot of fun. Warm thanks once again to Risa for making her poems available for re-imagination by others at the Poetry Storehouse!

‘You as tunnel’ – process notes for a remix

‘You as tunnel’ a poem from The Poetry Storehouse by Rose Hunter, turned out to be the third remix of an accidental triptych I completed on abusive situations (the first was brother carried the poppies by Theresa Senato Edwards, and the second, Secrets by Ruth Foley.)

It took me more than one reading for this poem too to get at the narrative. After a poem on sexual abuse and one that referenced emotional abuse, I read this one as dealing with domestic violence. The language approach is clipped, condensed and stream-of-consciousness, but the overall impact for me was just as disturbing as the two previous ones.

For the remix, I returned to one of my favorite kinds of imagery – space imagery. I found a series of lovely clips of Jupiter and its moons at Video Blocks, and it didn’t take me long to put my own spin on the story. I re-imagined Jupiter as the brutish abuser around which all pivots, the victim as one of its moons caught in helpless orbit, and the second moon as their dark mutual secret, orbiting with them in silent complicity. With that as the ‘meta’ context, the mannequin clip represented the victim of violence at ground level for me – I saw the mannequin itself as representative of deadening of feeling needed for survival, the sunglasses as having connotations of hiding bruising and of obscuring vision, the headphones as attempt to escape into a different (aural) reality, and the broader head-shaking trajectory of the clip reflecting denial.

The soundtrack was easily picked here – something big and space-y yet with some sense of emotional alarm and general tension, which I found via Eric Hopton at Freesound.

And that’s my own personal take as a remixer on three very different poems, linked in my mind by the nature of the situations they present. Commenting on this latest remix, Sherry O’Keefe said on Facebook: ‘I like the way the video steps beyond and yet beside the images in the poem, reaching and touching what is layered inside Rose’s poem. Very cool.”

I loved that comment (thanks again, Sherry!) because that really is the effect one goes for, and hopes for, whenever one creates any kind of remix.

Thanks again to Rose for sharing her poems at The Poetry Storehouse.

‘Secrets’ – process notes for a video remix

‘Secrets,’ a poem from The Poetry Storehouse by Ruth Foley, turned out to be the second remix of an accidental triptych I completed on abusive situations (the first was brother carried the poppies by Theresa Senato Edwards, and the third You as tunnel by Rose Hunter).

The language of Secrets was slow and rather sensuous, and when I first read it, I took it as the description of a gradual process of discovery, an uncovering, a blooming of sorts. It was only on the second and subsequent reads that I took in the extent to which it was actually a slow process of flaying, and of destruction. Then it struck me as really incredibly violent, and all the more so for being presented in so meditative and lush a fashion.

My initial thought in seeking images for the remix was to follow that suggested by the poem and use fruit – which would end up peeled, denuded and rotting. Unfortunately (or fortunately) no-one seems to film peeled or rotting fruit for stock image purposes, so that idea dead-ended quickly.

I had a wider array of image metaphors available to me than usual, as I had just (finally..) purchased a subscription to Video Blocks, a stock media site which allows unlimited downloads. Exploring the site, I came across a whole category of clips called ‘Slo Mo Breaking Smashing’, which contained a rather wild collection of destruction footage (one can imagine the filming of these clips as basic small boy heaven – baseballs and hammers smashing glass, cheese balls and soda cans dropped into spinning blenders, a bowling ball smashing into a TV, etc).

‘Slo Mo Breaking Smashing’ seemed to me the perfect metaphor for Secrets, one that would complement, while adding to, the experience of the poem. I chose from it a series of clips for the remix, ending with the shock of the smashed light bulb to frame the devastating last line, ‘darkening in your hand.’

For the soundtrack, I used a track appropriately titled ‘A rotten fairytale’ by a Soundcloud member called Mustafank, whose work I had run across in a video elsewhere (wish I could remember where now). It starts with a toy piano solo and moves into an electric guitar solo, with a faux-innocent sinister feel that really makes you think Hansel & Gretel, sweet gingerbread house & related bad things.

