~ Poet: David Wagoner ~

Thoreau and the Lightning by David Wagoner

See the Motionpoems website for the text. The animator and director is Adam Tow. As with April’s Motionpoem, the free email newsletter contained additional content not archived on the website — an interview with Tow.

Motionpoems: What made you choose this poem to work with?
Adam Tow: After reading all the poems available for this year’s event, ‘Thoreau and the Lightning’ was the piece that I had the strongest connection to. As I read it, I was reminded of my grandfather’s home in the country and the land around it. He was a hard working midwestern man that for some reason I felt had a lot in common with the character in the poem.

MP: What is this poem’s most important moment for you?
AT: For me, the lines that ask if he should “feel humbled” and “give thanks” are the crux of the story. The moving truck and estate sale sign are references to my experiences watching my grandfather’s estate being sold as his health deteriorated. Visually speaking, the tree exploding is my favorite shot.

MP: What was the biggest challenge in turning this piece into a film, and what was your solution?
AT: I struggled with how I wanted to interpret the final sentence of the poem. I had two ideas for what meaning to imply with the visuals (one involving a hearse, the other a moving truck). As far as how to depict things, I wasn’t sure how to show both the positive memories of the past as well as the farm’s abandoned state at the same time. I decided to use a shimmery effect to illustrate his memories overlaid on the farm’s present day appearance.

MP: What did you find most surprising in this process?
AT: It was interesting to see how much you can change the implied message of the poem just by altering a seemingly minor visual element. Also, hearing the music and voiceover for the first time was one of the most exciting moments I’ve had in the last year.

MP: Is there anything else you want to add?
AT: I have to give loads of thanks and credit to Scott Yoshimura (music composition/performance, voiceover) and Logan Christian (audio recording and mixing). I intentionally gave them zero direction and they knocked it out of the park, as I knew they would. Also, many thanks to David Wagoner for agreeing to let me humbly interpret his poem.