~ interviews ~

Conversations with innovative filmmakers and videopoets.

“A real Arabic aesthetic”: Nissmah Roshdy on the making of “The Dice Player”

Egyptian animator and media designer Nissmah Roshdy talks about her film The Dice Player, an animation of a section of a Mahmoud Darwish poem of the same title. American poet Erica Goss, author of the Third Form column on video poetry at Connotation Press, interviewed Roshdy in a Berlin coffee shop the day after the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival, where The Dice Player won top honors.

Our conversation continued for more than an hour after the interview, but 20 minutes is about the limit to what I can upload at my slow connection speed. (I apologize for the sound not being perfectly in sync; I’m still learning how to use new editing software.)

Marc Neys in front of the camera: The Swoon interviews

I visited Marc Neys this past July mostly for a social visit. We’d really hit it off the year before at the Filmpoem Festival in Dunbar, Scotland. Also, I’m a big fan of strange beers and Medieval history, and Belgium has plenty of both. (See my photo essay at Via Negativa, “Embodied Belgium.”)

But I certainly didn’t want to let the week go by without filming the filmmaker and getting Marc to talk about how he makes his videopoems. After all, he’s one of the most productive poetry filmmakers in the world right now; his work as Swoon is inescapable at international poetry film festivals, not to mention at Moving Poems.

Fortunately, Marc was game. I originally thought I would make a single, twenty-minute video — I’d shoot a couple hours’ worth of footage, then edit and condense the hell out of it. The problem is that Marc really had a lot of interesting things to say, and what I’ve ended up with instead is a 42-minute documentary split into four, semi-independent sections. These can be watched in any order, I think. I’ve put them all into an album on Vimeo for easy linking and sharing.

I’ve also added closed captioning to each of the four videos, as I do with all Moving Poems productions these days, to make them as accessible as possible — but also to facilitate translating. If anyone would like to translate the videos into other languages, please get in touch. Vimeo will host and serve as many subtitle files as we want to upload.

Swoon on Sound

Marc explains how he creates the soundscapes he uses in his videopoems and other projects, despite not being a musician. He then takes us up into the bell tower of the cathedral in Mechelen, Belgium, famed for its massive carillon.

Swoon at Home

Where the handle Swoon comes from, and why Marc’s home and city double as a film set for many of his videopoems.

Swoon’s Secrets to Filming No-Budget Videopoems

If you only have time to watch one of these, watch this one. Marc lays out his basic DIY approach to making art, talking about the usefulness of water footage and other home-made filter effects, filming to music, cheap editing software, and more.

Swoon on finding a new angle in videopoetry composition

Marc talks about a new direction he’s recently taken: composing videopoems with the poem in text on the screen rather than in the soundtrack. Along the way, he talks about the influence of theater and classic film, and why he never follows scripts and works mostly by instinct.

“Productively different interpretations of a poem”: an interview with Eric Burke

This is the 18th 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? This time we talk with Eric Burke.


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:
When I finish writing a poem, I have a much narrower view of what the poem is (does, means) than I do much later, after many re-readings. What I am discovering with the creative remixes at The Poetry Storehouse is that there are often productive interpretations of the poem that I have missed altogether. This is a very rewarding experience. Of course, in addition to offering interpretations of the poem on which it is based, a video remix is itself a work of art that offers its own riches. The video remixes of my poems at The Poetry Storehouse have all been very accomplished and interesting in their own right. The group of video remixers working with The Poetry Storehouse are both sensitive readers of poems and talented film makers.


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:
Nic S. created a video for my poem “The Convert” that uses suggestive and symbolic video images (waves of water, shattered glass, an hourglass, an alarm clock). The orchestration of these suggestive images works wonderfully with Nic’s reading of the poem to explore the inner state of the convert described in the poem. Marie Craven took a different approach to the same poem, using Prelinger Archive footage of a circus performer to explore the situation of the convert, adding the interesting perspective of the convert having to perform according to the expectations of various audiences. Both videos very effectively explore the poem in ways that add to what I had originally envisioned in the poem.

