~ top ten lists ~

Galleries of noteworthy poetry films and videopoems assembled by filmmakers, poets, film festival organizers, scholars, critics and other knowledgeable fans of the genre.

Top Ten: Classic Poems

Paul Casey and Colm Scully, organisers and judges of the Ó Bhéal Winter Warmer poetry festival and poetry film competition in Cork (Ireland), have collaborated on their top ten films that feature classic poems from a wide range of writers. Their range of selections begin with Lewis Carroll with Jabberwocky written in 1871 in England, and conclude with Pablo Neruda, in 20th century Chile, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature 100 years later in 1971.

Lewis Carroll
Filmmaker: Sjaak Rood

When it comes to marching
Bertholt Brecht
Filmmaker: Andrea Malpede

The Peace of Wild Things
Wendell Berry
Filmmakers: Charlotte Ager & Katy Wang

Hope is the thing with feathers
Emily Dickinson
Filmmaker: Dave Bonta

Percy Bysshe-Shelley
Filmmaker: Alvaro Lamarche Toloza

Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower
Rainer Maria Rilke
Filmmaker: Matt Huynh & Mila Nery

Lightenings viii
Seamus Heaney
Filmmaker: Eoghan Kidney

W B Yeats
Filmmaker: Don Carey

Toads Revisited
Philip Larkin
An excerpt from a BBC programme (Monitor, 1964, UK) with John Betjeman interviewing Philip Larkin.

Tonight I can Write
Pablo Neruda
Filmmaker: Lorena Col

Ten Typographically Alluring Films

I hesitated on how to title this list. As I thought about films I liked and that inspired me, I realised that I didn’t want to title this ‘typographic films’ because it suggests that the emphasis in all my choices is all about the typography. Sometimes in poetry film it is. The lettering, whether fonts, or by hand, can take centre stage for an entire piece. Or it can take centre stage for significant parts of a film, whether that is significant in total time or significant in moment. But for me, I am excited by the use of typography not the dominance of typography in a genre which is diverse and engaging through the variations of all the elements at a filmmaker’s disposal: sound, image, lettering, music, etc.

Screenshot New Arctic by Allain Daigle
Screenshot – New Arctic by Allain Daigle

I was originally trained as a typographic designer, predominantly for print and books. A classic essay by Beatrice Warde (The Crystal Goblet, or printing should be invisible, 1932) describes the role of typography as a crystal-clear transparent goblet — a means to let the content (the red wine) shine through. A useful thought for the design of many books. Warde is arguing for a typography that supports and facilitates the text in a beautiful way. Though of course typography isn’t invisible and the visual choices are there on the page. Matthew Butterick has debunked the crystal goblet as a metaphor.

Butterick argues that the goblet is:

An appealing metaphor, but totally inapt. … [T]ypography is the visual component of the written word. But the converse is also true: without typography, a text has no visual characteristics. A goblet can be invisible because the wine is not. But text is already invisible, so typography cannot be. Rather than wine in a goblet, a more apt parallel might be helium in a balloon: the balloon gives shape and visibility to something that otherwise cannot be seen.

Typography can be the visual component of the written word in poetry film, but in a time-based media, the word can be manifest in many more ways, alongside, blended with, or instead of visually. The poetry can have many characteristics that are ‘visual’ because they are part of a film, though they may not be typographic. Poetry can be represented through image alone, moving footage, through audible language, sound effects, music and so on. Come back to typography and the lettering itself is affected by the timing and/or animation of text in addition to the 2-d factors such as layout, size, colour and font selection.

The typographic ‘balloon’ can be functional and practical — adding subtitles in the same or another language, and somewhat separate or external to the film. Or the ‘balloon’ can be part of the aesthetic choices and integral to the whole impact of the film. In this selection of ten films, my choices have come out of thinking about the aesthetic impact of the typography and the allure that it adds to the film as a whole.

In no particular order … ten typographically alluring films.


I could have picked any one of a number of Janet Lees’ films. Her photography is very strong, and her typography is chosen with finesse to go with her images. Quiet, fine-weight fonts give quiet impact without being problematic with legibility, while the positioning and animation is beautifully done. Classic and understated.


Typewriter fonts can be horribly overused in unhelpful ways. Typewriter has an obvious aesthetic appeal, a bit grungy, and with lots of retro-vibes. Like the beleaguered Comic Sans, their use can leave you thinking: ‘Yes, but why?’ or worse: ‘Oh no! Really? Out of everything you chose this?’ However, in this film by Kristy Bowen I think it is a great choice. Simple, great layout and timing, and as Dave Bonta said in his review: creepy.

Film-maker: Susan McCann
Poet: Emily Dickinson

I watched this at Ó Bhéal’s Winter Warmer event (November 2022). This is a virtuoso play with cut-out lettering. I think the craft of making this lettering, and the skill in filming it, is just gorgeous. I’ll leave you to discover what it looks like…


A complete change of pace and style for this ‘oldie but a goodie’ (as Joe Wicks has said about a classic workout exercise). And like a high energy Joe Wicks starting some squats, I am still as excited and delighted by the energy of this film as when I first watched it some years ago.

I just love the interplay between the voice and the text on screen, and the text on screen that is not part of the voiced poem.

Screenshot from Profile by R.W. Perkins
Screenshot from Profile by R.W. Perkins

It is so good that I want to be very picky about the typographic detail. For example, the ‘rivers of white’ (or in this case black) that are left in the setting of the Jack Kerouac quote. Going back to the crystal goblet metaphor – this is very much a clunky and chipped cheap tumbler here. It is not wrong as such, more than likely it is just what came out when the setting is clicked on ‘justify’. But it highlights the pitfalls of using that particular feature of computer text-setting all too clearly. Fine-tuning the typography with subtle and ‘invisible’ tweaks to this would make me even more happy to watch it.