Many thanks to Ruth Foley for sharing her poems at The Poetry Storehouse!

‘brother carried the poppies’ – process notes for a video remix

For this haunting poem on abuse by Theresa Senato Edwards, I used both film and still image elements – first time I have combined the two.

For the backdrop of the bleak disastrous relationship, I used darkened stock footage of what was originally a relatively cheerful sunshiney scene of an abandoned house in a field. Once darkened, it looked lonely and empty – a context in which forbidden activity could easily take place unchecked. To begin, end and punctuate the piece, I slowed down and darkened stock footage of a summer lightning storm to represent the abuser.

For the victim, I used a stock still image from StockVault which suggested muffling and suffocation to me. I used the image as a fade-in at three different places in the film, each time adding a different Ken Burns effect to it – panning away, towards, across. The hollow ‘alien drone’ soundtrack was by Speedenza, one of my freesound.org favorites.

Many thanks once more to Theresa for sharing this powerful piece at the Poetry Storehouse.

What happens when a poetry video gets 3,000 plays in 5 days?

The video-maker freaks out, is what happens. This will be the last post I write about viewer stats for still image remixes, but I did want to get this experience down, noting that what has been interesting for me is less the stats themselves than my reaction to them.

As previously recorded, I had already been unsettled by the relatively high numbers of viewers attracted by earlier still image remixes I had done for poems from The Poetry Storehouse (this one and this one in particular). But neither of those came anywhere close to numbers of viewers attracted by Items of Value to a Dying Man (shown above – poem by Kristin LaTour, art by Peter Gric), the response to which just blew me away. Peter Gric was wonderful to work with – open, generous and in no way inclined to control any part of my remix process – but either his terrific art has made him much more famous than I thought, in my near-total ignorance of the art world (I found him by clicking randomly through links and simply emailed him via his website) and/or he has – relative to online poetry networks – a pretty enormous online network.

The video got 1,050 plays on the first day, 1,650 on the second. My original FB posting of the video link got 554 shares after Peter shared it. The video exceeded 3,000 plays today. (As I said before, I am used to the most popular of my poetry videos capturing maybe 40 or 50 views on their first day. Over time – months, sometimes longer – a video may end up with 200 to 300 total views.)

I was delighted of course, but fell into angst at the same time. What did it mean that I had accidentally put together something that led to hundreds of people interacting with a poem they would almost certainly have had no interaction with otherwise? Was I burdened with some heavy new Responsibility to Poetry as a result?

I took my angst to (where else..?) Facebook. Is a poem that is read by and moves 10 people of more value to the world than a poem that is read by and moves 1 person? I posted as my FB status, not even sure if that was in fact the question I was struggling with. The question got traction quickly and, as is usual in the poetry community, thoughtful and helpful responses came quickly (see here for the exchange, although I don’t know if any or all of the conversation is viewable from the outside). It turned out that wasn’t at all the question I needed to ask, and the back and forth over a day or two was very helpful in clarifying my thinking.

I see now that what had been complicated for me by the experience was my sense of my role as showcaser, curator, remixer, presenter of poetry (at The Poetry Storehouse now, at Whale Sound previously). Was I now obliged to take these activities in some different, burdensome, non-fun direction?

What the Facebook exchange clarified for me was that poems are not like the toys in Toy Story. They don’t have a separate, secret life that springs into action whenever their owners are asleep or otherwise absent. A good poem can support a literally infinite number of interactions – living in interaction over and over again through aeons, each time as freshly as the first time. But a poem has no life outside its interaction with people. When they are not being interacted with, poems lie dead in the dark, where they are purposeless, and meaningless.

The role of the curator, remixer or publisher of poetry is to maximize the number of interactions each poem has with people. In the hands of the successful curator/publisher, the poem lives in interaction repeatedly and reaches a higher level of its interaction potential than poems in the custody of less successful handlers.

That’s the role of the curator/publisher in the scheme of things poetry. But it doesn’t have to be their motivation. This is where I got confused. If things go well, more people will interact with poems as a result of my remixing and curating. If things don’t, they won’t. But that’s not why I do what I do. I do what I do because I like voicing poems, I like exploring the technology of putting poems online in different ways, I like the challenge of combining poetry and digital imagery in video, and experimenting with sound.