Othniel Smith skillfully used footage of the allegorical figure Hercules from the old movie “Hercules Unchained” to elucidate my poem “Aphorism”. Jutta Pryor used her own marvelous footage, filled with suggestive images (along with suggestive sounds and music by Masonik), to set the hermit in “Aphorism” alone in a hotel room in a strange country. Both videos suggest an interpretation of the mud in the poem that is productively different from the way I originally thought of it.

Paul Broderick made a cool video remix from my poem “Self-Portrait” that features dinosaurs rather than rotifers. Though it is self-described as whimsical, it nonetheless reflects a sensitive reading of the poem.

Marc Neys combined three of my poems, “December 22”, “Mineral Rights”, and “Calyx” to create a film titled “Fog”. Rather than using an audio recording of the poems, it displays the words on the screen in various fonts along with expressive video images and sounds. This is an amazing piece that takes three poems and creates a carefully structured work of art greater than the sum of its parts.


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 definitely do it again. This has been a very rewarding experience. My advice to other poets would be to submit.


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


EB:
No. This is a really exciting project and I love the way it currently works.


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


EB:
I really like both the concept of making work freely available for creative remix and the results coming out of The Poetry Storehouse. I am also excited about the growing collaboration and overlap between the Poetry Storehouse remixers and poets and the poets, artists and remixers in the POOL collaboration group that Jutta Pryor introduced me to. A lot of really interesting work is being made (and being made available for remix) by the talented folks associated with both groups.

“I like how pithy the video poem can be”: an interview with media maker Marie Craven

This is the 17th 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 time we talk with Marie Craven.


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


MC:
I have a history with media-making but the video poem is a new form to me. I’ve put together four so far, based on wonderful poems by Janeen Rastall, Nic S., Michael A. Wells and Derek J.G. Williams.* Enticing readings by Nic S. feature. Images are from that marvelous source of historical film footage, the Prelinger Archives. Music is from talented online friends: SK123, 4our5ive6ix, Anguaji and Dementio13. Each of the videos has thus been a collaboration between artists on three continents: USA (poetry), UK (music) and Australia (video). The pieces I’ve put together are all less than one and a half minutes long. I like how pithy the form of the video poem can be.


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


MC:
I have previously spent time on poetry websites but none so attractive to creative remixing as the Storehouse. The two major advantages of the Storehouse to a remixer are: (a) everything is published on a remix-friendly Creative Commons licence; and (b) there are excellent voice recordings available for easy download on the site. On top of this I’ve found a warm and inclusive attitude to remixers. The Poetry Storehouse is great!


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)?


MC:
Selecting a poem for a video has been a combination of personal response to the writing and practical considerations relating to available media. There are so many poems at the Storehouse that would be interesting to remix but in some instances suitable images or music are elusive. These are uncontrollable aspects of the process. The main advice is simply to make a voice recording available for download. That’s number one for attracting remixers. Well-recorded audio with good levels is a plus.


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? How does sound play into the picture for you?


MC:
In the videos I’ve made, the poem and the voice recording have come first in the process. After that I’ve searched for music and images that might work with these. The mood of the music is, of course, very important. Aside from this I look for music with a key and basic beat to fit with the pitch and general rhythm of the spoken words in the reading. I then like to cut and place the voice to fit with the music before cutting images. Working with archival film material means spending a lot of time searching and viewing films, looking for both literal and lateral connections between poem and images. Once selected, the images become a new rhythmic element in the mix and that involves further fine cutting and adaptation between the elements.


5. Most Storehouse remixers are video-makers who combine a poem with video footage and a soundtrack, but all in very different styles. What have you learned from seeing how other remixers work?


MC:
I’ve seen some wonderful videos in my short time exploring the world of The Poetry Storehouse. The main thing I’ve learned is that there are a lot of possible approaches to video poetry and that each remixer has a ‘voice’ of their own.


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

MC: I found my way to The Poetry Storehouse via Jutta Pryor and her Pool creative group on Facebook. Jutta, like me, lives in Australia and has recently generated quite a burst of creative exchange on Pool between Storehouse poets, video makers and musicians. This crossover between creative groups internationally has inspired me to participate too. I’m thankful to Jutta, Nic S. and all involved for the experience.


