~ Poet: Richard Siken ~

Straw House, Straw Dog by Richard Siken

I wouldn’t have thought that this poem, from Richard Siken’s 2004 Yale Younger Poets Prize-winning collection Crush, was especially amenable to film adaptation, but French filmmaker Thalia Lahsinat rose to the challenge admirably.

A Google Video search reveals a number of different adaptations of this poem, so I guess it must be a popular workshop assignment. Perhaps the difficulty is the point, then.

The Way The Light Reflects by Richard Siken

An author-made videopoem by the Tucson, Arizona-based poet Richard Siken. As with his first videopoem, Why, this does double-duty as a music video for the French singer Marianne Dissard, though this time it’s an instrumental: “Fondre”, off the album L’Abandon (2010), composed by Christian Ravaglioli. Click through to Vimeo for the full credits and the text of the poem.

Why by Richard Siken

Long poems don’t always translate well into the film medium, but American poet Richard Siken seems to have hit upon a winning formula in his very first go at filmmaking, collaborating with the French-born singer Marianne Dissard, three of whose songs are heard in succession while the text of the poem appears on the screen. The description on Vimeo quotes her reaction:

I am deeply honored that Richard would use my music to accompany his stunning poem “Why”. Richard is by far my favorite American poet. This is his first film and, as a filmmaker myself, I am awed not only by this short work’s striking imagery but also by its rare ability to get to the essence of these three songs. As a lyricist, to no other writer than Richard would I trust my work to take a back seat but in doing so, I get gently but confidently pointed to its essence. I am beyond grateful to Richard for that rare poetic gift.

It’s always encouraging to see poets of Sikens’ stature taking up videopoetry, especially when the results are this ambitious.