Film-maker: Anja Hiddinga

In Imaginings six young, deaf signed-word artists present raps in sign language. At first glance the type in this film is functional – it is subtitling for those who don’t know sign language to enjoy the film and understand what the people are saying. But I include this film here because the functional has been done so well that it becomes part of the aesthetic energy and appeal of the film. The film was screened at Zebra Poetry Film Festival in Berlin in 2022 where I was very happy to have the opportunity to watch it twice. I wanted to talk about it here because the subtitling is so brilliantly done. The positioning of the subtitles mean that you can focus on the hands and expression of the sign language. It would have been so easy to leave the subtitles down at the bottom of the page and the face and hands of the performers would have become secondary. But it is the subtlety of movement of the type that is genius. It makes me wonder if the movement was hard to animate, and it certainly makes the text slightly less legible at times, but it keeps the text so tightly tied to the energy and passion of the performers that, without a doubt, it adds to the allure of this film.

Imaginings trailer screenshot – Anja Hiddinga

I can only find the trailer viewable online, but I think there is enough to see what I’m trying to describe.

The effort and style with which the subtitles have been provided for me (as a non-signer) makes me more determined that we should be making more effort with subtitles in return for the deaf community. And that is the very least that the performers are hoping for in their imaginings for the future.


I’m generally not a fan of landscape footage in which there is blowing wind, the waving of a blade of grass, the tremble of a spider’s web, or a shaft of light. It is an almost immediate turn-off because it is often the bearer of a slow, ponderous film that just isn’t my cup of tea. But in this film by Ian Gibbins, the treatment of the typography turns this around for me. It has some pace and doom about the lettering that is compelling, and juxtaposes well with the footage. The coding text and the text of the poem work well together and add to the interest and feel of the film. More about the subject of the film in Dave Bonta’s review.


This animation has a great handling of modernist typography, very much in the mode of Jan Tschichold and his manifesto Die Neue Typografie (The New Typography), first published in 1928. A fantastic example of how inspiration can be taken from printed graphic design and manipulated in a film. It is tricky to read in English because one wants to follow the delicious animation and design of the primary Italian text, but not a bad typographic solution to a duo-lingual film.

Poem: Fiona Tinwei Lam

Spirals always have allure for me in whatever medium … ancient stone carving, graphic design, clothes or furniture. So I was always going to be drawn to this film. The spiral animation of swirling plastic makes a very effective concrete poem. The film is described as two concrete poems, and there is a distinct shift from the spiral to a floating sea of broken apart plastic. The typography of the spiral is great. The font choice feels like a ubiquitous, dull text font – as such, it is perfect to depict the plastic problem. But it also feels just a bit different to a default, so perhaps it is very carefully chosen. What makes the typography great is the tacky choice of colours and font outlining. It feels like horrible plastic that is swirling in water. And those fine serifs? … They are going to break off and be micro-plastics all too soon.

However, I wanted the second poem to be the breaking apart of the first one and follow on the story. It is that conceptually. But typographically I’m confused and disappointed. The colour is lost but maybe that is fading and degradation over the inordinate time it takes the plastic to break-up? Perhaps the colour should have been tints? The main problem for me though, is that the case changes. What was all capitals has become lower case. The one thing hard plastic isn’t likely to do is to morph into a whole other shape. If the second poem is a whole other thing, then why put them as a pair?


This is a very powerful film, in the strength of the film footage and in the subject matter. But the typography supports it all the way. I think the font choice is excellent, and the positioning of the text relates to the images is superb. The poem is in the text only, not the audio, and this film is exemplary for this approach.

Poet: Asim Khan

This film is extremely simple typographically – four letters in the four corners of the screen. But the simplicity has been beautifully done and as the letters change and the words they spell change, the film becomes a frenetic but alluring race for the brain to keep up. I’m not sure what the message of this film might be but I’m compelled to keep watching to try to decide.

Top Ten: Poetry, Dance and Song

Dancing, music and singing have been key aspects of my life over the decades since my childhood, and I am naturally drawn to them as ways of exploring and expressing poetry in film.

This collection of ten is made up of pieces that move me in different ways. The order I have given them is not a ranking, but simply designed to be seen and heard in a flow from start to end.


Film-maker: Tim Davis
Writer & Voice: Olivia Gatwood
Choreography & Performance: Rebecca Björling & Rebecca Rosier

A marvelous response in dance to a powerful poem, Ode To My Bitchface was written by Olivia Gatwood in the US, who also voices the piece. The rhythm of the film, directed by Tim Davis, follows closely the choreography and dancing by Swedish artists Rebecca Björling and Rebecca Rosier. The dance is timed to the rhythms of phrases in the poem, and the movements literally matched to the meanings of the words. The fast-paced precision is exhilarating. The absence of music highlights instead the strength of the words, voice and bodies in motion. The poem can be read on the page here.


Film-maker, Writer & Performer: Sabina England
Voice & Sound Design: Micropixie
Music: Om/Off (Paco Seren and Pablo Alvarez)

Sabina England makes beautiful expressive dance from American Sign Language in this film about identity. In her own words…

It’s based on a poem of the same name that I wrote, which I performed in San Francisco, Washington DC and at Pride Fest. It’s about exploring my identity as a deaf brown girl growing up feeling isolated, lonely and different, and learning to accept who I was and coming to love myself.

I shot beautiful scenes of various places all over Bihar, including the ancient Buddhist site at Mahabodi Temple in Bodh Gaya, Bihar. I also went to a deaf girls school in Patna and I was so proud and impressed with these little girls because they could write in Hindi, English, and they were also fluent in Indian Sign Language! (source)


Film-maker & Writer: Amang
Composer & Singer: Lo Sirong

A musical videopoem from Taiwan, More Than One features the exquisite voice of Lo Sirong singing a poem by the writer known as Amang, who is also the film-maker. The image streams in Amang’s videos are distinctly poetic in themselves, with a quality of mystery going far beyond literal illustration of the words. The wonderful music and voice of Lo Sirong features in some videos by other film-makers here. More videos from Amang are here.


Film-makers: Marichka Lukianchuk & Elena Baronnikova
Writer: Marichka Lukianchuk
Dancer: Angelina Andriushina
Music: DakhaBrakha

This profoundly moving video from Marichka Lukianchuk and Elena Baronnikova features a brief dance sequence as part of an ensemble of poetic image and sound. The subject is the experience of living in Ukraine at this time of war. I find unimaginable serenity and bravery in this film. The simple beauty of the dance performed by Angelina Andriushina is an important part of the vulnerability and hope expressed. The music that further graces the piece is by DakhaBrakha. Marichka Lukianchuk writes eloquently and at more length about the film here.


