Posts By Lori H. Ersolmaz

Lori H. Ersolmaz is an award winning Florida filmmaker with a long multidisciplinary career. Lori has worked with diverse leaders from Fortune 500 corporations, nonprofit/governmental organizations and policy think-tanks on varied media and short documentaries. From 2005-2017 she focused solely on creating media in support of policy and advocacy initiatives. In 2014, she began creating filmpoetry to convey emotions and feelings as social commentary and to counterbalance client work. In 2020, after over a decade of interest in projection mapping, yet never being able to develop it, Lori began experimenting and producing immersive public art installations to connect the public with nature through film and digital arts. Since then she has developed 10 projection mapped installations, including a 20'x20' dome, engaging over 2000 people with minimal equipment and a fearless philosophy of high-tolerance for failure and the unknown. Her films have been seen in New York City at Anthology Film Archives, in Minneapolis at the Weisman Art Museum, at Digital Graffiti 2023 and at International film festivals, events, pop-up exhibitions and street art installations held in Australia, Croatia, India, Iran, Istanbul, Italy, Greece, Mexico, Nepal, Slovakia, United Kingdom, United States and West Africa. Her work can also be seen in the digital online environment, including literary and visual journals.

Practicing Like Water

A state of the luminal…

I recently realized filmpoetry provides an escape for me. In nearly forty years of creating I have never been one to pressure myself. My professional and personal creativity always flowed organically. Then, suddenly my creativity stopped. There was just no time, nor feeling for it. In early 2017 I was working on a large client project, going through a separation and then divorce, sold a home and moved to another state. It was overwhelming and a joyful creative outlet ended, just like that.

Shortly after I moved, I slowly began to film and photograph whenever I felt emotionally moved, curious or inspired. At times I even experimented. Then, this past February, Donna, a friend and mentor who owns a spiritual center spent a few days with me in my new home. While I was at my emotional worst, she provided support, spiritual growth and compassion. We share a love of the beach and ironically when we were together symbolic events would magically appear right in front of our eyes. A turtle circled our beach chairs, a gigantic 3-foot jellyfish came ashore and as seen in “Practicing Like Water,” an island-like sandbar appeared in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, where at least a hundred birds were peacefully hanging out. Donna walked gently through the bird oasis so as not to disturb their well-being and the birds simply moved aside with her every step forward. This went on for some time until eventually the sandbar was about to disappear and fall into the water. Suddenly the birds were spooked and flew upwards. In another scene, Donna, beautiful in a white bathing suit and hat floats like an angel. I filmed both scenes with my iPhone 6s Plus. It was the perfect tool for the spontaneity of those moments in the water. For months the experience stuck with me because I would look for the little sandbar every time I visited that particular beach, but I never saw it again.

Sometime during the summer I felt as if I needed to go back to my roots—when I first began creating filmpoetry. I listened to narrated audio for poems I saved from the now closed-down Poetry Storehouse website, a wonderful place where poets, filmmakers and remixers collaborated. The beautiful voice which first spoke to me in 2013 was also the impetus five years later which led me back to creating this piece. When I read Kate Marshall Flaherty’s poem (see below), it immediately resonated with me and I knew I had footage which would work well for the piece. Still I wasn’t ready and the printed poem sat on my desk for months.

While I hadn’t been editing projects in the past year, I was producing content. More importantly, I spent time on innerwork and participated in an online course and forum conducted by the Centre of Applied Jungian Studies in South Africa. Carl Jung’s theories are concentrated on the conscious and unconscious mind, archetypes, dreams, synchronicity and symbolism. In fact, I’ve also been keeping a dream journal and analyzing them on occasion. These are the ways in which I found my way back to my authentic self, my personal journey and living a life of joy and gratefulness. It’s all a practice, along with tools like meditation and mindfulness.

Suddenly one day in June, out of nowhere I felt compelled to organize footage for the poem and put together some sequences in a stream of consciousness manner. I knew I was missing imagery and sought some stock footage to fill in additional tone. Then I left it unfinished for at least a month. When I looked at the sequence again I was quite surprised to find that I had it in pretty good shape. The final edit took me about eight hours to complete. The original image sequences were not changed in any way. I added in stock fashion imagery from the Creative Commons and made color refinements. I didn’t labor on it, I knew exactly when it was complete. I remember wondering if I could pick up on creating quality filmpoetry where I last left off. I feel this filmpoem is consistent with my other work in the genre.

When I look back I realize I allowed myself time to absorb the poem into my unconscious mind. I saw it sitting on my desk everyday. Everything came together working with Kate Marshall Flaherty’s poem in a semi-conscious dream-like way. It’s almost as if I worked on it with my eyes closed. Ironically, when I asked Kate to add comments to this writing (she knew little about my thoughts), she replied,

I’ve always been fascinated with dreams, and I actually have several poetry dream sequences. I also give guided meditations, where we relax and go into that luminal state—that amazing threshold between sleep and waking—that place of the unconscious, of dreams and symbols. When I do my Stillpoint writing workshops, I always start with the meditation so that we can drag up some of those riches from the subconscious and alpha brain wave state and let it pour into our writing. Some will say that state is where we encounter the true self. It’s also a state biblically and throughout religious texts that angels and the divine appear.

