~ Awkword Paper Cut ~

New Third Form, Swoon’s View columns

September’s edition of “The Third Form,” Erica Goss’ column on videopoetry at Connotation Press, features interviews with two people whose work I’ve been following for a long time. Yorkshire poet Gaia Holmes (Moving Poems archive) was among the first poets to have her work animated for Comma Press back in 2006, and she’s been a consistent favorite of British poetry filmmakers over the years — a good example of how emerging poets or those from outside the establishment can get a big boost in visibility by letting their works be adapted for film.

“I don’t have any say about the videos,” she said. “I’m not involved in their making. I go to the screening and there’s the poem, but I’m happy it turns out that way. When a poem is out in the world, it’s open to anyone’s interpretation. For example, the video for ‘Occasional China’ takes the poem in a completely different direction from what I imagined.”

In the the second half of her column, Goss talks with American poet, filmmaker and digital literature expert Matt Mullins (Moving Poems archive), whose work first caught my eye back in 2009 — the year he discovered videopoetry, it turns out. The interview focuses on a series of three films he’s made collaboratively with the Belgian filmmaker Swoon (Marc Neys).

“I gave Matt several videos with music and said he could re-edit them, add new music, combine as he saw fit,” Swoon said. “The videos I sent Matt were finished products and/or experiments that were not properly used before. They might have never seen daylight if it wasn’t for Matt’s vision and creativity to breathe a new and different life into them.”

Click through for the full interviews and to watch the films.

Speaking of Swoon, I was pleased to see another installment of his column on videopoetry, as well. This month at Awkword Paper Cut he examines “The ephemeral worlds of Sandra Salter & Benedict Newbery,” a British animator-poet team who have made two films so far, both striking for their use of watercolor and a certain quality which Neys characterizes as “simple and naïve, almost. But … rich and … full of life.” As usual with a “Swoon’s View” column, his experience and insider perspective is invaluable, e.g.:

I’ve seen this video on different occasions, in different venues. On large screens, on small screens. It never fails, never disappoints. I rarely saw an animated video that came this close to imitating real life, yet not looking like it.

These videos prove that big budgets are not always needed to deliver fantastic work. A warm love for the words, intelligent use of sources and a playful feel for rhythm and illustration can do so much more than money.

Read the rest.

La Curandera by Gessy Alvarez

A video collaboration between Michael Dickes (concept, camera) and Marc Neys/Swoon (editing, music) featuring the words and voice of Gessy Alvarez, with some additional footage from the Prelinger Archives and an appearance by a young actor, Ava Dickes.

One fascinating thing about this collaboration is that Michael Dickes’ original edit, with substantially the same images and the identical soundtrack, is also on Vimeo. Comparing them gives a sense of his and Neys’ different approaches to videopoetry:

I find Dickes’ approach a little less high-brow (for lack of a better term; I’m afraid I’m not a very sophisticated critic) but still reasonably subtle and nuanced. Left completely to his own devices, I’m not sure Neys would’ve included yolk imagery for a poem that so prominently features egg yolks, but to me as a viewer, seeing imagery of some of the things mentioned in a lyric text is not an annoyance as long as the film avoids out-right, narrative-style illustration. Plus, of course, it’s striking footage, which I gather is part of what made Neys so willing to take on the project. Here’s what he blogged about it:

La Curandera is a text by Gessy Alvarez that first appeared in here.
Some time ago Michael Dickes asked me to help him out with a soundtrack for a video he was going to make. I used Gessy’s reading and came up with this track: [SoundCloud embed]

Last week Michael came up with his video for this track. I liked it and I especially loved the structure and the colour of the yolk he had filmed. He asked if I was up for my own edit.
Yes. He provided [me] with all the source material he had used and I played around with the same concept. Concentrating the visual storylines on the yolk, baby, girl, woman.

I had such fun just editing. Cooking’s fun with the right ingredients…

The next issue of Awkword Paper Cut should be out soon, I’m guessing, so we’ll get to see how Dickes presents the two videos. In the meantime, it’s worth mentioning that APC has a well-curated channel on Vimeo, which showcases poetry films along with some other videos of literary interest. Check it out.