Film-maker: Tal Rosner
Writer: Langston Hughes
Composer: Lior Rosner
Singer: Janai Brugger
Dancers: Cameron McMillan & Fiona Merz

The poem Shadows by Langston Hughes (1901-1967) is expressed in this film in exquisite music by Lior Rosner, so beautifully sung by Janai Brugger. Visually it begins as an abstract animation that graphically responds to the music, later morphing into fragmented moments of dance performed by Cameron McMillan and Fiona Merz. The film-maker bringing all elements together is Tal Rosner. The poem can be read on the page at poets.org. More information and stills can be found at Tal Rosner’s website.


Film-maker: Marc Neys
Writer & Voice: Hugo Claus
Choreography & Performance: Nadia Vadori-Gauthier

Central to this haunting film by influential Belgian artist Marc Neys, is an extraordinary dance piece created and performed by Nadia Vadori-Gauthier, artistic director of the French dance company Le Prix de l’essence. The piece for this film is from her amazing project titled One minute of dance a day. For this she has posted inventive short dance videos every single day since 2015. Marc Neys has been a prolific maker of distinctive videopoetry for over a decade. His slow motion treatment of the dance, and his selection of moments from it are mesmerising. The dark ambient music is also his creation. The poem is read in Dutch by its well-known Flemish author, Hugo Claus (1929-2008), in a recording from the German Lyrikline website, where it can be read in a number of different translations.


Film-makers: Matthieu Maunier-Rossi & Ronan Cheneau
Writer: Ronan Cheneau
Choreographer & Performer: Aïpeur Foundou

Congolese dancer Aïpeur Foundou is a graceful and compelling presence in this film, a collaboration between director Matthieu Maunier-Rossi and poet Ronan Cheneau, both in France. The poem is a reverie about the freedom that can be found within, in simple experiences and places, when it cannot be found in the wider world. The film-maker writes about the process of making the piece here.


Film-maker: Katie Garrett
Writer: Ella Jane Chappell
Voices: Katie Garrett & Nicholas Herrmann
Choreography: Anna-Lise Marie Hearn
Performers: Laura Boulter, KJ Clarke-Davis, Lydia Costello, Jennifer Jones, Nathalia Lillehagen & Ella Mackinder

Film-maker Katie Garrett and writer Ella Jane Chappell, both in the UK, teamed up with Norwegian choreographer Anna-Lise Marie Hearn to create this affecting dance film that won the Southbank Poetry Film Festival in 2014. From the film’s notes at Vimeo:

At the heart of Rolling Frames are a series of shifting voices and characters that inhabit three very different relationships. These relationships are linked by the role that dependency plays in each. To some extent, every relationship involves a yielding of independence. The poem dissects this manner of yielding: the manifestation of greed in desire, the vulnerability in love, the loneliness in lust. The physicality and inner rhythms of the words are translated once over by the expressive movements of dance, and once again through the gaze of the camera’s eyes.


Film-maker: Jane Glennie
Writer: Rosie Garland
Voice: Rosie Garland & Alison Glennie
Dancer: Natasha Jervis

This film about a dancer draws inspiration from the life of Austrian-born Tilly Losch (1903-1975), also a choreographer, actor and painter. It is a collaboration between film-maker Jane Glennie and writer/performer Rosie Garland, both award-winning artists in the UK. The subject is the representation of women artists in history, especially the ways their stories have been footnoted in relation to famous men. Jane Glennie animates thousands of her photographs in a rapid stream, meticulously layered with contrasting rhythms that underscore voice and text. Rosie Garland’s expressive narration of her own poem is highly effective, alternating with that of Alison Glennie, equally as affecting in the sections that evoke Losch speaking for herself. Jane Glennie writes about the process of making the film here.


Film-maker: Mark Wilkinson
Writer and Performer: Rich Ferguson
Singer: Stella Ademiluyi

Compared to most poetry videos, Human Condition is an action-packed blockbuster. It was written and performed by Rich Ferguson, the beat poet laureate of California 2020-2022. For this satirical, sometimes scathing, yet ultimately uplifting musical, he teamed up with director Mark Wilkinson and an ensemble of performers and musicians, including singer Stella Ademiluyi and James Morrison from the cast of Twin Peaks. The text of the poem is posted at YouTube in the video notes.

The Cosmic Sea of Video Poetry: A Top Ten List

The world of video poetry is a cosmic sea where seeds of poems grow in a vast fluid of cinematic possibilities. You can meet enthusiastic amateur art projects where an amazing poem is the real protagonist. You can experience works by professional directors or amazing narrators, an attractive deep voice to guide you into the mind of a world known poet or to see for first time images blossom from an unknown poem. You can be touched and even cry watching heroes of a poem come alive on the screen or be overwhelmed with awe watching a dance performance or animation inspired by poetry. The creative collaborations among directors, poets and musicians around the world establish a new art genre, video poetry, as a new way to experience poetry today.

I don’t know from where to start. From the beginning or from the end. From the past or from the present. I will choose to take a trip from future to past. I will base my top ten list in the outstanding and awarded films that captured our souls in the ten last years of the International Video Poetry Festival and I will end up with some glamsy memories from the international digital platform http://filmpoetry.org – both projects organized and curated by the Institute for Experimental Arts.

Let’s start!

Director & Poet: Laura R. Tolentino

An amazing experimental film poem. Laura R. Tolentino created a very strong performance video poem that brings together technology, psychedelic intimate visions and ceremonial community futuristic lifestyles. The video offers strong comments about the social and environmental issues of our era with unique, extraordinary way. Premiered and awarded at the 10th International Video Poetry Festival in Athens.

Director & Poet: Inga Shepeleva

Hebeerin or The Bear Festival is an art project inspired by the world of spirits from the mythology of the Yakut people. It is a fragile celebration on the remains of a slain animal. An extraordinary atmosphere worships the forces of nature. Watching the film poem we understand that we are small, we are all children inside the palm of the universe.