I was floored to read what she said because of course this totally resonates with me and I didn’t know any of it when I chose the poem.

My spiritual and Jungian work certainly found its way into this filmpoem. Until I began writing this I hadn’t noticed repeated images of screen symbolism. In the beginning the screens are quite dense. Looking at it metaphorically screens are a framed construction designed to divide, conceal or protect. By the end of the piece there’s still a large lanai screen. But, notice while there is framework it is open to blue sky and clouds. There are also several images of floating mirror balls. According to Carl Jung, the sphere represents a universal symbol, one that illustrates time movement and analyzing the self. For me the poem is also memory closure and brings to light an important time in my life (when I was less conscious), which I will always remember gratefully. The dark, eerie trees and lightning were shot at night out the window of my old house, not long before I left. It is relevant metaphorically because it is the last vestige of my prior life and is the only footage from there included. The shadow side is exposed by the light and is ‘filtered’ back into the cleansing fluidity of water and openness——my life now. Donna’s smile when the birds lift away clearly illustrates “…peaceful silence dissolving into one smile like water.”

Filmpoetry has been a source of meaningful self-expression which offers me the ability to be abstract, esoteric and dream-like. I clearly appreciate what Kate says:

I wrote this particular poem after a very moving dream about an encounter with a dear old love. The dream was so vivid and the feeling so real that when I awoke I was in that luminal state—not sure if I was awake or still asleep and dreaming—and the feeling was so beautiful that I thought I had been visited by an angel or some wonderful part of myself, or perhaps the spirit of that first love. The dream left me with an incredible peaceful and radiant feeling.

That space is exactly where I was as I created the visual tone for the piece. I have an affirmation by Idil Ahmed above my desk which reads in part, “What belongs to you will effortlessly flow into your life…” Surely that is what happened here.

Practicing Like Water can be perceived in many ways. For me, it simply floated into my reality and it reminds me to keep growing. Kate wrote:

Lori’s images really capture that encounter with love and with self and with that incredible lightness of being. I think the music as well enhances the idea of calm and beauty; the lifting of birds so like a spirit taking flight.

All I can say is… thank you Kate Marshall Flaherty for arousing and inspiring my creative spirit to take flight once again.

Practicing Like Water

by Kate Marshall Flaherty

Crumbs of sleep in my eye.
Dream residue.
I squeeze my lids tight,
burrow deeper
into the warm blanket-folds,
wanting to go back
where I am sharing a meal with you
at a sunny pine table.
Cascade Mountain through the glass.
No need to speak,
or hold hands,
peaceful silence dissolving
into one smile like water.

The weightless feeling still fluttering
in the cage of my ribs.
Why do we waken
with such longing, sometimes?
Have we been floating with angels?
Practicing for death,
in sleep?
Are we slipping into a pool
where dream and dreamer are one?
Are we each a cup of water
poured into the sea?

Dodge Poetry Festival 2016: A poetry-film maker’s reflections

Martin Farewell, Director of the Dodge Poetry Program asks audience to give a hand to ten poets and two musical groups at Poetry like Bread: Poems of Social and Political Consciousness.

Martin Farawell, Director of the Dodge Poetry Program asks audience to give a hand to ten poets and two musical groups at Poetry like Bread: Poems of Social and Political Consciousness.

There is no such thing as art and politics, there is only life.
Amira Baraka

Through the years I had always been curious about the Dodge Poetry Festival. The closest I got to it was while living in Hunterdon County, New Jersey when it was held in quaint Waterloo Village in Stanhope. But for one reason or another I never went. Finally, this year, on the 30th anniversary of the festival, I didn’t have to think twice about getting a four-day pass to the event. It was held in Newark at New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) as well as several other venues, including two historic churches, the Newark Museum, Aljira Art Gallery and North Star Academy. At first I was worried I would have to walk all over Newark for the readings and events, but nearly all were close by, including a tent for open mic each day in Military Park. That was a thoughtful touch for people who wanted to simply test out their poetry mojo in a public space, and I watched a few people give performances there. I attended the festival for three-out-of-four days, and was somewhat disappointed on Day One, but the second and third days more than made up for it. Unfortunately, I could only speak to a few of the terrific poets, and I’m sure missed others who would have provided me with further insight into the role of poets and poetry in our society, which is the education I was seeking going into the festival.

