~ Author-made videopoems ~

“What Memphis Needs” by Alexis Krasilovsky

Watch on Vimeo.

Acclaimed author and filmmaker Alexis Krasilovsky recently spoke with Moving Poems about her videopoem, “What Memphis Needs” (1991). The film offers a unique view of social inequalities prevalent in Memphis, Tennessee throughout the 1970s and 80s but feels just as relevant today. Featuring original 16mm footage taken by Krasilovsky in the 1970s while she was working on the documentary, Beale Street, she is also the author and narrator of the poem around which the film is centered.

What Memphis Needs ( l to r): Reseda Mickey ( Associate Producer); Alexis Krasilovsky (poet/director); Sabrina Simmons (additional cinematographer).

The story behind “What Memphis Needs” reveals a small piece of videopoem history and serves as an interesting reminder of how this form has always held a close relationship with technology and continues to evolve. Editing for the videopoem took place in the early 1980s and 90’s and the work was completed and screened at the Museum of Modern Art in 1991. Krasilovsky writes, “Back in those days, I relished using sharpies and yellow grease pencil to mark off frames of 16mm soundtrack and workprint on the Moviola while figuring out the rhythmic beats and counterpoints of ‘What Memphis Needs.’” The result is a poetryfilm which serves as a snapshot of an American city at historical and social crossroads, as well as an enduring social commentary on racial tensions in the South.

Calvin Brown at the Lorraine Morel, Memphis, Tennessee- from “What Memphis Needs” by Alexis Krasilovsky

When asked about the origins of the title poem, Krasilovsky’s response highlights a fascinating history:

“What Memphis Needs” is my own poem: I wrote it myself. I also included it in my chapbook, Some Women Writers Kill Themselves (A Street Agency Publication: Los Angeles, 1983) and my DVD, “Some Women Writers Kill Themselves: Selected Videopoems & Poetry by Alexis Krasilovsky” (Rafael Film: Los Angeles, 2008). However, I was inspired by Etheridge Knight and his Free People’s Poetry Workshop, which he held in Memphis, Tennessee in the late 1970’s. (I was one of the token white members of the workshop.) I later became Etheridge Knight’s West Coast poetry tour coordinator and dedicated the poetry video, “What Memphis Needs,” to him.

Described in the poetry film’s abstract as providing “a searing cross-section of Memphis history and society,” the piece also features musical acts by Harmonikeys and Roosevelt Briggs. The production of “What Memphis Needs” runs parallel the blues documentary work Krasilovsky was doing at the time for the film Beale Street (1981. black and white, sound, 28 min). The filmmaker explains that, “It was an interview-intensive documentary with over a hundred hours of B.B. King, Bobby Blue Bland, Ma Rainey II, Little Laura Dukes, Rufus Thomas, Nat D. Williams, Fred Hulbert, the Hooks Brothers, Ernest Withers, and many others who knew this 125th Street of the South, where Martin Luther King, Jr. last marched before he was assassinated. It was taking forever to complete (—although we did finally complete it: it’s available on Kanopy.com), and in the meantime, Eastman Kodak was offering free samples of a new 16mm film stock to select filmmakers to test out its color palette.” This is one reason why “What Memphis Needs” is marked not only by the rhythms and sounds of the blues but also by an iconic color palette.

“What Memphis Needs”

Alexis Krasilovsky continues producing quality videopoems to this day, having recently collaborated with poet Rodger Kamenetz to create a film based on his poem, “Rafael,” originally published in his collection, The Missing Jew: Poems 1976-2022. The poem spoke to Krasilov on multiple levels because, as she explains, “Rodger’s poem is about the angel Rafael, but Rafael is also the name of my film company, and my middle name.” Krasilovsky continues:

I greatly enjoyed these experiences in collaborative poetry filmmaking. “Rafael” was awarded Best One-Minute Film at the Luis Buñuel Memorial Awards in Kolkata, India. “A Petal Pushed By a Breeze” won “Best Mobile Film” at the World Film Carnival in Singapore and other awards. And “Positive Thinking” won Best One-Minute Film at the Filmzen International Competition in Paris, France, as well as at the Cult Jury Film Festival in Gurgaon, India. “Positive Thinking” also won the “Free Speech” Award at the Gangtok International Film Festival in Goan, Sikkim, and was an official selection along with “A Petal Pushed by a Breeze” at the Crimean Tatar Cultural Center in Odesa, Ukraine on May 28, 2023.

