~ interviews ~

Conversations with innovative filmmakers and videopoets.

“We relinquish control the moment we agree to publish our work”: an interview with Lennart Lundh

This is the eighth in a series of interviews with poets and remixers who have provided or worked with material from The Poetry Storehouse — a website which collects “great contemporary poems for creative remix.” Anyone who submits to the Storehouse has to think through the question of creative control — how important is it to you, what do you gain or lose by holding on to or releasing control? Our eighth interview is with Lennart Lundh.


1. Submitting to The Poetry Storehouse means taking a step back from a focus on oneself as individual creator and opening up one’s work to a new set of creative possibilities. Talk about your relationship to your work and how you view this sort of control relinquishment.


LL:
Unless someone decides to edit my words, changing their meaning to suit different purposes, I’m not all that possessive or reactive. We relinquish control the moment we agree with the editor who wants to publish our work. Some presentations carry the words, and some drop them from a tall building. We take that chance. I confess I had a moment’s paternal concern (or perhaps culture shock) when Nic S. recorded one of my poems which was clearly written in a male voice, but only because mine is the sole voice that had read my work aloud up to that point. After a mental step back, I recognized the reading as excellent and life went on.


2. There is never any telling whether one will love or hate the remixes that result when a poet permits remixing of his or her work by others. Please describe the remixes that have resulted for your work at the Storehouse and your own reactions to them.


LL:
The recorded readings by Siddartha Beth Pierce and Nic have pleased me. They’re true to my intent in gathering the words, even with different choices in cadence and emphasis. The video and soundtrack choices in the remixes by Nic (Sandburg and Photograph), Marc Neys (Elegy), and Paul Broderick (also Elegy) represent somebody else’s visions of what the words mean, and I respect that — not because it’s what I signed on for, but because I don’t believe any piece of art means precisely the same thing to any two beholders (or to any single one across repeated meetings). The end result is fascinating to me in how the shifted colors and nuances of my words still work nicely through those different interpretations.


3. Would you do this again? What is your advice to other poets who might be considering submitting to The Poetry Storehouse?


LL:
Hell, yes, I’d do this again, and hope to get the chance. It’d be lovely if repeat submissions became part of the policy. As for other writers, my advice would be to think in terms of the larger process, follow the Poetry Storehouse’s guidelines — and if in doubt or puzzled, ask Nic her opinion; she’s a pleasure to work with.


4. Is there anything about the Storehouse process or approach that you feel might with benefit be done differently?


LL:
There’s nothing I’d change. This has been a great learning experience, and I’m pleased with how my words have been handled. It’s certainly broadened my horizons and offered more paths for me to follow as an artist.


5. Is there anything else you would like to say about your Poetry Storehouse experience?


LL:
Yeah: Thank you!

“Even the fluffiest piece can have a flip side”: an interview with filmmaker Paul Broderick

This is the seventh in a series of interviews with poets and remixers who have provided or worked with material from The Poetry Storehouse, a website which collects “great contemporary poems for creative remix.” Paul Broderick is a filmmaker. His recent short poetry film “CATS” by H.P Lovecraft will make its debut at the Peak Film Forum “Show Us Your Shorts” Short Film Screening in Colorado on March 11th 2014. Paul and his wife Arlene reside in Queens New York with their three cats Max, Cali and Sammy. He can be reached at gumppaul@aol.com and can be found on Facebook.


1. Would you briefly describe the remix work you have done based on poems from The Poetry Storehouse?


PB:
I have remixed two pieces thus far from The Poetry Storehouse, poems by Dustin Luke Nelson (“A Short Film For Today About What Happened Yesterday“) and Lennart Lundh (“Elegy“). Both poems caught my eye and I had to give them a visual voice.


2. How is The Poetry Storehouse different from or similar to other resources you have used for your remix work?


PB:
The closest I have come to anything resembling The Poetry Storehouse would have be the website archive.org, the difference being the amount of contemporary poems at the Storehouse with readings attached. This I have affectionately begun to call “shake & bake productions” or one-stop shopping… everything the film maker needs is right here. When I found out that there was a sub-genre of film production called poetry-film, it was off to the races.