Swoon’s View on poetry filmmaker Eduardo Yagüe

Spanish filmmaker Eduardo Yagüe’s “intuitive and deliquescent works” are the focus of Marc Neys’ column this month at Awkword Papercut. I’ve been intrigued by Yagüe’s recent poetry films, so was glad to learn a bit more about him:

Eduardo Yagüe studied Dramatic Arts and Spanish Language and Literature. In Madrid he worked as an actor in theater and film. Parallel, and as a hobby, he’s has been writing poetry and stories since he was fifteen. All these things show when you look at his films. Eduardo understands the language of the camera, the subtleties of timing and the potential of human expression.

Marc goes on to present and analyze two films, Insomnio and Amor. Check it out.

Embracing the “fuzzy” areas: an interview with poetry film critic Laura Theobald at Awkword Paper Cut

I was pleased to discover just now that my linking to Laura Theobold’s blog irreducible: a study on the concept and genre of poetry film has led to a short interview over at Awkword Paper Cut. Here’s a bit of it:

I think the genre as we know and understand it today is really new (which explains, in part, the lack of criticism). In the past it’s been really utilitarian, I think: a way for people to just hear and “see” the poetry they couldn’t in person (think of the million videos of poets simply reading their work aloud in front of a camera), but what it’s becoming is a lot more interesting. It’s becoming a new way for poets to create poetry, really, and to reach new audiences. But for everyone I think the goal is a little different: for some artist/poets it can be sort of like an extension of the selfie, a way to establish their brand; for others, it’s about creating a kind of harmony between word and image; some people just want to make something no one has ever made before—because the technology is there. For everyone who’s into it, I think it’s mostly about making something beautiful.

It’s funny, kind of: this project began with a desire to learn where boundaries lie, like “What IS a poetry film?” but I think during the process of bearing down on these distinctions, I realized that I think the future wants us to shed this kind of desire for delineation. I think a progressive future isn’t about making more categories for things we want to understand better, but about embracing the borderlands and “fuzzy” areas when they are doing something meaningful (and I think this applies in a lot of ways), and just like celebrate the fact that they exist.

Read the rest.

Swoon on J.P. Sipilä

Marc Neys’ “Swoon’s View” column at Awkword Paper Cut this month offers an appreciation of the Finnish videopoet J.P. Sipilä — in particular, his recently completed “online poem installation,” Sleight of Tree.

Sipilä creates compositions that generate gentle moving images in relation to poetic texts that leave traces and balances on the edge of recognition. He has discovered innovative approaches to putting poetry on screen. This means re-thinking the relationship of image, sound, and text that move in lyrical spaces, creating multiple ways to experience poetry.

If I only had one word to describe this body of work it would be grace. I don’t do the whole experience justice by separating these two videos from the rest. They do, however, give you a taste.

Click through for the rest.

Disappointment by Jade Anouka

British actor and poet Jade Anouka stars in this film of her poem directed by Michael Dickes, publisher of Awkword Paper Cut. Here’s the description on Vimeo:

Jade Anouka: Poem and Narration
Michael Dickes: Camera & Concept
Audio/Video Editing
Filmed on location at 59E59 Theater in
NYC using one camera and 1 lightbulb
on a wire. Kind thanks to theater staff.
Jades voice-over recorded at 48k using an AKG
large diaphram microphone.
Original soundscapes by Erokia (CC) Re-edited

(If) Grief (were) Briefly (to) Disappear by Stevie Ronnie

This new collaboration between filmmaker Marc Neys (Swoon) and poet Stevie Ronnie is the result of a unique writing contest at Awkword Paper Cut, which challenged submitters to write a new poem (or re-purpose an old one) in response to footage that Neys provided. Ronnie’s winning poem was one of seven finalists chosen by a distinguished panel of seven judges. The contest results page includes some process notes from Neys:

Footage: The woman in the video is my mother, holding a bust made by my sister of my dead father. Originally, the footage was shot for a video about ‘Roots’ (Heimat). I had made shots of my mother in places that were significant in my youth – our old driveway, my favorite forest, the place I secretly smoked my first cigarette, my first school, etc.

Soundscape: It’s a re-edit of a scape I made inspired after reading James Salter’s All That Is, about an older man looking back on his life and (lost) loves.

There’s also a full-length interview with the poet. Here’s a snippet:

The words were written in direct response to Swoon’s video. I watched it several times without writing anything down at all and then lines began to appear. The poem went through several iterations before falling into its final form. My approach is such that I tend to write without putting too much thought into the intended result but it did feel important to start with the video. I was also conscious of the need to avoid being overly descriptive; to leave some slack between the video and the text for the viewer’s imagination to slip into. I can see the advantages of starting with the images and soundtrack and I’d be keen to work in this way again. I think starting with the video forces me to let go of some of the control that I would usually have when writing a poem. Because I could sense the emotional weight that the video would bring to the final piece I was layering onto that as opposed to inventing the entire world of the poem with my words alone.

