voice, with text (or text, with voice)

In poetry videos based on page poems, the most frequently used vehicle for the poem’s words is voice. Less frequently, but not unusually, text alone is the word vehicle. Sometimes, film-makers use voice and text simultaneously, reproducing the words of the poem in duplicate, as it were – with voice and text narrating the poem in unison.

With Winter in Eden, a Poetry Storehouse video based on a poem by Robert Schultz, I wanted to try using both text and voice, while allowing each a distinct and separate role in conveying the words of the poem, each a separate role in advancing the poem’s narrative.

I used Motion 5 to generate the text and imported the result into iMovie as transparent overlays. The challenge was to find a way to bind the double-but-separate narrative – one visual and one aural – so the narration overall felt cohesive and unified. I used two different types of ‘glue’ for this. One was an ‘echo’ effect, where voice or text would pick up selective bits of the other’s narrative after it had been ‘spoken’ by the other. The other was a double soundtrack – one a blizzardy wind effect and the other a single violin/piano motif.

found poem – minecraft!

My 14-year-old son plays Minecraft online with one of his classmates, each in their own home. They wear headphones with mikes to talk to each other and I only hear one side of the conversation. Some of what I heard last night:

where are you Elliott
oh I think I know where you are
there’s a spider chasing you
don’t try to kill it
just run just run
what happened
I think we have to build another house
where are you Elliott
I don’t know where you are
are you on top of the mountain
oh there you are
ow ow wtf
what did I get hit by
oh a spider
help me Elliott
kill it kill it
you found the house
there it is
I died again
I fell from a high place
I have no weapons
I have no weapons
I’m going to die again
where are you Elliott
I need to find you
I have to run away
am I going the right way
I might die again
this way
that way
are you still there

‘Concerning Melchior’ – when a 20-second clip becomes a three-minute video

My adventures with Motion 5 continue. As I mentioned previously, you can use Motion 5 with a Mac’s standard-issue iMovie (ie no need to splurge on Final Cut Pro).

For Concerning Melchior, the three-minute Poetry Storehouse video below based on a poem by Hilde Susan Jaegtnes, I used a favorite 20-second eye clip from xstockvideo.com. Motion 5 lets you treat and save a clip in almost limitless fashion – with each filter or behavior it offers, you can calibrate multiple elements within that filter or behavior to the nth degree. Which means, I realized, that you can have the same clip ‘speak’ with myriad different voices.

That eye clip was the first one I thought of when I read ‘Concerning Melchior’ and the more I considered it, the more I liked the idea of the eye as multi-faceted character, as morphing narrator. As well as different and interesting flavors of blurring, I particularly liked the way Motion 5 lets you treat a clip in various kaleidoscope and tiling fashions, so that it keeps the same color palette and follows the exact motion dynamics of the original clip, but otherwise adopts a totally ‘other’ external format.

I loved the metaphor this framework offers: a symmetrical and fairly rigid pattern is imposed on the eye from the outside, but within it you still see the individual black of the iris, the white of the highlights, the copper of the iris, and follow the precise flicks and blinks of the eye, in geometric form. A concept which struck me as an apt metaphor for the voice of the victim-narrator I heard in the poem:

recently frabjous

I have a poem, island boy, in Decades Review and another, the god in the basement, in this month’s Snakeskin, edited by Jessy Randall. Some lovely work and great company in both issues – check them out!

The latter is actually a mindfulness/meditation sort of poem, but it fits pretty well in the Snakeskin monster edition context.

Here’s a video I made for island boy after I sent it out as a simsub. Decades Review took it first but they don’t do multi-media, so here’s the video on its own anyway:

‘web-active poet’

If you submit poems to The Poetry Storehouse and I Google you and can find little to no trace of you online and/or in different social media fora, I just am going to be a lot less excited about putting your poems up at the Storehouse, no matter how good they are. As the guidelines say: “We are a web-based project and our preference is to work with web-active poets. If you submit and have poems accepted, please expect to assist us in promoting your work through use of your own social media and web-based platforms.” It’s all about creating and leveraging collective synergies. If you aren’t active online, you can’t pull your weight, and others have to carry you. Working definition of ‘web-active poet’ here.

Isn’t attempting to monetize poetry a lose-lose proposition for both poetry and poets?

