~ Felix Poetry Festival ~

Belgian literary magazine Deus Ex Machina’s Filmpoem Album

I’ve long been interested in exploring different delivery systems for poetry films. Though videos on the web are Moving Poems’ bread and butter, and are clearly going to remain the dominant delivery system for years to come, that doesn’t mean we should ignore other media and venues, such as mobile apps, exhibition spaces, festivals and DVDs. And as Deus Ex Machina #149, Filmpoem Album, demonstrates, there’s no reason why literary magazines have to confine their video publications to the web. Poetry editor Michael Vandebril called upon guest editors Willem Bongers-Deck and Judith Dekker to develop this collection in time for Filmpoem‘s program at the Felix Poetry Festival in Antwerp this past June.

The DVD and accompanying print journal are also available from their website, and they were kind enough to send me a review copy. The poets are all from Belgium and Netherlands and I don’t know Dutch or French, so of course I can’t fully evaluate the films as videopoems. But based on what I do understand, I think that other print literary journals should pay close attention to what they’ve done here — it’s an example well worth emulating, with a couple of possible exceptions which I’ll discuss below.

The above trailer includes snippets of all but one of the 11 short films included in the DVD. As these snippets perhaps suggest, many of the films are watchable on account of their imagery alone, which speaks to the expertise of the filmmakers. For what it’s worth, I was especially taken with the imagery in films directed by Philippe Werkers, Reyer Boxem, Anton Coene, Jeroen Sebrecht, and Dimitri van Zeebroeck. The absence of Marc Neys from the line-up seemed a little odd, but perhaps they wanted to show that there was more to Belgian filmmaking than the otherwise nearly inescapable Swoon. The branding by Deus Ex Machina was minimal — just enough to provide a thread of continuity to an otherwise diverse mix of aspect ratios and approaches, including a few animations, color as well as black-and-white, etc. All the directors chose to include the poems as voiceovers — as opposed to via text — which also helped unify the collection. The longest (7:07) and most experimental poetry film came at the end, which was probably a wise programming choice.

I should stress that overall this is a really high-quality product. The journal issue is perfect-bound with printing on the spine and the DVD tucked securely into the flap of the back cover. The poems appear in the same order as they do in the DVD, so one can read along. Oddly, though, the information about who directed the film made for each poem is not included alongside, but only in the table of the contents, and fuller credits only appear on the DVD. Instead, opposite each poem on the left-hand page is a full-color photo of the poet, and while this makes for a very elegant design, and it may be the way other issues of Deus Ex Machina are set up, it struck me as an odd fit for this issue. I would’ve preferred stills from the films, accompanied by the credits; the author photos could have been relegated to the bios at the back. And the fact that the directors don’t also have photos in the magazine bothered me a little bit. Why should poets get all the glory?

These minor quibbles aside, I’m very impressed with the obvious care and attention that went into DEM’s Filmpoem Album, and I hope other literary magazines will consider following suit. Also, I’m flattered that the Foreword (also on the website) cites Moving Poems as (according to Google Translate) “authoritative,” though it must be said that my nearly exclusive focus on English-language videos, or videos with English subtitles, does make the site a bit less inclusive than it might otherwise be. But that’s precisely why we need projects like DEM 149 to help pick up the slack.

Naar Wat We Waren / For What We Were by Eric Joris

This film was selected as the winner of the Open Competition at the 2014 Filmpoem Festival in Antwerp (part of the Felix International Poetry Festival). The description accompanying Filmpoem’s upload to Vimeo:

Naar Wat We Waren, a film by Lies Van Der Auwera of the poem by Eric Joris is just terrific. We chose this as the Filmpoem Prize for reasons which will be clear as soon as you watch it – a real melding together of sound word and image. There are many beautiful poetry-films, lush and sumptuous. This is not one. This is real, alive and honest. Congratulations to all involved!

The film was produced collaboratively by the Poetry Prophets: Eric Joris (poem and voice), Kristof Van Rossem (music) and Lies Van der Auwera (camera and editing). There’s also a version without subtitles. It’s part of a collection of videopoems that emerged from a workshop led by Marc Neys (Swoon) at a creative writing program in Antwerp.

This is exciting to me because it shows that videopoetry workshops can be an integral part of writing programs, and that they can produce highly effective, publishable results. (Here’s the English translation of the writing program page from Google.) American MFA program directors, take note!