Inga Shepeleva was born and raised in an academic town near Yakutsk, the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) in a family of scientists who have dedicated their lives to studying permafrost. In 2017, she produced her first cycle of videos based on her poetry work called ​Hebeerin​, dedicated to Yakut mythology. The video art cycle received awards and nominations at Russian and European video poetry and experimental film festivals, such as the video poetry festival​ ​Fifth Leg​ (Saint-Petersburg), ​The International Video Poetry​ ​Festival​ (Athens) and International Experimental Film Festival Zebra​ (Berlin).

View on Vimeo

Director: Manuel Vilarinho
Poet: Mário-Henrique Leiria (1923–1980)

Mário-Henrique Leiria was a Portuguese surrealist poet. Born in Lisbon, he studied at the Escola de Belas Artes. He and his fellow surrealists were involved in an absurdist plot to overthrow the dictatorship of Antonio Salazar. The performance in this video poem is very strong. It fits perfectly with the thematic of the poem.

Director: Ian Gibbins
Poetry: Tasos Sagris
Music: Whodoes

A production of the Institute for Experimental Arts, this video is a collaboration of the Greek spoken word / multi media duet Tasos Sagris & Whodoes with the Australian experimental director Ian Gibbins. Tasos Sagris’s poem, with its haunting soundtrack by Whodoes, offers us an extended exploration of lives lived in parallel worlds, at cross-purposes, in and out of love, around the world. The video, awarded and presented in more than 45 festivals around the world, invite us to observe deep inside us for a real reason to live today. But what is the reality? What is mere illusion? Can there be more to life than simply living?

Director: Allen Crawford
Poetry: Walt Witman

Illustrator Allen Crawford has turned Whitman’s poem Song of Myself into a sprawling, 256-page work of art. The densely-handwritten text and illustrations intermingle in a way that’s both surprising and wholly in tune with the spirit of the poem—exuberant, rough, and wild. “Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself” is a sensational reading experience, an artifact in its own right, and a masterful tribute to the Good Gray Poet.

Directors: Aleksandra Corovic and Alkistis Kafetzi
Poet:  Ritta Boumi-Pappa

The poem If I go out walking with my dead friends belongs to the book A Thousand Murdered Girls which was published in 1964 by the communist poet Ritta Boumi-Pappa . The book consists of 65 poems, each named after a woman who was sentenced to death for participating in the Greek Resistance against the Nazis. The film, produced by the Institute for Experimental Arts, is a humble memorial for the female heroines mentioned in Papa’s verses but also for today’s freedom fighters. It rings the bell in the consciences of people, pointing out the risk of suppression of freedom within a decaying social system. The past and the present are connected through a visualized dramaturgy of associative patterns. The human body becomes a canvas on which mankind paints its struggles and battles. Its reality is caught in confrontation between projected values and societal demands. How do society’s proceedings reflect on the individual experience?

iRONY (Australia)
Director: Radheya Jegatheva

An Oscar qualified and AACTA nominated filmmaker based in Perth, Australia and born in Johor, Malaysia to parents of South Korean, Japanese, Indian and Malaysian ancestry, the poet and filmmaker Radheya Jegatheva inspects a wide range of elements through a critical lens and bring awareness to terrible issues such as cyberbullying and teen suicide. The animated video poem causes discussion or at least contemplation about these issues in a creative way, and make people reconsider the overconsumption of social media or the ways in which it can be harmful.

Director: mmmmmfilms

mmmmmfilms is a collaboration between Adrian Fisher, Luna Montenegro and Gines Olivares. Since 2003 they have been making art films that show in festivals, biennials and galleries in Europe and Latin America. The Multispecies Offline is an intelligent video poetry that combines performance and spoken word and cinematic video poetry. Exploring different modalities of social media, theatre, film noir, photography and overlay ‘multispecies offline’ is a film that considers our relations with the human and the non-human.

View on Vimeo

Director: Lika Nadir

Our life balances between internal freedom and belonging to others. The inner measure of truth never lies, like the human body. Try to live your life so as to penetrate through it the truth for those who will come to this world after you. Lika Nadir was born in the Crimea. At the age of 14, she began writing: short scripts and stories. An art historian by training. In 2019 she got accepted to the Moscow School of New Cinema (workshop of Dmitry Mamulia). In her works Lika raises social themes, and also seeks the aesthetics of naturalness and realistic existence of actors. Notable works: video for La Priest, collaboration with L’Officiel Russia.

Filmmaker: Marie Craven
Poetry: Kelli Russell Agodon

A film poem that is outstanding in content and form, in lyrics and photography, in atmosphere and meaning. The poem is strong and the voice over grabs your attention from the first moment.

Top Ten: winners of Ó Bhéal Poetry Film Competition

Ó Bhéal winners 2013–2021

Paul Casey and Colm Scully, the judges of the  10th Ó Bhéal Poetry Film Competition hosted a very successful hybrid event on Sunday 27th November. For Moving Poems they are also kindly working on their top ten films of classic poems, as part of a fresh series of Top Tens that will be coming to the site soon (see previous top tens). Until then, here is a top ten to celebrate 10 years of the Ó Bhéal competition with the newly crowned 10th winner included in the list with the nine previous winners.

2022 Winner

Jelle Meys – Belgium – La Luna Asoma (The moon appears) (3:37)

Past winners

2013 Winner

Manuel Vilarinho – Portugal – No País Dos Sacanas (In the Land of Bastards) (3:50)

2014 Winner

Marleen van der Werf – Netherlands – Wadland (9:19)

(the full-length film is not available on the web)

2015 Winner

Cheryl Gross – USA – In The Circus Of You (6:07)

2016 Winner

Marie Craven – Australia Dictionary Illustrations (2:13)

2017 Winner

Kayla Jeanson – Canada – Descrambled Eggs (4:14)

2018 Winner

Álvaro Martín – Spain – Accident de Personne (3:35)

2019 Winner

Fiona Aryan – Ireland – Virginia gave me Roses (2:05)

2020 Winner

Peta-Maria Tunui, Waitahi Aniwaniwa McGee, Shania Bailey-Edmonds, Jesse-Ana Harris, Lilián Pallares, Charles Olsen – Māori, Pākehā and Colombian – Noho Mai (5:33)

2021 Winner

Janet Lees – Isle of Man/England – What I fear most is becoming ‘a poet’ (6:10)

Ten Invitations to the Poetry Film Genre

I am often caught between Kant and Hegel: Am I more interested in the free play of the faculties of imagination and knowledge and the incomprehensible “aesthetic idea” of a work of art, which always gives more to think than can be understood, or is the conceptual content more important for making a work valuable than its form? In this debate I never wanted to bend in one direction. Apparently my favorite poetry films have both: they create a unique mood associated with questions that are relevant and thought-provoking, but at the same time, they also create pleasure in listening and watching, a revelry in visual stimuli, textures, surprises. The following films are not a top ten list in the sense of a canon. There are just 10 examples I would like to collect here to fill in the format. Or let’s say: they are ten invitations to watch poetry films. Please enjoy them!