Congratulations to Stevie Ronnie, to the other finalists — and to Awkword Paper Cut for a successful and well-executed outcome to this innovative contest.

Third Form and Swoon’s View columns feature poetry documentary projects

As usual, the first of May saw new columns by Erica Goss and Marc Neys in their respective columns in Connotation Press and Awkword Paper Cut, and as usual, both were well worth checking out. What was more unusual is that each columnist chose to focus on a documentary-stye poetry video. In her “Third Form” column, Goss interviewed the makers of a fascinating Pakistani film (which I included on Moving Poems several months ago), Danatum Passu, by Shehrbano Saiyid and Zoheb Veljee. I was especially struck by the fact that it all started by chance, which is how so much good art gets made, I think. And the technological challenges of filming and recording in the remote Hunza valley makes for an entertaining and inspiring story. Here’s a snippet:

“No one has ever recorded the people of the Hunza – at least their music – before,” Zoheb said. The video tells the story of a poem written by Hunza poet Shahid Akhtar, transformed into a song, and sung by the children of Passu and nearby small towns. “Danatum Passu” loosely translates to “Passu’s Open Field.”

The poet, Shahid Akhtar, writes in Wakhi, a language derived from ancient Persian. He worked in obscurity until now, and has never before been published. Zoheb and Shehrbano discovered him via a tip from a local cab driver. “There are few land lines and limited cell connectivity where Shahid lives,” Zoheb said. “I had to wait for him for hours after I arrived, drinking tea with his relatives.” Akhtar’s song, “Danatum Passu,” is the theme of the video, and carries a message of the danger of losing one’s culture. “It has a strong impact when children sing it,” Zoheb said.

“Danatum Passu” is part of a longer documentary that Shehrbano is working on about spirituality and music in this part of the world. “Theirs is a singing community: music and religion are wound together. The children gain confidence through music and performing. They have exposure to music through early religious training,” she said. “The story is about the musicians of Gojal, the socio-economic challenges they face in their daily lives, and in bringing their talent to a wider global audience. The documentary focuses on children – two in particular – with a love for music, and shows Zoheb’s process of discovering and recording music, poetry and artists. He is the thread that binds together the musicians, the unity and diversity of music across Gojal.” The documentary uses music to demonstrate the area’s people and their “deep sense of pride for their land and heritage,” especially in the face of repeated natural disasters; for example, the 2010 landslide that hit the Gojal village of Atabad.

Do read the rest.

Meanwhile, in his “Swoon’s View” column, Neys describes another documentary about kids, these ones in Britain: We Are Poets, by Alex Ramseyer-Bache and Daniel Lucchesi.

In the age of Facebook and digital communication, a remarkable group of British teenagers have chosen to define themselves through one of the most ancient, and potent, forms of culture out there – the spoken poem. WE ARE POETS intimately follows the lives and words of the UK’s multi-ethnic noughties generation as the Leeds Young Authors poetry team prepare for a transformational journey of a lifetime, from the red bricked back streets of inner city North England, to a stage in front of the White House at Brave New Voices – the world’s most prestigious poetry slam competition. Anyone tempted to dismiss today’s youth as politically apathetic better pay heed – here is electrifying evidence to the contrary.

Lucchesi and Ramseyer-Bache did a good job creating a narrative line in the film (the Leeds Young Authors performance in the competition creating the needed tension) but they kept the structure loose enough to give the characters and scenes time to develop and breathe.

The whole film is heartfelt and every performance is raw and attractive. If you don’t have any interest in spoken poetry, you should really try to see this film because it might open you up to a whole new view on this form of poetry. You’ll get sucked into it each time someone stands in front of the mic and belts out another beautiful stanza.

Read the rest and view the trailer.