3. What specific elements do you look for when you browse offerings at The Storehouse (or, what is your advice to poets submitting to The Storehouse)?


PB:
I am a very big fan of horror and the supernatural. I will first look for the elements in a poem that I can translate visually with an emphasis on things that are dark. Even the fluffiest piece can have a flip side. Collaborative is the keyword. As an author, the poet is taking a leap of faith by allowing their work to be interpreted by someone they have never met, and this is the beauty of the creative process.


4. Talk about how the remixing process comes together for you. For example, does your inspiration start with a poem, or with specific footage for which you then seek a poem?


PB:
I will read a poem and immediately start tossing some ideas around in my head and then the creative process will begin. For me it all begins with the author’s work.


5. Is there anything about the Storehouse process or approach that you feel might with benefit be done differently?


PB:
The poetry storehouse is a wonderful place. When a poem, reading and visual style come together, it is a sight to behold…


6. Is there anything else you would like to say about your Poetry Storehouse experience (or anything else)?


PB:
My experience here has been wonderful. I would however, like to take a moment to thank some of the people that have inspired me along the way: my beautiful wife Arlene, who puts up with my endless hours and obsession with film making; an old friend of more than 30 years, Ralph Giordano, director/filmmaker who first introduced me to film poetry; another old friend, Robin Taylor-Southern—a voice-over artist who has generously lent her voice and time to my projects; and a special nod to Erik J. Nielsen, comic book illustrator (Amphibimen Comics) and an old friend… thank you, Erik.

“Images which don’t make sense, but seem to fit somehow”: an interview with Othniel Smith

This is the sixth in a series of interviews with poets and remixers who have provided or worked with material from The Poetry Storehouse, a website which collects “great contemporary poems for creative remix.” This interview with Othniel Smith shares a remixer’s perspective. Smith has made the following remixes: “Playing Duets with Heisenberg’s Ghost,” “Dirty Old Man,” “Florid Psychosis,” “Ethics of the Mothers” and “Mundane Dreams.”


1. Would you briefly describe the remix work you have done based on poems from The Poetry Storehouse?


OS:
The films I’ve made, inspired by pieces from The Poetry Storehouse, have all been assembled from public domain material made available by The Prelinger Internet Archive and Flickr Commons. I am neither a poet nor a scholar of poetry; thus I fully concede that my interpretations may well be excessively literal. Nor am I a professional video editor, hence the clumsiness.


2. How is The Poetry Storehouse different from or similar to other resources you have used for your remix work?


OS:
Most of the poetry films I made before discovering The Poetry Storehouse were based on readings of historic poems (by Shakespeare, Keats, Dickinson, Sandburg etc), taken from sources such as Librivox. Thus I seized on the opportunity to exercise my limited imagination on the work of living poets.


3. What specific elements do you look for when you browse offerings at The Storehouse (or, what is your advice to poets submitting to The Storehouse)?


OS:
I’ve simply chosen poems which sparked something off in my mind — no logic involved.

I have no advice to offer to poets in terms of what work to submit, as long as they’re aware that their work may be subject to radical misinterpretation.


4. Talk about how the remixing process comes together for you. For example, does your inspiration start with a poem, or with specific footage for which you then seek a poem?


OS:
Usually a phrase in the poem, or its tone as a whole, calls to mind an image from a film. For example, for Peg Duthie’s “Playing Duets With Heisenberg’s Ghost”, it was of a woman blissful and assured at her piano; for David Sullivan’s “Dirty Old Man” it was the innocent face of an adolescent Tuesday Weld. It’s then a matter of seeking out other images which make sense in conjunction with it. Or which don’t make sense, but seem to fit, somehow.


5. Is there anything about the Storehouse process or approach that you feel might with benefit be done differently?


OS:
No — it’s an excellent resource. It’s especially interesting to hear poets reading their own words. Hopefully you’ll be able to attract more quality work from all parts of the globe.


6. Is there anything else you would like to say about your Poetry Storehouse experience (or anything else)?


OS:
I’m just pleased that the poets whose work I’ve tackled don’t seem to have been overly offended (or if they have, they’ve been very polite about it).