Arte Poetica

Director: Neels Castillon
Text: Jorge Luis Borges

The Polish Language

Director: Alice Lyons with Orla Mc Hardy
Text: Alice Lyons

A Petty Morning Crime

Animation: Asparuh Petrov
Text: Georgi Gospodinov

Pipene / The Pipes

Director: Kristian Pedersen
Text and voiceover: Øyvind Rimbereid

What abou’ de Lô / What about the law

Director: Charles Badenhorst
Text and voiceover: Adam Small

The Desktop Metaphor

Director: Helmie Stil
Text: Caleb Parkin

Chamada Geral / Calling All

Director: Manuel Vilarinho
Text: Mário-Henrique Leiria

Hail the Bodhisattva of Collected Junk

Director: Ye Mimi
Text: Yin Ni


Director: Martin Kelly with Ian McBryde
Text: Ian McBryde

Steel and Air

Directors: Chris and Nick Libbey
Text: John Ashbery.

John Scott: Ten Favorite Cinépoems

I’m a filmmaker not a poet. So for me the word “poetry” means something different I think than how poets might see it. For me the poetry part of cinépoetry is not the written part, it’s a kind of magic that can suddenly bring alive an enchanting correspondence between words, sounds and images. Given this definition, here are my current favorites put into categories.

Category 1: The Interior Dilemma Comes to Light


Written and directed by Lyn Elliot, 2000

Lyn Elliot must surely be America’s most underappreciated filmmaker. Her work is so smart, so simple and often times uproariously funny. What more do you want? Ok, how about short and to the point too. I love this film. I wish I was this smart.

On Loop

Directed by Christine Hooper, 2013
Poem by Christine Hooper and Victoria Manifold

I went to the Zebra Poetry Film Festival in Berlin in October of 2014 and I saw many great cinépoems. This was my favorite one there. I still don’t fully understand how she did it, but I think she perfectly captures that moment where we are trying to sleep but our mind seems instead to dissect us into multiple fighting personalities who churn things over endlessly.

Having Intended to Merely Pick on an Oil Company, the Poem Goes Awry

Directed by Joanna Kohler, 2010
Poem by Bob Hicok

Are all the best cinépoems directed by women? Sheesh, third in a row. I think what I really love best about this one is how it finds a way to create an enchanting dialogue between the interior voice of the poem and a kind of external visual journey of the ruminating man. Also, projecting on chest hair is a genius visual idea. I wish I’d thought of that.

Category 2: Opening up New Worlds

Closed Wounds

Directed by Lanka Haouche Perren, 2014
Poem by Michael Harding

I saw this at the Zebra Poetry Film Festival in 2014. It’s haunting. A brilliant and troubling juxtaposition of images and sounds with words. Some might call the film exploitative, but all I saw was its humanity. Also, I never would have thought of putting this poem with these images. It’s a surprising confluence of words and images that would at first seem entirely inappropriate, but here, somehow, this piece elevates both the words and the visuals to levels I’m not sure they achieve on their own.

When Walt Whitman was a Little Girl

Directed by Jim Haverkamp, 2012
Poem by M.C. Biegner

I think this film takes us down a rabbit hole into an Alice in Wonderland style visual universe that’s enchanting in way that’s both completely its own thing, but also perfectly suited to the tone of the words. I also like that I don’t think it tries to be impressive – like so many calling card short films. It just makes the original work sing again with spirit and soul, transposed into a new key.

Never Too Late

Director uncredited, 2013
Poem by Michael London

I love the poem and how it sounds when read. I think the words work cleverly to open up the difficulties, paradoxes and the potential for change in what I take to be life in inner city Chicago. Also, for me at least, it feels like I am invited to feel the breathing spirit of a personal, family space and understand its value to the poet, and to all of us. I know the piece has affected me when all the natural sound drops out at at the end and I can still feel and hear it in the poem and what it describes.


Directed by Michael Langan, 2010
Poem by Brian Christian

I think the sequence from :52 to 1:09 in this film are my favorite 17 seconds in cinépoetry. It’s perfect. I’m sure there is some kind of eternal punishment for being perfect, even if it’s just for 17 seconds — maybe door to door electioneering for Donald Trump(?)

Cars Will Make You Free

Written and directed by Lyn Elliot, 1997

I don’t guffaw, or make giant snorting sounds while watching this piece (like I do while watching certain scenes from Trailer Park Boys) but I do laugh throughout it, and you can’t really wipe the stupid grin from my face. It’s simple, fun and smart.

Massacre at Murambi

Written and directed by Sam Kauffmann, 2007

I think this is a cinépoem masquerading as a documentary. One could could characterize the words here as simply poetic, rather than a poem onto itself. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. I guess I don’t care either way. But for the purists, I urge you to hang with it until its conclusion before you cinch any final judgment here. While at first the words may seem like a conventional documentary voice-over, the poetry is revealed soon enough, and the whole movie turns on a few well chosen words and their devastating reveal.

Category 3: Masterwork

La jetée

Written and directed by Chris Marker, 1962
Well, who am I to add anything more to the volumes written about this movie. It’s an acknowledged masterwork that deserves your undistracted attention for its duration. Actually, imagine you didn’t have a phone or a computer or any devices and you were in a dark cinema in Paris in 1962. It’s still great though even if you do glance at your devices once or twice. I don’t believe it has been surpassed really — an astounding blend of visuals, sounds and words. It’s a one of a kind work that, if not a cinépoem must be instead a grandfather to the genre.