*She’s actually up to seven video poems now (the interview was conducted a week ago). View all of Craven’s videos on her Vimeo page.

“Remixes more fully realized the visions I had in these poems”: an interview with Jenene Ravesloot

This is the 16th 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? This time we talk with Jenene Ravesloot.


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.


JR:
The experience with The Poetry Storehouse has been a thrilling one. The collaborative process has freed me from preconceptions of my poetry and allowed me to see my poetry, and myself as a writer, in a fresh way. In the past, I have worked closely with visual artists and musicians. This time around, I relinquished control of my work, allowing for surprising and fresh interpretations of the text by various remixers at The Poetry Storehouse.


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.


JR:
Five of my poems were accepted by The Poetry Storehouse, three of them resulting in remixes. “Mostly About A Color” was remixed twice, once by Nic S. and once by Jutta Pryor. Nic’s seductive voice and use of kinetic text pulls the viewer down into the poem until the viewer almost feels like he or she is resigned to drowning. Jutta Pryor’s remix, with Nic S.’s voice, on the other hand, emphasizes and echoes the threatening energy of the sea. These remixes of my poem enabled me to rediscover the depth of my fear of the sea and its power. They evoked my childhood experience of almost drowning. Othniel Smith did an intimate and beautiful remix of “Alone,” using my voice and internet archives. Paul Broderick remixed my noir poem, “Crime Scene,” with my voice, the use of classic blues music, and strong noir archive images. Both of these remixes more fully realized the visions I had in these poems.


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


JR:
I would definitely do this again. It has been a wonderful experience to see my work remixed and to learn from the various interpretations of my poems. I would certainly encourage other poets to submit work to The Poetry Storehouse and have the opportunity to collaborate with an incredible roster of creative remixers, artists, and musicians. Prepare to be surprised!


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


JR:
I have had an entirely positive experience with The Storehouse and cannot think of anything I would change. It has been a real joy and an honor to participate in this collaborative process.


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


JR:
I have, of course, been following The Poetry Storehouse on Facebook, and have enjoyed viewing the work of other poets via the remixing process as well as listening to audio files available through The Poetry Storehouse. Thanks to The Poetry Storehouse, my poems have found a wider home on the internet for which I am most grateful. The feedback has been enthusiastic.

The separate lives of poems: an interview with Sherry O’Keefe

This is the 15th 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? This time we talk with Sherry O’Keefe.


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.


SO:
If a poem is a rock, and if that rock is in my hand, I look for its entry point. Rocks can be cracked open to reveal a network of both the beauty and the ugly inside, but where exactly is the best entry point? And how and when? Submitting to The Poetry Storehouse is submitting to the experience of watching another hand with that rock, turning it over and over, searching for an entry point. So many possibilities, it’s liberating to witness. There’s more than one way to gain entry, to crack that rock cleanly.


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.


SO:
I tend to write from a state of confusion, seeking clarity. But if I focus too much on clarity what I write becomes a narrow experience. I like most when the seemingly disconnected connect with points coming from a wider field. Finding the balance between holding on and letting go has become easier because the remixes present views from that wider field.

Through The Poetry Storehouse, my poem about a pilot building the N a universe using the table setting at a café became a film featuring a wolf in the wilderness. The poem was a result of a dinner conversation; the remix expanded it, offering a new vista point from which one could experience wider implications of a universal law.

A second poem featuring a setting of an afternoon spent at a remote ranch became a film based on vintage news reels of beavers and men moving houses, a young girl watching from the window. On the surface my poem presented honey and bees, bells and dying goats, but beneath the surface was a respite from the solitary path we each face, this respite appearing in the random, circular ways we connect to one another.

Both remixes kept from bopping the poems on the nose and instead expanded into a wider view, allowing for so many more entry points.


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


SO:
I would love to do this again. It’s too easy to hold tight to what we intend the poem to be, but every time the poem is read by someone else, it takes on a life separate from its creator. I have learned something new each time my poetry has been featured in a remix. The experience of letting go is liberating.


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


SO:
I like the relaxed atmosphere at the Storehouse. It allows for organic response from the film makers. Each poem takes on new life when we hear someone else read it, or watch another’s video of the poem.


