Kinetic typography revisited

Those familiar with my videopoetry adventures will recall me bemoaning the cost of Adobe After Affects (in the $1,000 range for the latest version) which I had thought was the only program out there capable of producing decent kinetic typography. That was in my pre-Mac days. After working with a Mac for almost a year now (what took me so long) I recently discovered that Apple’s Motion 5 software – a $49.99 download – uses keyframes, 3D cameras and masks in pretty much the same way as After Effects, to produce pretty much the same effects. And you can use it in iMovie, the video editing program that comes free with any Mac – you don’t have to buy Final Cut Pro to use it.

There’s definitely a steep learning curve involved. I’ve been practicing and exploring in my spare time for about 10 days now and still have a very long way to go. My first effort at incorporating Motion 5 into a video is with the remix below, Poem for a Daughter, based on a poem by Sam Rasnake from The Poetry Storehouse.

I created the text portions in Motion 5 and exported them into iMovie. Motion 5 allows you to save the text footage with a transparent background, so you can merge it seamlessly on the iMovie ‘cutout’ track against your regular footage. I was restrained in this one, but you can make the text shrink, grow, spin, glide, jump etc etc. Lots of fun!

Notes on a pre-Motion 5 workaround: To get a very basic text animation effect for the video below, based on a poem by Charlotte Hamrick from The Poetry Storehouse, I used Quicktime to capture a screen recording of me actually typing the poem text against a black background in real time. I then imported that footage into iMovie and used it on the ‘cutout’ track with increased transparency against the regular video footage. The problem with this technique was twofold – 1) you had only one basic animation capability, ie ‘type-on’. Trying to move, scale or pan the text in any way with this technique would have required immensely labor-intensive stop motion screen captures for which I did not have the patience. And 2) even with the fading-in/out function on the cutout, the screen would still visibly darken and lighten with the entrance and exits of the text cutouts. Which actually didn’t work too badly for this particular piece, but it did put me off trying to get any further with that technique.

Here’s to whatever comes next. It’s all good and all fun!

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.

how is the faithful city become an harlot!

Hm. Just found this as a draft post saved a couple of years ago. Looks like I pulled it from various parts of the KJV first chapter of Isaiah. Not sure where I was going with it, but thought I might remember if I posted it.


how is the faithful city become an harlot!
it was full of judgment
righteousness lodged in it
but now —

the whole head is sick
the whole heart faint
there is no soundness in it
but wounds
and bruises
and putrifying sores

neither the burnt offerings of rams
nor the fat of fed beasts shall save it
neither shall the blood of bullocks

in vain shall the city promise
to beat its swords
into ploughshares
its spears
into pruning hooks

instead of sweet smell
there shall be stink, instead of a girdle
a rent, instead of well-set hair
baldness, instead of a stomacher
a girding of sackcloth

and burning
instead of beauty

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!

Poetry Storehouse First Anniversary Contest – results

Many thanks to Dave Bonta over at Moving Poems for supporting the announcement and showcasing of the winners and runners-up for the Poetry Storehouse First Anniversary Contest. You can see the overall announcement with judges’ comments here, and look at each of the showcased contest videos, with process notes by both poets and film-makers, at this link.

We’re pulling together the same information here at the Storehouse site for archival purposes and organized in a slightly different way. The links in the poetry category below will take you to the winning poet’s Storehouse page, where you can see the video, the poem, and several other readings of the winning poems by Storehouse volunteer readers. You can also follow relevant links to the judges’ comments and process notes for each collaboration.

Overall Winner
* First Grade Activist, video remix by Marie Craven based on a Storehouse poem.

(Entries judged by Erica Goss, Marc Neys & Dave Bonta. Read judges’ comments here.)

Overall Winner
* Backward like a ghost by Amy Miller, based on a film by Lori Ersolmaz

* Foretold by Luisa A. Igloria, based on a film by Marc Neys
* I was grass by Amy Miller, based on a film by Eduardo Yague
* Muscle Memory by Michael Biegner, based on a film by Lori Ersolmaz

(Entries judged by Jessica Piazza, assisted by Marielle Prince and Jessica Burnquist. Read judges’ comments here.)