Dodge Poetry Festival catalog and 4-day passI should be transparent right up front: all readers of this post, poets and artists alike, may find my knowledge of poetry somewhat lacking. But I do know quality and what touches me emotionally. I went to the festival with no preconceived notions of what I might find. I was concerned about whether I might become bored, bouncing around on my iPhone, and from time to time I did do that. Dodge must have realized there would be people like me and they created an app to check in, see schedules, get information about the poets, map locations, look up restaurant information, post photos, make comments and rate each session, all of which I used. The app was a closed forum and only a handful of other people posted photos, discussion, likes and comments. I wondered why Dodge spent the money on an app and didn’t just open the social media to their Facebook page instead. Nonetheless, I found myself mesmerized by the poets and words spoken. Mark Doty, Mahogany L. Brown, Juan Felipe Herrera (NJ and US Poet Laureate), Alicia Ostriker, Anne Waldman, Jane Hirshfield, Martín Espada, Tim Seibles and Claudia Rankine stood out to me because their collective voices mirrored the human condition from the past, as it exists at this moment and could be seen as through a crystal ball into the future. The festival is certainly not for the weak of heart or mind. Or, as my husband suggested, only for progressive thinkers in NJPAC’s Prudential Hall on Saturday night.

On opening day I went to several sessions. One was “Poetry and Storytelling” with Katha Pollitt who also writes for The Nation. The venue, Peddie Baptist Church, is undergoing exterior renovation, but it is just gorgeous inside. A few of the things Pollitt said resonated with me: “A poem doesn’t need to be narrative, but still needs to tell a story… and poems have a resonance with other poems, in tone, sound and images.” She spoke about poetry being “open to many interpretations” and having a sense of “ambiguity,” which confirmed my thoughts as a maker of film poems. I thought since she spoke a good deal about visuality and images she would have an interest in filmpoetry. I patiently waited for her to sign books for two young women, probably seniors in high school. After they left I asked her about filmpoetry and she said she had little to no knowledge about the subject. I explained about visual storytelling and poetry as a collaboration and I could see her eyes glaze over. I guess I’m accustomed to the online poets and mixers from Moving Poems and Poetry Storehouse who have been nothing but passionate, encouraging, and enthusiastically supportive. With that experience I decided to hang back and just listen to each session without trying to push my personal thoughts and just let things happen naturally. That worked well and the best experiences were simply led by serendipity.

I sat in on a Poets Forum Conversation: Poets on Poetry (all Poets Forums were sponsored by the Academy of American Poets) with Linda Gregerson, Alicia Ostriker and Alberto Rios. Alicia Ostriker read Muriel Rukeyser’s “Poem,” written in 1968 and I was astounded with the parallel to today’s world. (See “Learning to Breathe under Water: Considering Muriel Rukeyser’s oceanic work” by Alicia Ostriker.)

I lived in the first century of world wars.
Most mornings I would be more or less insane,
The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,
The news would pour out of various devices
Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.
I would call my friends on other devices;
They would be more or less mad for similar reasons.
Slowly I would get to pen and paper,
Make my poems for others unseen and unborn.

Ostriker explained the poem as “a balancing act between despair and hope… We write poems for ourselves with the hope they will reach others.” Linda Gregerson said poetry is an “urgent form of sanity-making.” For me these thoughts hit right to the core of why I am so drawn to poetry. The concept of poetry as a way to “draw our dreams into daylight” and its “ability to be meditative” are ideas which make poetry so alluring to me and why I feel compelled to create filmpoems. In another forum, Elizabeth Alexander also referenced Rukeyser’s “Poem” and thought Rukeyser’s approach was to “help heal a broken society… Poets have a stable place to discuss the world and record human feeling.”

Another Poet’s Forum, Poets on Activism included Juan Felipe Herrera, Brenda Hillman, Khaled Mattawa and Anne Waldman. Waldman spoke to what she has found to be a “cognitive dissonance” in our society. As a divided nation (which is obvious to anyone in this election cycle, unless you’ve decided to hide under a rock), we are simply overwhelmed and stressed out. These poets encouraged risk-taking, collaborative work and living in a way which supports what you believe. Herrera spoke about when he first began to “stand up and project his voice” in third grade. He said his voice took shape through song, encouraged by a teacher who told him he had a beautiful voice. She was right: his voice and wonderful cadence was demonstrated beautifully on Saturday night when he enlisted a drummer from one of the music groups to accompany him on a few poems. A student asked the poet mentors a relevant question: “What is the greatest risk in activism?” Answers included, “speaking truth to power” and the “risk of being embarrassed,” but regardless, as citizens the responsibility, as Brenda Hillman stated, is to “get off your ass and do something.” I completely agree.

