~ Videopoems ~

Videopoetry, filmpoetry, cinepoetry, poetry-film… the label doesn’t matter. What matters is that text and images enter into dialogue, creating a new, poetic whole.

Videopoem Mixtape Vol. 1 by Patricia Killelea

I was struck by how well these six author-made videopoems work together as a collection, and thought they’d also serve as a good introduction to the videopoetry practice of the latest addition to our editorial team, Patricia Killelea, whose work I’ve featured here in the past, but none since 2018. The embedded YouTube player should work, but let me append links to the six films, in order, with the YouTube descriptions for each, excluding the repetitive but vital detail that each features Patricia’s own words, voice, and video:

The Middle of Nowhere
“The Middle of Nowhere” received an Honorable Mention @ The Midwest Video Poetry Fest, Madison, WI 2023
This poetryfilm is a meditation on what it means to live in the rural Midwest— the phrase, “middle of nowhere,” itself is a misnomer.

In the Summer of 2020, We Picked Berries
“In the Summer of 2020, We Picked Berries” was Award-Nominated and an Official Selection for the REELpoetry International Poetry Film Festival – Houston, TX 2024
Poetryfilm reflecting on the politicization of the COVID-19 pandemic and historic protests in U.S. urban centers in 2020. There was a stark contrast between life in the cities and life in rural America during this time. But that was only on the surface.

A Rusted Bird Cage in an Otherwise Empty Field
“A Rusted Birdcage in an Otherwise Empty Field” was an Online Feature @ FENCE, 2021
A poetryfilm addressing the shadow self.

Greetings from Lake Superior
“Postcard: Greetings from Lake Superior” was an Official Selection @ Det Poetiske Fonoteque: Nature & Culture Poetry Film Festival, Copenhagen 2022
A poetryfilm exploring ecological crisis in the Great Lakes region: mercury poisoning, PFAS (forever chemicals), and toxic stamp sands from mining waste.
Poem originally published in Sky Island Journal.

A New History/Una Nueva Historia
“A New History/Una Nueva Historia” was a Finalist and Official Selection for Frame to Frames II @ FOTOGENIA Film Poetry & Divergent Narratives Festival, Mexico City 2023
Spanish translation by Camilo Bosso. With special thanks to poet Lisandra Perez, MFA, for PK’s original Spanish translation assistance.
An ekphrastic poetryfilm inspired by Ana Segovia’s painting Huapengo Torero, “A New History” celebrating the act of crossing over into a new way of life— one that challenges stereotypical conceptions of gender, animal-human relationships, and desire.
Published in Poem Film Imprints Vol. 1, Frame to Frames : Your Eyes Follow II/Cuadro a Cuadros : Tus Ojos Siguen II (ekphrastic poetry + films/cine + poesía ecfrástica), Anthology, Bilingual Edition, Poem in Print & QR Code linking to Videopoem, Liberated Words, Bath, UK, 2024 available here.

How it Starts
“How it Starts” was Shortlisted and an Official Selection at the Ó Bhéal Poetry Film Competition, Cork, Ireland 2017 Also screened @ POETRY FILM LIVE ​
A poetryfilm addressing violence, internet culture, and history.
Poem appeared in Counterglow (Urban Farmhouse Press, 2018)

I asked Patricia why “mixtape” (rather than, say, “chapbook” or “anthology”), and what led her to this grouping, and her response is worth quoting in full:

It felt like my poetryfilms didn’t have a home. They were scattered across the internet— some streaming on lit journal or videopoem sites, while others were screened at festivals but otherwise not made public. I’m a private person, but what are these poetryfilms for if they’re not out there in the world moving around? The concept of the mixtape came to mind, a curated playlist that would be free and accessible to anyone online. When I pick up a poetry collection, I can read from the opening page all the way to end, or I can skip around from poem to poem. And when I listen to an album, I can move between tracks or hear it all the way through in a continuous experience. Why couldn’t I do the same with my videopoems?

As someone born in the early 80’s, I remember the joy and excitement of the mixtape. I made a tape for a high school crush, traded carefully pirated masterpieces with other goth-industrial, punk and metalhead friends. It took time and care and I had to think about the impact of the mixtape taken as a whole. What messages would it send? How would it make the listener feel? Would I finally be understood? With this Videopoem Mixtape Vol. 1, I am bringing together selections from my recent poetryfilm work as a kind of retrospective exercise and an offering to the videopoem community to encourage more open sharing and collaboration. Finally, this mixtape was an experiment for myself so I could see how these pieces fit together across time, talking to and echoing one another since I tend to carry out my personal obsessions in poetics, both on and off the page. These obsessions are namely the natural world and environmental justice issues, history, and a general fascination with language itself as a medium through which and by which we live and exist.