“The collaborative process is enriching for everyone involved”: an interview with Marc Neys

This is the fifth in a series of interviews with poets and remixers who have provided or worked with material from The Poetry Storehouse, a website which collects “great contemporary poems for creative remix.” This interview with filmmaker Marc Neys (A.K.A. Swoon) shares a remixer’s perspective.


1. Would you briefly describe the remix work you have done based on poems from The Poetry Storehouse?


MN:
If I recall correctly, both “Telegram” and “Today is your advocate” were your typical “Swoon approach”: first creating a track, getting ideas for images—”Hey, that one might fit perfectly!”— while doing so. If the track is good and the basic idea and feel of the chosen footage (originally intended for other projects in both cases) fits, they create themselves, really. I follow my gut and the flow of the poem/reading/sound to put the images right.

Sweet Tea” was another story. I made a video (making use of an old experiment from way back) first, but it didn’t do the job. The track was right on from the beginning, but the video? It took a completely different approach—working and experimenting with photos—to make something I thought worked well.


2. How is The Poetry Storehouse different from or similar to other resources you have used for your remix work?


MN:
It’s the same in the sense that there are poems (some of them I like, others not to my taste) and there are often fine readings. But it’s much easier in the sense that I don’t have to go through the whole process of finding and getting in contact with the original creators. Though sometimes I do miss that contact. Often a similar contact forms after the video is released, so that’s a good thing.

It’s a fine place to go to once in a while to check what’s new and see if anything “clicks.” I remember doing the same with the Qarrtsiluni issues…but there I had to ask the poet if it was OK to use their work for a video.


3. What specific elements do you look for when you browse offerings at The Storehouse (or, what is your advice to poets submitting to The Storehouse)?


MN:
I’m very much a browser. Are there titles that jump out, certain lines that hit me? If that’s the case, I go looking and listening for a reading. I like my poetry audible, so I suggest much more “good” readings, recordings and voices! I know that not every poet is a reader, but getting their poems read out by someone else with a good voice, someone with a great (or even new) interpretation…and if they like their own reading, record them and send that together with the texts.

To me, that’s the whole idea: poetry is great, but should not exist solely in the form of words on paper. It might expand their view of their own work if poets and writers would read their works out loud more often, or get others to read and record their words.


4. Talk about how the remixing process comes together for you. For example, does your inspiration start with a poem, or with specific footage for which you then seek a poem?


MN:
Both. Sometimes it’s a word, a phrase, a whole poem that makes me create a soundscape that then leads me to imagery, sometimes I have a track and images that “need” a poem…anything goes. I go with the inspiration of the moment. Take my pot of coffee, open up the computer and see where what leads me. That said, I put a lot of time into my soundscapes, and I believe they are the mortar between the bricks of words and images.


5. Is there anything about the Storehouse process or approach that you feel might with benefit be done differently?


MN:
Not that I can think of right now. Well, maybe invite more “voices”—actors, poetry lovers, people with recording equipment who want to give it a try, radio people with a love for poetry—to record the poems and /or get the poets to do so themselves also…


6. Is there anything else you would like to say about your Poetry Storehouse experience (or anything else)?


MN:
I still think it’s a great idea, and realized in a good-looking and easy-to-use site. Let it grow. Hopefully, more and more creative people will find their way to the Storehouse, and not only poets with their poems (though, without them, of course, no Storehouse :-)). Being not the greatest writer myself, I love the fact that we can create new things with these existing poems. It opens up the way I look at words, and perhaps makes the writers look differently at images and at their own writing. And in the end, the collaborative process of creating these videopoems, with and on top of creations by others, is enriching for everyone involved.

“It was good to know I’d have no control”: an interview with Amy MacLennan

This is the fourth in a series of interviews with poets and remixers who have provided or worked with material from The Poetry Storehouse — a website which collects “great contemporary poems for creative remix.” Anyone who submits to the Storehouse has to think through the question of creative control — how important is it to you, what do you gain or lose by holding on to or releasing control? Our fourth interview is with Amy MacLennan.


1. Submitting to The Poetry Storehouse means taking a step back from a focus on oneself as individual creator and opening up one’s work to a new set of creative possibilities. Talk about your relationship to your work and how you view this sort of control relinquishment.