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


SO:
My first experience with video poetry was when Marc Neys approached me a few years ago seeking permission to turn my poem, “This Was Supposed to Be About Karl…” into a moving poem. I had no idea what he felt about the poem and was curious to see what he would do. It was a great experience. The poem had specific meaning to me, but through his film the poem allowed for many layers to be explored and experienced.

Film production is labor intensive and yet I hope more and more of us find the time to explore a poem through musical and visual portraits. If 12 videos were produced for one poem, we’d have 12 different experiences and this is what interests me. So: many thanks to the crew at TPS for making this possible. I appreciate what you are doing.

Improvisation and the directing of poetry films: an interview with Eduardo Yagüe

Filmmaker Eduardo Yagüe answered some questions from Nic S. as part of the Poetry Storehouse interview series, in the wake of his two video remixes of a poem by L.L. Barkat.


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


EY:
I’ve worked with one poem named “Love Song” by L.L. Barkat. I decided to make two versions, one in English (with the wonderful voice of Nic S.) and the other one in Spanish (for introducing The Poetry Storehouse to Spanish people), with different timelines, scripts and actors.


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


EY:
Usually what I do is to choose a poem that inspires me to make a short poetry-film. So the only difference from other times was that this time I picked a poem directly from The Poetry Storehouse.


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)?


EY:
As I work with actors and I really enjoy doing it (I’m an actor myself), I was searching for a poem that could give me a small story to work with. “Love Song” was perfect because it brings up to light some issues that I really like. For example, here we find love, light and a ghost.


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?


EY:
I always begin choosing a poem. Afterwards what I need to do is to go out to Retiro Park in Madrid and do some running, which helps me to imagine a storyline and the actors I’ll need. Then when I start to record it, the work with the script is quite open and I like to improvise with it and with the actors: directing and working with them, is one of the parts I enjoy the most, next to the final work, the editing and cutting part, that I find pretty similar to the writing process of a poem.


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


EY:
I really don’t know, maybe a Spanish version of The Poetry Storehouse, “El almacén de la Poesía” would be great, with both American and Spanish poems and with translations in both languages. And for that work I would gladly be at your service!!


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


EY:
It has been quite intense because the time I spent making both versions of “Love Song” was much less than the time I usually spend making one. Normally it takes me around two to three months to prepare and finish my work. This time I had to do it like this, in only three weeks, as we’re moving to Stockholm, me and my girlfriend.

On the whole it has been a wonderful experience with The Poetry Storehouse giving me the opportunity to open up a new and very interesting window that has allowed me to discover and get to know very interesting English-speaking poets.

Escaping the writer’s closed loop: an interview with Rose Hunter

This is the 13th 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? This time we talk with Rose Hunter.


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.


RH:
I love it any time someone interprets my writing. I’m interested in what they see, especially if it’s something I haven’t seen, or if I disagree with their ideas. And there is something extra going on when work gets interpreted in a different form I think. For example I’ve been really impressed with what people have come up with as covers for my books, and how different they are to what I would have thought of. As writers we are in that closed loop in a sense, creating in the same medium more or less, as we are criticizing in. (Not that criticism isn’t also a creation of course.) But there isn’t that marked transfer, for example, that there is in writing about visual art or music, say. So I think it’s really interesting to look at these videos as (also) a form of engaged criticism in the sense of being an interpretation that shines a light on the work, in a different form. They’re also kind of translations, of course.


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.


RH:
Just the one so far, which you did, Nic! I love it, and I love how different it is to what I had imagined. Having not considered the scene (in “You As Tunnel”) beyond what I saw in my head while writing it, I thought automatically of grainy images, maybe black and white or desaturated, flickering perhaps, a gritty realism. Which is not very original (for this poem). I loved your fresh, non-literal take, and the visual symbols you created with the planets and the headphoned and sunglassed woman. You got to a really emotionally true part of that experience. Of my experience. So that is just so interesting to me.