Juan Felipe Herrera

In Poets Forum: Making a Life in Poetry, the same theme seemed to repeat again with Elizabeth Alexander (she too read Rukeyser’s “Poem”), Mark Doty, Jane Hirshfield and Alicia Ostriker. Mark Doty read his poem “In Two Seconds,” and the discussion revolved around the fact that we are tired and anxious. Doty quoted Stanley Kunitz, “At every stage of life we need to create a life we can live and bear with.” Ostriker went on to say she was affected by Rumi who allowed her to “write from the spirit,” and felt that “people should write what they are afraid of.” This session didn’t necessarily focus on what the life of a poet meant, and an astute high school student came forward and asked how to deal with rejection. Jane Hirshfield said, “Listen to the inner voice and just let it ride,” and Elizabeth Alexander said she felt that writing poems is a mysterious necessity, and she doesn’t know where it will take her — “It’s hard, but also incredible.” Their comments reflect the idea of writing poetry for oneself, and having the courage to put it out in the world for others to identify with (or not) and wait to see what happens. In other words, keep plugging away, don’t get discouraged and eventually you’ll get published. I think if you listened between the lines it appears that a career as a poet and writer must be supported by another type of money-making activity. But that went unsaid.

Mark Doty and Jane Hirshfield illustrations with notes by attendee Jenny Linn Loveland.

Mark Doty and Jane Hirshfield illustrations with notes by attendee Jenny Linn Loveland.

I had the opportunity to attend a “Poetry Sampler”, where I heard Martín Espada for the first time. He has a tremendous presence and booming voice — you can’t help but listen and be mesmerized. Marilyn Chin is highly expressive, energetic and just plain entertaining to hear, and Celeste Gainey was interesting because she explained how she became one of the first woman lighting gaffers in Hollywood. Her book published in 2015, The Gaffer, highlights experiences she had in a male-dominated field. When I heard her story I immediately thought she was someone I wanted to talk with later, but the sessions move fast and it’s not easy to catch the poets midstream. You can imagine my surprise when I actually bumped into her in the bookstore where I had a stack of books; two on the top were Claudia Rankine’s Citizen and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely. I really hate to admit this, but when I selected the books I had no idea who Claudia Rankine was, nor that she just won a MacArthur Foundation “genius award.” I hadn’t even read about her in the catalog. I would find out I’d have the opportunity to hear her read an hour later.

A voice out of nowhere said, “Claudia Rankine is terrific,” and suddenly I was face-to-face with Celeste Gainey who was wearing incredibly cool round-shaped black glasses. I said in my direct way, “I don’t have a clue who she is, but these two books spoke to me immediately because they’re mixed media and the topics are about social justice.” We got to talking and Celeste couldn’t have been warmer and more encouraging when I talked about my work and future project plans. She’s had a diverse creative life as the first woman to be admitted as a gaffer to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (I.A.T.S.E.). In addition to lighting dozens of documentaries, she worked for 60 Minutes, ABC Close-Up, 20/20, and feature films, most notably Dog Day Afternoon, Taxi Driver, and The Wiz. She was an early member of New York Women in Film and Television, serving two terms as President, from 1983-1985. Later, she started a company to light restaurants and architectural spaces.

The very next session, with Claudia Rankine, was Poetry and Social Justice moderated by NPR’s Brian Lehrer. It was at the cross section of civic dialogue and poetry, certainly subjects close to my heart.

Martin Espada

Claudia Rankine

(Read the full poem at

The poets grappled with the question, “How do you deal with people who don’t want to be attentive?” This is always the question of change and engagement. Rankine said the question should be reframed as, “How do we listen to each other? Everyone is backed into corners… We need relational living.” But Martín Espada countered, “Some people don’t want to listen and we are engaged in a great power struggle.” Katha Pollitt said, “Relating on a human level, we don’t know how to talk about our differences” and Juan Felipe Herrera reminded everyone that sometimes we simply feel helpless, we don’t know what to do. His hope was that “the intimate nature of a poem opens up the possibility to hearing and seeing things in a new light.” But, as we can see with the 2016 presidential election, we are all struggling under the disenchantment of politics and statements from someone I don’t even need to reference by name, as we all know who I mean: “It’s just words folks, it’s just words.” Since when did words not mean anything?

The overall theme of the Dodge Poetry Festival seemed to be everything connected with social justice. After three days I wasn’t sure if it was just my selection of sessions to participate in, or if that was indeed the umbrella that went over the entire festival. My husband accompanied me on the third evening, and first we had a great dinner at Casa Vasca in the Spanish Portuguese section of Newark (a restaurant I’ve been visiting for nearly 30 years) and then off we went to the festival. The evening was definitely the pièce de résistance with “Poetry like Bread: Poems of Social and Political Consciousness.” The title of the performance came from a poem by Roque Dalton, “Like You”: “I believe the world is beautiful and poetry, like bread, is for everyone.”