The additional interactions that occur between poems and people are a happy by-product of my doing what I like to do. But I don’t do it in order to increase the number of those interactions.

And that made me feel so much more relaxed about those viewership stats. Some videos will get 3,000 plays in a few days. Most will be lucky to get 300 plays in a year. Should that influence what I do and how I do it? No.

As artist Kiki Smith said, in a quote I recently encountered via a Twitter feed: “Just do your work. And if the world needs your work it will come and get you. And if it doesn’t, do your work anyway. You can have fantasies about having control over the world, but I know I can barely control my kitchen sink.”

With warmest thanks to the Facebook friends who were so thoughtful and generous in their responses to my original and subsequent questions.

‘Postcards’ and ‘Orchids’ – process notes for still image remixes

These two go together in that they they both grew out of my engagement with the amazing art of Adam Martinakis. I found his art by randomly clicking from Facebook page to Facebook page within the still image online art community (which seems to be enormous – exponentially larger than the online poetry community). Some of the trails led frustratingly nowhere – an artist might post a single picture at a place like the Facebook group An Art a Day. You’d get all excited, go to their Facebook page and find… nothing. No website, no email address, no way to find out anything further about them.

With Adam, I was lucky. I loved his weird and wonderful images as soon as I saw them. His website pictures are downloadable (not everyone is so open, even though the files for online viewing are necessarily quite small), so I was able to download the ones I liked and privately get a good sense of how I might work with them before I asked Adam for permission. He gave it at once, and went so far as to say there was no need for me to clear the final version with him. (I did, though – things work better if you keep folks posted all the way, I find).

Because I upload all the Storehouse poems and also voice a few of them as I upload them, I have lots of them rattling around in my head at any one time. As I looked at Adam’s images, two came quickly to mind – Robert Peake’s Postcards from the War Hospital and Diane Lockward’s Orchids.

I very much liked the audio version Robert had sent along with his meditative poem and wanted to use it. Because so many of Adam’s images are of couples, some very romantic and quite tender, I got the idea of presenting Robert’s poem as a duet – weaving a story in my mind of a nurse and a soldier at the same war hospital perhaps, both deeply familiar with pain, meditating on their situation, perhaps even involved with each other. After I had made the ‘duet’ soundtrack, the images fell into place easily behind it, as did the soundscape – sort of big and hollow and space-ish behind the dialogue, for a mixture of wistfulness and resignation, but without bitterness. Adam’s dramatic ‘Love for Light‘ image was the perfect intro into this piece.

A subset of Adam’s images were more rawly sexual, almost predatory, and these came together in my mind as a great backdrop for Diane’s lush, voluptuous poem about orchids, but not about orchids. The poem is couched as a warning to the predator against obsessive pursuit of the object, and I thought I could present the corollary of that – the vulnerability to exploitation of the object, whether a woman or an orchid in the wild. Adam’s image of the falling girl in a fetal position wrapped in gold foil struck me as exquisitely vulnerable and a wonderful way to wrap up this ‘story’.

I was happy with both pieces and after running them by Adam, published them this weekend. And now here’s an interesting tale about the relative online size/reach of the still image art community as compared to the online poetry community:

I had had some experience of how wide-reaching the still image art community’s networks are the previous week, when I had published a still image remix featuring a poem by Traci Brimhall (‘The Blessing’) and wonderful artwork by the generous Steven DaLuz. I am used to the most popular of my poetry videos capturing maybe 40 or 50 views on their first day (and that is pretty rare). Over time – months, sometimes years – a video may end up with 200 to 300 total views, and continue picking up the odd additional view here and there over time.

After both Steven and Adam linked to their respective videos, however, views for both went through the roof. ‘The Blessing’ got 220 views on its first day, and ‘Postcards’ got 248. After two days, ‘Postcards’ is at 334 views and ‘The Blessing’, after a week, is at 320 views. In just a few days they have overtaken all of my other videos in terms of views, with the sole exception of the most-viewed favorite, William Carlos Williams’ ‘This is just to say‘. I uploaded that one a year ago and it now stands just barely ahead at 352 total views.

