~ interviews ~

Conversations with innovative filmmakers and videopoets.

Motionpoems at the AWP book fair

A brief interview with Todd Boss, poet and co-founder of Motionpoems — the most ambitious poetry animation project in the U.S. to date, on a par with Comma Press’ film division in the U.K.

Lenora de Barros: the challenge of working with sound in a society of images

Lenora de Barros is a genre-crosser, a concrete poet and visual artist also working in film and audio. I was impressed that someone with such a strong background in the visual aspect of poetry would become so seduced by sound.

I searched for an example of her work on YouTube and found Encorpa (Embodies), a video made for an exhibition called The Overexited Body — Art and Sports. Lenora de Barros is credited with the sound on this piece along with Cid Campos. Brazilian filmmaker Grima Grimaldi directs.

Tomas Tranströmer

This new film from Bloodaxe Books, one of Tranströmer’s English-language publishers, incorporates footage of the Nobel Prize announcement and the Tranströmers’ reaction, as well as footage of Tranströmer playing the piano which Pamela Robertson-Pearce had just shot in August. Robin Fulton’s translations appear as subtitles for the Swedish-language readings, which include “The Nightingale in Badelunda,” “Allegro,” “From the Thaw on 1966,” “The Half-Finished Heaven,” “April and Silence,” “From March 1979,” and “Tracks.” This is of course something that the film/video medium is particularly well suited for: it’s wonderful to hear the poet reading in Swedish and know (more or less) what he is saying.

Do read the extensive notes on the Vimeo page. The detail that “Swedish composers have written several left-hand piano pieces especially for him to play” speaks volumes about his status in his homeland. (Hat-tip: Teju Cole on Twitter)

Young David by Yehuda Amichai (with discussion by Edward Hirsch)

http://vimeo.com/24221256

Avi Dabach’s marvelous film interpretation of Amichai’s “Young David” (translated by Abraham Birman) is wrapped within a video introduction and post-film discussion by Bob Holman and Edward Hirsh at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City. Hirsch describes his own, elliptical approach to politics in poetry, and says that Amichai was his major influence and model in this regard.

Tree by Jane Hirshfield

Hirshfield’s reading of “Tree” is preceded by a short but eloquent statement about the role of poetry in contemporary society that really resonated with me, as well as a few words about how she came to connect with poetry as a child. (Wish I could turn off the terrible background music, though!) This is from PlumTV. Like many prominent writers, Hirshfield doesn’t appear to have her own website, but here’s what the Poetry Foundation has for her.

Invisible Man by Amir Rabiyah

Kevin Simmonds’ brief film is part interview, part reading. Simmonds is the editor of the forthcoming anthology Collective Brightness: LGBTIQ Poets on Faith, Religion & Spirituality, which includes this poem by Amir Rabiyah.

Fearless Laughter: Yusef Komunyakaa’s Advice to Young Poets

A video created by Sampsonia Way magazine for Rattapallax. Komunyakaa was interviewed by Elizabeth Hoover, and the video production and editing are by Glen Wood.

“Leave Your Sleep”: Natalie Merchant interview and performance of a Charles Causley poem

Natalie Merchant talks about her new album Leave Your Sleep, which uses children’s poems and nursery rhymes for lyrics, in an interview with Ellah Allfrey of Granta.

Here’s a live performance of one of the pieces included on the album, from the September 2009 Grand Opening of Poet’s House in New York. This is by British poet Charles Causley: “Nursery Rhyme of Innocence and Experience,” the opening track of the two-disc set.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-yc3UN_BZg

Watch more live performances of songs off Leave Your Sleep at BBC Radio Scotland.

Velimir Khlebnikov: Children of the Otter

Contemporary Russian composer Vladimir Martynov discusses his suite, Children of the Otter, which incorporates Tuvan music and throat-singing, and is based upon the “supersaga” of the same title (also translated as “Otter’s Children”) by the early 20th-century Russian futurist poet Velimir Khlebnikov. The interview was conducted shortly before the premiere of the work in the city of Perm, near the Ural mountains, last September. The Vimeo page describes the background of the piece in considerable detail.

The story of “Children of the Otter” began in the summer of 2008 when producers Vladimir Oboronko and Alexander Cheparukhin, long-time friends and GreenWave Music partners, approached a renowned Russian contemporary composer Vladimir Martynov.

The idea was very simple: create a composition that would blend ancient sound of Tuvan folk music with the sound of contemporary chamber orchestra.

The Tuvan side of the music would be represented by Huun Huur Tu, the foremost Tuvan band, with which Cheparukhin had been working since the early 1990s and Oboronko joined him in 2005. The contemporary side of the music would be represented by Vladimir Martynov’s composing and Moscow chamber orchestra Opus Posth’s performing.

Vladimir Martynov agreed to work on the project during the first meeting. He knew Huun Huur Tu’s music, saw them live, and was excited about using contemporary composing techniques to blend the ancient Tuvan sound with avant-garde sensibilities of Opus Posth.

He wrote a composition for Huun Huur Tu, Opus Posth, and choir, and also incorporated poetry of Velimir Khlebnikov, famous Russian futurist poet of early 20th century. The composition was named “Children of the Otter” after the name of one of Khlebnikov’s poems.

Excerpts from the 75-minute composition. Again, see the video description for full details. A DVD of the performance is slated for release this month.

Tsead Bruinja, Frisian poet

A short documentary about contemporary Frisian poet Tsead Bruinja from the German broadcasting company Deutsche Welle.

A video of Bruinja reciting one of his poems, “Darling no one knows about the previous lives,” with English subtitles. This is from Wyld Hynder (Wild Horse) films, according to the info on YouTube.

Here’s Bruinja reading a poem called “‘Sy wennet yn in baarnend hûs” — “She lives in a burning house.” This was produced by the Omrop Fryslân broadcasting company. Bruinja includes an English translation by David Colmer on the YouTube page:

she lives in a burning house
every storm takes a tile from the roof
it’s cold her teeth chatter
someone outside thinks up new rules for traffic
an old man cycles on
newspapers stuffed under his clothes
she walks out with a basket full of washing
black sheets black blankets black
pillowcase she sees the fields are burning too
no point in going out
it’s better back inside the walls
flames dancing on his portrait
letters fall unasked through the door
rustling down not reaching the mat her cat
jumps onto her lap with a vegetable desire
to be stroked she pours more meths
over the photo albums wipes
the ash from her glasses and reads
and reads and reads

Some more English translations of Bruinja’s work may be found on Poetry International Web, though according to the translators’ notes, they were based on the author’s own translations into Dutch. (Bruinja also writes and has published poetry in Dutch.)

Anne Sexton at home

I’m not sure of the original provenance of the footage, but these videos appear to have been taped from Spanish TV. According to the text at the beginning, the movie was made on March 10, 1966. Sexton reads “Menstruation at 40” in the first and “Wanting to Die” in the second, and talks about poetry reading styles, why music is better than poetry, and why death is harder to write about than sex.

Here’s another YouTube video incorporating rare footage of the poet:

Ay, Ay, Ay de la Grifa Negra by Julia de Burgos

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YADagH8ipY

Poem by Julia de Burgos, translated by Jack Agüeros

I’ve been looking for videos of poems by the great 20th-century Puerto Rican poet and feminist Julia de Burgos in honor of the confinrmation hearings of Sonia Sotomayor, so I was happy to run across this installment from the generally wonderful Favorite Poem Project, featuring bilingual public school teacher Glaisma Perez-Silva.