AM:
This has been very scary and unexpected and wonderful for me. I’ve had a half dozen poems paired with a graphic. I’ve had a few poems recorded with another person reading. This is the first time I’ve been part of a true collaborative project. While it was really scary, it was good to know I’d have no control — EVERYTHING out of my hands. Whatever it became, I wouldn’t have to edit edit edit like my other projects.


2. There is never any telling whether one will love or hate the remixes that result when a poet permits remixing of his or her work by others. Please describe the remixes that have resulted for your work at the Storehouse and your own reactions to them.


AM:
It. Was. Weird. I never expected to hear that kind of music, see that kind of video, hear that kind of voice merged into something that I had provided words for. The pacing was crazy interesting for me. I saw other things in my own poem that I wouldn’t have thought before because I was too attached to the rhythms of “Telegram.” I watch this now and think, “Wow. My words were the beginning to THIS? Oh my goodness!”


3. Would you do this again? What is your advice to other poets who might be considering submitting to The Poetry Storehouse?


AM:
I would definitely do this again. It expanded my creative brain. I think other poets would adore being involved in this kind of thing with others accepting a piece and taking it to a resolution completely beyond you.


4. Is there anything about the Storehouse process or approach that you feel might with benefit be done differently?


AM:
Nope.


5. Is there anything else you would like to say about your Poetry Storehouse experience?


AM:
This has made me a different writer. I’m excited to try and find other collaborative partners.

Letting our children go: an interview with Eric Blanchard

This is the third in a series of interviews with poets and remixers who have provided or worked with material from The Poetry Storehouse — a website which collects “great contemporary poems for creative remix.” Anyone who submits to the Storehouse has to think through the question of creative control — how important is it to you, what do you gain or lose by holding on to or releasing control? Our third interview is with Eric Blanchard.


1. Submitting to The Poetry Storehouse means taking a step back from a focus on oneself as individual creator and opening up one’s work to a new set of creative possibilities. Talk about your relationship to your work and how you view this sort of control relinquishment.


EB:
There was a time where I considered my poems to be my children. Thus, I was very protective of them. Maybe I still feel that way, a little. Even so, there comes a time when one’s children must be released into the world to make their own impact, great or small. Our children develop lives of their own. We have little say as to what their impact might be, other than the foundation onto which they are born. Why should a poem have only one chance at making an artistic impression?

On the other hand, being the impetus, or even just basic source material, for other artists’ work in various forms is strangely satisfying… maybe it’s somewhat like being an organ donor. I have yet to regret it.


2. There is never any telling whether one will love or hate the remixes that result when a poet permits remixing of his or her work by others. Please describe the remixes that have resulted for your work at the Storehouse and your own reactions to them.


EB:
Being a bit of a control freak, especially as it pertains to my artist image, it can be hard to let go. Perhaps it is fortunate none of my poems have been dissected and/or rearranged yet. Still, I have had to accept that possibility.

So far, the provocative reading by Nic S., the soundscape by Swoon, and the videos founded on my poem “Sweet Tea” have all been both interesting and rewarding, if not representative of the original intent and flavor of the poem.


3. Would you do this again? What is your advice to other poets who might be considering submitting to The Poetry Storehouse?


EB:
Yes, I would.

My advice to other poets would be to accept that you are part of an artistic community and that if your work inspires, gives an artistic spark to, or provides raw material for another artist’s work, then it is doing its job. Besides, anyone who ever stumbles across your poems, wherever they might be published, might be borrowing from them, remixing them, or setting them to music in the privacy of their own abode. At The Poetry Storehouse it is simply done in an open forum. And your poem continues to live on the forum in its original form, notwithstanding what other artistic forms might be attached to it.


4. Is there anything about the Storehouse process or approach that you feel might with benefit be done differently?


EB:
I really don’t know. I am just a simple poet. I do wish I had other talents that I could use to be a more active part of the Storehouse … so, if you could change that little thing, it would be great. Thanks.


5. Is there anything else you would like to say about your Poetry Storehouse experience?


EB:
To be honest, my initial motivation for submitting my previously published poems to The Poetry Storehouse was to get them republished online. The audience for print publications is relatively small, and the chance of anyone reading work published in them, after the initial distribution, is pretty slim. The Storehouse provides the opportunity for print only poems to have new life and reach a greater, on-going audience whether or not the poem get chosen for remix or video presentation. Of course, the window of possibility remains open as long as the work stays on the internet.