Make of all that what you will…

‘The Worlds Revolve’ – process notes for a still image remix

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.

‘Shift’ – process notes for a video remix

Funnily enough, I came across the terrific Black Widow film I used for this video at archive.org just after finishing the previous piece, Spiders. As I like to do with footage I think I may use at some point, I imported it into iMovie, detached the audio, edited it down to the bits I found the most striking, and saved it in my ‘wildlife’ clips folder. Even if I didn’t use it right away, I would have the basic edited footage ready to go on another occasion, I thought.

As it turned out, watching the movie without narration during the editing process infused me with a sharp sense of the slightly sinister cyclical primal urges that drive birth, metamorphosis and re-birth in all living things (bears, spiders, people – we are all shape-shifters ipso facto, are we not?). The feeling was so strong and clear that I went looking for a Storehouse poem on its basis, and lighted on Dave Bonta’s Shift. It was a simple matter then to edit the footage down a little further to fit the overall length of the poem. The soundtrack accompaniment was a little harder to find, but I selected the piano composition in the end because I liked its sense of urgency and quick industry, its almost mindless forward movement, as well as its ‘lightness’ – a sort of counterpart to the relatively more sinister forces at work in the video, I thought.

A friendly critic whose judgment I trust said they felt the poem-footage combination in this case is ‘too high concept’ and I understand what they mean – it is indeed quite a stretch. I’ve stayed with it as it is for the moment, though, thinking that I might at some point try another combination for both the poem and the film. That’s the fun of this process – endless possibilities for combination and recombination and reinvention at every turn.

Thanks to Dave for contributing his work to The Poetry Storehouse. As always, we warmly encourage other remixers to visit the Storehouse and get creative with its contents.

Visit the Poetry Storehouse Vimeo page to see all Storehouse-based video and still image remixes.

‘Spiders’ – process notes for a video remix

This was one piece for which I had no clear idea when I started. Sometimes I think when poets submit their work to The Poetry Storehouse they tend to choose pieces they consider very ‘visual,’ with a vague idea that a film-maker will naturally choose to reify their original vision in the poem with matching film imagery. And that is certainly one way to approach poetry film-making. Like many others, however, I prefer to come at poems slant-wise – to avoid ‘literal’ translations and create a separate, stand-alone visual interpretation.

So I knew that in this case, I couldn’t use actual spider footage. Finding out what I could use started with voice. After having fun with this multilingual Tower of Babel voice approach, I realized that whispering is yet another variation on voice. So I made two recordings of Spiders (both now up at the Storehouse, with the two other readings already up there for this piece), one regular and one whispered.

Initially I thought I might somehow blend all four readings, but it became quickly apparent that differences in pacing and recording quality between the audio versions would make that too complicated. Then I thought I would try and blend my regular voice and the whispered version, but decided to leave actual blending until I had an idea of what images I would use. So I went flipping through my crazily random clips collection, with the sound and thought of the poem in my mind as I did so. After a while, two came together – this clip of wildflowers at sunset from OrangeHD and this eye clip from xStockVideo. As I’ve said before, I tend to recycle clips and sounds that stay with me, and that eye clip is definitely one of them. (Used twice before – for a Randy Adams poem and for a Cesare Pavese poem.)

Once I’d got the wildflowers piece in place with the eye fading in and out behind it, it all looked surreptitious and sightly sinister, that set the stage perfectly for the whispered version on its own.. and there we were.

Thanks to Kristine for contributing her work to The Poetry Storehouse. As always, we warmly encourage other remixers to visit the Storehouse and get creative with its contents.

Visit the Poetry Storehouse Vimeo page to see all Storehouse-based video and still image remixes.

‘What you don’t know won’t hurt you’ – process notes for a video remix

This process went much like the one for the ‘Sandburg & Photograph’ remix I worked on recently. I found the footage of a miniature house being drowned by a flooding ‘river’ in the 35mm stock footage section at Archive.org.