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


RH:
Yes, for sure I would do it again! Well, re advice I’m not sure, so I’ll just share my experience of submitting. When I was getting together the poems to send, I thought well first of all your guidelines say short, so that ruled out a lot of my current stuff in particular. Then I thought I would take them all out of my You As Poetry book in case that serial idea is interesting to anyone. So I got together five short ones from that book. It’s strange, I had a feeling that the one that you made a video out of might be the one most suitable actually. I don’t know why exactly, but I remember it passing through my mind, that probably someone will make that one. Maybe because it has a clearer narrative than the others and is more serious. And/or because it is very scene specific, and therefore provides more of a jumping-off point for someone else, whereas some of the others I sent are already “jumped-off” so to speak. If that makes sense. Anyway, not advice per se, just something I thought of.


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


RH:
No, not offhand. I love what you’re doing.


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


RH:
Well, I blogged about some of my experiences (specifically the issue of reading my work out loud, and my insecurity/phobia). That’s here, and also you reblogged it at Voice Alpha. Thanks for the experience and the questions, and I look forward to keeping in touch and seeing what you do next!

“A more open kind of collaboration”: an interview with Steve Klepetar

This is the 12th 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? Steve Klepetar is our 12th interviewee; both video remixes made so far with texts of his from the Poetry Storehouse were featured on Moving Poems this week.


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.


SK:
I find the entire concept of the Poetry Storehouse, with its invitation to multiple readings and remixes, thrilling. In the past, I have been fortunate to collaborate with the painter Bill Ellingson, my colleague at Saint Cloud State University, and with composer Richard Lavenda of Rice University, for whom I wrote a libretto and who set several of my poems to music. In those cases I worked closely with the other artists. The Poetry Storehouse allows a different kind of collaboration, one that is more open, and allows for surprises. There is something liberating about writing a poem, controlling all aspects of that process through final revisions, and then releasing it and relinquishing control while waiting to see what others might create with 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.


SK:
So far two of my poems have been recorded by someone other than myself, and I love the results. That other voice is female and lightly carries an accent quite different from my own, still rather thick New York City sound, little changed from my many years in Minnesota. Those readings have stirred me with their clarity and loveliness. Two of my poems have been used in remixes, and I’ve enjoyed both a good deal. They are quite different, as are the poems they work with. One sets a short love poem about a woman working in a late fall garden against an image of Marilyn Monroe sashaying through a room, captivating male eyes as she goes. The juxtaposition strikes me as playfully erotic, funny and apt at the same time. The other works with a surreal poem about counting, settling up, paying existential debts, and the remix is wild. My favorite section involves a can of beans being opened, poured out onto a plate and eaten, a visual pun about bean counters perhaps?


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


SK:
I would participate in this kind of experiment again in a heartbeat, with enthusiasm and pleasure. In fact, I submitted three poems, and did not wait very long before submitting three more. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to record my own readings, and to hear other readings and uses of my work — or work that has become mine and someone else’s. I would certainly advise other poets to participate, provided they could let go of individual ownership and would enjoy taking a risk.


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


SK:
My experience has been entirely positive, and I cannot think of anything I would change.


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


SK:
I should add that I have been following the Poetry Storehouse on Facebook, and have enjoyed various readings and remixes of other poets’ work with different readers and video artists. I have also garnered some lovely comments from friends old and new. There is something so democratic about this process, which allows fresh views and voices to mingle with one another.

The soundtrack as an element of film-poem creation: an interview with Marc Neys

Belgian filmmaker Marc Neys, A.K.A. Swoon, needs no introduction to fans of videopoetry. In an earlier interview in this series, he answered some general questions about his video remixing of poems from the Poetry Storehouse. Since Marc is also an electronic composer/musician and puts such a strong emphasis on the sound of the poetry he adapts to video, we wanted to question him in a bit more depth about the role of sound and music in his work.


Talk about how you view the soundtrack as an element of film-poem creation. Which comes first for you—the soundtrack or the images?


MN:
I always consider my soundscapes the mortar of my videopoems. They pull the combination of the different building blocks together and hold them there. Very often they set the pace and lay down the main atmosphere of the whole video.

It doesn’t matter what came first (with me it’s sometimes the music, sometimes the images, sometimes the poem), but I do construct a soundtrack (with the reading) as a base before I start my editing, always—even if I had the images first. That provides me a timeline to work with.


