~ Marc Neys ~

Top Ten: Poetry, Dance and Song

Dancing, music and singing have been key aspects of my life over the decades since my childhood, and I am naturally drawn to them as ways of exploring and expressing poetry in film.

This collection of ten is made up of pieces that move me in different ways. The order I have given them is not a ranking, but simply designed to be seen and heard in a flow from start to end.


Film-maker: Tim Davis
Writer & Voice: Olivia Gatwood
Choreography & Performance: Rebecca Björling & Rebecca Rosier

A marvelous response in dance to a powerful poem, Ode To My Bitchface was written by Olivia Gatwood in the US, who also voices the piece. The rhythm of the film, directed by Tim Davis, follows closely the choreography and dancing by Swedish artists Rebecca Björling and Rebecca Rosier. The dance is timed to the rhythms of phrases in the poem, and the movements literally matched to the meanings of the words. The fast-paced precision is exhilarating. The absence of music highlights instead the strength of the words, voice and bodies in motion. The poem can be read on the page here.


Film-maker, Writer & Performer: Sabina England
Voice & Sound Design: Micropixie
Music: Om/Off (Paco Seren and Pablo Alvarez)

Sabina England makes beautiful expressive dance from American Sign Language in this film about identity. In her own words…

It’s based on a poem of the same name that I wrote, which I performed in San Francisco, Washington DC and at Pride Fest. It’s about exploring my identity as a deaf brown girl growing up feeling isolated, lonely and different, and learning to accept who I was and coming to love myself.

I shot beautiful scenes of various places all over Bihar, including the ancient Buddhist site at Mahabodi Temple in Bodh Gaya, Bihar. I also went to a deaf girls school in Patna and I was so proud and impressed with these little girls because they could write in Hindi, English, and they were also fluent in Indian Sign Language! (source)


Film-maker & Writer: Amang
Composer & Singer: Lo Sirong

A musical videopoem from Taiwan, More Than One features the exquisite voice of Lo Sirong singing a poem by the writer known as Amang, who is also the film-maker. The image streams in Amang’s videos are distinctly poetic in themselves, with a quality of mystery going far beyond literal illustration of the words. The wonderful music and voice of Lo Sirong features in some videos by other film-makers here. More videos from Amang are here.


Film-makers: Marichka Lukianchuk & Elena Baronnikova
Writer: Marichka Lukianchuk
Dancer: Angelina Andriushina
Music: DakhaBrakha

This profoundly moving video from Marichka Lukianchuk and Elena Baronnikova features a brief dance sequence as part of an ensemble of poetic image and sound. The subject is the experience of living in Ukraine at this time of war. I find unimaginable serenity and bravery in this film. The simple beauty of the dance performed by Angelina Andriushina is an important part of the vulnerability and hope expressed. The music that further graces the piece is by DakhaBrakha. Marichka Lukianchuk writes eloquently and at more length about the film here.


Film-maker: Tal Rosner
Writer: Langston Hughes
Composer: Lior Rosner
Singer: Janai Brugger
Dancers: Cameron McMillan & Fiona Merz

The poem Shadows by Langston Hughes (1901-1967) is expressed in this film in exquisite music by Lior Rosner, so beautifully sung by Janai Brugger. Visually it begins as an abstract animation that graphically responds to the music, later morphing into fragmented moments of dance performed by Cameron McMillan and Fiona Merz. The film-maker bringing all elements together is Tal Rosner. The poem can be read on the page at poets.org. More information and stills can be found at Tal Rosner’s website.


Film-maker: Marc Neys
Writer & Voice: Hugo Claus
Choreography & Performance: Nadia Vadori-Gauthier

Central to this haunting film by influential Belgian artist Marc Neys, is an extraordinary dance piece created and performed by Nadia Vadori-Gauthier, artistic director of the French dance company Le Prix de l’essence. The piece for this film is from her amazing project titled One minute of dance a day. For this she has posted inventive short dance videos every single day since 2015. Marc Neys has been a prolific maker of distinctive videopoetry for over a decade. His slow motion treatment of the dance, and his selection of moments from it are mesmerising. The dark ambient music is also his creation. The poem is read in Dutch by its well-known Flemish author, Hugo Claus (1929-2008), in a recording from the German Lyrikline website, where it can be read in a number of different translations.


Film-makers: Matthieu Maunier-Rossi & Ronan Cheneau
Writer: Ronan Cheneau
Choreographer & Performer: Aïpeur Foundou

Congolese dancer Aïpeur Foundou is a graceful and compelling presence in this film, a collaboration between director Matthieu Maunier-Rossi and poet Ronan Cheneau, both in France. The poem is a reverie about the freedom that can be found within, in simple experiences and places, when it cannot be found in the wider world. The film-maker writes about the process of making the piece here.


