~ Poet: Sarah Blake ~

A Day at the Mall Reminds Me of America by Sarah Blake

Motionpoems has just kicked off its 6th season with this tour de force from the Turkish-American filmmaker Ayse Altinok. The cinematography is by Greg Schmidt and the music by William Orbit.

Sarah Blake‘s poem appears in her debut collection Mr. West, an “unauthorized lyric biography of Kanye West” which Evie Shockley calls “tender without being sentimental, funny without being cruel, and obsessive without being exploitative.” Check out Arisa White‘s interviews with Blake and Altinok at the Motionpoems website. Blake says, in part:

I love the film. I felt like [Ayşe] made me a version of Kanye West’s music video for his song, ‘Flashing Lights’—a version of it just for me and my poem.

And Altinok notes that she deliberately chose a shorter poem with lots of room for cinematic exploration:

“Less words, more story” is very interesting to me in any discipline. I didn’t want to explain the poem, I wanted to duet the words and the meanings explored in the text. When I read the poem, I immediately saw the 14-year-old girl and her world. It wasn’t a struggle to bring her to life. It was a very relevant subject to me. I love youth culture and also visual poetry; this was a heavenly project. […]

After I read the poem I immediately started writing a script. It was more of a shot-list at first. I didn’t bother writing the happenings in a poetic way, I thought the poetry was already written by Sarah Blake, so I only put ideas on paper in a very practical manner. It was literally a list of scenes. I definitely knew my character needed to be the 14-year-old, rather than the woman who is the pregnant narrator. She didn’t seem too interesting to me, like myself—I can never make a film about me, but I want to make films about things I like. Rather, things I find fruitful (story-wise). I also thought my writing sucked, so at that point, I turned to photography. I started looking at pictures, mostly portraits, and created this character, and give her an identity. I felt very free—that was the best part of working with a poem.

In terms of script, though, I had to structure it in a way that felt compelling, and with a sense of beginning, middle, and end. It was a fragile story, I didn’t want to make a big statement, but I didn’t want to create just fluff, with a bunch of beautiful images and no thread, either—it was a gentle balance, not too much story that kills the poem, but not too freestyle that loses its meaning. I wanted people to feel what it’s like to live this character’s life, rather then me telling them how to.

Read the rest.