~ Animation ~

Symphony Jane by Rosemary Norman

A love song to the Eurasian blackbird, the American robin’s more musical cousin, this recent film from long-time videopoetry collaborators Stuart Pound and Rosemary Norman shows the power of a simple concept beautifully realized:

A poem arrives on the screen letter by letter. The image is all text with the story in the soundtrack, a blackbird’s song.

Last year, Pound and Norman came out with a print book showcasing their collaborations, Words & Pictures, available from Aspect Ratio (2 Lothair Road, London W5 4TA) for £8.50, which garnered a good review in London Grip:

Many readers will have seen and enjoyed Rosemary Norman’s poems in magazines and also observed that her bio note mentions her collaborations with video artist Stuart Pound in the making of poetry videos. These videos have been shown at festivals and other film events (including some at the BFI); but the majority of Norman’s readers will probably not have had a chance to attend one of these screenings. Fortunately it is now possible to experience a selection of Norman & Pound’s work in the comfort of one’s own home. A new book Words & Pictures contains 18 of Norman’s poems together with a number of stills from the corresponding videos and, more importantly, an internet link / QR code giving access to an on-line archive where the videos can be seen in full. This offers a simple but satisfying multi-media experience where one can enjoy the words on the page alongside (or as a curtain-raiser to) a visual and auditory interpretation.

Darkness by Ben Morgan

This delightful new animation by Suzie Hanna recreates the world of illuminated manuscripts to bring to life a text by poet and scholar Ben Morgan. Like many viewers, I’m sure, my main reference point for that sort of thing was Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but I had no trouble adjusting to this more serious and cerebral use of Medieval imagery and motifs. In fact, I found it—dare I say?—quite illuminating.

Made for an installation ‘Invertlight’ in St Peter Hungate Church Norwich in 2024, this animation of Ben Morgan’s poem imagines an encounter between Julian of Norwich, a 14th century Anchoress locked away in her cell, and her son who visits to challenge her decision to give up on the natural world. It is not known if she had children but she entered the ‘living death’ after child bearing age, and may well have been a mother before her voluntary incarceration. Julian wrote ‘Revelations of Divine Love’ the first surviving book to be written by a woman in the English language. ‘Invertlight’ is a Research project at Norwich University of the Arts that focuses on creating Art for buildings that have been changed from religious to secular use.

For more on the poet, see One Hand Clapping:

Ben Morgan is a poet and academic based in Oxford, UK. His first poetry pamphlet, Medea in Corinth: Poems, Prayers, Letters, and a Curse, was published by Poetry Salzburg in 2018. It retold the famous myth through poetic letters, spells, prayers, sonnets and songs, as well as theatrical interludes. He has also published poems in Oxford Poetry and at The Sunday Tribune and The High Window. He has taught Shakespeare studies and early modern literature at a number of colleges in Oxford and is completing a monograph on Shakespeare and human rights for Princeton University Press.

The Lines by Andrew Motion

Suzie Hanna just uploaded to Vimeo this 2001 animation she co-directed with Hayley Winter. Live images and straight recordings interact with artifice at all levels, borrowing elements from glitch art and concrete text experiments. The former UK poet laureate Andrew Motion supplied the poem and reading, and Sebastian Castagna composed the soundtrack.

The Lines, a poetry animation, was selected for numerous festivals including Manchester Poetry Festival and Hamburg Animation Festival, it was part of a programme curated by the British Council ‘Shooting Rhymes and Cutting Verses’ which was shown all over the world to promote UK Culture. The Gene used it as visuals for a concert tour and it was shown in cinemas as part of the Sonimation project which was instigated by Suzie Hanna in collaboration with Sonic Arts Network and Digital Arts Network in 2001.

We’ve shared Hanna’s work often here. The bio on her website is worth quoting in full:

Suzie Hanna is Emerita Professor of Animation at Norwich University of the Arts. She was Chair of NAHEMI, the National Association for Higher Education in the Moving Image from 2016-2019, and remains an honorary member of the executive. She is an animator who collaborates with other academics and artists, and whose research interests include animation, poetry, puppetry and sound design. She has made numerous short films all of which have been selected for international festival screenings, TV broadcast or exhibited in curated shows. She contributes to journals, books and conferences, and has led several innovative projects including animated online international student collaborations and digital exhibitions of art and poetry on Europe’s largest public HiDef screen. She works as a production consultant and as an international academic examiner, was a member of the AHRC Peer Review College from 2009-2014, and is a longstanding member of ASIFA. She plays the violin and the musical saw.

If You Feel Terrible by Rebecca Wadlinger

With a pitch-black sense of humour, If You Feel Terrible is the first poem from the book Terror, Terrible, Terrific by US poet Rebecca Wadlinger. A bio:

Rebecca Wadlinger was born in Pennsylvania, where she attended the Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell University. She received her MFA from the Michener Center for Writers in Austin, and her doctorate in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston. Her poetry has appeared in publications like The Best New Poets anthology, Tin House, Ploughshares, and Mid-American Review, among others. (source)

This film of the poem is directed, illustrated, and animated by Nick Stokes.

