~ Annelyse Gelman ~

We Have Become Children by Al Rempel

so we too open our lips
to mouth our prayers
like water over stones

This recent videopoem by Erica Goss incorporates a text by Canadian poet Al Rempel, voiced by Annelyse Gelman, herself a videopoet. As Erica’s Vimeo description notes, “This is the second collaboration between poet Al Rempel and me. […] I used some of my photographs from years ago and video I took last summer.”

Their first collaboration came out last spring: I’ve in the Rain. This new one has a certain New Year’s flavor to it, I thought — a good way to kick off 2021 at Moving Poems.

ZEBRA festival sparks new insights into what makes a successful poetry film

Poet and filmmaker Annelyse Gelman has a good essay up at Poetryfilm Magazine called “Making Space,” in which she describes what it’s like to attend the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival. She says she felt

for the first time like I truly belonged to a community of creators – a rich, diverse group of artists with all kinds of backgrounds and aesthetic sensibilities. There were experimental animations, pristine digital renderings, shaky handheld films; films with fully fleshed-out characters or no human subject at all; French, English, Dutch, German, Lao, Afrikaans. The festival, in short, made space for poetry-films, and, in doing so, made space for me – both as an artist and as a member of the audience. These films made me fall in love, hold my breath, roll my eyes, clench my hands into fists, squirm with discomfort, laugh – exactly as it should be.

Gelman talks about some of the poetry-film conventions on evidence at the festival, such as the overwhelming preference for voiceover as the delivery vehicle for the text, or the frequent use of “a deep, droning score.” And she had some comments that I wish every aspiring poetry filmmaker would take to heart on the importance of maintaining “a delicate balance between satisfying and defying the audience’s expectations.”

A film can fail to satisfy if it’s too obvious, too predictable, but also if the connection between film and poem feels too tenuous and arbitrary. On the former end of the spectrum, a filmic adaptation of The Song of the Wandering Aengus left me cold. Though beautifully rendered in colorful, lively animation – I loved the POV shot from the inside of a trout, berrylike, glowing – the imagery overall tracked far too precisely to that in the poem, culminating in a literal illustration of the poem’s final lines: »And pluck till time and times are done, / The silver apples of the moon, / The golden apples of the sun.«

The literal image of a tree with silver and gold apples not only failed to augment these lines for me – it actually seemed to rob them of their metaphorical power. Yeats’ metaphor works through suggestion, conveying an equivalence that seems to vibrate across the senses (»moon« and »sun« are highly visual, tied together by spatial location, temporality, and light, whereas »apples« evokes touch, taste, and smell). It brings together the heavy, fraught »poetic« with the ordinary, mundane fruit. Its repetition closes the gap between two vastly different scales (the cyclical movement of celestial bodies, and nature’s cycle of growth and decay), reminding me of my own human complicity in these cycles. Seeing this language depicted literally, though, hollows it. I neither need nor want to see the tree, the apples.

Similarly, Yeats’ lines »And when white moths were on the wing, / And moth-like stars were flickering out« summon a multimodal response from me as a reader: simultaneously, I’m struck by the ›i‹ and ›o‹ shapes, the softness of the w-sounds punctuated by the firelike crackle of »flickering,« the harmony between the visual instability of a wing (fanlike when opened, almost invisible when closed) and a star (flickering or, perhaps, only visible in one’s peripheral vision – we want to look at the moth, but we also want to look away, so that we might see it better). I think part of the work of these lines is directly dependent on their indefinite nature – they suggest and evoke possibilities for ways of hearing or reading or imagining, without making demands. In other words, they make space for me as a reader. But by visually rendering moths flying up into the sky, Aengus the poetry-film collapses these possibilities, this multimodal experience, into a single specific rendering, that drastically narrows the space I have to maneuver as a reader/viewer. It’s suddenly not moths, it’s these particular moths that you see before you on the screen.

Read the rest.

Erica Goss: Video Poetry Summer Camp for Teen Girls Wraps Up

Instructor Jen Gigantino demonstrating how to use special effects

Instructor Jen Gigantino demonstrating how to use special effects

Media Poetry Studio wrapped up its first summer camp on Saturday, August 1, with a screening of student films. Parents, friends and members of the arts community watched the eight short films our students created over the two weeks of camp. The students, who ranged in age from eleven to sixteen years old, were on hand to answer questions about their work.

In spite of the technological aspects of making videos (cameras, editing software, etc.), everything started with paper and pen. Each student received her own hard-bound journal, and spent much of each day writing. During the mornings of the first week, they worked with me on generative writing, and in the afternoons, they attended classes with MPS co-founder and Santa Clara County Poet Laureate David Perez, who introduced them to film techniques. The girls made their first video, using haiku they wrote on the first day of camp, by mid-week. After that, we focused on writing the poem each student would use for her final video.

The camp shifted in the second week to video instruction, and by the middle of the second week, we were in full film-crew mode. Students worked very hard to finish their films by Friday. Some finished early, while some students worked right up until the last minute of camp. The students who completed their films early assisted the students who still had work to do.

Camp curriculum included a number of guest speakers and instructors, who taught students topics that ranged from spoken word to 2D animation. Our highly talented and dedicated staff consisted of instructional aide Elaine Levia, poet Lucia Misch (spoken word), Jennifer Swanton Brown (MPS co-founder and poet-teacher), Jen Gigantino (video special effects) and the team of Annelyse Gelman and Auden Lincoln-Vogel (animation).

We held the camp at the Edwin Markham House in San Jose’s History Park. The house is the headquarters of Poetry Center San Jose, and its location in History Park gave our students a wide range of filming opportunities, from the house itself to the park grounds, which include more historic houses, a train, covered wagon, and gardens. The park is adjacent to the Japanese Friendship Garden, which we made use of for field trips.

Each video was decidedly individual, reflecting the personality and interests of the girl who made it. Our students expressed their feelings about the future, about struggles with control, the idea of home, having time to themselves, and the pressure they feel at school. Each video reflected the unique thoughts and vision of the maker. No two were alike.

David Perez, Jennifer Brown and I are very pleased with our first Media Poetry Studio camp. We’re already planning for next year! We will run another camp next year, and would like to add an advanced camp for this year’s students. We are grateful for the support of the video poetry community and our funders. We could not have done this without you.

Visit the MPS website’s About page for more photos. Three of the girls’ films are on the front page, and we reproduce them below as well.

Written, filmed and edited by Emilia Rossmann.

Written, animated and edited by Maggie Gray.

Written, filmed, animated and edited by Carol Liou.