~ site news ~

Moving Poems re-launch and next steps

Our involuntary re-launch of Moving Poems after its destruction in late March has been a resounding success. We’ve been able to recover all posts and pages, and have manually restored missing images on the more recent posts. The combination of two formerly separate WordPress installations into one prompted a re-think of the site architecture and how best to arrange elements on the new front page, which has led us to think more deeply about what the site might be missing and how we can make it better. (More on that below.) And it has made a site-wide search much more powerful: type the name of a videopoet into the expandable search form in the header, and you’ll get not only all the posts from the video library where they were the filmmaker and/or poet, but also all mentions in news posts, anything they might’ve guest-authored, etc.

Some of the most important improvements are invisible: increased security measures of all kinds to try to prevent a re-occurrence of the malware attack that took the old site down. I’ve also updated the links page for the first time in five years, and will try to remember to do this annually from now on, because I do feel that we need to do a better job of supporting other important websites and organizations in the international poetry-film/videopoetry space. To that end, I’ve created a new page, How to make a poetry film or videopoem—currently included in a short menu in the footer—that so far does little but link to a another site:

U.K. poetry filmmaker Helen Dewbery at Poetry Film Live has created a terrific page on Making Poetry Films which we can’t top, so please go check that out. There’s a mix of practical suggestions and philosophical considerations that should appeal to newbies and seasoned filmmakers alike, supplemented with engaging video interviews and other material. And do consider signing up for one of her online courses.

Read the rest.

We’ve been joined by a new contributor, Dr. Patricia Killelea, an associate professor of English at Northern Michigan University who regularly uses Moving Poems in the classroom, and have been brainstorming ways to make the site more useful to teachers and students. Poetry videos can be handy ways to expose students to poetry in general, something that the now-inactive organization Motionpoems recognized with its poetry curriculum. But while professionally made poetry films can be brilliant, and represent a significant percentage of our archives, we’re keen to encourage more poets, at whatever skill level, to learn to make videos themselves—something that will probably become a lot more common with the debut of video AI tools. I don’t know whether it helps or hurts the cause that Google has dubbed their own LLM ‘for zero-shot video generation’ VideoPoet! At the very least, it should mean a lot more web searches for videopoetry. How best to prepare?

We’d love to hear from other educators and students. If you use the site in the classroom, what has been most useful, and what additional features would you like to see? If you know of other sites or resources we should link to, please pass those suggestions along as well. Feel free to leave public comments on this post, or reach out in private using the contact form.

home page for Google's VideoPoet LLM

Moving Poems has moved and shape-shifted

…though not as much as I might’ve hoped yet. My web-design skills are rudimentary, so please be patient, but recovery continues from a malicious hack and my disastrous, panicked response to it ten days ago. I took advantage of the crisis to do something I’d been intending to do for some time now: merge the news-and-views section, formerly known somewhat confusingly as Moving Poems Magazine, with the video library into one WordPress installation under a single banner. This should mean fewer problems with the email newsletter, since we no longer have to rely on a third-party feed blender (though we may still have to relocate to Substack at some point).

I think I’ve re-created all the posts I inadvertently destroyed, though I’m afraid a few pages may be unrecoverable.

If anyone is mad enough to want to join us as an author, get in touch. I have increasingly limited time to review videos for the site.

A snippet from Marc Neys’ film Some Facts About Paradise based on my poem of the same title, viewed at the very spot where I wrote the poem.

New Moving Poems contributor: Jane Glennie

Jane Glennie

A big welcome to Jane Glennie who has joined us at Moving Poems. Jane is currently working on the magazine part of the site, especially sharing info on festivals, contests, and other opportunities for videopoets and poetry filmmakers. With her help, we hope to get back to covering the international poetry film scene at least as well as we did before the pandemic, if not better.

Jane Glennie’s poetry films have screened at festivals across the world. Her work has a layered visual aesthetic that is abstract, painterly and floods the imagination. Here’s her current artist’s statement. Her films have been featured on shondaland.com and have received distinctions and awards internationally.

Jane studied Typography & Graphic Communication at Reading University before completing an MA in Art & Space at Kingston School of Art. With over 25 years experience as a freelance designer, she founded Peculiarity Press to collaborate on books with art and words. We are thrilled to have her on board.

Resources page updated with links to free and affordable video-editing software

DaVinci Resolve download page screenshot

DaVinci Resolve: outstanding free video-editing for advanced users

Marie Craven sent along a list of video editing software that she’s checked out, and I’ve incorporated it into the Moving Poems page of web resources for videopoem makers. She recommends three video-editing programs available for a low price: Power Director, Magix Movie Edit Pro, and Adobe Premiere Elements, commenting that she had used a much earlier version of Power Director and loved it.

