~ Nationality: Chile ~

Cuando Fui Clandestino / When I Was Clandestine by Juan Garrido Salgado

This recent collaboration between Chilean poet Juan Garrido Salgado and Australian filmmaker Ian Gibbins incorporates other texts in the process of evoking quite different places from where the film was shot, which could’ve gone wrong in so many ways, I was astonished by how well this all works—how authentic everything feels. Ian has posted some process notes which are worth sharing in full:

Juan Garrido Salgado immigrated to Australia from Chile in 1990, fleeing the Pinochet regime that burned his poetry, imprisoned him, and tortured him for his political activism. Since then, his poetry has been widely published to acclaim, and includes eight books, anthologies and translations. His readings are renowned for their passion and dedication to social justice. His latest collection, The Dilemma of Writing a Poem, has just been published by Puncher & Wattman.

Some time ago, we decided to make a video of one of his poems. It was a hard choice, but we settled on Cuando Fui Clandestino / When I Was Clandestine from his collection of the same title, published in 2019 by Rochford Press. The poem is strongly autobiographical and refers to time he spent in Moscow as well as living under curfew in Chile.

Making the video was a challenge. It was not possible for me to film in Russia or Chile, and, in any case, the political and social changes have been so great in each country, it was not clear what footage would be appropriate. We could have used archival footage in the public domain, but, in general, I prefer to use my own original footage in my work. Given that Juan has lived in Adelaide for many years now, we decided that I would film sites around the city that reflected the mood of his original experiences, while being clearly set in a contemporary context. All the footage was taken at night at locations I know well. A few scenes have been composited from more than one site. We went back to a key location not far from where Juan lives to film him there after dark with his poetry.

The music is an original composition, written and performed by Juan’s son, Lenin Garrido. After a small amount of editing, the structure of the music ended up being a key element in pulling together the various components of the video.

The language of the poem is complex. Although it is published in Spanish and English, we decided to have the spoken word element only in Spanish. A truly bi-lingual version would have been ideal, but we decided it was not necessary this time.

Part of the complexity of the poem relates to its references to the work of other poets: Nicanor Parra, Pablo Neruda, Vladimir Mayakovski and musician Violetta Parra. In recognition of the use of public walls for propaganda, advertising, street art and protest, excerpts from the poems referred to in Juan’s text appear on dark walls, in different languages, alongside public domain portraits of the authors. These are the poems and their sources (click on the texts for relevant links):

El Premio Nobél
Nicanor Para
: Antipoems – How to Look Better and Feel Great
New Directions 2004

Домой! (Homeward!)
Vladimir Mayakovsky
: Maximum Access
Sensitive Skin Books 2018

Oda al Hombre Sencillo
Pablo Neruda: Odas Elementales
Editorial Losada 1954

El hombre imaginario (The Imaginary Man) by Nicanor Parra

The great Chilean poet Nicanor Parra died on January 23 at the age of 103, so I wanted to make a video for one of his poems as a tribute, especially since there didn’t seem to be any real videopoems or poetry films of his work on the web. I asked some fellow fans of Latin American poetry on Facebook for suggestions of poems, and “El hombre imaginario” came up. It had been translated before—by Edith Grossman, no less—but we all found her decision to depart from the plain meaning of the text in order to imitate the word order of Spanish odd and unfortunate. The Spanish poetry-filmmaker Eduardo Yagüe is a member of the group, and agreed to read the poem for the soundtrack when I mentioned I had an idea for a videopoem. I found the music—an accordion track by the composer Steven O’Brien—on Soundcloud, and the footage was something I’d downloaded from the one-person stock video channel Beachfront B-Roll a while ago.

Two different appreciations of Parra have appeared in major North American literary magazines in recent days: “Nicanor Parra, the Alpha-Male Poet” by David Unger in The Paris Review blog, and “Remembering Nicanor Parra, the Almost Immortal Chilean Poet” by Alejandro Zambra in The New Yorker.

The Microwave by Mandy Gutmann-Gonzalez

A three-part videopoem from Chilean poet Mandy Gutmann-Gonzalez and director Hanisha Harjani for the Visible Poetry Project. According to the page about Gutman-Gonzalez on the project website,

The poem chosen for the Visible Poetry Project, “The Microwave,” is in conversation with the hypnotic, digitalized world in Taiwanese artist Chen Wan-jen’s video “The Unconscious Voyage,” in which people move across a barren landscape in loops of repetitive movement. Boundaries, scope, elegy, and apocalypse, are some of the ideas animating this poem.

