recently frabjous stuff

the novices practice forgiveness – new poem at Valparaiso Poetry Review in amazing company

‘Ten Fabulous Videopoems’ – my ‘top ten’ video list for the series at Moving Poems Magazine

12 Moons series – collaboration with Erica Goss, Marc Neys and Kathy McTavish. Erica the poems, me the voice, Marc the video and Kathy the soundtracks. This unfolded over several months last year and is now complete. So much pleasure.

And a new video remix from a Storehouse poem by James Brush:

All mimsy were the borogove and the mome raths outgrabe.

top ten video poetry lists (cont’d)

Just wrapped up and sent in my list for the ‘top ten video’ series running at Moving Poems Magazine. You can see lists from all the participants so far at this link. Really interesting and enjoyable reading and a great idea from Dave Bonta. (Update: My top ten list is posted.)

What I’m posting here are a few additional poetry videos I love that either fell victim to the ‘ten only’ video limit, or don’t meet the criteria for the Moving Poems lists, which stipulate that “each poetry film or videopoem should include a poem (or poems) in some recognizable way, either as text, voiceover, or some combination of the two.”

So, in no particular order:

Hawaiian Tree Bones (Gary Yost, 3 min 7 sec)

I don’t usually have much time for time lapse films any more, but this piece is heart-piercingly beautiful to me for many reasons, including the contrast of the static beauty of the dead trees against the swift dynamism of the clouds, and the haunting chant soundtrack. The walking spirit at the end was a master stroke, I thought. The chant is Ku’u wahine i ka ua ‘Ulalena by Charles Albert Manu’alkohanaiki’illili Boyd, translation included at the video’s Vimeo site. Film-maker’s process notes here.

Melancholy (Damien Krisl, 1 min 15 secs)

We in the poetry world tend to turn our noses up at what happens in the world of advertising, which is probably unfortunate, given the very high level of both talent and resources that go into creative projects in the name of commerce. I try to inoculate myself against the commercial buy-buy-buy virus (eg by watching and reading things like this) and remind myself that the accusation ‘commerce is exploiting art for its own purposes’ can just as easily be formulated the other way around: ‘art is exploiting commerce for its own purposes’. And I find there is a lot to admire. The website Cinematic Poems curates many types of short creative films, for example, including videopoems, film trailers and commercials for cars, jewelry, fashion etc. I found this intriguing fashion film short by Damien Krisl there:

Nuit Blanche (Arev Manoukian, 4 min, 41 secs)

At almost 5 minutes in length, this film is longer than my usual film poem attention span (under two minutes preferred, three minutes is approaching a stretch), but I had to include it. It starts out on a rather hokey and clichéd romantic note, then goes on to make what I see as gentle fun of the overall clichéd trope, with stunning visual effects. I think it speaks so loudly to me because in my youth I had just such a moment of staring at some strange guy in a public place. I felt all kinds of primal urge to jump on him and knew he had the same urge to jump on me. Unfortunately (or fortunately..), he was with his wife and two kids and the moment had to pass unacted upon. I still think of it a few times a year, recalling the strength of those feelings with immediate freshness every time, and wondering how or if my life would have been different had I acted on them.

Stoker (Fox Searchlight, 2 min 52 secs)

I haven’t seen the movie Stoker and honestly don’t want to (not my kind of movie at all). But this wonderful trailer video, anchored around the artists’ creation of the film’s teaser poster, strikes me as a poem in itself. Marvelous visuals, spellbinding drawing sequences, and an unsettling soundtrack by Emily Wells combine to tell an intriguing story and raise pretty hair-raising questions at the same time.

Feather to Fire (Gregory Colbert, 19 min 16 sec)

Not included in my top ten videos for Moving Poems Magazine because at 19 minutes, it really is too long by my own video poem preferences (less than two minutes ideal, three minutes becoming a stretch), and also because it has only a very minimal reliance on words. But really, this is the most mesmerizingly beautiful filming and image juxtapositioning I’ve seen in a long time. It’s part of a larger project by Colbert called Ashes and Snow. Visit his website to see more films from the project (the elephant one is out of this world).


See also this recent post for a couple of favorite poetry videos that didn’t quite make my top ten list.

top ten video poetry lists

A great new feature at Moving Poems, hope you are following them. So far, Robert Peake, Marc Neys, Jani Sipilä and Erica Goss have shared top ten lists built around various criteria, and you can see them all here. It’s both edifying and exciting to see where others’ preferences lie in this expanding field. I was particularly happy and proud to find I said Yes, a video remix I put together based on a poem from The Poetry Storehouse by Luisa Igloria included in Erica’s Ten Favorite Video Poems made by Women today.

At Dave’s kind request, I am compiling my own Top Ten list to share at Moving Poems at some point soon. I am finding that the disadvantage with my procrastinator’s approach is that other people get to flag videos you would have flagged had you been on the ball, and that you therefore now can’t in good conscience include in your list.

I’m ok with that, as I kind of like the idea of a slow approach, and one that is forced to dig deeper as early favorites are ‘taken’ by others. It’s probably a form of cheating, but I am using this post to flag a couple of videos that would have been on my list if someone else hadn’t flagged them first. Here they are:

– Most definitely the Chronicles of Oah and Harlam, noted by Robert Peake. With animation, story and art by Ruah Edelstein, narrated by Ruah with Dylan Forman. There are four of these episodes on Ruah’s Vimeo page, all of them completely charming in a wise, whispy, impressionistic sort of way, with spot-on readings by Ruah and Dylan (if the vocals are off, the whole video is off, in my obssessive perspective) and perfect soundtrack. This is just one of the series – be sure to check out the others:

– This next one, posted by Jani Sipilä, draws visuals from The Machine, a 2013 UK science fiction thriller starring Caity Lotz and Toby Stephens (one of my all-time actor favorites) as computer scientists who create an artificial intelligence for the military. Makes you think and feel, wonder and question in every kind of good way:

That’s it for the moment – I’ll post here if others show up before my final list is ready!

Storehouse video remix adventure

17 Days is a video series curated by Adriane Little, Associate Professor of Art at Western Michigan University. In the series, 17 consecutive days are paired with 17 different video artists. One artist’s video per day plays continuously and simultaneously for 24 hours in an exhibition hall on two 50” plasma screens, first at Alfred State College, then at Western Michigan University. So far, the 17 Day series has run six times.

Adriane Little asked if she might feature ‘Family Therapy’ (a Nic Sebastian video remix of a Poetry Storehouse poem by Cynthia Atkins) during Day 6 of the series’ seventh run, Vol. 7. We said yes, of course.

Click here to view the planned Vol. 7 videos, 1 thru 17 in ascending order – an awesome and frankly somewhat intimidating video art line-up.

Click here to view the Day 6 entry for ‘Family Therapy.’

Super excited by this opportunity! Warm thanks to Cynthia Atkins for being such a terrific collaboration partner, and here’s to many more such adventures for Storehouse remixes.

‘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!