~ Poet: Donna Vorreyer ~

Extermination by Donna Vorreyer

This should be played in HD on the largest screen available.

Rarely a week goes by when I don’t post another video by the Belgian filmmaker Swoon, A.K.A. Marc Neys, but even still I barely keep up with all he’s doing. What’s even more surprising is that despite his great rate of production his poetry films continue to feel fresh, and he doesn’t cut corners in their production, sitting on each project for at least a couple of weeks before releasing it. This film is a case in point. It was already almost in the can (Do filmmakers still say that?) when I visited him back in early July, but he continued to sit with it for another month before releasing it. And he’s taking plenty of risks here. This represents, I think, his most ambitious attempt yet to develop text-on-screen as a compelling alternative to the tried-and-true voiceover approach.

Marc blogged his process notes. Some snippets:

Another episode in my explorations in combining film compositions with text on screen (see my other efforts)
This time it was a poem by Donna Vorreyer I used.
It’s not the first time I work with Donna’s words. She’s a fantastic poet with a very inspiring choice of words. Her work is perfect for these kind of works.

I picked out ‘Extermination’ from her collection ‘a house of many windows’, Sundress Publications, 2013.


Once I was sure this was going to be the poem I started searching for, filming and selecting suitable visuals. When I had about 10 minutes of material I created a soundscape with the visuals and the poem in mind:


Then came the puzzling part. Matching lines from the poem with the right footage, trying out different fonts ans sizes, placement of words… It’s a completely different way of editing.
You’re not only editing film, you’re carefully trying to blend sound, image and text in one cut. It feels more like composing.  It makes me rethink the way I worked (and still work) with audible videopoems.

Click through for the text of the poem and the audio file from SoundCloud. Donna Vorreyer may be found at her website, or more often at her blog.

Housekeeping by Donna Vorreyer


This Nic S. video remix of a poem from The Poetry Storehouse uses unexpected imagery to suggest perhaps some different things about God from what the author of the text, Donna Vorreyer, had in mind — but that’s as it should be, I think. (Vorreyer called the video “haunting.”)

Giacometti’s Pears by Donna Vorreyer

I couldn’t resist making a video for one of Donna Vorreyer‘s poems at The Poetry Storehouse myself. “Giacometti’s Pears” was originally published in Weave magazine. I blogged about my process a bit at Via Negativa last week.

The Pioneer Wife Speaks in Tongues by Donna Vorreyer

Swoon‘s latest film features Donna Vorreyer reading a poem from her new collection The Imagined Life of the Pioneer Wife. The footage is from a public-domain documentary. As Swoon says in a blog post:

Sometimes I collect images, keep them with me until the right poem comes along.
The same with certain tracks I create.
‘And So They Live’ (John Ferno, Julian Roffman, 1940) is a piece of archive showing poorly educated “mountain peoples” living in poverty and stricken with disease, it’s a public-domain documentary about life in the Appalachian mountains with some great looking shots but a typical and very patronizing narration.
I used some parts before more than a year ago in ‘Odds and Ends’. The images stayed on my ‘shelf’ since then…

In came Donna Vorreyer. We worked together before and I think she’s a very fine poet.
Donna has got a new collection out: ‘The Imagined Life of the Pioneer Wife’ (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2013)
Almost every poem in that collection could have been used for this videopoem. Not because they’re all the same. Because they’re all so good!


There was one sequence in the film I really loved. Can’t explain why, but the feet in the snow worked on a whole other level. When I placed that sequence on the basis, the rest came naturally.

Three poems by Donna Vorreyer


Escape (a triptych) is Swoon’s first videopoem for a text written in response to his own video prompt. Regular visitors to the Moving Poems forum (or subscribers to our weekly emails) may remember his call for submissions posted on April 24:

I am looking for a writer who is willing to let these three films inspire him/her to write three poems for them…

Look and listen…absorb…look and listen some more…and write…

I’m looking for three new poems (please use the titles of the films) written for these three videos:

Disturbance in the maze
Wailing Wall Crumbs
Ghostless Blues (The story of Vladimir K.)

A number of poets responded to the challenge, and Swoon chose the submission from Chicago-based poet Donna Vorreyer. Personally, I wasn’t surprised by the selection, having recently read Vorreyer’s chapbook Ordering the Hours — it’s terrific.

Swoon blogged a bit about the experiment:

I wanted to turn my working method around. See what came out of it.
Very aware I was, of the fact that these three films were experimental, for the fact the titles could have been a guide for some an obstacle for others. It was an experiment.

I received a lot of questions about what I was looking for in particular, a few questions about timing, a fair amount of poems that were written earlier, not for the three films (though some of them might have worked). […]

I knew Donna from the Propolis Project last year.

Her three poems did exactly what I was hoping for when I put out the call.
She was the first one whose poems gave me the feel that they somehow belonged to the images.
I really had the sense that she reacted to the films and gave them content and a story.

Her poems give these three films a less experimental character, and that was exactly what I was hoping for.
She recorded them for me, so I could start the editing process.

Her words made it fairly easy; I only added a few images or made additional cuts according to the reading of the poem. I did put in some new footage in all three as a leitmotiv, a storyline.

Read the rest (including the texts of the poems). Incidentally, Swoon’s personal website has just been thoroughly revamped to foreground his videopoetry and soundscapes. Check it out.

When I Don’t Love You Anymore is a Wasp by Donna Vorreyer

This comprises the first panel of Propolis, the videopoem triptych produced by Swoon Bildos, Whale Sound (Nic S.) and Cello Dreams (Kathy McTavish). According to the extremely interesting process notes for the project, Swoon took the lead in determining the artistic direction (inspired by Turner, Goya and Bacon, he says) and finding and getting permission for the footage to fit that vision, but his two collaborators took an active role in shaping it, in addition to providing the soundtrack, so I’ve listed all three of them together as filmmakers. I’m departing from tradition and putting up three posts today, because the three videos in the triptych belong together (but the poet-centric format here prevents me from putting them all in one post). Please visit the Propolis website for the full experience, which includes a special mashup of all three videos which I won’t share here, plus the aforementioned process notes and a paragraph on each of the contributors, including this one about Donna Vorreyer:

Donna Vorreyer spends her days convincing middle-schoolers that words matter. Her work has appeared in many journals including Weave, Cider Press Review, qaartsiluni, and Rhino. She is the author of the chapbooks, Womb/Seed/Fruit (Finishing Line Press) and Come Out, Virginia (Naked Mannekin Press) and a contributor to the blog Voice Alpha. You can visit her online at her blog Put Words Together; Make Meaning or her website www.donnavorreyer.com

The site also includes the text of the poem.