Dave Bonta: Ten Culinary Poetry Videos

As part of a post at Via Negativa introducing a new series called Poets in the Kitchen, I started looking for some cooking-related videopoems and poetry films to include. I soon had way too many, so I thought I’d gather them here instead for this occasional “top ten” feature. As I say at VN, the contrast between the abstract—some would say spiritual—nature of writing and the essential corporeality of preparing and consuming food is fascinating. Eating is a root metaphor in probably every language, one of the fundamental ways in which we think about our relationship to the cosmos.

How to Make a Crab Cake
(poet: January Gill O’Neil)
Kevin Carey, 2010

This performance-style videopoem, produced to promote O’Neil’s debut poetry collection Underlife, serves as a good introduction to one of the most common approaches to culinary poetry: poet as faux cooking-show host.

An Ode to Frybread
(poet: Melanie Fey)
Trevino L. Brings Plenty/Iktomi Films, 2015

What we eat is linked figuratively as well as literally to who we are. Again, the poet is in the kitchen, this time to ponder questions of identity and belonging.

(poet: Fiona Tinwei Lam)
Fiona Tinwei Lam, 2015

Illustrative poetry animations often feel superfluous, but perhaps because the poet herself was the director here, this animation (by Toni Zhang and Claire Stewart) works for me. It’s as if Lam is sketching out ideas in her head. And that contrast I mentioned between abstraction and corporeality may be part of it, too, the animation reinforcing the abstract nature of poetry and storytelling.

The Body Show: How to Boil an Egg
(poet: Nora Robertson)
Jason Bahling, 2010

Another family story centered on eggs, but there the resemblance with Omelet ends. Robertson plays the deranged host of a kitschy 60s cooking show for housewives. “The simple act of boiling an egg forces her to publicly contemplate a succession of images from the vaginal opening of a hen, to slaves working in salt mines, to the virgin-devouring snake god of Ghana. The seemingly non-sequitur imagery comes together as she remembers the horror and heartbreak of her grandmother being forced to assemble hundreds of deviled eggs for a Hollywood dinner party.”

Sogni Culinari
(poem: Pedro Mercado)
Clarissa Duque, 2015

Let’s venture deeper into surreal territory with this film based on a poem in Spanish translated into Italian and here subtitled in English. One great advantage food has over poetry is that (aside from food allergies and differences in intestinal microbiomes) it doesn’t require translation. Duque told an interviewer, “I learned when I was still a child how every single ingredient of a dish is like a magic recipe, itself capable of activating every human sense and evoking all kinds of sensations in the human body.”

Arroz Con Habichuelas
(poet: Caridad De La Luz AKA La Bruja)
Advocate of Wordz, 2015

This is more of a music video than a poetry video, but in the spoken word community, the line between poetry and music is regularly breached. Here, a prominent spoken-word poet’s entertaining shout-out to a favorite dish and marker of ethnic identity suggests that our identities are simultaneously more mutable and more inescapable than we might like to think.

Render, Render
(poet: Thomas Lux)
Angella Kassube/Motionpoems, 2011

This is one of two films (here’s the other) that Motionpoems produced with Lux’s poem and reading, but as with Omelet, I think the abstract nature of animation makes for an especially effective contrast with the contents of the poem—which, to take things to another level, uses culinary language to talk about poetry.

Little Theatres: Homage to the Mineral of Cabbage
(poet: Erín Moure)
Stephanie Dudley, 2011

Did I mention taking things to another level? This masterpiece of stop-motion film incorporates the English translation of a poem in Galician, “Homenaxe ao mineral do repolo.” According to the film’s website, it is “the second in a series of six by Erín in her award-winning book, Little Theatres. Each poem is an homage to a simple, humble food, such as potatoes, onions, and cabbage. The poems examine our relationship to food, and draw new insights to how these basic foods relate to life, as well as how we relate to each other. […] The film Little Theatres is an interpretation of what Little Theatres are. It is an exploration of layers: layers of space, and layers of words, both spoken and written. The exploration begins and ends with a simple cabbage.”

Maize Dog
(poet: Trevino L. Brings Plenty)
Trevino L. Brings Plenty/Iktomi Films, 2013

One last return to the kitchen for a meditation on ethnic foodways and identity, now with a thoroughly satirical bent. The poet is present only in the soundtrack, his place in the kitchen taken by an actress (Eva Williams) and the culinary arts reduced to their most basic, industrial form: the heating and consumption of processed food.

Inimi/The Room
(poet: Jessie Kleeman)
Marc Neys (Swoon), 2015

A contemporary Greenlandic poet achieves the ultimate imaginative identity with food. Horrifying or liberating? Carnal or spiritual? Maybe all of the above.

Do you have a “top ten” list of poetry videos you’d like to share? Get in touch.

Sigrun Höllrigl: Ten Atypical Poetry Films

The idea of my film collection was to leave behind the common definitions of what a poetry film means and offer in addition to other curators an atypical poetry film collection. In the Anglo-American definitions, a poetry film is based on a poem. As director of the Poetry Film Festival Vienna, I personally support a broader definition: A poetry film in my view is based either on a poetic experience or on a literary text. These texts can be experimental or spoken word or include letters and be in a abstract way close to fine arts (“Schriftfilm”). In some cases, text can be
missing altogether when the film circles around poetry.

Another aim was to present films which have been successful in established art contexts such as museums, exhibitions, or renowned short film festivals. I also included some examples of famous film makers who did films close to a text film, and I focused on the idea of changing the perception of the audience through the art work. Enjoy!

Shakespeare’s Sonnets – Sonnet 66

Robert Wilson with music by Rufus Wrainwright (2009)

Robert Wilson’s Shakespeare sonnets for Berliner Schaubühne became very famous. It’s a high level of visualizing a poem. Impressive threshold for every poetry film maker!

Tir’d with all these, for restful death I cry,
As, to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm’d in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And guilded honour shamefully misplaced,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,
And strength by limping sway disabled,
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly (doctor-like) controlling skill,
And simple truth miscall’d simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill:
Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,
Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.

