Introducing Silicon Valley to the world of videopoetry

In her “Third Form” column in Connotation Press this month, Erica Goss reports on her experience introducing an audience of book-lovers to videopoetry. A number of towns and cities around the United States now have community book clubs. Silicon Valley Reads is one such program, and their theme for 2014 is “Books & Technology: Friends or Foes?” So Goss, as Poet Laureate of Los Gatos as well as videopoetry critic and connoisseur, gave a presentation one evening last month called “Off the Page.”

I selected nine video poems that I felt represented the art form well, but kept in mind the fact that most, if not all of the audience had never seen anything like this before. I wanted videos that were accessible, not too challenging, visually stunning, and that showed a variety of approaches: animation, archival film, and documentary-style, to name a few.

Goss also created a kinestatic video using a crowd-sourced collage poem with 100 lines contributed by local residents describing the changes in the Santa Clara Valley/Silicon Valley landscape. She showed that first, followed by the nine videos:

Some were newer and some were old favorites. The album is on Vimeo. In selecting these videos, I wanted them to flow from familiar film style (The Barking Horse) through archival film (Need) to animation (The Trees) and end on a high note (Danatum Passu). I added brief commentary to each video.

Many of the audience members wanted more information about making their own video poems, and wondered if there was a class they could take. This made me think that there might be a need for instruction outside of video poetry festivals. (Anyone want to help me design a video poetry course?)

It was gratifying to hear how well this program was received. There is of course no such thing as a typical audience, and residents of Silicon Valley might be especially atypical in some respects, but I think one of the great promises of videopoetry and animated poetry has always been this perceived potential to reach literate audiences who are not necessarily hardcore fans of contemporary poetry. That seems to have have happened in at least one American community last month. Check it out.

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