It seems only appropriate that a poem prompted by a video should be made into a video in turn. Here is The Unconscious Voyage (best expanded to full screen):

Red Coil (excerpt) by Cecilia Vicuña


I discovered recently that the Chilean poet, visual artist, and filmmaker Cecilia Vicuña has an active presence on Vimeo, with many documentary videos of her performances and installations. Here’s one by Geoffrey Jones that I quite liked.

Film by Geoffrey Jones
Cecilia Vicuña and Jane Rigler.
Four performances for sitelines, New York, 2005, sponsored by LMCC and Poet’s House.

In this performances the artist pays homage to Gloria Anzaldúa’s line “The serpent, mi tono, my animal counterpart…” (Borderlands 26).

Thus the Vimeo description. It’s actually apparently an excerpt from a longer work:

Red Coil. Video, English. 68 mins, 2005
Records four performances where Cecilia Vicuña & the flutist Jane Rigler improvise music and poetry along the Hudson River, within the context of the Sitelines Festival of New York. Filmed and edited by Geoffrey Jones.

Clenched Soul by Pablo Neruda

This is — the credits tell us — a production of the San Diego State University School of Theatre, Televison, and Film. Alexander Ameen, Miles Feld and Kurt Conety jointly directed a disturbing and imaginative interpretation of Neruda’s “Clenched Soul” as translated by W.S. Merwin.

Walking Around (excerpt) by Pablo Neruda


If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know how much I appreciate unlikely combinations of text and moving image. In this case, I think the filmmakers may have gone a bit too far. But the result is so entertaining, I had to share it anyway. This is the Samuel L. Jackson reading of Neruda’s poem from Il Postino. Alessio Cuomo and Sander de Nooij of ColdSun Productions, a Dutch production company specializing in documentaries, indicate on Vimeo that this was

a little video we made just to celebrate the end of summer.
We came across this footage while doing some hard disk cleaning.

For a more serious take on the poem, see Four Seasons Productions’ interpretation of “Walking Around”, which uses footage from classic silent horror films. Unfortunately, though, the reading there (by Robert Bly, I think) isn’t as good as Jackson’s here.

Riqueza (Riches) by Gabriela Mistral

After all my web hosting woes of late, I think it’s safe to say that this site, at least, is back on an even keel. To celebrate, I made a video for one of my favorite poems, and Nic S. was gracious enough to upload a reading I could use to Pizzicati of Hosanna. I found the music on SoundCloud: “The Foggy Dew” on tin whistle by Chris Kent. I blogged a bit more about this at Via Negativa just now.

Fábula de la Sirena y los Borrachos (Fable of the Siren and the Drunks) by Pablo Neruda

Moving Poems’ latest production takes advantage of a new free-audio site that other filmmakers might be interested in, too: pizzicati of hosanna: dead poets’ poems read by Nic S. in English & other languages. The footage is from Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia. I blogged all about it at Via Negativa.

Qué se ama cuando se ama (What do we love when we love) by Gonzalo Rojas


“A tribute to the poet and to love,” says Cristián Tàpies, the maker of this widely screened photomotion film. English subtitles are the work of Pedro Donoso. Gonzalo Rojas was a major Chilean poet who lived much of his life in exile, and died this past April.

Ode to Typography by Pablo Neruda

Directed by Julian Harriman-Dickinson at HarrimanSteel. Unfortunately, it’s kind of low-resolution, but the soundtrack helps carry it.

Sonnet XVII from 100 Love Sonnets (Cien Sonetos de Amor) by Pablo Neruda

Julianna Castigliego notes that this was an “Emerson College Film 1 final film project. 16mm. Shot on Bolex. Edited on Steenbeck.” This is the same poem, translated by Stephen Tapscott, that was featured in the motion picture Patch Adams.

Every Day You Play (Juegas Todos los Días) by Pablo Neruda

This is poem XIV from Veinte Poemas de Amor y Una Canción Desesperada (1924), envideoed by Will Jardine.