Lady Lazarus
(poems by Sylvia Plath)
Sandra Lahire, 1991
Sandra Lahire was a leading feminist and lesbian film maker in Britain. Her film about Sylvia Plath can be described as a mixture between a poetry film and a documentary. The film shows a deep understanding and visualization of Plath’s dangerous views to face reality. Sandra Lahire suffered from anorexia and died in 2001.

Un Chien Andalou
Luis Buñuel, 1928

The film Un Chien Andalou from 1928 is a famous historical film – a manifest of Surrealism. Picture and story follow a dream logic. Even though the highest valued expression in Surrealism was writing, Buñuel and many surrealists did not want to use words in their films. Buñuel created his poetic experience in Un Chien Andalou without any dialogue. The poetic spirit is part of the visual expression. This understanding became the dominating credo of the film world: Let’s be poetic without using words.

Inga Fler Ord
Tomas Stark and Jerker Beckman, 2012

This film is also nearly without words, but also deeply poetic. The subject of the film is a female writer writing poetry. She fights against writer’s block and finds her inspiration in a dog’s barking. The film starts with a credo of Antonin Artaud: “I have told you: No works, no language, no words, no spirit, nothing. Nothing except for the scale where the nerves are weighted.”

coração (heart)
Marcello Sahea, 2013

During two months, some friends and other interested people were invited to participate by sending short clips of their naked bodies, filmed by themselves with any types of cameras. The video poem shows the fragility of the human body. Even though there’s some poetry included, the film works basically with picture and sound.

Giga Chkheidze, 2000

Watch at cultureunplugged.com.
Brazil presents a superficial view of a fictitious protagonist as a kind of satire. It exposes the emphasis on reasonable behavior and the irrationality lurking beneath. The film is part of the MOMA collection NY. The real meaning of the words is unsaid — it comes up in between all the elements: language, picture and music.

The Alphabet
David Lynch, 1968

Schriftfilm — David Lynch offers in his perfect animation a way to experience the alphabet between a children’s view and a nightmare.

Peter Greenaway, 1974

Welcome to humor! Peter Greenaway shows a great reinterpretation of how we could tell a story. The film is about falling out from the window. Greenaway combines text and picture opening up a weird logic. Rational behavior is pretended, but the opposite — irrationalism — comes through. Outstanding, very funny, a great film and a pleasure to watch!

Blue (Part 1)
Derek Jarman, 1993

The director Derek Jarman was partially blind while he made this film, suffering complications from AIDS. The film is highly biographical and this seems to be a particularly strong aspect behind the lack of visuals, which offers us a radical and minimalistic approach to how to make poetry film. Watch the full film version (75 minutes).

Confessions 7
Ignas Krunglevičius, 2011

Krunglevičius’s films are minimalistic and radical too. This film belongs to

A collection of eight confessions, hand written and court transcripts, of convicted criminals. It is then reduced to only those sentences where the criminal is talking about his or her own emotions. The perpetrator’s personal landscape of guilt is revealed with no descriptions about the actual criminal act. The most extreme act of violence contains something that we can all recognize in ourselves; the inner psychological patterns of reasoning and justification, remorse and/or the lack of it.

Martina Pfeiler: Ten Poetry Films for Stimulating Student Discussions

I have introduced poetry films to students for over a decade now. I am very lucky that my students never cease to surprise me with their great observations and analytic responses that unfold in our classroom discussions. Try it!

Ballad of the Skeletons
Gus Van Sant, 1996 (poem and performance by Allen Ginsberg)


Standard Oil Co.
DJ Kadagian, 2004 (poem by Pablo Neruda)


1700% Mistaken for Muslim
Masahiro Sugano, 2010 (poem and performance by Anida Yoeu Ali)


A Finger, Two Dots Then Me
David and Daniel Holecheck, 2011 (poem by Derrick Brown)


Why I Write
Masahiro Sugano, 2012 (poem and performance by Kosal Khiev)


The Dice Player
Nissmah Roshdy, 2013 (poem and reading by Mahmoud Darwish)


Forgotten Memory
Siobhan MacMahon, 2014 (poem by Siobhan MacMahon)


In the Circus of You
Cheryl Gross, 2014 (poem by Nicelle Davis)


I Can’t Breathe (Eric Garner)
Brandon Victor Dixon and Warren Adams, 2014 (poem and performance by Daniel J. Watts)


Indefinite Animals
Martha McCollough, 2015 (poem and film by Martha McCollough)

Matt Mullins: Ten Notable Single-Author Videopoems

I really enjoy all forms of videopoetry, and collaborations have certainly led to some of the most groundbreaking and vital work out there, but I also have tremendous admiration for those people who work primarily as singular “videopoets.” To have the skill and talent to write a compelling poem and the ability to place that poem into an equally compelling visual and sonic context is an impressive artistic accomplishment.

But as I sat down to compile a list of ten single-author/author-made pieces that have influenced me, I quickly realized that there’s a tremendous amount of excellent work of this type out there. So I decided to narrow my list even further to focus on those poets who have demonstrated that they have the skills I mention above, and the ability to read their own poetry convincingly, and the ability to deliver the whole package in four minutes or less.

So in no particular order, here they are: Ten notable single-author videopoems under four minutes where the author also reads the poem.


Timothy David Orme, 2012


Kleine Reise (Little Trip)
Claire Walka, 2010


The Dinosaur Book is Green Fire
Brenda Clews, 2011


the giant
Kate Greenstreet, 2009


Temujin Doran, 2012


Where They Feed Their Children to Kings
John Gallaher, 2012


when you land in New Orleans
Ben Pelhan, 2012


R.W. Perkins, 2011


It turns out
Martha McCollough, 2012


Who’d have thought
Melissa Diem, 2013

Dave Bonta: Top Ten Multi-Poem Films and Videopoems

I wasn’t going to contribute a list to this series myself, since Moving Poems readers are already exposed to quite enough of my half-baked opinions, but this past week I found myself taking a closer look at multi-poem films and videos as I prepared to make one of my own. What strategies have film- and video-makers employed to gather multiple poems, whether by a single poet or several different poets, into coherent and cohesive assemblages? And what, if anything, might such longer and more complex videopoems suggest about the perennial struggle of videopoetry and poetry film to achieve a whole greater than the sum of its parts?