VHS cover, “What Memphis Needs” Photo of Etheridge Knight by Alexis Krasilovsky

In addition to producing videopoems, Alexis Krasilovsky is a screenwriter (member of the Writers Guild of America West) as well as the author of the book, Great Adaptations: Screenwriting and Global Storytelling (Routledge – 2nd place winner, 2019 International Writers Awards). On an interesting note, one of her poems, “No Sex, No Violence,” which also came out of the Etheridge Knight Free People’s Poetry Workshop, is being made into a film. But, she explains, “rather than make a poetry film from my ‘No Sex, No Violence’ poem, I wrote a novel.” Krasilovsky is currently putting her expertise in screenwriting and adaptation to work as she adapts this novel, titled A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman. She explains,

I love the interfacing of visual media with written poetry,” and her  recent book, Watermelon Linguistics: New and Selected Poems (Cyberwit: India – finalist, 2022 International Books Awards) “includes three short poems that are woven into the soundtrack of my 2021 poetry film, ‘The Parking Lot of Dreams,’ which is about the pandemic. The film’s visuals are collated from dozens of photocollages that I made in a deserted parking lot, which was the only safe place I could find to take walks during the early months of Covid.

For more information about Alexis Krasilovsky’s videopoems and books, please see www.alexiskrasilovsky.com and https://canyoncinema.com/catalog/filmmaker/?i=182

BIO: Alexis Krasilovsky was born in Alaska, survived sexual assault at gunpoint, and knows what it’s like to be completely deaf. After graduation from Yale and receiving an MFA at CalArts in Film/Video, Krasilovsky became an award-winning filmmaker and the author of “Great Adaptations: Screenwriting and Global Storytelling” (– 2nd Place Winner, 2019 International Writers Awards). Her recent book, “Watermelon Linguistics: New and Selected Poems,” was a finalist for the 2022 International Book Awards. She also contributed to Reclamation: A Survivors Anthology and Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence. As writer/director, her films have screened at the Museum of Modern Art and in festivals around the world. Her recent poetry films won an Outstanding Achievement Award (Experimental Film) at the Tagore International Film Festival in India and the Best Original Concept Award (Experimental Film) at the Jane Austen International Film Festival in the UK, and other awards. Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center has called her “…Southern California’s poetry video diva.

Close Encounters of the 21st Kind by Joanna Fuhrman

An author-made videopoem by Joanna Fuhrman,

an Assistant Teaching Professor in Creative Writing at Rutgers University, is the author of six books of poetry, To a New Era (Hanging Loose Press 2021), The Year of Yellow Butterflies (Hanging Loose Press 2015), Pageant (Alice James Books 2009), Moraine (Hanging Loose Press 2006), Ugh Ugh Ocean (Hanging Loose Press 2006) and Freud in Brooklyn (Hanging Loose Press 2000). In 2011, Least Weasel published her chapbook The Emotive Function. Her seventh book Data Mind, a collection of prose poems about the internet, is forthcoming from Curbstone/Northwestern University Press in October 2024.

Read the rest.

“Close Encounters…” is from that forthcoming collection. Fuhrman told me,

In this collection, I wrestle with the experience of being online as a non-digital native. My generation entered the Internet age with a lot of optimism about the possibility of a new kind of community and has watched with anguish as what was sold as a utopian space has instead reflected and magnified all of the horrors and anti-democratic demons of necrocapitalism. Still, the Internet can be fun. Some of the joy and the feeling of connection is real. I am interested in exploring these simultaneous and conflicting realities. I use the trope of the Internet as a way to remix the stories of famous films as well as a way to examine the ancient tension between the mind and the body. The book also tackles how gender stereotypes are either exaggerated or erased in Internet culture.

I’ve shared a couple of Fuhrman’s other films, but do visit Vimeo for more.

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.

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).

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.

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.

cipher by Chris Turnbull

An author-made videopoem by Canadian poet Chris Turnbull based on a selection from her latest book of poetry. Here’s the publisher’s description from Beautiful Outlaw Press:

In cipher “the kids refuse the forest.” Beginning here, the poem amplifies outward from nature into built cyber realities and ecological catastrophe.