Thanks again to Nic and all the other collaborators who make The Poetry Storehouse such an interesting and exciting artistic forum.

“It is in our nature to share and collaborate”: an interview with Peter Ciccariello

This is the second in a series of interviews with poets and remixers who have provided or worked with material from The Poetry Storehouse — a website which collects “great contemporary poems for creative remix.” Anyone who submits to the Storehouse has to think through the question of creative control — how important is it to you, what do you gain or lose by holding on to or releasing control? Our second interview is with Peter Ciccariello.

1. Submitting to The Poetry Storehouse means taking a step back from a focus on oneself as individual creator and opening up one’s work to a new set of creative possibilities. Talk about your relationship to your work and how you view this sort of control relinquishment.

PC: I think artists and writers are by nature introspective and solitary. I work alone, thinking and creating in a quiet and controlled space, my most creative and free times are late at night, well past the hour between dog and wolf. There is an innate resistance to collaboration but there is also an allure and a fascination. Since my work is about appropriation, remixing and re-purposing, and ultimately about ownership, I think it may be easier for me to see my work altered or re-interpreted by other artists. As I have grown as an artist, I welcome the chance to actually see how others see my writing and am actually fascinated by how it can be birthed into a new form. Lately I have been reading and thinking a great deal about the idea of cooperation among animals in an evolutionary sense as opposed to individualism and “survival of the fittest.” It is in our nature to share and collaborate and it is ultimately essential to our growth as creative people and as human beings.

2. There is never any telling whether one will love or hate the remixes that result when a poet permits remixing of his or her work by others. Please describe the remixes that have resulted for your work at the Storehouse and your own reactions to them.

PC: Marc Neys (Swoon)’s video remix of my poem “Today is your advocate” (read by Nic S.) was an absolute delight to experience. My overwhelming reaction was that they actually “got it.” My work can be so removed and inaccessible at times that is truly amazes me when someone actually understands what I meant. That is not said in an elitist sense, more because my writing deals with issues like obscurantism, and free association, so at times it is not the most accessible or available use of language.

3. Would you do this again? What is your advice to other poets who might be considering submitting to The Poetry Storehouse?

PC: Absolutely! Highly recommended.

4. Is there anything about the Storehouse process or approach that you feel might with benefit be done differently?

PC: I thought that it would be interesting to see how a remixed piece would get altered being used by a number of different artists and writers over and over again. That is a major fascination in my own work. Taking a poem or a word and deconstructing it until the original context is destroyed. What is left? Where is the meaning? What is the source of a new understanding?

5. Is there anything else you would like to say about your Poetry Storehouse experience?

PC: Having other people create something new from something you have created is a marvelous concept. From the roots of Tristan Tzara pulling words out of a hat to create a poem in the 1920’s, to William Burroughs cut-ups and Creative Commons licensing, The Poetry Storehouse appears to be on the right trajectory.

What it’s like to have videopoems made of one’s work: an interview with Peg Duthie

This is the first in a series of interviews with poets and remixers who have provided or worked with material from The Poetry Storehouse — a website which collects “great contemporary poems for creative remix.” Anyone who submits to the Storehouse has to think through the question of creative control — how important is it to you, what do you gain or lose by holding on to or releasing control? Our first interview is with Peg Duthie, who shares a thoughtful and very interesting take on these issues.

1. Submitting to The Poetry Storehouse means taking a step back from a focus on oneself as individual creator and opening up one’s work to a new set of creative possibilities. Talk about your relationship to your work and how you view this sort of control relinquishment.

PD: When I was ten, The Hound of the Baskervilles showed up in my life as a graphic novel. The resulting obsession with Sherlock Holmes led to encounters with dozens of adaptations (some sublime, many banal) — including the original Broadway cast recording of Baker Street — and acres of analysis/speculation (some of it illuminating, much of it ludicrous).