Ocean by David Harsent

David Harsent reads his poem over a score composed by Luca Nasciuti in this film by Alastair Cook; James William Norton contributed cinematography. According to the description on Vimeo, “Filmpoem Festival 2014 commissioned British poets David Harsent, Helen Mort, John Glenday and Michael Symmons Roberts to produce new work on the theme of migration,” and then commissioned films incorporating the poems. I hope to share the others here in the weeks ahead.

Review of Filmpoem 2014, Antwerp in Huffington Post blog

Poet and filmmaker Robert Peake has posted a handy summary of last weekend’s Filmpoem 2014 Festival—part of the Felix Poetry Festival in Antwerp—by way of sharing the seven videos that constituted the first part of the program: “An Introduction to the Film-Poem.”

Poets, musicians and filmmakers from all over the world converged on a converted packing house in Antwerp, Belgium last Saturday for a day of gorging on film-poems. It was glorious.

While last year in Dunbar, Scotland had an element of novelty on its side, this year was carefully structured to up the ante. A group of Dutch and Flemish film-poem artists presented their work, along with the debut screening of the UK National Poetry Competition film-poems, Absent Voices films, conversations with poets in response film-poems of their work that they had just seen, and even live performances of voice and music in accompaniment to film. The scope, variety, and innovation was impressive, not to mention the roster of heavy-hitters in both the poetry and film genres.

Organiser Alastair Cook emphasised the point that the film-poem genre is an inclusive and encouraging one–suggesting that we all start somewhere, even if with the video facility on our smart phones, and start making film-poems. Particularly helpful in that regard was the first screening, an introduction to the film-poem. Luckily, most of the works that Alastair picked to illustrate the depth and range of this genre are also available online. What follows, below, are those films (recommended to view in full-screen mode).

Watch. Enjoy. Make film-poems. Perhaps I’ll see you at a film-poem festival soon.

Click through to watch the films.

Crepuscule with Nellie (Take Six) by Ken Taylor


It’s been three years since Ginetta Correli (Marshmallow Press Productions) last made a filmpoem; it’s good to see more work from her. This one was created for the Poetry Society to be featured at the Filmpoem Festival in Antwerp Belgium, June 14, 2014. American poet and artist Ken Taylor won a commendation for this poem from the Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition 2013 (read the text on their website). His reading is included in the soundtrack.

Bernard and Cerinthe by Linda France


This is the third of the three films from Filmpoem for winners of last year’s National Poetry Competition in the U.K.

Bernard and Cerinthe is a film by Alastair Cook for Linda France’s first placed poem in the National Poetry Competition 2013, commissioned by Filmpoem and Felix Poetry Festival in association with the Poetry Society.

From the National Poetry Competition judges: ‘This strange narrative of a man being seduced by a plant charmed the judges with its vivid imagery and linguistic wit. Its precisely honed couplets move from elegant description (‘the bruise of bracts, petals, purple // shrimps’) to a tragicomic climax, in which our hero finds himself ‘a buffoon in front of a saloon honey / high-kicking the can-can. Can’t-can’t’. Truly imaginative and richly musical, ‘Bernard and Cerinthe’ is as much a pleasure to read on the page as it is on the tongue, and as such was the unanimous choice of the judges for first place in this year’s National Poetry Competition.’ {Jane Yeh}

Linda France is from the northeast of England, and has published seven collections of poetry. See the story in the Guardian, “Linda France wins National Poetry Competition with erotic botany story,” as well as the page at the Poetry Society website, which includes the text of the poem and this bit of back-story:

On what inspired the poem, Linda said: ‘I remember very particularly the day I wrote this poem, actually. I went to visit a friend of mine who has the most beautiful garden. It was the end of August and there was a plant I’d never seen before: Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’, and I was just astonished by it. It’s a very intense blue and the leaves are a silvery green… they’re quite thick, almost waxy, fleshy. That’s one of the things I’m drawn to about plants, they express this tremendous “Otherness”, but they just stay there and let you respond to them, unlike a bird or animal that disappears. A plant remains for you to give your attention to. I love that. I got absorbed in this flower and my sense was that it was very sexy, as many of them are. Cerinthe conceals and reveals at the same time, it has a flirtatiousness about it that’s very seductive. I don’t know how Bernard came into the story, but faced with this out-and-out flirt of a plant, he doesn’t know what to do. So that’s how it happened, really. Obviously it didn’t all come fully formed, but it arose from looking at the flower.’