I still use Magix Movie Edit Pro myself, and find it adequate for most things except text animation. I previously used Premiere Elements and found it rather awkward and buggy, but part of that might’ve been the older computer I was using at the time. Now that I have a PC with an 8th-generation Core i5, everything is a lot whizzier. As Marie said in a covering note, always make sure to check tech specs before buying anything to ensure software will run on your computer.

Here’s the list of free video-editing software that Marie recommends:

I’ve also taken the opportunity to clean out dead links on the resources page, which I hadn’t done in two years. If anyone else has recommendations for things we should include, do let me know. Here’s the link again.

Now we are ten

Crop of a still from Lynn Tomlinson's animation

Moving Poems was founded on February 23, 2009. The very first post featured a clay-on-glass animation of the Emily Dickinson poem “I heard a fly buzz when I died” by Lynn Tomlinson, which I’d found on YouTube. Tomlinson had made it back in 1989, so quite by chance in my very first post—in which my main intent was to honor and invoke the spirit of one of our greatest poets—I also gave a nod to the pre-digital era, which now seems terribly remote.

Meanwhile, Tomlinson has built up quite a reputation as an animator. I’m grateful that she eventually discovered my post, read my complaint about the low-resolution of the YouTube version, and took the time to upload a higher-res video to Vimeo, so I could swap that in. So many of the older videos I’ve shared on Moving Poems have simply vanished, victims of deleted video hosting accounts, copyright complaints, mad housecleaning impulses… you name it. For a while I was using a dead-links plugin to find and remove those posts. But at a certain point I realized that the historic value of keeping a record of who made what and when outweighed the annoyance to visitors from search engines landing on video-less posts.

It’s kind of an archaeological thing. A long-lived blog or website is just like an ancient city built over previous versions of itself—dead links, missing embeds and all. Moving Poems has its ruins, but they’re part of the attraction! Maybe. Anyway, the point is we all fall apart as we age.

At the moment, Moving Poems and its sister blog Moving Poems Magazine (founded in 2010 as Moving Poems Forum) are doing OK except for the fact that neither has HTTPS authentication (because the current webhost charges too much money for SSL certificates), so I probably only have a year or two to remedy that before some browsers will start refusing to follow links here. Meanwhile, some regular readers of the weekly emailed version of the feed probably forget about our web presence altogether, while other former visitors rarely leave the enclosed commons of social media any more, and forget that there used to be such a thing as the open web. Will any of us be here in ten years? Who knows? Sic transit gloria interneti.


Here’s an interview I did with Quail Bell Magazine last month, all about videopoetry and poetry film. I talk about the relationship between videopoetry and the internet, how I curate videos for Moving Poems, and what the future might hold for the genre. Check it out.

We’re back! And GDPR compliant. Probably.

If you subscribe to the Moving Poems weekly digest, you may have been wondering: A) Why haven’t there been any digests for nearly two months? And possibly also B) Why didn’t you receive an email exhorting you to re-subscribe to make sure that Moving Poems is in compliance with the EU’s new data protection law?

The second question is easier to answer: Since everyone receiving the newsletter signed up for it of their own volition and can remove themselves at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any edition, there is apparently no legal need to require current subscribers to re-subscribe, and we’re happy not to have contributed to the sheep-like stampede of panicked arts organizations last month clogging up everyone’s inboxes. However, we do embrace the new privacy protections and applaud the EU for enacting them. So we’ve created a privacy policy and placed one of those annoying-but-necessary banners on the site asking visitors from EU countries to accept the policy before using the site. Ironically, perhaps, the banner itself sets a cookie so you won’t have to see it on every subsequent visit. I suppose I should include something about that in the privacy policy, but I was afraid of creating some kind of infinite loop of things you’d have to approve before seeing other things that you’d also have to approve.

In answer to the first question: I needed a break. Burn-out is a real issue for this kind of thing, so from time to time I take an unscheduled hiatus. I realize this does inconvenience people who rely on Moving Poems for news about contests, festivals and the like. I’m sorry about that, and all I can say is that if someone would like to volunteer to help out with news posts, I could certainly use another writer. There would be no pay, of course, and you’d probably want to be a bit more active in social media than I currently am, having deleted my Facebook account on May 1. On the other hand, I can’t in good conscience require someone to be on Facebook when I’m opposed to its use myself. Anyway, email me (bontasaurus@yahoo.com) if you’re interested in helping out.