So I learned early on that an author has little control over what a reader brings to a text or where they go with it. This lesson was reinforced when I won a state writing competition, and — I presume because I was still in grade school — a local newspaper summed up my work as being primarily about being a child. My winning entry was a multi-act play about a one-armed flute player, so I found the reporter’s mischaracterization both infuriating and instructive: some readers are gonna make your work be about what they’re looking for, even when it’s not, and it’s fruitless to fret about them.

On the other side of the coin, one of my favorite poems is Francis Thompson’s “The Hound of Heaven,” which I would have found wholly indigestible if I’d been introduced to it on paper. But my first collision with it was via a recording by a man whose voice closely resembled Ian Carmichael’s, the actor who’d portrayed Lord Peter Wimsey on BBC radio. So here’s a sprawling, emotionally extravagant poem reaching my ears as narrated by an urbane, Bach-playing detective — a man who cherishes order and precision. Twelve years later, I’m chanting “The Hound of Heaven” to myself while trying not fall off the back of a motorcycle zipping across Mississippi. You can’t dictate that kind of bone-deep connection — or any other type of connection, really — into existence. All you can do is to encourage multiple points of entry and then hope for the best.

2. There is never any telling whether one will love or hate the remixes that result when a poet permits remixing of his or her work by others. Please describe the remixes that have resulted for your work at the Storehouse and your own reactions to them.

PD: At this writing, there have been three, all of “Playing Duets with Heisenberg’s Ghost”: an audio recording by Nic S., a video by Nic S., and a video by Othniel Smith. Both videos use Nic’s reading of the poem.

The camera in Nic’s video travels up and down a series of shallow, wide steps, in what looks like the middle of a forest. It’s a sunny day, but the vegetation is so thick and messy that many of the steps are almost entirely in shadow. In the background, a guitar softly plays Axel Rose’s “Shy Dreams.”

In Othniel’s mix, the camera alternates between two sets of black-and-white footage: scenes from a performance by African American musician Martha Davis (probably with her husband, Calvin Ponder, in the background — we glimpse hands plucking at a bass behind her), and scenes of an atomic bomb at several different stages of detonation.

What these remixes do for the poem is (a) accent some of its preoccupations and (b) bring new layers of potential resonance to the reader-viewer. Nic’s film highlights a juxtaposition of the man-made (the concrete steps) and the wilderness. The blurring of the already fuzzy boundaries between the path and its surroundings (look at those vines and branches and fronds encroaching on the trail) echoes the turn in the poem, where the narrator admits she’s not wholly down with how porous the divide between death and life seems to be.

Othniel’s film radiates energy: Martha Davis is brimming with it. She’s a big, beautiful woman in a ballgown, playing among the potted plants and sateen curtains of a mid-twentieth-century hotel or nightclub. Her eyes are bright and so’s her smile. You can’t hear what she’s playing and it doesn’t matter, because you can see how dialed in she is both to the music and its unseen listeners — sometime she’s leaning into the piano as if it’s just her and it and what her fingers are saying to it, and sometimes she’s giving the audience the “you and me, we’ve got a happy secret between us” look. She’s so alive.

So, juxtaposed against her effervescence, you have the bomb and its pouffy poison-clouds. A different kind of bigness and brightness, in what looks like the middle of nowhere. Out of context, it’s rather abstract and arguably beautiful — but you can’t escape from the real world for long, so Martha and her piano get the last word, so to speak (even though her audience may well have included scientists from UChicago or UCLA seeking a night’s break from their work).

Or do they? After I watched Othniel’s video, I looked up Martha Davis and found that she’d died of cancer at the age of 42. I’d figured that she might already be dead, given the period nature of the footage, but that nonetheless spooks me, watching someone who is at once so vibrantly alive and yet fundamentally isn’t. The landscape of Nic’s video reminds me of Heisenberg’s love of hiking, as well as the walk in the woods with Bohr that torpedoed what was left of their friendship (another narrative I first encountered as part of a graphic novel, incidentally). The reflection of Martha’s hands in the piano’s mirror strip has me wanting to sketch out new poems about fallboards and flirting and fumbling-for-words-for-what-fingers-do.

3. Would you do this again? What is your advice to other poets who might be considering submitting to The Poetry Storehouse?