Tim Seibles at the podium

Tim Seibles

It was an incredible lineup of 10 heavy-hitter poets: Mahogany L. Brown, Marilyn Chin, Robert Hass, Martin Espada, Juan Felipe Herrara, Brenda Hillman, Jane Hirshfield, Vijay Seshadi, Gary Snyder and Tim Seibles and the music of Jamila Woods and the three Parkington Sisters. Claudia Rankine was there in spirit with a video essay collaboration with her filmmaker husband John Lucas, “Situation 8,” about the spate of US police shootings — a haunting hybrid of poetry and original footage as well as victim evidenced YouTube videos. The evening was supposed to run for two hours, but went to three. The poets simply got up in varied order, I imagine sequentially done for the purpose of smooth storytelling, although it wasn’t immediately obvious. Despite being a fidgeter with a short attention span, I didn’t even think about leaving my seat or doing more than listen — glued to every WORD. One poem after the other was necessary to hear. Some poets weren’t as good readers as others, but the WORDS! Oh the words. Often I watched the words form and move on the closed caption system, happy I could hear and SEE them.

Thirty years ago,
your linen-gowned father stop
in the dayroom of the VA hospital,
grabbing at the plastic
identification bracelet
marked Negro,
shouting I’m not!
Take it off!
I’m Other!
Martín Espada, “From an Island You Cannot Name” (Alabanza)

The poetry soared through the night with an urgency my soul truly needed. The subjects included the environment, citizenry, pop culture, memory, the economy, immigration, police and race, weapons and guns, war, and love. I sat there thinking how nourished I felt, but at the same time ashamed of our country’s politics in the recent aftermath of the presidential debates. Few if any of these same topics have even come to bare with the election only a few weeks away. It seems to me these poet’s WORDS are exactly the issues many people have been wanting to hear discussed, along with solutions.

Let us celebrate the lives of all
As we reflect & pray & meditate on their brutal deaths
Let us celebrate those who marched at night who spoke of peace
& chanted Black Lives Matter
Let us celebrate the officers dressed in Blues ready to protect
Juan Felipe Herrera, “@ the Crossroads—A Sudden American Poem

Juan Felipe Herrara illustration with notes by attendee Jenny Linn Loveland.

Juan Felipe Herrara illustration with notes by attendee Jenny Linn Loveland.

During intermission I spoke with Michael Szewczyk, a kind and entertaining social studies/science teacher at Irvington High School whose arms, I couldn’t help but notice, had some fierce tattoos. He has been coming to the Dodge Poetry Festival every other year since 1996 when it was held at Waterloo Village in Stanhope, NJ. He waxed nostalgic about the early days, but I thought he would be able to shed some light on the fact that there was so much political discussion. I asked him if this year was different since it’s an election year and perhaps they curated the poetry to reflect the time, and he said, “yes and no.” He told me to watch Bill Moyers documentary, Fooling with Words. I guess in the end it doesn’t matter how they curated the poets for the time or the poetry performed. I think perhaps Lucille Clifton states it well in the Bill Moyer’s documentary:

oh pray that what we want
is worth this running,
pray that what we’re running
toward is what we want.

My first Dodge Poetry Festival makes me wonder why in hell I didn’t run there sooner. It was an incredible experience which I will not forget anytime soon. The books I brought home and the discussions I had will keep me satiated until 2018 when I know for sure I’ll be attending. Until then I will keep developing my own work in collaboration with others and just keep putting it out there. What comes of it I have no idea, but I am definitely on this journey for the long haul and looking forward to where it takes me.

Big Bridges: The smoke, the cars and clouds, the quiet, the river

“I think of the smoke, the cars and clouds, the quiet, the river, often…”
—Leonard Gontarek, “Thirty-Seven Photos from the Bridge”

Big Bridges contest logoI don’t often enter contests or film festivals. I’m happy to plug away working on short documentaries and experimenting with new ways to create filmpoems. But I was alerted to the Big Bridges exhibition by my weekly Sunday afternoon Moving Poems digital digest, and at the time I was in Florida. According to the submission guidelines, there was about a month to submit an entirely new piece, never seen online before, to address the nature of our deficient bridges and infrastructure. I had a personal connection to the subject matter, and the Motionpoems and Weisman Art Museum (WAM) collaboration with artists, poets, architects, engineers and filmmakers piqued my interest. There was also a healthy cash prize associated. I thought, why not?

With little time to spare, I started looking for bridges in Naples, Florida, where most were new, though I found some good shadows and water movement to shoot during my time there. However, the main reason I wanted to work on the project was because a bridge within walking distance from my home is noticeably crumbling. In fact, living at the New Jersey shore, I’ve seen quite a few old bridges in dire need of replacement, damaged by years of rampaging weather and salt water.

As citizens we often take our bridge and infrastructure needs for granted. In the tri-state New York metro area there are many structurally deficient bridges, as we are in a major hub where consumer products are transported through the Interstate 95 corridor, on rail and by ship. The daily traffic on our roads and bridges is mind-boggling. My local bridge, built in 1939, is over 75 years old. It connects several small communities, and according to Transport for America, 13,618 cars travel over it every day. Surely when it was designed, engineers didn’t anticipate that type of usage and impact. The bridge makes a beautiful arc through the widest part of the river and gracefully curves between several historical homes. It has a movable deck (span) controlled by US Coast Guard employees which allows sailboats and larger yachts to pass.