I found the clip oddly haunting to watch. And like the rearview mirror clip, it struck me as metaphorically powerful and complete in itself. All I had to do was find the right poem in the Storehouse collection to match with it, and it didn’t take me long to decide on Anne Higgins’ incantatory poem in terzanelle (?I’m hopeless with form) format. A slow build-up of the consequences of neglect, ending in tragedy – I thought the metaphorical match was perfect and all the more so for the simplicity of the footage. Poet and film-maker Sara Mithra left a kind comment on the video at the Vimeo site, which I thought nailed it exactly:

“Gorgeous single-cut (continuous) film… What I like is that immediately, the image contradicts the title of the poem, as the viewer knows that the “river” beyond the levy will flood the house and sweep it away. Moving inevitably towards the destruction builds a beautiful tension with the woman moving, tumor-like, towards her own destruction.”

Thanks once again to Anne for contributing her work to The Poetry Storehouse. As always, we warmly encourage other remixers to visit the Storehouse and get creative with its contents.

Visit the Poetry Storehouse Vimeo page to see all Storehouse-based video remixes.

Read ‘Helen in Egypt’ aloud, all the way through – check

In April 2013, I decided to try and read H.D.’s Helen in Egypt aloud, all the way through, and started uploading readings over at Voice Project: ‘Helen In Egypt’. Today, just shy of a year later, I uploaded the last reading and accomplished my objective. I read it in segments, over many months, and while I tried to keep recording conditions and delivery consistent throughout, there are inevitable variations in both at various points, which I hope any listeners the project may attract will forgive. The book may be listened to or downloaded in individual segments – by its three large sections, by individual books in those sections, or by individual parts in those books.

I was inspired to undertake the reading by this post at the Poetry Foundation, in which the author talks about how voicing, recording, and listening to poems he really wanted to get to know took the experience of ‘knowing’ a poem to a whole new level for him. Which sounds exactly right, and there is no question that I have had an entirely different engagement with and experience of Helen in Egypt through reading it aloud in so deliberate a fashion.

My warm thanks to the folks at New Directions Publishing Corporation, agents for the Schaffner Family Foundation, for blessing the project.

‘Love in the Age of the EU’ – process notes for a video remix

Continuing the emphasis on creating voice mosaics, a wonderful opportunity. The Zebra Poetry Film Festival has chosen this German poem as a feature in its contest this year, inviting entries of poetry films based on the German original, or on one of the various translations provided on the site. The challenge caught my attention after Marc Neys put together a wonderful video using the German reading by the poet from the Lyrikline website.

Right away, I knew I wanted to try and create a multi-lingual voice mosaic. Excited, I emailed a few contacts overseas, thinking that it would be great to create a soundtrack blending the voices of a Spanish-speaker, a French-speaker, and a German-speaker. Unfortunately, someone was on travel, someone had a cold, and someone else didn’t feel they could do the project justice, and I came up empty.

Disappointed but not disheartened, I decided to read the poem in French and Spanish myself. Certainly, I would be inflicting a patently foreign accent on those versions, but the foreigner/alien theme was inherent in the poem, and at least I would get an even technical quality of recording across all three versions, and could work with the material without worrying about how a contributor might feel about the final product.

So I recorded each of the three versions separately, as I normally make such recordings – making couple of versions of each and then editing down to a single version in Audacity.

Then came the fun part. I was clear about the format of the soundtrack from the beginning – the intro would be a Tower of Babel-ish sound mosaic, with all three soundtracks fading in simultaneously at equal volume levels. Then the simultaneous three-part rendering would start again, but this time with one language aurally highlighted for each of the poem’s three stanzas.

I was happy with the result, in large part from the joy of introducing variables and possibilities of combination and recombination into the voice element of the video, which usually gets fairly one-dimensional treatment and consideration.

The video element came together quickly once the voice element was complete, and the images were driven by what seemed to me the rather bleak and pessimistic feel of the poem itself. Again, no people, but images from my collection of random downloads from various video clip websites. I tend to revisit and re-purpose video clips that resonate with me and have used both the Pluto landscape and the angel statue in previous projects, although the marvelous clip of a spider packaging a fly for consumption is new.