PD: Absolutely. Truth be told, my first reaction each time I learned about the videopoems was an “Eeeeeeeeeeee!”-filled happy dance. There are so very many other things that people could be that it’s impossible not to feel honored when someone chooses to spend time with something I’ve written. And then when they choose to revisit that something, and to invest time in the recording and research and editing — that’s an amazing feeling.

There’s also that thing about providing multiple entry points: some of the people now telling me how much they like the poem are longtime friends who connected to it via Othniel’s video. I’m certain Martha Davis drew some of them in (“What in the world does she have to do with quantum mechanics?”); some of them really dig videos; some of them haven’t bought my book (which is fine! I don’t get around to buying or even reading/watching/hearing everything my friends make, either!); and some of them read my blog or tweets maybe once every four months, so whether they hear about a poem at all depends on schedules and stars aligning just so. So again, I’m acutely conscious of the attention as a gift.

Sort-of-advice-wise, I feel that different authors will have different thresholds for what they’re comfortable having other people play with, and with their ability to handle the interest (or a lack thereof) to what they offer — I say this not from my experience with the Storehouse, but from general observation — so I think things are more likely to be fruitful when writers are candid with themselves about their boundaries, their expectations, and how much self-promotion they’re willing to do on behalf of the republished work.

That said, I also think the selection-for-submission process can be a fun exercise whether one eventually hits “send” or not. Allowing myself to imagine where a remixer might go clarified some aspects of where I am now (e.g., “hmm, not ready for a stranger’s spin on that” or “Good lord, pretentious much?”), as well as suggesting some riffs I might want to pursue myself.

4. Is there anything about the Storehouse process or approach that you feel might with benefit be done differently?

PD: To my knowledge, everyone else involved with the Storehouse has way more experience in collaborating and remixing than I. I’m still taking in the possibilities.

5. Is there anything else you would like to say about your Poetry Storehouse experience?
 
PD: I’ve enjoyed peeking at some of the other republications and remixes. Jennifer Swanton Brown’s collage on Erica Goss’s “Afternoon in the Shape of a Pear” is nifty, especially in how its links take the visitor to other remixes. Sarah Sloat’s “Dictionary Illustrations” is captivating. I’m looking forward to browsing around some more and offering remixes myself at some point — probably audio. Possibly calligraphy/collage. Possibly translation (probably in French). Quite possibly launching off a line or two into an entirely new poem. I wish I had the chops to produce comics: I can storyboard Kate Marshall Flaherty’s poems in my head, but actually drawing the panels isn’t in my skill set. Alas.

Also, I confess I get a kick out of the connections that led me to the Storehouse and have since been created by my being a part of it. I first heard about the Storehouse through Rachel Barenblat, who is another native of Texas, although at this point I think she’s spent over half of her life in Massachusetts, and I’ve spent 88 percent of mine east of the Mississippi. But we both grew up as minority women in the South (she’s Jewish, I’m Taiwanese) and sometimes I know she just gets my lover’s quarrel with my home region when there being love (or quarrel) at all has other people furrowing their brows. And then for a poem to be read by Nic, whose accent is primarily English (I think? I’m terrible at placing accents) but who has lived in Virginia longer than I’ve been in Tennessee, and then for that reading to inspire a playwright in Cardiff…

Ode to Gray by Sherman Alexie

A charming poem followed by a brief discussion with Bill Moyers from American public television. I post this not only because I like Sherman Alexie, but because I love the color gray.

To Do Wid Me (trailer) by Benjamin Zephaniah

As a fan primarily of mainstream, “page” poetry I don’t necessarily seek out spoken-word poetry, but I am enlivened and inspired by poets like Benjamin Zephaniah — not that there are too many other poets like him. Just as certain avant-garde poets challenge us to take language more seriously and to invent a new universe for every poem, brilliant performance poets like Zephaniah remind us that poetry is first and foremost an oral, embodied medium. Zephaniah’s example challenges us to take living more seriously, and to question whether our words and actions and politics are truly aligned as they should be. And needless to say, for a type of poetry that so emphasizes the physicality of language, film/video is the ideal medium.