Because my poetryfilms are largely voice-driven, I chose to refer to this curation as a Videopoem Mixtape instead of a Videopoem Chapbook. More people outside of the literary world know what a mixtape is compared to a chapbook, and I wanted the collection to be immediately discernible to folks outside of the poetryfilm practice.

My hope is that more and more poetryfilm artists will release their own Videopoem Mixtapes online. Let’s trade these Videopoem Mixtapes back and forth with one another like we used to trade cassette mixtapes back in the day. Give your scattered videopoems a home so we can all stop by for a visit.

Patricia Killelea is a writer and poetry filmmaker living in the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Her poetry films have been officially selected and screened at REELpoetry International Film Festival, Det Poetiske Fonoteque: Nature & Culture Poetry Film Festival, the Ó’Béal International Poetry-Film Competition, and Frame to Frames II: Your Eyes Follow for the FOTOGENIA Film Poetry & Divergent Narratives Festival. Her other poetry films have received Honorable Mention at the Midwest Video Poetry Fest and longlisted for the Rabbit Heart Poetry Film Festival. Patricia’s poetry films and essays on videopoetry craft have been featured at FENCE, Poetry Film Live, and Atticus Review. Her most recent poetry collection, Counterglow, was published by Urban Farmhouse Press (2019), and her poems have appeared in literary journals cream city review, Seneca Review, Quarterly West, The Common, Trampoline, Barzakh, Waxwing and elsewhere. She was Poetry Editor at Passages North from 2015-2022 and has been a Poetry Editor at FENCE since 2022. She is an Associate Professor of English at Northern Michigan University.

I haven’t told my garden yet by Emily Dickinson

A new upload from South African visual artist and animator Diek Grobler, “Animated on a Alexandre Noyer pinscreen. Music by Anne Vanschothorst,” according to the Vimeo description. Here’s the text.

As a lover of both Emily Dickinson and forests, the imagery really spoke to me. With the closing image in particular, Grobler seems perfectly attuned to the poet’s “Hint … within the Riddle,” and maintains a light touch throughout, avoiding the pitfall of over-interpretation that ruins so many poetry animations for me.

Immigrant Sea by Forrest Gander

A friend lent me a copy of Forrest Gander’s 2021 collection Twice Alive: An Ecology of Intimacies, and in a moment of pure serendipity last Wednesday, skimming the acknowledgements, I see a mention of poetry films, so I go to Vimeo and find this video at the top of my feed, uploaded just a few hours earlier! I’ve been following Gander’s videopoetry for years, during which time his reputation as a page poet has skyrocketed, to the point where I think it’s fair to say he’s the most prominent American poet regularly making his own poetry films. And his videopoems have grown stronger as well (though you may have to take my word for this, as his earlier films have gone missing). His choice of images used to feel a bit arbitrary at times, but I don’t get that feeling from any of his recent films, which now feel as necessary and urgent as the texts on their own.

You can read the text of the poem in Harper’s (if you haven’t already hit their paywalled limit).

Janet Leigh is Afraid of Jazz by Marsha de la O

The latest videopoem by Matt Mullins, who writes:

Here’s Janet Leigh; she’s afraid of jazz in reverse as an overlay to diagrammatical stereographic explanations. The knife-blade shrieks are Doppler warps to a molasses of strips teased. Unimaginable synchronicities abound. The drain eye has an arm and spins water into sound. It’s all very pointed in its touching.

poem: Marsha de la O

concept/direction/audio-visual composition: Matt Mullins

Vimeo description

Via the Filmetry Archive. The poem by Marsha de la O was one of the texts supplied to filmmakers for their 2024 contest; this film placed second. I was especially impressed by how Mullins handled the challenge of including and suggesting jazz elements in the soundtrack without simply deploying a jazz track, giving the film an allusive depth and working to counter-balance what might have otherwise seemed too cerebral an approach to the imagery. And given the long history of jazz at poetry readings, Mullins’ Beat-style vocal delivery seemed just right to my ear.