Among Barmaids by Paula Bohince


American poet Paula Bohince took second prize in the 2013 National Poetry Competition from the U.K.’s Poetry Society with “Among Barmaids,” interpreted elegantly by filmmaker Idil Sukan in a commission by Filmpoem and Felix Poetry Festival.

From the National Poetry Competition judges: ‘There was a metal door that took both hands/ of a strong man to open’ – so begins this taut, impressive poem, going on to say that the barmaids did this daily, then ruled benignly the enclosed world ‘sealed in submarine darkness’ behind the door. With remarkable economy, the poem manages to construct an extremely detailed picture of the rituals of the bar-room, the lives of the barmaids – whose tattooed skin bears the history of ex-lovers and drugged-out children – and the lives of the drinkers ‘who wore their trade on their fingers – coal or dirt or grease’, and who played songs on the jukebox about cheating women. The voice of the poem speaks in the first person plural, like a Greek chorus. Perhaps this is what lends the poem its power – the directness of the choral tone, the precision of the detail, the staccato delivery. The choral voice delivers an incantation of great warmth in a cold place. This is brought home in the final image of the children brought to the bar by the men, when their wives needed peace, to be spun on a make-believe dance-floor by the ministering barmaids, trying to turn ‘despair into a party’. {Matthew Sweeney}

For the text of the poem, see the Poetry Society website.

Love on a Night Like This by Josephine Abbott


A Kate Sweeney film, commissioned by Filmpoem and the Felix Poetry Festival in association with the Poetry Society. This is one of three films for the winners of the Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition 2013.

From the National Poetry Competition judges: ‘This poem, built on motion, powerfully presents the balancing act of loving another human being. It depicts both the simplicity and enormity of that act, and our powerlessness in the face it, reduced as we are to “sea-birds in the teeth of a gale.” We loved the atmosphere and detail – that plastic pot skittering on a path, birds “made helpless as plastic bags”… This is a poem in which the personal and universal, the minute and the enormous, do more than co-exist: they are one and the same thing.’ {Julia Copus}

For a bio of Josephine Abbott and the text of the poem, see the Poetry Society website.

Free, three-hour screening of filmpoems at Hidden Door Festival in Edinburgh, April 5

Hidden Door is a nine-day festival of art, music and poetry beginning on March 28 at Market Street Vaults, Edinburgh. It offers “FREE ENTRY to Exhibition Spaces, Project Space, Bars, Cinema” every day from noon to 6:00 PM, and this includes three, 40-minute screenings of filmpoems on the last day of the festival, April 5. Here are the details, according to the event listing on Facebook:

3pm -6pm: Alastair Cook and Luca Nasciuti are introducing, performing and talking about Filmpoem in the afternoon from 3pm – come and see previews of this year’s festivals, watch some beautiful films and enjoy the rest of the Hidden Door experience at a leisurely Saturday afternoon pace.

Filmpoem is dedicated to the filming of words and is a collaborative venture committed to attracting new audiences to new writing. Filmpoem at Hidden Door is a match made in filmic festival heaven – on Saturday April 5th, we will be bringing poets, films and performance to these great Edinburgh arches, running three forty-minute screenings:

3pm: Filmpoem Felix Screening – Curation from our archive mixed with sneak peaks at some of the work for Filmpoem in Antwerp on June 14th this year, in partnership with Felix Poetry Festival.

4pm: Filmpoem Live with Luca Nasciuti. Luca explores and performs filmic soundscapes with poetry film, with live readings.

5pm: Filmpoem Poetry Society, an exclusive curation in partnership with The Poetry Society

It’s part of a larger programme of films at the festival called Hidden Cinema — an enticing mix of animation, shorts and experimental film.

Filmpoem news: 2014 Festival in Antwerp (call out); feature in The Third Form; Hidden Door

The Filmpoem Festival, which debuted last August in Dunbar, Scotland, will be moving to Antwerp this year in partnership with the Felix Poetry Festival. The organizer, filmmaker and artist Alastair Cook, has just posted a call for submissions [PDF]. The deadline is May 1st, and the festival will be held on Saturday, June 14th in the FelixPakhuis in Antwerp.

In other Filmpoem-related news, Erica Goss’ “Third Form” column on videopoetry this month takes an in-depth look at Alastair’s work, including some of his best films and quotes from a telephone interview. Check it out.

And finally, as it says on the Filmpoem website, “Filmpoem has been invited to close the upcoming Hidden Door festival on 5th April 2014″ in Edinburgh. Alastair made the following show reel for the event, using a text from the Scottish poet Morgan Downie:


Do join the Filmpoem group if you’re on Facebook.