Do you always build your own soundtrack or do you sometimes use tracks made by others? How do you decide whether to make your own or not?


MN:
In 90 percent of my works I have built my own soundscapes, not that I consider myself a great composer—certainly not a musician in the strict sense of the word. But I just love making those.

I worked with others a few times. (Kathy McTavish is a great collaborator, but also Lunova Labs, Hanklebury and Sonologyst are a few of my SoundCloud friends I have worked with.)


Talk about the process of building a soundtrack. What comes first? How does the work process develop?


MN:
That’s a hard one. I work organically. I love sounds, industrial as well as natural. I record sounds often—from crinkly paper and plastic to to coke cans, coffee and other household appliances, nature sounds, etc. I also use a collection of toy instruments to play with.

I collect my recordings just as I do with footage and images. I have a library of sounds and melodies that I use as building blocks. So it’s hard to say what comes first.

I start with a sound, add another, and another, shift, stretch, combine, add a fleeting melody or arrangement here and there… shift again… until, during that process, something happens. Some things suddenly ‘click’ and work together.

When dealing with a poem, I use the recording of the poem as one of the building blocks. Sometimes I build around the poem, sometimes I use (re-edited) existing tracks to lay the poem in.


What sort of hardware and software do you use to create your soundtracks? Have you always used these, or has there been a progression in the sophistication of your sound tools over the years?


MN:
I use a combination of tools. I record my sounds analog (with an old tape recorder) as well a digitally (with a simple USB microphone, a Yeti) All my sounds are put into digital files using software by Magix (originally bought to transfer my old vinyl collection to MP3)

To create new arrangements and mix them with these soundfiles I also use Magix (Music Maker).

In MIDI I can ‘play’ any sequence of notes in any instrument, sound or style and combine it all in different tracks.

I would love to get my hands on some real (but old) instruments. I love the sound of anything ‘broken’. I would also love to get some better recording equipment (better mic’s, a new recorder…) but all those things cost money and take up space. (The space is there—one day my attic will be a full studio :-) —but the money isn’t.)


Give us an example of a soundtrack you created recently that you are very happy with – why did this one work out so well in your view? (If you can’t choose, how about that amazing soundtrack for ‘Sweet Tea’ by Eric Blanchard at the Storehouse..?)


MN:
I wouldn’t use one If I didn’t believe it worked, but some work better than others I guess. It’s also in the ear of the viewer.

I kinda liked this one:
http://soundcloud.com/swoon_aka_marc_neys/bees-in-the-eaves-swoon-bill
Bees in the Eaves on SoundCloud

I loved the combination of that metallic-sounding percussion (for those who want to know: it’s the sound of an old wind-up music box, stretched and slowed down until it sounded like light metal plates) with the simple and light drone (a combination of MIDI sounds, wind—me blowing into the mic—and violins. Also slowed down). The harsh sounds (electronic) at the end come from this great online theremin I recently found, and I let them clash with some piano sounds I played on this online instrument and the metallic percussion of the intro.

But that’s the last time I let someone peek into the cooking pots! I myself, when hearing great soundscapes, don’t want to know where certain sounds come from or how and with what they were made.


What is your advice on soundtracks to film-makers who are just starting out?


MN:
Listen, watch and learn. Experiment! Trial and error and keep the errors!

Remixing the vocabulary of orchids: an interview with Diane Lockward

This is the tenth 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 tenth interview is with Diane Lockward (websiteblog).


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.


DL:
Letting someone else work with my poem was not at all a difficult choice because I was familiar with The Poetry Storehouse project and had seen numerous examples of the work that was being done there. So I knew the poems were going to a good place and that if they did get picked up for a video I’d be happy with the result. (That’s kind of like submitting poems to journals, i.e., it’s important to be familiar with the journal before you submit or you might end up being sorry you submitted.)

The idea of seeing my work in another format was exciting, not intimidating. I’d previously had poems set to music, a few set to dance, and one sung by a choir of opera singers! So this video project struck me as a nice possibility for my work.