I worry every time I drive over the bridge. It has been closed off and on over the past five years and is clearly structurally deficient, as the New Jersey Department of Transportation records and news articles document. What I observed and captured under the bridge is consistent with data and reports. According to a bridge repair log from 2008 to 2010, the repair costs were $1.3 million, and every year they’ve been steadily repairing the bridge, which has probably added up to between five and ten million dollars. A local newspaper recently reported a rough cost estimate of replacement at over $100 million. The county’s entire budget is $488 million. Additionally, there are citizens who are arguing for the same exact type of bridge and don’t want a taller one, and New Jersey has a Transportation Trust Fund that is basically bankrupt. This means that money needs to come from the federal government with approval from Congress. I’m afraid either these bridges will be closed altogether causing traffic havoc, or they will fail and lives will be lost. Solutions seem to be in short supply.

The Weisman Art Museum doors

The Weisman Art Museum (all photos by Lori H. Ersolmaz)

The good news is that the Big Bridges exhibition takes on an ambitious and difficult conversation that should be in the forefront of our local and national concerns. The Weisman Art Museum and Motionpoems collaboration began with a poetry contest judged by Poetry Society of America Executive Director, Alice Quinn. There were five overall winners with three chosen for filmmaker adaptation, including Ann Hudson’s “Elegy with a Train in It,” Jessica Jacobs’ “Bicycle Love Poem” and Leonard Gontarek’s “Thirty-Seven Photos from the Bridge.” Instead of reading the winning poems first, I decided the project should begin with my journey to the bridges and then match a winning poem with what I observed and documented. I shot the bridges as if they were people: intimately and from every vantage point except using aerial footage. (Patrick Siegrist, one of the filmpoetry judges, shot incredible drone footage for the Weisman/Target Studio Collaboration Exhibit, Big Bridges: An Aerial Tour.)

Shooting over several weeks, I went into stealth mode to document every detail of four bridges, and it wasn’t until I went out to film that I fully appreciated the beauty and wide span of the bridge near my home. In the final edit I tossed out all pedestrians and used additional footage shot in Paris and Belgium a few years ago. Nearly all my bridges were filmed from below where I found them to be dark and eerie with the sounds of cars above whizzing and droning by on their way to myriad destinations.

I had an unusual moment when shooting a newer bridge. While staring through the viewfinder, I was surprised to serendipitously film two small packages tossed off the side of the bridge, where one made its way to me at the bank below. As it came closer I noticed it was a plastic-wrapped WAWA hamburger carton. At the time I thought the carefully wrapped carton seemed odd because if someone is going to toss garbage, it would seem to have been already eaten and messy. But, I didn’t take it out of the water to inspect it. That very scene still stays fresh in my mind. The experience resonated with Leonard Gontarek’s poem: “…There is a lot of isolation and silence in our world. Birds land nowhere. Say that. Code it in. Let it play…” I specifically placed a plop-sound effect to punctuate what I felt Gontarek was alluding to.

“A little darkness and violet sticks to the river…” I still wonder what was inside that package, but metaphorically the scene represents the seedy and mysterious side of life—the underbelly—which may serve as a safe haven from harsh societal conditions. Possibly a dry place in the rain for homeless, or youth looking for a secret hiding space for drinking or drugs and to get away from everyday life. While bridges are connectors between two shores, often we have blinders on by not considering what else goes on underneath those dark, dank and lonely places. Confronting these ideas brings a deeper level of meaning, not just as structural failings, but overall societal deficiencies which go denied and disregarded. I chose a repetitious clip of a vibrant highlighted arc to depict a flash of this idea—the spirit of the ‘other’ we often don’t let ourselves see.

Inside the WAM

Inside the WAM

The submission guidelines stated that filmmakers had the option to rename the poem with the number of stanzas used, and my film is entitled Fourteen Photos from the Bridge. The film used nearly all non-sync sound with a music mix, and for narration, the voice of poet (and Motionpoems director) Todd Boss, whose intonation, weight and measure became important to emote the overall audio/visual integration.

I was surprised and elated in early September when I heard from Patrick Siegrist, WAM Artist in Residence, with the news about my winning submission. I was flown to Minneapolis, all expenses paid by the museum, for a September 30th exhibition screening date. Myself and another winning filmmaker, Sam Hoiland, and two runners-up were hosted in a WAM gallery with public networking after the screening. Craig Amundsen, Target Studio Director and Public Art Curator at WAM stated they received hundreds of submissions, and introduced Todd Boss of Motionpoems and Patrick Siegrist of City Visions, who each spoke briefly to explain the idea behind the Big Bridges poetry and film contest and exhibition.