Previous post on voice mosaics here.

‘This Long Winter’ – process notes for a video remix

‘This Long Winter’ is based on a poem submitted to The Poetry Storehouse by Kristin LaTour.

This continues my interest in multi-voiced projects. Like poem-making, videopoetry-making is a binding/weaving process, a deliberate or serendipitous blending of disparate things (words, images, sound) that were not linked before. Since voice is for me a hugely prominent element of the process, I continue to look for ways to create voice duets, voice dialogues, voice mosaics. In this previous project, for example, I used my middle-school son’s voice along with mine; in this one, I joined a recording made by Dick Jones with one of mine; while in this one, I mixed the voices of four readers from the wonderful non-profit LibriVox site. The challenges with the multi-voice process are two-fold: 1) identifying recordings that speak to the poem in a way that works for me and 2) credibly blending recordings of differing technical quality.

I thought Kristin’s touching ‘he said / she said’ poem lent itself well to dialogue format and since I liked Jonathan Lu’s Storehouse reading, I made a separate recording of my own, then blended the two. I sent my first take (in which our voices alternated couplets until the last one was split between us) to Jonathan for comment, and he suggested what became the final arrangement, in which we alternated the first four couplets, then split the last few between us.

Once the hybrid voice track was complete, I looked for appropriate imagery and it didn’t take me long to decide on the rather sad rainy day clip series I had found at OrangeHD.com (a site that offers very random free clips for download). Going for a lonely, melancholy feel, I slowed the clips down slightly and added a ‘Sci-Fi’ video effect to the clips in iMovie, which gave them a pale green flattishness that I liked. I quickly decided on the jazz track, which again felt melancholy to me and helpfully full of wistful connotations that I thought rounded off the experience nicely.

Thanks once again to Kristin for contributing her work to The Poetry Storehouse, and to Jonathan for the reading. As always, we warmly encourage other remixers to visit the Storehouse and get creative with its contents.

Visit the Poetry Storehouse Vimeo page to see all Storehouse-based video remixes produced to date.

‘Sandburg and Photograph’ – process notes for a video remix

‘Sandburg and Photograph’ is based on a poem submitted to The Poetry Storehouse by Lennart Lundh. For this one, I started with the footage and then searched for the poem.

One of the challenges for a videopoem maker not yet handy with his or her own camera (that would be me) is finding video footage that a) works and b) is copyright-free and c) is either free or inexpensive. There are a few sites (eg Motion Elements or OrangeHD) that put up video clips for free use, and I trawl them regularly, downloading and saving footage against future need. The clip subjects are super-odd and almost comically random and nearly always fall in the ‘you never know’ category.

In this case, I found a series of shots taken of and through the side rear view mirror of a car. They struck me as metaphorically powerful and I went back through the Storehouse poems, deliberately looking for one which would match the metaphor. Lennart’s elegantly tragic simple/complicated piece, with its telescoping rearward/forward depiction of time and space jumped out at me very quickly.

I had to slow down the clip a little to make it long enough, but that only helped with the atmosphere, I thought. I also reversed the clip (wonder if anyone noticed!) to add even more body to the shifting space-time metaphor. The ‘alien’ soundscape I used had one of my favorite aural themes (monk-chant!) and I felt it effectively added to the overall otherworldly time-travel feeling.

This was a simple project, with no image layering and using only one clip, but I was not tempted to add anything else, especially given the complexity already offered by this deceptively simple poem.

Thanks once again to Lennart for contributing his work to The Poetry Storehouse. As always, we warmly encourage other remixers to visit the Storehouse and get creative with its contents.

Visit the Poetry Storehouse Vimeo page to see all Storehouse-based video remixes.

‘Francine Learns’ – process notes for a video remix

Francine Learns How to Open His Heart with Her Teeth‘ is based on a poem submitted to the Storehouse by Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick. This remix didn’t work for everyone, but I continue to be fond of it.