Swoon Films 11 Flemish Poets

[press release — feel free to reproduce in whole or in part]

How to make a film based on 11 Dutch-language poems? A fair question. Video artist Swoon has made the poetry short ‘Circle’, in which poems by Leonard Nolens, Stefan Hertmans, Delphine Lecompte, Charles Ducal, Michaël Vandebril, Lies Van Gasse, Xavier Roelens, Jan Lauwereyns, Marleen de Crée, Stijn Vranken and Yannick Dangre tell the story of someone’s life. The poems were recorded by three well-known Flemish actors: Vic De Wachter, Michaël Pas and Karlijn Sileghem.

An extended trailer can be seen on Vimeo.

The Flemish poetry film will premiere on Sunday 10 March at the Scottish international poetry festival StAnza. With this international presentation in mind, all poems were translated by professional poetry translator Willem Groenewegen.

The Belgian premiere will be held on 13 June at the Felix Poetry Festival in Antwerp.

‘Circle’ is a Vonk & Zonen production and was realised with the support of the Flemish Literature Fund and the City of Antwerp. Vonk & Zonen is a new literary organisation focusing on new ways to showcase literature. Recent projects include the ‘Lonely Funeral’ programme, ‘NewsPoem’ in the De Morgen newspaper and the ‘Working Title’ evenings. The poetry film ‘Circle’ is an excellent way to familiarise a wider audience with poetry in an innovative and accessible way.

Swoon (a.k.a. Marc Neys, *1968) has more than 90 videopoems to his name, based on texts by, amongst others, Bernard Dewulf, Johan de Boose, Michaël Vandebril and Jan Lauwereyns. His videopoems were shown at a lot of international festivals, such as those in Berlin (ZEBRA), Vancouver (Visible Verse) and New York (International Literary Filmfestival). This year, Swoon has been asked to co-curate the first Filmpoem Festival (2-4/8/13, Dunbar, Scotland) alongside Alastair Cook, Luca Nasciuti and Dave Bonta.

Editor’s note: We will share the full-length film on Moving Poems as soon as it becomes available. In the meantime, enjoy the trailer (and attend StAnza or the Felix Poetry Festival if you can). See also Swoon’s post mortem of last year’s Felix Poetry Festival here at the forum.

Antwerp poetry festival features videopoems

Last week, the Felix Poetry Festival in Antwerp, Belgium, organized by Michaël Vandebril, included a feature on videopoetry, with filmmakers Alastair Cook and Swoon Bildos (Marc Neys) as invited participants. It garnered some good press in De Standard newspaper, including a mention of Moving Poems! Marc also sent along this report on the proceeedings. —Dave B.

I didn’t attend the first day. Alastair was just arrived and we were both a bit tired. (Day one was about Belgian Poetry, including a discussion of whether there’s actually such a thing as Belgian poetry, being a bilingual country.) So for starters, here’s a small video-impression I made of the second day of the festival:


This is an impression of the second evening, the international evening with poets. Jan Lauwereyns is from Belgium, but lives in Japan. He did a poem with a simultaneous Japanese translation and later he also translated a small part of a Ron Silliman poem into ‘Aantwaareps’, our local dialect. Ron Silliman was there, Will Stone, Chus Pato (Spanish), and Emilian Gaaicu-Paun (Romanian), who was translated into Dutch by Jan H. Mysjkin.

Leonard Nolens was also there (and on the video). He’s more or less the greatest living poet in Belgium. You could hear a pin drop during his reading. We also had Ronelda S. Kamfer, but I didn’t get to shoot footage of her — a shame, because she was very good.

Alastair and I had a short talk about videopoetry and showed some of our work. Alastair showed two of his ‘Absent Voices’ project:

and an older one:

I showed:


After that, we both showed our commisioned work for a Bernard Dewulf poem (Bernard is ‘City-Poet’ of Antwerp this year), ‘Aan Het Water.’ (See the main site to watch the two films. —Dave)

In the afternoon of that same day, Alastair and I — it was the first time we actually met — had a 90 minute lecture about filmpoems and videopoems. No images from that, but we each showed 10 of our videos and films and talked about our working process and projects. (That’s why there was that interview in the paper, BTW. It’s one of our leading and most respected papers.)

So, there you go: a good festival and a good chance for video- or film-poetry to ‘get out there’.