“Another new kind of poem is made”: Michelle Bitting on the making of poem-films

In an interview at Connotation Press, American poet Michelle Bitting, author most recently of Notes to the Beloved, answers a couple of questions about her poem films:

Second, I see that you have created poem-films. Does the strong visual component of films influence your poetry? Is it the other way around (does the visual element of poetry influence your films)? Or is it both? Or that you’re (like me) a very visual person?

I made the poem-films in much the same way I believe I want to make poems. Going intuitively on what I want it to feel and look like and then seeing what actually falls in my path as I go along. So, the illusion of control and then surrender to what’s happening. That’s a truly fun tight-rope to walk. I try to be willing to fall, meaning fail, and I do, a lot. Sometimes the chemistry just ain’t happening and sometimes it’s an alchemical triumph. To me, the films are poems made out of images and sound. Then, informed by the text, another new kind of poem is made. When it’s working right, it’s all poetry.

On the subject of poem-films, how do you approach and understand them? Do you have expectations for them?

I’m pretty much called to create a visual text for a particular poem and then I just start to see it and keep following the thread that spins out of whatever I’ve begun. I let what naturally falls into my lap (or lens) enter into the conversation. For instance, in the film I did for my poem “In Praise of my Brother, the Painter”, at one point, I took photos and filmed bits of an exhibit on Houdini that was showing in my city (Los Angeles) at the time. Later I wanted a particular person to be in the film as a kind of muse-slash-nod to Houdini. Eventually, I realized I was supposed to wear the top hat and so the configuration of Brother, Houdini, Me and the final images led me to a new understanding of what the piece was trying to tell me, or I was trying to tell myself, in the first place. I could never arrive at that stage of revelation without just simply putting one creative step in front of another into the unknown.

Read the rest of the interview (and scroll down to read the poems). (h/t: R.W. Perkins)

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