(Cross-posted from The Poetry Storehouse.)

online poet demographics – results of a completely unscientific & amateur survey

Warm thanks to all who took the time to complete this very amateur survey and to those who helped spread the word about it. I had hoped for about 75 responses, and was blown away by the level of interest and the 339 responses received over the 24 hours or so that the survey was open. (Clearly, this is an area of keen interest to the US online poetry community. In an ideal world, wouldn’t some poetry-loving entity with, ahem, lots of money and know-how conduct such surveys properly and scientifically, on behalf of US Poetry writ large?)

As with the last completely unscientific survey of this kind I did, I had only to post the survey to immediately begin second-guessing the questions. Why didn’t I think of framing that question in this way, rather than that? Why didn’t I add multiple choice options – especially for the income question – instead of plain yes/no? Others were also helpful in pointing out myriad framing and other flaws in the survey, I might add. But this is what we have, until someone with actual expertise takes on these questions.

So what have we got? No big surprises. This graphic summarizes the results by percentage (click on it to see a larger version). Various caveats and comments, the actual survey questions, and detailed breakdown of the results follow my general observations on the results below.

poet demographics

Income from poetry sales: The ‘poetry sales income’ question (#1) was sad, but no-one will be surprised by that. I deliberately put the income threshold very low (0.5% of an annual income of $50,000 is only $250, for example), but still only 15% of respondents said they earned more than that from poetry sales in a year, while 85% said they earned less. Again, not surprising, based on this other amateur survey. Even if we very generously estimate that most people with books out manage to sell 100-300 copies a year, how much actual profit is there on those sales, and how much of that profit then becomes actual author income?

Day job/livelihood expenses: I found the general ‘where do you get your livelihood’ question (#3) interesting. I had long been convinced that most online poets in fact derive their livelihood from non-poetry related sources and the survey results seem to bear that out, with 70% of respondents falling in this bracket, and only 30% claiming a poetry-related livelihood. (As noted in the caveats below, there were 4 to 6 ‘yes and no’ responses to this question, which I didn’t include in final numbers because I didn’t know how to.)

Does your poetry publication record affect your earning ability? This question was by far the most interesting for me, as someone who is constantly bemoaning what I see as the suffocating grip the print paradigm has on the growth, reach and vitality of poetry (as Dave Bonta puts it ‘the scarcity mentality of print publishing [vs] the abundance mentality of the web’). Print publishing is super-important for academics seeking tenure, and it makes sense that a segment of the market should cater to this very specific need. But the survey results indicate that only 25% of poets actually fall into this category. Do the remaining 75% of the poet population really need to be yoked to this paradigm?

Caveats that would probably make more sense if I knew the first thing about statistics and polling:

– The results shown above and below include responses from 333 respondents. The number of responses for each separate question don’t add up to 333, however, because in a few cases respondents skipped a question.
– The percentages in the graphic above are rounded up to the nearest 0.5 percentage point.
– Interestingly, the relative percentages for the different categories stayed pretty stable from the very beginning of the survey through to its closing. So ‘yes’ responses for question 1 consistently hovered around 15-16%, for question 2 around 24-25% and, question 3 around 69-70% throughout the survey.
– Overall, there were more than 333 responses (more like 339) but I excluded the handful where the respondent had checked both ‘yes’ and  ‘no’ responses for the same question (mostly for question 3, with one or two such responses for question 2). So sorry, those folks!  No doubt polling/statistics experts would know exactly how to incorporate such responses so they make sense in the overall survey, but this was amateur hour and I basically had no idea.

Actual survey questions, each with simple yes/no response options:

1. Poetry sales represent 0.5% or more of my annual income.
2. My poetry publication record affects my ability to earn a living.
3. I earn my living in a field unrelated to poetry.

Responses received:

Question Yes No Total responses
  1. Poetry sales are 0.5% or more of income
51 281 332
  1. Poetry publication record affects earning ability
83 248 331
  1. Main income is from a non-poetry field
231 97 328