Bones Will Crow (poets: Aung Cheimt, Khin Aung Aye, Ma Ei, Maung Pyiyt Min, Maung Thein Zaw, Moe Way, Moe Zaw, Pandora, Thitsar Ni, and Zeyar Lynn)
Craig Ritchie and Brett Evans Biedscheid, 2012

A brilliant trailer for an anthology (Bones Will Crow, Arc Publications, 2012) that also works as a stand-alone silent film. Craig Ritchie, whose still photos appear in the film, appears to have taken the lead in putting it together. The animations by Brett Evans Biedscheid / Statetostate were “Commissioned by English PEN.”


Antiphonal (poets: Alistair Elliot, Bill Herbert, Christy Ducker, Colette Bryce, Cynthia Fuller, Gillian Allnutt, Linda Anderson, Linda France, Peter Armstrong, Peter Bennet, Pippa Little, and Sean O’Brien)
Kate Sweeney, 2014

See the original post at Moving Poems for the full story of this project. As I wrote there, this is an eight-minute filmpoem that still ends up seeming much too short. Digital artist Tom Schofield and filmmaker Kate Sweeney have created a truly masterful, immersive work that pays tribute to one of the glories of Medieval art.


First Screening (poet: bpNichol)
bpNichol, 1984

Canadian visual poet bpNichol jumped into digital literature with both feet. Thirty years on, these animated concrete poems still inspire and delight. (This is also on YouTube.)


Twenty Second Filmpoem (poets: Andrew McCallum Crawford, Mary McDonough Clark, Al Innes, Guinevere Glasfurd-Brown, Elspeth Murray, Janette Ayachi, Jane McCance, Donna Campbell, Ewan Morrison, Angela Readman, Gérard Rudolf, Zoe Venditozzi, Jo Bell, Sally Evans, Pippa Little, Tony Williams, Robert Peake, Stevie Ronnie, Sheree Mack and Emily Dodd)
Alastair Cook, 2012

For his 22nd Filmpoem, Alastair Cook got the brilliant idea of asking 20 poets to write short poems to accompany 20-second clips of found footage. The result—as I wrote on Moving Poems at the time—is both playful and profound, a lovely demonstration of the magic that can happen when poets write ekphrastically in response to film clips.


the rest (poems: Michelle Matthees)
Kathy McTavish, 2013

Something about those long bass notes on McTavish’s cello and the shifting play of lights and shadows behind the slowly scrolling texts makes this feel distinctly heroic (I was going to say “epic,” but the kids have ruined that word through overuse) somewhat in the manner of Pindar’s odes. McTavish is a terrific multimedia artist, and if you like this, there’s much more where it came from: “transmedia landscapes which flow from the digital web into physical installation and performance spaces.”


Cirkel – Circle (poets: Charles Ducal, Delphine Lecompte, Jan Lauwereyns, Leonard Nolens, Lies van Gasse, Marleen de Crée, Michaël Vandebril, Stefan Hertmans, Stijn Vranken, Xavier Roelens, and Yannick Dangre)
Swoon, 2013

A videopoem by Swoon (Marc Neys) incorporating 11 poems by 11 different Belgian writers, telling a single story of life, lust, love and loss. The poems range in style from experimental to formal verse, all ably translated by Willem Groenewegen. (Read more at Moving Poems.) Using visual storytelling to maintain viewer interest in lyric videopoetry is a strategy I often see makers of longer films adopting.


Twelve Moons (poems: Erica Goss)
Swoon, 2013

The connective glue here, I think, is the singular yet compound voice—words by Erica Goss, readings by Nic S. and music by Kathy McTavish—as well as the semi-narrative device of tracing “the hidden influence of the moon on one person’s life,” as Atticus Review‘s summary put it. Released to the web originally as 12 separate videopoems, Marc Neys also conceived of the series as a cohesive unit. I saw it screened at the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival in Berlin last October and I’d say that he succeeded, based on one unsophisticated but dependable metric: I was disappointed when it was over.


In the Circus of You (poems: Nicelle Davis)
Cheryl Gross, 2014

Like Twelve Moons, this animated cycle of four poems from Nicelle Davis’ latest collection is unified by her distinct voice — and also by Gross’ unique artistic vision. Together, as Davis puts it, they “create a grotesque peep-show that opens the velvet curtains on the beautiful complications of life.” Their collaborative partnership works in part I think because they both gravitate toward a similarly high level of quirk.


Cento for Soprano (poetry by Christopher Phelps, selected and rearranged by Kevin Simmonds)
Kevin Simmonds, 2012

Composer and pianist Simmonds underplays his role as filmmaker in the credits and in the Vimeo description, which reads: “A cento is a poem comprised of various lines taken from different poems. This work for soprano, piano and voice is inspired by the poetry of Christopher Phelps.” I’ve seen the cento technique used effectively for poetry book trailers, too. What makes this film so powerful, to me, is the juxtaposition of soprano Valetta Brinson’s beautiful, seemingly disembodied head with the opening line, also repeated at the end: “It’s hard remaining human in the city.”


These sentences are not a poem.
Dot Devota, Emily Kendal Frey, Caitie Moore, Laura Theobald, and Kate Greenstreet, 2011

“Whose story is it, anyway?” asks Laura Theobold near the end of this uniquely improvisational, collaborative videopoem. Whether or not the texts here are poems or lines from a poem, the over-all effect is certainly lyric (with a narrative thread), and I love the quiet radicalism of the multi-author/filmmaker approach. Greenstreet is a masterful videopoet and no stranger to longer compositions, but here her role (according to the credits) was that of an instigator, co-writer and editor.


That last film in particular points to one of the things I most prize about videopoetry: at the same time that it expands our notion of poetry beyond mere text on a page, it also challenges the Romantic conceit of a single, genius creator, and exposes the polyvocalic essence of poetry. Influenced by remix culture, even the director’s pedestal seems to be shrinking, and the line between director and writer blurring where it still exists. While I love short, shareable poetry videos on the web as much as anyone else — and Lord knows they’re Moving Poems’ bread and butter — I hope this selection inspires other filmmakers to be a bit more ambitious with their translations of poetry into video or cinematic art.