New at Awkword Paper Cut: videopoetry contest and a feature on Melissa Diem

Belgian videopoet Marc Neys, A.K.A. Swoon, is behind two features this month at the online magazine Awkword Paper Cut. His monthly column “Swoon’s View” focuses on two films by Irish poet and filmmaker Melissa Diem (also a favorite here at Moving Poems), balancing his critiques with Diem’s own notes about the making of each. It’s always interesting to hear someone who has achieved mastery both as a poet and as a filmmaker describe their creative process. Here, for example, is Diem discussing the second of the two films:

The poem, Appraisal, came about by exploring ideas of alienation and personal identity in relation to others through testing the physical and social world we find ourselves in and by testing the limits within the self. And of course these worlds in turn test us, sometimes relentlessly. It was this aspect of the poem that I wanted to explore in the poetry film. The initial idea came about organically when I was doing a quick frame rate test and Cayley (the little girl in the film) happened to be dancing about the room. We were only half paying attention to each. When I played back the footage I was moved by her expressions, the concentration playing across her face at certain times, her earnestness and innocence as she focused on positioning her small limbs in certain movements. It was that innocence against the great expansiveness of life rushing towards us, with its many tests, that I wanted to capture.

Read the rest.

Also this month at Awkword Paper Cut, submissions are open for a unique writing contest: they’re looking for “500 words or less of prose, poetry, or flash fiction to match the video by award winning filmmaker Marc Neys (aka Swoon).”

The submission that best suits the video by Swoon will be selected by a panel of seven judges to be recorded, added to the video and showcased on Awkword Paper Cut including airplay on our Podcast! In addition, the winning submission will also receive membership to The Film Movement’s Film of the Month Club – Offering some of the finest independent filmmaking available! ALSO…Top selection along with runner ups will be featured on the Awkword Paper Cut Podcast!

Here’s the video:

Who wouldn’t want a chance to collaborate on a new videopoem (or videoessay, etc.) with Swoon? Submit by March 31. Details here and complete guidelines here.

Videopoet Martha McCollough featured in Swoon’s View

American video artist Martha McCollough has been making terrific animated poems, supplying her own texts, for a couple of years now, and I’m always happy to include her work in Moving Poems. Her descriptions are usually pretty minimal, though, and she doesn’t have a website, so I didn’t know much about her or her thinking behind the films. So I was very pleased to see her work featured at Awkword Paper Cut in Marc Neys’ first “Swoon’s View” column of 2014. She says, for example, about one videopoem:

I work as a graphic designer, and one of my jobs was to create a seating chart for the “Business Continuity Room”, which I’m told is an actual underground bunker to which key employees are expected to retreat during catastrophes so that they can continue work without being inconvenienced by interruptions (such as, I don’t know, hurricanes? nuclear war? The total collapse of civilization?) “It Turns Out” considers the fate of the “not quite key” employee under such circumstances.

Read the rest.

Two Elizabeth Bishop filmpoems and the art of Heather Haley

The latest installments from our two favorite monthly columnists don’t disappoint. In his “Swoon’s View” column at Awkword Paper Cut, Marc Neys considers “Two Cinematic Approaches to the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop”: “First Death in Nova Scotia” by John Scott, and “Where are the Dolls” by Cassandra Nicolaou.

The editing is thoughtful and draws the viewer inside the story (I love the jump cuts between the introvert close-ups of the woman and the loud and intimidating girls). Nicolaou did an amazing job in translating the poem to this day and age with respect and love for the original words, accenting the power of Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry. And when it’s over, I want to see it again.

And in her “Third Form” column at Connotation Press, Erica Goss mixes interview with analysis for an in-depth portrait of Heather Haley, organizer of the long-running Visible Verse Festival in Vancouver and a talented filmmaker in her own right.

Heather Haley’s videos take risks. They deal with domestic violence, eating disorders, prostitution, and other serious issues that affect society. “I don’t set out to deliver a message. I don’t like being preached at and I don’t want to preach. My work comes from my experience, but it’s also universal. I don’t theorize,” Heather told me. “There’s not enough time for that.”

New essays on videopoetry at Awkword Paper Cut and Connotation Press

Just a reminder to check out the new posts from Marc Neys and Erica Goss in their respective monthly videopoetry columns at Awkword Paper Cut and Connotation Press. Most of the films shared in the columns have yet to appear at Moving Poems, so that’s an additional bonus for me as well as for readers. In “Swoon’s View” this month, Marc looks at two cinematic-style videopoems from the Bokeh Yeah! collective in Manchester, made in association with Comma Press, by Adele Myers, Ra Page, and James Starkey. November’s installment of The Third Form with Erica Goss focuses on the poetry filmmaking of Michael Dickes, who is, among other things, the editor of Awkword Paper Cut.