It was an honor and a privilege to have my filmpoetry hosted at the magnificent Weisman Art Museum, designed by the renowned architect Frank Gehry on the banks of the Mississippi River alongside such 20th-century artists as Marsden Hartley, Charles Biederman, Georgia O’Keefe and Louise Nevelson. I’m grateful to the judges, WAM staff, Motionpoems, the artists, poets and guests who I met during the evening and will forever hold the memory of my time in Minneapolis for the Big Bridges exhibition close to my heart. While I started out saying I tend not to enter contests or film festivals, I have to admit, it’s a great opportunity to collaborate and learn about those who share the same ideals and values about society, culture and the making of art and poetry, all in an effort to find new ways for collective dialogue and ultimately solutions to our nation’s most important problems.

Watch Lori’s winning film on Moving Poems, and then find out about bridges in your state. —Ed.

Weisman Art Museum architecture

Frank Gehry’s magnificent design of the WAM

Flick the Switch: The Making of “Homeopathy”

When I shared Lori Ersolmaz’s film Homeopathy on Monday, she got in touch and offered to write up some process notes. The resulting essay is of exceptional interest, I think, in showing just how closely a poetry-filmmaker can identify with a text—and how much she can make the resulting filmpoem or videopoem her own. —Dave Bonta

This filmpoem is a very personal endeavor, reflecting my feelings and emotions while I was undergoing treatment for an ovarian mass. From the time I received the head-spinning news, I spent most of my time trying to gather as much information as possible from the Internet, and spoke with friends who had been through a similar situation. At the onset of my symptoms I found myself awake at 2:00 AM experimenting with video in a darkened hotel room lit only by the TV. The footage is quite metaphoric in numerous ways. My conversations with doctors, family, and friends were often chaotic and distressing at best. I quickly found that my primary care doctor’s bedside manner didn’t mesh well with me because she insisted that I had ovarian cancer, while my oncologist surgeon and gynecologist gave me somewhat better odds.

While in despair and feeling incredibly uncreative, I searched for an appropriate poem on The Poetry Storehouse to re-create my feelings with visual storytelling. I didn’t have to look very far. Nina Corwin’s poem “Homeopathy” had just been uploaded, and I downloaded it along with the poet’s narration, which I used in my final piece. Corwin writes in “Homeopathy,” “We can play in the dark” and ironically this was represented with my hotel footage before I even read her poem.

I sat on the poem for several months, but during that time I made notes of additional visuals needed, filmed more and searched on Pond 5 and for horror movies and nuclear bombings. While I edited the first minute or two prior to my surgery, it was largely left unfinished until a month after my recovery.

This is my longest filmpoem, and I purposely wanted it that way. Although I only had to wait two and half months to hear whether I had cancer or not, it felt like an eternity. Even though I kept a positive attitude, every waking moment I considered how my health issue would change my life and those around me forever. It was nothing short of gut-wrenching, and felt like it would never end. When I awoke from the five hour surgical ordeal and heard the good news from my husband—benign—indeed, as Homeopathy reveals, I felt incredibly lucky to be able to “play flick the switch…”

The film uses linear imagery that reflects the known yet unknown, and darting screen movements resemble the chaos and lack of control I felt. In the end I’m left with five new linear scars as a reminder of my experience.

As for the music, I hadn’t realized it, but on an earlier visit to Pond 5 I downloaded the free Chopin Sonata No. 2 in B-flat music file. The music was familiar to me, and I didn’t know why, but it hit the somber note of my feelings. Slow. Deliberate. Making peace with what could be next. Little did I know until I Googled it that this is Chopin’s well-known Funeral March!

I couldn’t be happier to have had access to Nina Corwin’s fine poem, and the process provided me with recovery and closure, yet helped me to document my emotions before, during and after a traumatic life event.

[UPDATE] I asked Nina Corwin if she would be willing to share a bit about the composition of the poem and her reaction to my filmpoem. This is what she wrote:

Homeopathy started with a line from an e-mail to a poet friend coming in from out-of-town. A riff on “playing” sick associated playing hooky, playing doctor and the healing powers of child’s play. Once the homeopathic references suggested themselves, the poem found its name.

This is one of those rare poems that wrote itself—much more quickly than is usual for me. It got accepted by an on-line journal I admired (and had previously been rejected by) called Anti- before I knew it.

There’s something wonderful about poetry (and other art forms), especially poetry that makes such associative leaps, is that people reading it can evoke their own associations. It’s the ineffable connection between expression and experience.

Lori had a very different experience of the poem. I have had my poetry rendered by composers on several occasions. Sometimes the piece involves collaboration, though others given with the idea that once I “hand it over,” I give free rein to the interpretations of that artist. It’s rather like a game of telephone. Another sort of play (maybe something I could weave into the poem after the fact),

The result that Lori has created gives a whole new life to the poem.