How does language mediate our changing relationship with nature amid an exploding virtual environment? What corporeal landscapes are left to us to explore and experience? Do we want to? How is language transposed to encourage new modes and to placate loss and change?

cipher invites us to consider cyber as a surrounding and a frontier. Navigation is coded.

The book will be launched via Zoom on Tuesday, April 2nd, 8:00-9:00 PM EDT, alongside two new translations of Celan. Use this link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/87236206439?pwd=aeS9T7MFp7z5BQh1buQFvIKr8ucu34.1 and passcode 024558.

Orion by Maria Vella

Atmospheric and experimental, Orion is by Maria Vella in Victoria, Australia. The soundtrack is abstract, incorporating just a few distorted lines of ‘found audio’ from NASA. The strobing stream of personal images creates the sense of poetry without words.

Maria Vella was born in Qormi, Malta, in 1980 and immigrated with her parents and younger brother to Melbourne in 1983. She is a video poet, poet and visual artist. Her work has appeared in The Best Australian Poems, Overland and elsewhere. (source)

Dave Bonta previously shared another of her films here at Moving Poems. I screened that same film, Broken Words, in a number of international venues as part of the touring project, Poetry + Video.

Ten Bag of Albion by Richard Capener & Charles Putschkin

First published at Atticus Review in 2021, Ten Bag of Albion is by Charles Putschkin, a Swedish-Polish artist living in Bristol, UK, and Richard Capener, also in Bristol.

The video seems like an interwoven collaboration with each artist contributing writing and film decisions. The text is deconstructed into snatches of phrases and words within an audio mix of interesting sound textures and treatments. This is experimental film-making with text, abstraction and unexpected rhythms in the editing.

I previously shared Putschkin’s Disorderlily, a finalist in the Ó Bhéal Poetry-Film Competition in Ireland.

cage-free by Donna Kuhn

This unique and original video was uploaded just two weeks ago. Described as an “animation collage of dreams”, cage-free is by multi-media artist, Donna Kuhn. As well she is a sometime poet in an experimental vein, words written and fused with the audio-video elements. More about her creative work:

Donna Kuhn’s experimental videos incorporate poetry, datamoshing, slit scan, dance, digital and visual art, sound text poetry, speech synthesis, animation, hologram/3d and sound/music. (source)

The text in this video is made up of many single lines and phrases from dreams, written and spoken in different ways, describing places, events, situations, momentary impressions. The surreal juxtapositions between these dream fragments are sometimes humorous, or dark, strange, light, or ordinary. The visuals similarly seem like a stream of glitchy consciousness. As someone who is fascinated by dreams, I enjoyed the video for its shifting moods and intriguing surprises.

Donna Kuhn created all elements of this video. We have previously featured other of her videos here.

We Are All Drowned Out by Kimberly Reyes

A sense of planetary emergency is vividly evoked here in a videopoem with the power and urgency of a feature film, co-directed by American poet Kimberly Reyes and Irish/Australian filmmaker Gary de Buit (Studio 8 Labs) with music by Aiden Guilfolye, and uploaded to YouTube two years ago with this description:

Made in Monaghan, Ireland by Studio 8 Labs with funding from the Irish Arts Council. First published on Poethead.

Visit Reyes’ website and scroll down for a bio, before checking out her other poetry films. It’s always encouraging to see ambitious, career-oriented poets getting into poetry film (as opposed to aging burnouts like me). Here’s how her bio begins:

Kimberly Reyes is an award-winning poet, essayist, popular culture critic, and visual culture scholar who began her career as a music and entertainment reporter. She transitioned to creative writing after receiving her Master of Arts from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in 2013 and has since been awarded grants, bursaries, fellowships, residencies and scholarships from the Poetry Foundation, the Fulbright Program, the Academy of American Poets, Tin House Workshops, Culture Ireland, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, New York City Artist Corps, Miami Writers Institute, the Arts Council of Ireland, CantoMundo, Callaloo, Hambidge, Cave Canem, the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, the Munster Literature Centre, Summer Literary Seminars in Kenya, the Prague Summer Program for Writers, the Community of Writers, and many other places.

Read the rest.

Un Corpo / A Body by Milena Tipaldo

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

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

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