Throwing my two cents into the cauldron of fascinating discussion initiated by the amazing Jessica Piazza around the question of paying (or not paying) for poetry. I very much agree with Rattle’s Tim Green, and have put together this post following the argument he makes that the ratio of poets to poetry consumers makes the traditional supply/demand commercial paradigm pretty much unworkable for poetry.

Caveat: I am the first to recognize that the figures below really are completely unscientific and pulled together from an unrelated set of sources. But I do think that while the true figures might vary in one direction or another, the broad set together are a reasonable reflection of current reality. A couple of graphics to start with:



Number of U.S. novelists: 1,000,000
U.S. Population: 316,000,000
Number of U.S. novel consumers: 186,440,000 (ie 59% of 316,000,00)
Annual $ available for novel consumption (assume $20 per person/year) = $3.7bn
Ratio of novelists to novel consumers: 1:186
In other words, each novelist is potentially supported by at least 186 novel consumers who are not themselves novel producers and who are not competing for a portion of the annual novel dollars available.


Number of U.S. poets (middle ground sorta between here and here): 200,000
Number of U.S. poetry consumers: 200,000 (in general, it is pretty much poets who buy poetry, but not all of them do, so this number may be over generous)
Annual $ available for poetry consumption (assume $20 per person/year) = 4,000,000 (0.1% of novel dollars available)
Ratio of poets to poetry consumers: 1:1
In other words, each poet is potentially supported by one poetry consumer, and that one consumer is probably also a poetry producer and also hoping for a share of the tiny annual pot of available poetry dollars.

Conclusion: Setting up poet to compete commercially against poet for limited resources in such a commercially-skewed reality really strikes me as bad energy for both poetry and the poetry community. In closing, I’ll echo the words of Terry Wolverton, featured recently at Jessica’s Poetry Has Value blog:

Rather than view writing poetry as labor, and the poems themselves as commodities, I would prefer to view it as practice, as in a spiritual practice, the product of which is the creation of energy. When I read poems, I am looking to see the world anew, to find something of substance to help me live better. My aim is that an expression that comes out of my pen may strike a chord with someone, shift their view of a situation, elevate their perspective, help them grapple with a challenge that before seemed unmanageable. I don’t want to calculate my words or their presentation in order for them to sell better; I would rather work to increase their vibratory frequency so they may matter more.

Thanks again to Jess for initiating this great discussion!

Phasing out ‘The Poetry Storehouse’ – get your submissions in!

With a new year come new perspectives, and I have been thinking about The Poetry Storehouse and its future. I’ve enjoyed the project immensely but it’s becoming clear to me that it has gone as far as it can in its present configuration – ie as a one-person all-volunteer show for daily operations. To get to the next level, the Storehouse would have to think about expanding its volunteer staff and/or trying to attract investment that would allow the operational staff to grow.

The past 14 months have proved the concept of the Storehouse and shown there really is considerable untapped energy behind the concept among poets, readers and remixers alike. I think both community and buy-in exist to take the Storehouse to the next level. The way my life is going, however, I know definitely that I have neither the time nor the desire to administer additional staff and/or resources. Am therefore thinking about how best to phase out and archive the Storehouse. This is the plan, as discussed with the Storehouse team:

Short-term: As of Feb 28, 2015, The Poetry Storehouse will no longer accept new submissions. The Storehouse will continue to process submissions received prior to that date.

Medium-term: After submissions are closed and all submissions processed, the Storehouse will continue to receive and archive new readings and new remixes through the end of September 2015 (the Storehouse‘s second anniversary).

Long-term: After Sept 2015, no further remixes or readings will be incorporated into the website. Remixers may of course continue to produce remixes based on Storehouse content indefinitely – they just won’t be linked to/archived at the website. The Poetry Storehouse archives will remain online and fully accessible indefinitely.

No sudden moves, then, and we’ll be chugging along as usual through the end of February. Be sure to get your submissions in before then! The February-September window will be an excellent opportunity for both remixers and volunteer readers to go back and see if they really have made the most of existing poems. I think sometimes we have a tendency to wait and see what is coming next, rather than fully exploring existing opportunities. The role of the volunteer reader will become more important as we flesh out the poems with different interpretations, and I will certainly be going back to add readings where I have not had time to yet.

Warm thanks once again to our fantastic community of poets, readers and remixers, the Storehouse founding team, and all the Storehouse supporters out there – none of this could have happened without you!