A month of women’s poetry film: some observations and questions

Film critic Laura Mulvey in 2010 (photo: Mariusz Kubik, CC BY 3.0)

Did you notice? I didn’t notice myself until about two weeks in that I’d only been posting videos or films directed by women and featuring the work of women poets. At that point, I wondered how long I could keep it up (pretty much indefinitely, it turns out) and whether anyone would ever notice and ask about it (no one has). The last video featuring a male poet was on 27 October (“The Laundry Can Wait” by Cyril Wong, directed by Sarah Howell), and the last film directed by a man was on 24 October (“Dancing Lesson” by Rachel Kann, directed by Bradford L. Cooper). Which is not to say that men haven’t played key roles in making some of the things I’ve featured since, as editors, videographers, composers, etc., just that women occupied the lead roles.

The point of this post is not what a great, enlightened guy I am (ask my partner how often I interrupt her in the course of an average conversation). But it seemed like a fitting response to the on-going revelations of rampant sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood and beyond. And the exercise does raise some interesting questions, I think:

1. There are a LOT of good women directors of poetry films at all levels of professionalism and ability. So many of them are now “regulars” at Moving Poems that I can go quite a few days without posting anything made by a man, purely by chance, just as sometimes I may go for a week or two without posting any women. Does this mean that the number of men and women active in poetry film and videopoetry is roughly equal? Or might it be partly because male directors gravitate toward certain types of poetry (Charles Bukowski, for example) or filmmaking (superficially pretty shots) that don’t interest me as much? I’m really not sure.

2. Contrary to stereotype, female poets might be, if anything, less likely than their male counterparts to shy away from the technical challenges of making their own videopoems. Or perhaps women are just more adventuresome, or less likely than men to be narrowly focused on following traditional routes of advancement as poets?

3. Thinking about the major, long-term collaborative partnerships in the world of English-language poetry film, I actually can’t think of any that are exclusively male. If both partners aren’t female, than either the poet or the filmmaker is going to be a woman. I’m sure there must be exceptions to this, but the fact that I can’t think of any off-hand dovetails with another thought I’ve often had over the years: Could it be that women are more open to creative collaboration in general?

4. As hybrid forms, videopoetry and poetry film benefit from hybrid visions. An openness to collaboration would therefore be a huge advantage. But mightn’t it also be a disadvantage from a careerist perspective, luring people away from a single-minded focus on their own work necessary to, for example, qualify for tenure at an American university?

5. The male gaze has long been a tool of oppression, reducing women to objects. It’s worth remembering that this very insight came originally from a feminist film critic (Laura Mulvey). So wanting to have more women behind the camera is potentially more than just a matter of wanting to be fair and give equal opportunity. Might it not open up the possibility of depicting the world in new, potentially revolutionary ways, as feminist film critics suggest? What might the female gaze and hypermediacy mean for poetry film in particular?

6. Do videopoems or poetry films made by women have any unique characteristics that we might identify? For example, are there certain kinds of shots that female filmmakers use more often than men? Do women gravitate more than men to certain strategies of juxtaposition or disjunction in videopoetry?

7. What about poems and films of feminist advocacy? Is it possible to be prescriptive and suggest the best poetry film-making strategies to move viewers toward a greater sympathy with and understanding of diverse perspectives?

8. I’m obviously no scholar, but I can think of one cynical explanation for why women directors and poets might be so well represented in poetry film and videopoetry right now: it’s not prestigious yet. Historically speaking, as soon as a woman-dominated art, craft or industry begins to make money, men elbow in and quickly take over, whether it’s brewing beer, making textiles, or even writing computer code — a woman-dominated field until the mid 1970s. Could the same thing happen with poetry film? If it does, one day editors like me might have to work quite a bit harder to avoid posting any male-directed films for a month.

I invite comments below on any of these points. Email me if you’d like to submit a post. (And personal stories are just as welcome as critical analysis.)

Ending net neutrality in the U.S. could be the end of Moving Poems

This week, I didn’t share any new videos at Moving Poems because it was a major holiday in the U.S. and not too many people were online. But if the new FCC chair (and former Verizon lawyer) Ajit Pai gets his way and net neutrality rules are overturned, my posts might be this sparse every week. Why? Because without net neutrality, it’s difficult to imagine that no-budget and low-budget filmmakers, video artists and remixers will be able to keep doing what they’re doing. Want to find good indie music for a soundtrack, for example? Good luck with that.