To me, Shannon’s poem was a sad and vulnerable piece that still managed to carry a steely hint of future menace. It gave me a sense of waiting, of preparation, of trapped potential and latent emotional power amidst current pain. It took me a while to decide what sort of images I might use with it.

I rarely use footage of actual people in my video work, and prefer, for example, to use clips that focus on a hand, an eye, or on feet, rather than footage that depicts a whole identifiable person. Why? Not sure yet – it’s a question I continue to consider. But I definitely like to use stylized representations of people (the robotic alien figure in this piece was a terrific find, for example), so I was excited to find the robot lady on Equiloud’s free clips site. I liked her immobility combined with the elements orbiting steadily around her, which gave me a sense of something purposefully ‘cooking’ underneath.

Along with robot lady, I wanted something gritty and earthy as a second, grounding element, and went with a US National Park Service B-roll clip of a rocky mountain ridge – high, rarefied, barren, but with latent potential and a purposeful arc of movement towards a dangerous-looking cliff edge. I chose three images (a pulsing red heart-chamber lookalike thingy, a fomenting space-ball cascade, a barbed wire silhouette) to layer behind the two grounding elements, then brought those two main elements together at the end with another weird and wonderful Equiloud confection – bright, metallic, morphing – and another purposeful robot lady image.

For the voice, I used my own reading as I tend to do, since reading and recording a poem is where the ‘making’ process really starts for me. Initially, I added reverb to the voice using the Garageband reverberation tool, but edited that out subsequently as a bit much. For general aural background I used a favorite soundtrack – a wild keening/ululating solo voice that for me hit that ‘trapped potential’ theme again.

Overall, a fairly complex endeavor for me with many moving parts, and I had to cut and lengthen and shift clips and sound in many iterations to get it all quite where I wanted it. But the work was lots of fun, as always!

Thanks once again to Shannon for contributing her work to The Poetry Storehouse. As always, we warmly encourage other remixers to visit the Storehouse and get creative with its contents.

Visit the Poetry Storehouse Vimeo page to see all Storehouse-based video remixes.

important imposing interesting beautiful

Anything one does every day is important and imposing and anywhere one lives is interesting and beautiful.

So said Gertrude Stein and I keep coming back to this line as to the border of a new country, as to a world inside a grain of sand.

It’s so easy to undervalue almost any activity with that creeping, unspoken but pervasive belief that one should always be somewhere else, doing something else.

As I get older though it’s becoming easier – and how sweet and relieving it is – to really believe that the most important thing in the world is what I have chosen to do now, right now.

business presentation software: a great tool for poetry remixes

Here’s something fun I’ve been working on for The Poetry Storehouse. Making videopoems using film footage is a lot of fun, but I’ve always wanted to do more with still images. Until now, I thought one was limited to power point-ish slide shows, which lack nearly all the dynamism of video. Enter Prezi, the business presentation software with a ‘Zooming User Interface’ which offers quite a different presentation experience.

This presentation was put together using a poem by David Sullivan from The Poetry Storehouse and wonderful images by Donna Kuhn (thank-you for letting me use them, Donna!). Go here to view the presentation. If you know how to use Prezi, you’ll be fine. If you don’t, it’s easy enough, but here are some basics:

- Once content has loaded, set screen to ‘full screen’
– then EITHER start the presentation by clicking on the right-pointing arrow (you can then click through all the frames at your own pace)
– OR set the presentation to ‘autoplay’ by clicking on the little clock in the bottom right-hand corner and choosing your preferred interval length between frames

Appreciate any feedback you care to leave – this is a first for me and am sure there are a million ways to improve the experience.

a wedding ring inside, another flute, a moon, an advocate

More remixing fever based on Poetry Storehouse submissions, this time ‘Stopping’ by Dick Jones. I tried for a voice collage, with Dick’s voice and mine, sort of like the four-voice collage I worked on for Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven (not a Storehouse poem).

In other excellent remixing news, Marc Neys made this beautiful video based on a Peter Ciccariello poem from the Storehouse. Such a beautiful, unexpected study – tender and touching, with so many hints and textures, perfect in black and white, with that evocative soundscape. I found it very moving.