Moving Poems and Motionpoems profiled in Connotation Press

I was pleased and honored to have been interviewed by Erica Goss for her second column on videopoetry at Connotation Press, along with poet Todd Boss, the founder of Motionpoems. Todd and I do have some differences in perspective, but Erica highlights our areas of agreement — especially our interest in widening the audience for poetry.

It’s always useful to see one’s work through another’s eyes. What struck me in Erica’s description of Moving Poems was her quite reasonable analogy between author-made videopoetry and self-publshing, which had for some reason never occurred to me before.

Since the site focuses on poets and poetry, the videos Dave shows must include the poem’s text, whether spoken or as a visual element. This is a site for DIY, creative types, and therefore Dave features many poet-made videos. (Poets are well-known for self-publishing; Walt Whitman published the first edition of Leaves of Grass at his own expense, and gave away more copies than he sold.)

I guess I am so focused on the creative side of things, and so accustomed to looking at the web through a blogger’s eyes, that the act of uploading to Vimeo and YouTube just seems like a natural and necessary final step of making a video these days. I am of course aware that some poet-filmmakers market their work on DVDs, and so don’t upload more than a sample to video-sharing sites, but they’re the exception rather than the rule.

But this has me thinking, because I’ve always considered author-made videopoems the ideal to strive for, and I most admire those poets who have taught themselves filmmaking in a serious way (or were smart enough to take film in college). Is it possible that in a literary culture in which self-publication is significantly less prestigious than publication by others, that the poet-filmmakers I so admire are at a disadvantage?


  1. Reply
    Dave Bonta 3 September, 2012

    I think the fact that this never occurred to me before just shows how far I’ve strayed from the American poetry mainstream. :(

    • Reply
      martha mccollough 3 September, 2012

      I’m bothered by the line “Animators don’t get to do creative work like this very often.” They don’t get paid for creative work very often, maybe, but do poets? I suppose it’s natural for writers like Boss and Goss to assume that the text is primary, but is this necessarily the case? Are any of the videos produced by Motionpoems actual collaborations or does the poem always come first?

      And another thing: self-publishing may be less prestigious in print, but in film-making the independent film carries as much cultural prestige as the commercial product. So…there?

      • Reply
        Dave Bonta 3 September, 2012

        Unfortunately, most of the conversation about this has occurred on Facebook, where some commenters have raised similar points. See here, I think. In particular, R.W. Perkins said:

        I think to a traditional academic, poets making films of their own work could be considered self-publishing, but if you look at a long tradition of film and filmmaking so called “self-publishing” is not only the norm but tradition. As a hybrid art form (of which I believe videopoetry is) I think it appropriate to adopt traditions from both art forms. Not only is “self-publishing” accepted in the art of filmmaking, it is celebrated.

      • Reply
        Dave Bonta 3 September, 2012

        But yes, excellent point about what animators choose to do with their free time, and the mind-set they get into as a result of working for the advertising industry. I do think poets operate from a place of privilege, in a way, since our work is so undervalued by society at large — there’s no reason for us not to give it away.

        I don’t think Erica does assume that the text is primary, based on my conversation with her, but we all stuggle against the unconscious assumptions we’ve inherited from our respective disciplines.

  2. Reply

    […] also had a couple thoughts over at the Moving Poems forum, reacting to something Erica wrote: Are poets who make films of their poems self-publishing? And if […]

  3. Reply
    Peter 4 September, 2012

    I’ve never thought about doing anything else with my video poems but uploading them. I’m not advanced enough in video production to consider publishing them any other way.

    I love the added associations and flavor and tone video and sound can give a poem. I also like the last line from Erica’ s post: “’To see your poem through the lens of film is to learn a new language about your poem,’ Todd says. ‘What could be more instructive than that?’” You’ve taught me that, and right now that’s enough.

  4. Reply
    James 7 September, 2012

    Like Peter, it never occurred to me (at first) to do anything other than envideo my own poems or write from my own footage and then upload the result.

    It’s interesting to read all this and think about the way self-publication is viewed in the world of film vs. writing. I was a film student and after college worked on a number of crews, most often independent, and I always admired the DIY ethos in film. When I started writing seriously and reached the point of thinking about publication, doing it myself always seemed to make the most sense to me. That approach is certainly a holdover from my film life. I’ve always thought it odd that writers who do it themselves are often viewed with suspicion while filmmakers and musicians are more likely to be celebrated.

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