The Bride Goes Wild by Amy Gerstler

This recent film by Janet Lees, who needs no introduction here, took top honors at this year’s Filmetry festival, part of the ten-day Capital City Film Festival (CCFF) in Lansing, Michigan. Its propulsive energy and light-hearted approach, while a bit of a departure from some of the slower, more meditative work that Lees is best known for, demonstrates a mastery of textured layering, and overall makes a great fit with the poem by Amy Gerstler — one of a selection of texts provided by the organizers:

This year’s theme was POETICS OF CINEMA. Pre-selected poems all engaged the concept of cinema in some way, and filmmakers were encouraged to create new work from them. The only rule is that filmmakers must include the text of the poem in full.

CCFF website

As for the poet,

Amy Gerstler is a writer of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, art criticism, journalism and other stuff. She has published thirteen books of poems, a children’s book and several collaborative artists books with visual artists. Index of Women, her most recent book of poems, was published by Penguin Random House in 2021.

author website

Be sure to browse the archive at Filmetry, which has been updated to include all of this year’s films—a great resource.

Balta puķe / The white flower: Latvian folk-poetry

This winner of the 2017 Maldito Festival de Videopoesía, by Spanish artist, filmmaker and videopoet Hernán Talavera, deploys an unspecified quantity of short, anonymous folk poems to great effect.

Dainas are small lyric poems coming from the oral tradition that constitute one of the most important and ancient treasures of Latvia. In 2001, dainas were declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. “Balta puķe” (“The white flower”) is a dialogue between some of these dainas and images recorded in Latvia in the winter of 2015. This dialogue revolves around the concept of “memento mori” -remember that you have to die- that reminds us the inexorability of Death.

Latvian language along with Lithuanian, are considered the most archaic Indo-European languages of those which are spoken today.

webpage (click through for the list of screenings)

Talavera is one of the filmmakers included in Versogramas, a 2017 documentary about videopoetry, in which he said that places are the main characters in his videopoems; he sees them as “little universes.” “Solitude and emptiness are not negative concepts” for him, but provide relief from the suffering caused by our endless quest for stimulation. He added that he frequently removes sound or color from his videos in a “compromise with austerity,” pointing out that “when you close your eyes you may begin to hear better.” One can certainly see this in Balta puķe.

There’s also a version with Spanish subtitles: La flor blanca.

Hamlet’s “What a piece of work is man” soliloquy by William Shakespeare

London-based videopoet Mikey Delgado just surfaced after a three-year hiatus with this remix of war footage with a recitation from Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2, all of it uncredited in the best samizdat style, and it’s perfectly, horribly on-point. I’ve lost my mirth, too…

I have of late, but
wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth, forgone all
custom of exercises, and, indeed, it goes so heavily
with my disposition that this goodly frame, the
Earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most
excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging
firmament, this majestical roof, fretted
with golden fire—why, it appeareth nothing to me
but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors.

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in
reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving
how express and admirable; in action how like
an angel, in apprehension how like a god: the
beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and
yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man
delights not me, no, nor women neither, though by
your smiling you seem to say so.

Sea Breeze (Brise Marine) by Stéphane Mallarmé

A brilliant musical adaptation and video remix of A.S. Kline’s English translation of Mallarmé’s poem by D. Estrada, AKA Vox Poesis (YouTube, Instagram, Bandcamp). The sped-up images of water have a propulsive force to match the music and intoned text, for an effect that’s at once meditative and unsettling—as the poet probably would’ve wanted.

The Self as Product by Tom Disch

A 2020 upload from Blank Verse Films, one of the channels added to our freshly updated links page. Director Mike Gioia told me in an email that he ‘borrowed the concept of the Stage Manager from Thornton Wilder’s play “Our Town” and applied it to the poetry. I made the poet a physical character in the scene but one who is distinctly apart from it.’ It works brilliantly, in part because the guy playing the poet, Brendan Constantine, is a very good performance poet in his own right.

The YouTube description notes that ‘The music is “Tango Cool” by Ted Gioia, copyright Time Records.’ Here’s what it has about the poet:

Tom Disch (1958-2008) was a gifted, witty, and biting writer. Disch wrote poetry under the name Tom Disch and wrote science-fiction and fantasy under the name Thomas Disch, including the children-adventure series The Brave Little Toaster, which was later adapted into a Disney movie. Disch’s dark yet hilarious take on the world is beautifully condensed in this poem “The Self as Product”, which was originally published in his 1991 collection Dark Verses & Light.