So imagine for a second a musician sells their own digital music — on their website, on Bandcamp, wherever. iTunes is riding in that fast lane. Spotify? Probably. But Bandcamp? The musician’s website? They’re more like a rusty BMX pulling a three-wheeled Radio Flyer wagon over a cracked sidewalk.

When someone buys digital music from an artist directly they’ll see long, slow downloads that hopefully manage to finish. When they stream music from that same musician’s site it’ll hang and pause unless it’s compressed to hell. But when that same person buys from iTunes? Smooth like butter.

Some fans will put up with the frustrating experience of buying direct from an artist because they know it’s better for them, but that’s not everyone. Expect direct-to-fan artist businesses to migrate to iTunes and Google. Without Title II net neutrality the web is just a battle of media titans with musicians caught in the crossfire. Artists who don’t sign everything over to big labels or plan to sell only through the biggest outlets will be hurt. The independent music world will be fundamentally changed. We’ve moved to a digital world. That isn’t going to change. Killing Title II net neutrality makes it even harder for independent musicians to survive in a digital landscape.

It’s hard to know what will happen with the big video hosting sites such as Vimeo and YouTube, but several analyses I’ve seen suggest they’ll become an extra paid option for most users, who might well just decide to stick with Netflix or Hulu. Websites like Moving Poems and Poetry Film Live are way out in the “long tail” of the internet — we’re nobody’s economic priority, and as the African proverb says, when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.

To put it simply, this is an existential threat to the internet as we know it. Here’s comedian John Oliver’s excellent and entertaining explainer from last May:

Public pressure is really critical over the next three weeks. So please help if you can — especially if you’re a U.S. citizen — and submit comments to the FCC as well as call or write to Congress, and consider joining street protests.

Hopefully this will all be going to court, and if this TechCrunch article is correct, the FCC may have a hard time justifying its definition of how the internet works. For more political analysis, here are Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian from the Young Turks:

As for me, I agree with this guy:


Ice Mountain

I’ve made it a rule not to share videos of my own poems on Moving Poems, but I’m making an exception just this once. When the filmmaker and musician Marc Neys A.K.A. Swoon heard I had a new book coming out, he offered to make a video trailer for it if I’d send him some footage, and naturally, I jumped at the chance. But the result is a new videopoem in its own right, and I think it’s worth careful study by poets and publishers who might be interested in producing videos based on poetry books. The usual approach is to select one poem to translate into video, but what Marc wanted to do was make a film based on a montage of lines and stanzas from throughout the book, which he asked me to select, giving guidance only on the maximum number of lines. That’s in the voiceover, which he had me record. Much to my surprise and delight, however, he supplemented that with additional fragments of text that he chose himself and included as text-on-screen. By the end of the film’s three minutes and 41 seconds, I think the viewer ends up with a pretty good idea of what the book is about.

For more on Ice Mountain, please see the publisher’s page (and, you know, consider pre-ordering a copy if you’d like to support the guy behind Moving Poems). It’s worth noting that it will also include visuals: original linocuts by the editor, designer and publisher Beth Adams. And if you’d like a further sample of the contents, I’ve posted a section on my author website.

How to follow Moving Poems in the WordPress.com Reader

A screnshot of Moving Poems as it appears in the WordPress.com Reader.

WordPress.com is the largest WordPress multi-site installation in the world, and for many people, it’s synonymous with WordPress itself — an understandable mistake. As an online publishing platform it’s hard to beat for reliability, security, and an idealistic corporate ethos focused squarely on creative self-expression and user empowerment (including data portability) that puts the likes of Facebook and Google to shame. One of the coolest features of the site is that, for logged-in users, the home page — WordPress.com — is a feed reader. The latest posts from all the WordPress.com blogs you subscribe to appear there in excerpt form, and if you click on a title, you’ll instantly get the whole post, and can even comment on it without clicking through to the site if you don’t want to. And it’s just had a re-design to make it easier to use and better looking than ever.

The feed reader is pretty hard to avoid for WordPress.com users, and therefore has gotten a high level of adoption as the site continues to evolve and take on some of the features of a social network. What a lot of users don’t realize, I think, is that they can subscribe to any site with a working feed — Blogspot blogs, sites on Squarespace, Weebly, you name it. That naturally includes Moving Poems and Moving Poems Magazine. Here’s how.

