The Art of Poetry Film with Cheryl Gross: “Highway Coda”

Highway Coda by Matt Mullins (Mull)
Poem and video by Matt Mullins
Music by Michael Pounds

I usually look for collaborations between a video artist and poet, but in the case of Highway Coda, the poet Matt Mullins wears both hats. The visuals are a perfect setting for his poetry. The music by Michael Pounds complements the splendor of this piece. That is the actual partnership. It’s a wonderful soundtrack that takes an otherwise mundane journey and turns it into an adventure, allowing us to visit the past by way of entering lost time.

Concerning the video, the burn filter that Matt applies along with sound effects throws the viewer into a mid-20th-century atmosphere, very cool and nostalgic. The use of looping and reversing of the driving section of the video follows the poem perfectly, thus causing the rhythm of the piece to be emotionally disquieting yet engaging.

I love the unconventional visuals such as garbage and abandoned cars that the poet uses to symbolize icons and landmarks. A good example is the Chinese food container that was taken away by a crow. At first I was confused as to why he chose to show us wings and the crow. But when it’s explained that the crow took the container, realistically it makes perfect sense and adds a bit of humor. This is exactly what a scavenger would do, pick garbage and hold it in high regard as if it found a pot of gold.

There is a part of me that wants to know where the artist is driving, but then I ask myself does it really matter? He may just be coming or going from someplace routine. The impression I get from the video is that the artist resides in and identifies with the past. That’s his perception of life. This to me is what On The Road would look like if were made into a video poem.

Editor’s note: “The Art of Poetry Film” will be on hiatus for a week or two as Cheryl begin a three-month artist’s residency in Heidelberg, but she assures us she’ll still have time to write columns once she settles in, so filmmakers and videopoets may continue to contact her with suggestions of collaborative projects to review.

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