Bloodaxe Books were kind enough to send me a review copy of the DVD-book for which this is the trailer, and I loved it. I’d already known from watching her films on Vimeo that Pamela Robertson-Pearce is a good director who knows how to get out of the way and let the poems and the poet speak for themselves, and this talent is very much on display here. I watched the DVD in two long sittings and was entranced. The readings and interviews are artfully blended, with earlier sequences anticipating later explanations by the poet. For example, a series of delightful readings for, and exchanges with, schoolchildren were filmed in what turns out to be the Keats House next to Hampstead Heath, which prepares the viewer not only to hear about the poet’s own childhood and difficult time at school, but also eventually to hear how and why he came to love Keats, Shelley and Byron despite his original aversion to dead white male poets. And footage of Zephaniah in a track suit practicing taiqi in his yard is first used as a backdrop for several segments, arousing one’s curiosity — eventually satisfied — about his exercise and martial arts regime and its influence on him as a performance poet and musician.

The footage of various readings before live audiences varies in quality (the sound is slightly muffled in a couple of them), but one thing I really appreciated was that the director did not attempt to jazz things up by jumping frenetically between two or more different perspectives, as so many slick poetry filmmakers like to do. I generally find that distracting, and with a performer as expressive as Zephaniah, there’s no need to add any more kinesis!

The film is playful and serious by turns, just as Zephaniah’s poems are, and gave me a lot to think about, especially on the role of performance in poetry, the social responsibility of artists, and the various ways in which oral and literary traditions intersect. My favorite interview sections were actually those with the poet’s mother, Valerie Wright, clearly the single biggest influence on his life, who sat beside him on a couch and helped answer questions about his upbringing and the family traits and customs that helped to produce a poet. I should add that all the poems are presented in full, and the film also incorporates a highly entertaining music video by his rap-reggae group, The Beta Brothers (with four more videos included as bonus tracks). Neil Astley’s Foreword in the book offers a more comprehensive biography than any I’ve seen online, and people who already own some or all of Zephaniah’s earlier books with Bloodaxe and Penguin will want this one, too, since it includes different versions of many poems, updated to reflect how they have evolved as he continues to perform them on stage.

The DVD is in PAL format, which means it won’t play on most North American DVD players, but should play just fine on most computers (as it did on my laptop). As the note about this on the last page of the book says, “In an ideal world we’d produce our DVD-book with DVDs in either format and give overseas readers the choice, but unfortunately that would be much too costly.” Check out the publisher’s detailed description at Vimeo or on the Bloodaxe website. Let me close with Zephaniah’s own description at his blog:

Yes, that’s right, I’ve got a new DVD and book out. It’s a kind of Zephaniah on the road jam, and it features my mum and my nephew, Zayn. He’s a good boy, but he can’t play football as good as me. The DVD has live performances of some previously published and unpublished poems, with interviews and lots of messing around by me. What I really love about it is the mix of my children’s poetry, my work for adults, and my music, which most publishers usually like to keep separate. Publisher, writer, and all round good guy Neil Astley has written an introduction for it, and Pamela Robertson-Pearce did the filming. We’ve tried to do something which stands up as both entertaining and educational, so it could be used in schools and other funky places. I’m pleased with it.

The Confession: poetry and conversation with Yehia Jaber

Lebanese poet Yehia Jaber discusses his beliefs about war and peace, God and poetry, and recites one example of his work in Arabic (with English in subtitles). The British/Iranian filmmaker Roxana Vilk got help from Maryam Ghorbankarimi (editing) and Pete Vilk (music and sound design).

Yehia Jaber is also a visual poet — see Everitte.org for a beautiful and easily comprehensible example of vispo/concrete poetry in Arabic calligraphy.

Road to Damascus: Journey with a Syrian poet

An anonymous Syrian poet muses on real terror versus sleep terrors:

The same man who is trying to shoot me is me. I have no face in the dream, I am the man and me. This horror of the dream stays long.

British filmmaker Roxana Vilk explains:

This film is one of three shorts I made during a week in Beirut in May 2011. The films were commissioned by Reel Festivals and Creative Scotland and the remit was make a series of short films “inspired by” the festival of poets. It was an amazing week, it’s not every day that you get to meet poets from Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Scotland.

We were also meant to go to Damascus but as the political situation worsened that leg of the festival was cancelled. However, I still wanted to reflect the current situation in one of the films, so I interviewed one of the Syrian poets about his dreams. That was the starting point for this film.