Lori Ersolmaz: Beginning with the End in Mind

Still from "I Too Come From"

Still from “I Too Come From

I always have a sense of excitement when I am in the process of creating a new filmpoem. I find I am not as prolific as others in the genre who I admire. Not only does my other work get in the way, but sometimes it takes me time to soak in a poem, and I don’t like to be rushed. I have been wanting to develop a piece from Luisa Igloria’s work ever since I read about her practice of writing a poem each day on Dave Bonta’s website, Via Negativa.

At least six months ago I looked through The Poetry Storehouse for Luisa’s work and downloaded her audio, then I surfed again about a month ago. I printed out “I Too Come From” and read it a handful of times before I decided to shoot some new footage on a rainy day. I patiently waited for drips to fall from a line and watched rain falling softly on my back steps with the shadow of a very old oak tree (which may have to be cut down later this year), surprisingly echoing the words, “…elbow of an alley shaped like an L…” I also looked through my archived footage seeking unused imagery and then went online after reading about a new source of public domain material on Pond5, both from Nic S.’s post on Facebook and an email from Pat Aufderheide at the Center for Media and Social Impact.

The biggest difference I had in producing this piece is that I edited it backwards. I can’t say for sure why, but it was easier for me to reconstruct the poem visually starting with the end first and moving backward towards the beginning. This seems a bit crazy, but after some reflection perhaps it had more to do with my wanting to merge moth imagery I shot last summer with a nuclear cloud clip downloaded from Pond5. Some type of metaphor clicked for me, and I started with that first—from there it all just glided along.

While I knew which clips I wanted to use, I moved imagery around based on my connection to the words and experimented with collaging images together. I have a tendency to be abstract in my approach to filmpoetry, but I felt figures were needed, especially since the overwhelming sense I got from the poetry is one of independence—something that resonates with me on a personal level.

I played around in Motion to create the title sequence and while I collected some sound effects along the way, as usual I left the soundscape to the end. I was so happy to finally use my footage from an underground train in Belgium. I tried to use the imagery too, but it didn’t work. As audio goes, I have found Freesound to be a great resource, but it’s time consuming trying to find what feels like just the right effect, or music. In the end I always hope I do justice to the poetry and that viewers enjoy watching and listening to it as much as I have creating it.

Watch “I Too Come From” at Moving Poems.

The making of “Backward Like a Ghost”

When I was asked to participate in the Poetry Storehouse First Anniversary Contest my husband and I were going through a difficult business transaction. The three-minute film was in response to my raw emotion at the tension that arises from a corporate culture which, on the one hand, tends to treat people as if they are unimportant throw-away items, and on the other as consumers who they want to woo and understand how to sell more to in the future. The film explores a brief roller-coaster ride, which reflects what I see as the sometimes hollow promises that humanity can make in the name of economics.

From a production standpoint, the clips that I used to compose the piece include some of the earliest moving images I shot, but never knew what to do with. My shooting spans as far back as ten years ago, to a week or so before editing the film.

The haunting water images that seem to appear as a canal were actually shot in Istanbul on a ferry ride. My husband, a Turkish native, introduced me to the ferry on my first visit, and we took it again on numerous subsequent visits. The Bosphorus is a huge, engulfing sea where tankers are as close as your nose, and the only other place I’ve experienced this is sailing in New York harbor. On one of my trips I finally had a camera to capture the birds that follow the ferry back and forth. I was always mesmerized by how close the birds came to the boat, as if they were repeatedly trying to tell the weary travelers something important, yet no one listened. The juxtaposition of the large tankers and the very tiny boat going backwards at the beginning of the film represent my feeling about the David-and-Goliath experience people have with the corporate culture they experience, but try to show a blind eye to until they personally rub up against it, sometimes with devastating effects.

Some of the push-pull tension in the abstract portions of the film and the sound effects provide bridges, that are what I used to transition from my feelings of getting the “run-around.” The balloons, also shot in Istanbul, were used as my celebratory image of finally being over with the ordeal, and the very first and last shots are representative of those firing synapses that we feel when we go shopping, but more often than not prove to be brief, illusory happiness until the next fix.

The people in the piece were shot on 14th Street in Manhattan with a small Flip camera while I was waiting to meet a client for dinner. I was standing against a wall outside Whole Foods, and was amazed that while I was holding up a camera and shooting, people were standing and passing by without even noticing me. I was shooting without interruption for about 10-15 minutes and felt like a fly on the wall. A young guy with his back towards me was less than two foot away, waiting for his girlfriend. A few minutes after they met up, another woman came gliding in between us. I placed her with footage that I shot of a kid’s jungle gym that softens the blow by being “pretty in pink.” I feel these shots eerily represent how we bump up against each other, yet unwittingly don’t realize or care about the damage caused.

It is interesting to find that Amy Miller’s winning poem is not that different from what I was trying to explore myself. Often immigrants come to America, the land of opportunity, for its great economic benefits, yet for some it promises little. Do we live in a world where money is more important than we are? It’s a subject I wrestle with, but have no answers.

Watch the finished film at Moving Poems (and read Amy Miller’s own, fascinating process notes). —Ed.