Go to WordPress.com and log in if you’re a member, or follow the instructions to sign up for a free membership if you’re not. Once you’re in the Reader, you’ll notice a left sidebar where the top item should say Followed Sites (if you’re using a mobile device, you may have that text appearing at the top, above the content: click on it to go to the sidebar items). Click on the button that says Manage, and you’ll go to a page with a listing of all the sites you’re following (if any) with a search bar at the top that says “enter a site URL to follow.” Try it! Go to any site on the web with regularly updating content, copy the home page URL out of your browser, and paste it in. If it has a feed, the site title will appear as an option immediately below with a link to click that says “Follow.” Voilà!

Moving Poems and Moving Poems Magazine are actually two separate, interlinked sites, but I’ve created a combined feed using a service called Feed Informer, so you could just copy and paste in that URL if you want: http://feed.informer.com/digests/GVVXE6OY6V/feeder.rss. This will give the full content of the posts, including videos that will play right within the Reader. But if you subscribe to each site separately by pasting in the respective URLs, movingpoems.com and movingpoems.com, that will not only give full content but also the ability to comment on posts without leaving the Reader — comments that will then show up on Moving Poems itself!* Whichever way you subscribe, as of the latest re-design you should now even be able to watch the daily videos without even expanding the excerpts to read the whole posts (though if you’re in that much of a hurry, you should really probably re-examine your priorities in life).

Lots of people already subscribe to Moving Poems (including the magazine content) through the weekly MailChimp newsletter, and if you’re an email-oriented person and you don’t follow very many other blogs, magazines and online newspapers, that will probably continue to be your most convenient option. But if you do follow a bunch of different sites, it might make more sense to use WordPress.com — or another feed reader such as Feedly. But for sheer ease of use and social network-like features (comments, likes, re-blogging) you’re unlikely to beat WordPress.com at this point.

*For the tech-minded who are wondering how that’s possible, it’s because these are self-hosted WordPress sites and I use the Jetpack plugin from WordPress.com on both of them, in part because it’s the best “related posts” plugin out there.

Moving Poems adds FAQ page

I’ve added a page of frequently asked questions at the main site as a drop-down from the About link in the top navigation bar. They’re listed in descending order of their frequency; the first few really are things I get asked a lot. They include: How can I submit my video to Moving Poems? Could you please tell me what you think of my poetry video? How can I get my poems made into films or animations? Will you make a video of my poem? Why isn’t there a video at [name of post]? Why don’t you take down posts where the videos have gone missing? Can you help me find [name of poet or name of filmmaker]? Why did you post my video without asking my permission? and Does anyone ever actually read FAQ pages?

If you have ideas for more questions that I should add, or especially how I might better answer some of the questions, do please let me know.

James Wine’s film Östersjöar available to watch for free in memory of Tomas Tranströmer

The great Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer — one of my personal top ten favorite poets of the 20th century — sadly passed away in March, but he left behind an impressive body of work, including a 30-minute film based on Baltic Seas which he collaborated on with director James Wine. Moving Poems readers will remember Cheryl Gross’s glowing review from this past January. James wrote me a few days ago to pass along the link to a special in memoriam page where Östersjöar can be seen in its entirety. Visitors are encouraged to share their thoughts and impressions, as well.

I hope James won’t mind if I share a bit of his letter. He indicated that this is a rough draft for background “director’s notes” to be officially released soon:

When we first made this filmpoem back in early 1990s, Tomas & I talked about film and voice. About Rilke’s excitement for the “wire recorder” for poetry and the early essay by Octavio Paz that said poets would inevitably explore film, television and computers.

Tomas used to say that sometimes readers should have a film projector on their heads to read his poems. He played with the juxtapositioning of close-ups and wide roaming angles in his poems. Moving images are throughout his works. He thought most contemporary poetry was influenced by films, as are our dreams. In “Östersjöar” he even uses the term “close-ups.” He thought it would make an interesting study to compare poetry today with that of 200 years ago, observing the influences of photography and film upon poetry.

Tomas said this poem was his “most consistent effort to compose music.” Every image, every word has “tonal” equivalences, harmonics and counterpoints, in this poem, which he a called “a bag into which I put everything.”

Recently, the longtime Tranströmer reader Helen Vendler put it this way to us: “It’s a poem that lacks nothing.”

Indeed. Poetry, music, images still and moving – all elements of the translation of that “original poem in silence” that Tomas always cited.

Poetry is not to be explained, rather its experience explored. And in this new version we explored early drafts of the poem, checking its “documentary” nature with Tomas as we went along. This revealed many new insights, some things he could only grasp intuitively when he wrote the poem in 1973.

“He thought most contemporary poetry was influenced by films, as are our dreams.” It’s worth remembering here that Tranströmer’s day job was as a psychologist. He was also a pianist, whence in part his strong feeling for music.