I found the film in Judy Elfferich‘s outstanding Poetry in Motion section of the Dutch website ooteoote, where she has been publishing videopoetry since 2015.

Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye reads her own deep and beautiful poem Kindness in this excellent animated film by Ana Pérez López, a Spanish illustrator living in London. Sound and Music is by Chris Heagle. The piece is from a series of poetry films produced by the On Being Project. Others from the series have previously been featured here at Moving Poems.

Singularity by Marissa Davis

Singularity is a wonderful animated film from UK artist Lottie Kingslake and US poet Marissa Davis. Featuring a marvelous spoken and musical voice performance by the multi-talented Toshi Reagon, the film is a touching ode to life’s interconnections.

Produced by the On Being Project, it was also a part of Maria Popova‘s project The Universe in Verse.

The poem can be read towards the bottom of this page at Popova’s website The Marginalian.

Sonnet 66 by Luke Kennard

Sonnet 66 is an animated film by Jamie MacDonald from a poem by Luke Kennard, commissioned by UK publishing and performance project Penned in the Margins.

The film was made to coincide with the launch of Kennard’s poetry collection Notes on the Sonnets, which went on to win the 2021 Forward Prize. A description of the collection:

Notes on the Sonnets… recasts Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets as a series of anarchic prose poems set in the same joyless house party.

The writing in Sonnet 66 is witty and elusive, and the film animation is cleverly simple. The whole is amusing and compelling in its short duration.

Two other films by Jamie MacDonald have previously featured here at Moving Poems.

Un Corpo / A Body by Milena Tipaldo

Italian artist Milena Tipaldo animates her own line-sketch illustrations for Un Corpo / A Body, a film she also wrote. Widely screened at international festivals, it won the Jury Award for Best Animation in the 2022 Weimar Poetry Film Awards in Germany. A synopsis:

What’s a body? And what’s the difference between a human body, an animal body, a fruiting body, and a celestial body? A voice-over using puns drives you through the life of many bodies and their common destiny.

As with her earlier Ode all’ansia / Ode to Anxiety, the playful sound and music score is by French artist Enrico Ascoli.

Crossing to Ireland by Jean Maskell

I always tend to feel that poetry animations are best at their most abstract and minimalistic—depending on the poem, of course. This animation by Rachel McMahon AKA RaeRae won the audience award at the Liverpool Celtic Animation Festival. It’s a collaboration with Jean Maskell, “a multi-disciplinary artist and writer inspired by contemporary and historic social issues and the natural world,” who provided the voiceover and text: a poem “about the conflicting emotions of feeling a part of two countries.” Perhaps it is that sense of a provisional existence that makes the kind of tentative approach to the animation—lines drawn and undrawn on white space with a paper grain—such a good fit.

Gethsemane by Toby Martinez de las Rivas

Gethsemane is one in an ongoing series of films from Jane Glennie, made in collaboration with fellow UK poet Toby Martinez de las Rivas, and Bulgarian sound artist Neda Milenova Mirova. This poem is from the collection Floodmeadow, published earlier in 2023 by Faber.

All films in the series take an experimental approach, including layered and truncated voices, gritty sound and music, and still images animated in darkly expressive ways. The three collaborators seem artistically well-matched, the writing, sound and film-making coherently meeting. Another highlight from the series is Psalm-for-the Sea, Little Sea-Psalm.

Jane Glennie currently has a solo exhibition happening over August and September in the Art at the ARB program of University of Cambridge. Gethsemane and the other films in the series form part of the exhibition, along with her award-winning Because Goddess is Never Enough.

We have previously featured several other of her films here. In addition, Jane regularly posts about film festivals and more at Moving Poems Magazine.

The World by Rumi

The World is an animated film by Ella Dobson from writing by the Persian mystic Jalal ad-Din Rumi, who is widely known simply as Rumi (1207-1273). The words are spoken beautifully by contemporary Iranian academic Fatemeh Keshavarz, who also was translator. Sound and music are by Chris Heagle.

This is a one in a series of poetry films produced by the On Being Project, a non-profit initiative. Another video from the series was earlier featured here at Moving Poems, from Wendell Berry’s The Peace of Wild Things.

Life Sentence by Sissy Doutsiou

Moving Poems‘ own Jane Glennie, an award-winning film-maker in the UK, teams up with Greek poet and performer Sissy Doutsiou for this urgent, angry protest video titled Life Sentence.

The music by Rolvd is a key part of the piece, which in some ways resembles music video. Recording, mixing and mastering are credited to Incognito M and Pipeline Music Lab. Doutsiou’s spoken-word performance of the text is powerful in the mix.

Jane Glennie brings her signature kinetic animation style to the video. Well-chosen images and visual textures flicker in a rapid stream, meeting well with the voice and music.

Aside from her writing and performance work, Sissy Doutsiou has over the past decade been director of the International Video Poetry Festival in Athens, and editor of the more recent Film Poetry website.