You can find out more about Tom Disch on his wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_M._Disch

You can read more of Tom Disch’s poetry here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/tom-disch

war movie by Martha McCollough

This 11-year-old videopoem by Martha McCollough—one of the few of hers we’ve never featured here—seems more relevant than ever. It’s been six years since she last uploaded a new video to her Vimeo page, but her unique voice and vision remain unsurpassed in an increasingly crowded field of American videopoets.

Cathedrals by Salena Godden + The Tyger by William Blake

British author and performance poet Salena Godden reads “Cathedrals” from her just-published collection With Love, Grief and Fury in a video from the production company STORYA. This is not a book trailer, however, but something new to me: a museum exhibition trailer in the form of a videopoem!

The exhibition is William Blake’s Universe at the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge, UK., and the museum also worked with STORYA and Godden on a more conventional video trailer: a reading of Blake’s most famous poem, “The Tyger” which I’ll append below. But they had the sense to include Salena’s own, personal reactions to Blake and the exhibition at the end of that trailer, and then—or perhaps from the inception—they had the brilliant idea to ask her to read a poem of her own, placing her in conversation with the poet whose multimedia works are the focus of the exhibition.

STORYA is Lucy Andia and Frederick Shelbourne, both profiled on their About page. They say they specialize in videos about artists and exhibitions, and in fact their filming of “The Tyger” is one of the two highlighted projects on their website:

To coincide with the Fitzwilliam Museum’s exhibition, William Blake’s Universe, we were commissioned to create a film. The brief? Capture the exhibition’s striking design and draw inspiration from Blake’s powerful poetry.

Salena Godden, a poet deeply inspired by Blake’s rebellious spirit and unwavering dedication to creativity, was the perfect choice for a reading. Her selection: the iconic poem, The Tyger. Through creative brainstorming sessions, our team identified fire as the poem’s central element to visualise.

Flickering lights and shadows of tigers and foliage were used to create an immersive atmosphere surrounding Salena’s reading. This museum film, a testament to the power of collaboration, is the result of many creative minds coming together.

Godden has a whole blog post about the shoot, full of photos—check it out. As she notes, “Radical British poet, painter and visionary William Blake believed in the power of art and words to bring us together.”

Demolished by Ian Gibbins

None of the images in the video are as they seem in real life. Instead, we imagine what could be if “progress” proceeds at its current rate. What will remain? How will the survivors operate? Where will the ghosts of our history end up?

Vimeo description

Australian videopoet Ian Gibbins needs no introduction here, and his background as a scientist makes his films about the climate and extinction crises especially compelling. In a recent blog post introducing Demolished, he asked,

Is it possible to have a one-word poem?

Very short forms of poetry have a long history. Perhaps the best known are haiku, which in their classic English form consist of only three lines with a total of 17 syllables. But then there are 6-word poems, a popular form of extremely compressed writing. Visual poetry and concrete poetry is often based around a single word, perhaps with its multiple variations.

For me, one of the primary attractions of video art is that I can create visual worlds that do not exist in real life. The roles of juxtaposition, movement, and the tension between familiarity and strangeness in the visual domain act like metaphor and allusion in written poetry. When audio is added, we gain an additional dimension within which ambiguity, shifting mood and rhythmic energy can inhabit.

My video DEMOLISHED was created for a group exhibition curated by Tony Kearney at The Packing Shed, Hart’s Mill, Port Adelaide, South Australia, as part of the 2024 Adelaide Fringe Festival. None of the scenes in the video exist in real life. Every one of them has been composited and, in some cases animated, from multiple images recorded in the immediate area around Hart’s Mill, including some from inside the Packing Shed itself. The soundtrack was created from a single spoken sample of the word “demolished”.

For me, the video incorporates the feeling of a poem in some way. I originally had intended to include much more text, but as the video came together with the soundtrack, it became clear that the visual imagery told the story, following the rhythms of the soundtrack. If you know the area, the scenes look strangely familiar but impossible to pin down, perhaps like images from a dream or a poorly-recalled memory. Hopefully, they act as metaphors for the loss of human and natural history extending back generations, as old work sheds, warehouses, docks and wetlands are demolished in the name of so-called development of the Port Adelaide district.

So is it possible to have a one word poem? Maybe… But I’d like to think it is certainly possible to have a one-word poetry video… DEMOLISHED.