Certainly, I feel that I own my own work and would be less than pleased if someone just took it and used it without permission, but everything with The Poetry Storehouse is out in the open. I chose to submit, knowing that my poems might be used for a remix. The result is a true collaboration.


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.


DL:
I was absolutely thrilled with Nic’s video interpretation of my poem “Orchids.” She got it just right, although I had no idea what “right” was until I saw what she’d done. Then I said, Oh yes, oh wow! That’s just right! The artwork selected, a group of still images by Adam Martinakis, is deliciously sexy and mysterious, much as orchids are, so the artwork seemed perfect for the poem. The music track and the pacing all came together just right, even though there’s not one single orchid pictured in the video. It’s really a new interpretation.

I consider myself to have been extremely lucky in that another filmmaker, Paul Broderick, selected the same poem and Nic’s reading of it for his own video interpretation. This second video is very different from Nic’s but also wonderful and full of sexiness and mystery—and lots of gorgeous orchids.


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


DL:
I absolutely would do this again. There’s no downside, no reason not to. This is one more way of spreading the word about poetry and of breathing new life into individual poems. My advice to other poets considering submitting is to choose poems that have a strong visual element and that appeal not just to the sense of sight but to the other senses as well. I suggest selecting fairly short poems as the video will include some lead-in time and some closing time for credits at the end. I read somewhere that the typical viewer won’t hang around to watch a video for more than two minutes, so the submitter should keep that in mind. Finally, I suggest lyric poems rather than narrative ones, poems that suggest, that are open to interpretation, poems with some layers.


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


DL:
No, I can’t think of a thing I’d suggest changing. Just keep on doing what you’re doing and continue to get the word out about what you’re doing.


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


DL:
It was fun from start to finish. I’d like to mention that I wrote the poem “Orchids” after reading The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession, by Susan Orlean. The book is about orchid hunting in Florida. I found the vocabulary of orchids fascinating and the lure of the hunt intriguing. I used some of the vocabulary in the poem and tried to capture the intrigue that orchids exude. So you could say that my poem is a sort of remix of the book. There’s also a movie based on the book, Adaptation—another kind of remix. So it pleases me to see yet one more incarnation for orchids.

“Anything I create belongs to anyone who wants it”: an interview with Bill Yarrow

This is the ninth 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 ninth interview is with Bill Yarrow.


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.


BY:
I don’t believe in private property (alas, I live in a world which does), and neither do I believe in private intellectual property. As far as I’m concerned, anything I create belongs (excluding rights reserved to any and all publishers of the material) to anyone who wants it, and everyone can, with attribution (and respecting publishers’ rights where applicable), use it in basically any way he or she likes.* So when I found out about The Poetry Storehouse, I was delighted because its philosophy of sharing and collaborative creativity is my philosophy as well.


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.


BY:
When you send your work out into the world, you are releasing it, you are giving it away. It no longer belongs to you. You can’t control how people read it, react to it, interpret it, or, in the case of The Poetry Storehouse, reuse and remix it.

I am delighted that other artists found two of the poems I put in The Poetry Storehouse of enough interest and inspiration to fashion from them something of their own. Othniel Smith’s fashioned a literal rendition of my poem “Florid Psychosis.” I found his video remix an extremely witty and entertaining translation. Nic S. sought a poetic counterpart to my poem “Need” and created (adding her own brilliant reading of the poem as well as a beautifully haunting soundtrack) a mesmerizing video. I was enchanted by her remix. I especially liked that both creators found their material in the Internet Archive, Othniel using film clips from films in the Prelinger Archive, Nic using footage mostly from NASA archives.


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


BY:
In a heartbeat!

My advice to other poets? Submit your BEST work to The Poetry Storehouse in a heartbeat!


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


BY:
I just write poems. I don’t have imagination for much else.


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


BY:
Yes, two things.

  1. The Poetry Storehouse accepts previously-published poems! Do you understand how important, how generous, and how amazing that is?
  2. Having your work available to further development and expression (personally, I see it as resurrection) is a great blessing. Being published on The Poetry Storehouse is a munificent opportunity. If you don’t take advantage of it, you have only yourself to blame.

*That is to say, a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial license.
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/legalcode