‘you never thought’ – videopoem

you never thought
by Nic Sebastian

you never thought
that I could rear so high and bite
your head off your shoulders like
puffed corn that I could grab
your life like some

shirt from the dryer snap
shake out your life fold it so
small drop it off so
easily at the thrift store

striding by
on my high long legs
for Jupiter

Animation: Sterling Sheehy
Music: ‘Reverence’ by Vospi and the Tunguska Electronic Music Society.

OK, this was awesome fun! I remembered that in Tom Konyves’ videopoetry manifesto, he categorized videopoems according to their usage of text, with two key distinctions drawn between sound text and visual text. (He also asserted that visual text is ‘charged with leading’ the videopoetry genre, although I’m not sure I agree with that.) I realized that what with Whale Sound and Voice Alpha and now this interest in videopoetry, I’ve been engaged with ‘sound’ text almost exclusively for months now. The idea of making a videopoem without voice and with only visual text was therefore appealing.

The quest for footage is never-ending. After having fun with Claus-Dieter Schulz‘s wonderful animation, which I used in part for yesterday’s Gabriel in Love , I began looking for material that was similarly abstract and came across Red Opus by artist Sterling Sheehy , and asked him for permission to use it. I initially thought I would write something in response to the footage, but after watching it several times, I decided I already had the perfect poem – you never thought, from Forever Will End On Thursday. To me the poem and the animation had the same sense of hustle and energy and kinetic making/unmaking/remaking. Red Opus is only 48 seconds long, so it didn’t take long to break up the text, place it, and animate it along that length. Then to the archives of the Tunguska Electronic Music Society at Jamendo for a similarly hustling piece that had the same feel (I swear they have a piece of music for every mood and have become my music source of choice). I particularly liked the way the animation at times looked like wacky piano keys, right when the music itself was at its wackiest piano-ness.

So there it is. I’m using Windows Live Movie Maker, so the text animation possibilities are fairly basic. I suppose one of these days I’m going to have to get serious about my movie-editing software.

‘Gabriel in love’ – videopoem


‘Gabriel in love’
by Nic Sebastian

granite tunnels do not scare her
nor does the hot streaking
of any blood

she knows the heft and scent
of the lines by which monsters
track her

her name is insistence
gates open at her will
questions follow her
like locust swarm

she has no need of the ground
beneath her feet
she fears neither cold
nor solitude

she is solitude
and cold, she is blue water
flooding, poison moonlight
in your veins

she wakes the ancestors
of your dreams in all their rage
she raises blue rain
and black leaves, heavy stars
of white ice

she is bright woven, Gabriel
a straight-flying dagger

and you, Gabriel, are simple fountains
of rainbow blood, mere castles
of fairytale pain

first published at Canopic Jar

Camera: C.D. Schulz & Martin Gurtner @machinima-studios.com

Music: ‘Pulsar’ by Max Loginov and the Tunguska Electronic Music Society

This footage made me happy for its abstraction.

‘this time next year’ – videopoem


this time next year
by Nic Sebastian

your name is Ladislaus
you will come to me

as small black boat
on thirst-red sea

your sail made of hurricane
and bougainvillea

I will ask you

for September
for the tight promises

sold by the daughters
of the equinox

and you will grin at me
in your morning

handsome way
pass me cowrie shells

and solstices

Footage: ‘Discovery of Kepler-16b’ by NASA
Music: ‘Crotalinae’ by Xcentric Noizz and the Tunguska Electronic Music Society

This time I wrote the poem first then went looking for footage and ended up on the NASA website again (which is where I got the moon footage in this one). Happy that it’s only 57 seconds long. I wish there were more ‘abstract’ footage out there. Everything I find seems to be so definite and concrete. It occurred to me that I should perhaps submit the poem for publication before posting it here, but I realized at the same time that I’ve completely run out of energy for that whole submission dynamic, so I’m going to have me some lazy time.

vpoem #3

This third effort is another ekphrastic response to free footage I happened to stumble upon. XStockvideo has about 250 short HD stock footage clips about which the site says:

“Download as much as you want. No fees, no catch, unlimited downloads. Here you can find that perfect little freebie for your next project. All the videos are free to download and free to use in your projects for commercial or personal use.”

As I did with Hubble artists’ impressions for vpoem #2, I downloaded several clips that visually appealed to me and wrote the poem for them. Different colors of ‘smoke’, different views of goldfish and different views of a wine glass made a nice way to introduce and then restate themes & characters and helped unify the whole. As with the last one, once I had the footage in front of me, the text pretty much wrote itself. The guitar music is Shy Dreams by XL Funky at Sound Cloud (whom I first discovered via Dave Bonta in his recent videopoem, Reprieve).

we have a videopoem triptych!

45 responses to the videopoem triptych call for submissions! We were staggered. But very happy. And some really wonderful work came our way. Thank you so much to everyone who submitted – we’re only sorry we were looking for just three poems.

We’ve decided to do a three-poet triptych – our awesome finalists are Donna Vorreyer, David Tomaloff and Lisa Cihlar. Thanks, guys!

More process notes later, but I did want to share the rejection letter we came up with, because it highlighted so much that was unique to me in both the call for work and the process of selection:

Dear Poet X – Many thanks for your submission to the videopoem triptych project. Unfortunately, your poems have not been selected for inclusion in the first triptych. This is a unique project and we have had to consider submissions simultaneously as ‘voice’, as ‘film’ and as ‘music.’ Our final decision says little about the quality of your poems, but a great deal more about the combinination of our own personal aesthetics as reader, film-maker and musician. We are honored to have received your submission and thank you for sending your poems in.

More later, and again, thanks so much to everyone who sent work in.

‘let me tell you about yourself’ – vpoem #2

Continuing the flavor of my moment, here’s my second attempt at a videopoem. Sadly, I’ve discovered what those of you doing this regularly already know – that finding footage you a) are allowed to use and b) want to use is no mean feat, particularly if you are not yourself handy with a videocamera. This fact alone will probably seriously cramp my future as a videopoemographer. But ok.

The footage for this piece is courtesy of the wonderful artists at the Hubble website. In their video gallery they have numerous segments labeled ‘artist’s impressions’ of various space phenomena. Some of these are truly breathtaking (even if one doesn’t have a clue what they mean scientifically).

So I greedily downloaded a bunch and was getting ready to try and find a poem to frame the footage, when I realized that the footage had already begun writing a screenplay for itself in my head. This is the end result (kinda obvious for a space theme, but hey): one of those catch-all poems with a smart-ass title addressed to god/muse/lover, or all of the above. (Now I think about it, sort of a PS to Dark and Like A Web, which had a bunch of that kind of poem in it.)


— writing a poem for a ‘performance’ such as this is not the same as writing a poem for the page. I don’t have much patience for snobbish ‘page’ poets who look down on ‘stage’ poets, but – honestly? I like this poem as words and film and music all together, but you’ll notice I’m not linking to the text separately, anywhere.

— it’s total fun writing. First you have all these different film segments that you have to arrange so they tell some kind of story, whether narrative or emotional or pictorial or whatever. Then you have to decide what poetic ‘point’ you would like to make for each segment. Then you have to write your poem so you can make that point in the same length of time as that of the good footage you want to use. Some segments may be only 10 seconds long, others 25, etc etc. Silences are good helpers here (I’m a big fan in general of space & silence while reading), but you can’t go over the top with them either.

— which is more fun: writing for footage or finding someone else’s poem for footage? Neither! Both! I’d go for either.