The Art of Poetry Film with Cheryl Gross: “Wayne the Stegosaurus” and “Cigar Box Banjo”

Wayne the Stegosaurus
poem: Kenn Nesbitt
co-directors: Aran Quinn, Jeff Dates
3D lead artsts: Rob Petrie, Jeff Dates
produced for Motionpoems

Wayne the Stegosaurus is a delightful, airy children’s poem written by Kenn Nesbitt. The animation is rendered beautifully and produced by The Mill, a Chicago-based production company.

The poem is intended for children. I watched it a few times looking for a clue if the artists were withholding a nightmare. No such luck. Just a plain and simple video poem intended purely to entertain.

The animation is delightful. Pastel hand-painted watercolors move about. The action appears to be frame-by-frame and alludes to a stop-motion effect. I may be wrong, but since this is a high-production studio, Wayne the Stegosaurus was probably completely done on computer. It’s a treat to see the artist’s hand at work and it would be nice if this had been done “old school,” but no matter how it was done, the outcome is magnificent and charming, and the viewer can’t help but fall in love with it.

That being said, there is nothing to analyze or rip apart. It’s perfect in its simplicity.

Then I stumbled upon Cigar Box Banjo by Kim Addonizio. The content is much grittier and more to my taste.

Cigar Box Banjo
poem: Kim Addonizio
voiceover: Johanna Braddy
director and sound designer: Danny Madden
editor: Mari Walker
performers: Hannah Elder, Jon Thibault, and Iere Castagne
produced for Motionpoems

The editing is terrific. The footage is seamlessly woven together and reads like an indie film, powerful and poignant. It’s well done, not at all corny, and a good mixture of old and new footage. The song “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground,” written and performed by Blind Willie Johnson, is a perfect addition and allows the piece to flow very nicely. I also have to mention that the design on the entire piece is sophisticated and exciting to watch. I found it refreshing, and I have nothing negative to say on this one either. I liked watching both videos back to back.

Aside from both being poetry films, Wayne the Stegosaurus and Cigar Box Banjo are very different. Wayne embraces a colorful, safe world, while Cigar Box tells an entirely different story. But both are well written and visually outstanding — examples of video poetry at its finest.

Editor’s note: A huge congratulations to Cheryl — and to her collaborator, the poet Nicelle Davis — for having a film accepted for ZEBRA, the world’s foremost poetry film festival, for the third time in a row!
Active Shooter Event will be screened at the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival Münster|Berlin, October 27-30, 2016 at the Schlosstheater cinema in Münster, Germany. —Dave B.


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