thanks for reading other people’s poems!

We have added a new page to acknowledge our volunteer readers at The Poetry Storehouse. This is to gratefully acknowledge those who volunteer to provide audio for poems other than their own.

Every recording up there increases a poem’s chance of being remixed. More than one reading for a single poem is even better, in that it gives the remixer more material to choose from, since different voices and reading styles resonate differently with each remixer. And even where audio is not used in a remix, it plays a valuable role in adding depth to a remixer’s engagement with a piece.

If you would like to volunteer to read at The Poetry Storehouse, leave a comment below, email nic_sebastian at hotmail dot com, or just go ahead and pick a poem, make your recording and send it to Nic. Tips on getting started with audio recording here.

flavors of frabjous

I spend so much time working with other people’s poems that I’m always in a state of low-grade guilt over my own poems, which will very occasionally erupt in a spasm of submitting. Some happy results to report – there are Nic poems forthcoming in Blue Fifth Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review and Frostwriting</a>, and a chapbook manuscript of mine has made the first cut at the fabulous Hyacinth Girl Press. Woot!

Librivox – ‘acoustical liberation of books in the public domain’

Who says community service can’t be fun? After way too much procrastination, I have finally signed up to be a volunteer reader at Librivox, where the goal is to make audio versions of public domain books freely available. It’s quite a process. You have to make and upload a one-minute audio test which meets certain technical requirements and get it cleared by a Librivox administrator. Then they ask that before you try any solo reading you participate in some group readings to get a sense of how things work.

My brand-new Librivox page has two readings on it so far – one a ‘poem of the week’ contribution (they do a group read of one poem a week) and the other, a 1000-word segment of Giacomo Leopardi’s Complete Works, in translation. The latter is a small part of a much bigger group reading and won’t be available for general listening until the entire book is complete, in case you’re wondering. Both selections were totally random (although I do have a soft spot for Leopardi after making a videopoem based on one of his pieces way back when) and were based simply on what was up for grabs when I happened to be looking for something to read.

Now that my Helen in Egypt project is complete, I am looking for the next extended-reading poetry project, and will do it via Librivox. The question is, which public domain book of poetry should I go for? ‘Some Imagist Poets‘ caught my eye up at Project Gutenberg, mainly because it has Amy Lowell and H.D. in it. No idea who the others are, though, apart from Lawrence.

(cross-posted at Voice Alpha)

‘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.