Film-maker: Katie Garrett
Writer: Ella Jane Chappell
Voices: Katie Garrett & Nicholas Herrmann
Choreography: Anna-Lise Marie Hearn
Performers: Laura Boulter, KJ Clarke-Davis, Lydia Costello, Jennifer Jones, Nathalia Lillehagen & Ella Mackinder

Film-maker Katie Garrett and writer Ella Jane Chappell, both in the UK, teamed up with Norwegian choreographer Anna-Lise Marie Hearn to create this affecting dance film that won the Southbank Poetry Film Festival in 2014. From the film’s notes at Vimeo:

At the heart of Rolling Frames are a series of shifting voices and characters that inhabit three very different relationships. These relationships are linked by the role that dependency plays in each. To some extent, every relationship involves a yielding of independence. The poem dissects this manner of yielding: the manifestation of greed in desire, the vulnerability in love, the loneliness in lust. The physicality and inner rhythms of the words are translated once over by the expressive movements of dance, and once again through the gaze of the camera’s eyes.


Film-maker: Jane Glennie
Writer: Rosie Garland
Voice: Rosie Garland & Alison Glennie
Dancer: Natasha Jervis

This film about a dancer draws inspiration from the life of Austrian-born Tilly Losch (1903-1975), also a choreographer, actor and painter. It is a collaboration between film-maker Jane Glennie and writer/performer Rosie Garland, both award-winning artists in the UK. The subject is the representation of women artists in history, especially the ways their stories have been footnoted in relation to famous men. Jane Glennie animates thousands of her photographs in a rapid stream, meticulously layered with contrasting rhythms that underscore voice and text. Rosie Garland’s expressive narration of her own poem is highly effective, alternating with that of Alison Glennie, equally as affecting in the sections that evoke Losch speaking for herself. Jane Glennie writes about the process of making the film here.


Film-maker: Mark Wilkinson
Writer and Performer: Rich Ferguson
Singer: Stella Ademiluyi

Compared to most poetry videos, Human Condition is an action-packed blockbuster. It was written and performed by Rich Ferguson, the beat poet laureate of California 2020-2022. For this satirical, sometimes scathing, yet ultimately uplifting musical, he teamed up with director Mark Wilkinson and an ensemble of performers and musicians, including singer Stella Ademiluyi and James Morrison from the cast of Twin Peaks. The text of the poem is posted at YouTube in the video notes.

Twenty Times by Caroline Rumley

This deservedly won the Audience Award at the 2020 REELpoetry/Houston TX festival in January, where I first saw it and was moved by the juxtaposition of disturbing imagery — either actual police body camera footage, or a very good simulacrum of it — with the speaker’s sedate description of her own backyard: a powerful indictment of the racism and class divisions permeating American society, where Black men risk death by police or vigilante shooting every time they go out the door, even into their own grandmother’s backyard. Rest in peace, Stephon Clark. I wish this videopoem didn’t still feel so necessary and relevant.

Twenty Times was runner-up in the Atticus Review 2019 Videopoem Contest. Marc Neys, the contest judge, wrote:

“Twenty Times” is a powerful political and poetic video. The use of ‘lo-fi’ imagery adds to the suspense and darkness of the video. The contrast with the every day life described in the poem sets the perfect base for the message.

Click through for a bio of Rumley, and visit her website for links to all her films.

Winners of Atticus Review Videopoetry Contest

Congratulations to the Atticus Review Videopoetry Contest winners!

Top prize goes to Susanne Wiegner for Contemplation is Watching (below), from a poem by Robert Lax. Read comments from the judge, Marc Neys, and discover the three other prize winners here.

Call for Entries: Atticus Review’s 2nd Annual Videopoem Contest

banner for the Second Annual Atticus Review Videopoem Contest

This week Atticus Review, one of the best online magazines to regularly feature videopoems, poetry films, and other multimedia literary works, announced that their second annual videopoem contest is open for submissions. Marc Neys AKA Swoon is the judge.

Atticus Review is happy to announce our second annual Videopoem Contest judged by Swoon. You can submit up to 3 videopoems. The cost for entry is $10. You may submit video files or links to Vimeo or YouTube pages. Please no submissions from former students or close acquaintances of the Contest Judge. The videopoems can be previously published.


First Prize: $250 & Publication
Second Prize: $50 & Publication
Third Prize: Publication
Deadline: January 12th, 20120
Winner Announced: January 31st, 2020


Marc Neys / Swoon / No One


No One is a composer, Swoon a video-artist, and both personas reside in Marc Neys from Belgium.


As one of the leading and most prolific figures in modern videopoetry he made videopoems for and with writers from all over the globe. He inspired new creators through his workshops and showcases on videopoetry.


He creates works with a focus on the purely poetic quality of the moving image in relation to the spoken or written poem. A sophisticated interplay of constructed soundscapes and images with personal reflections. Through a visual language and references to his everyday life, he creates a framework in which the poems come to a different development.


He released 3 CDs over the last two years and his videos have been selected and featured at festivals all over the world.



Marc follows Moving Poems’ own Marie Craven, who judged the contest last year. (Here are the results.) Marc wrote about his philosophy on judging poetry film contests after his experience on the ZEBRA jury in 2016.

Poetry and film: an essay in two voices

A still from Haunted Memory.

Marie Craven: If you have the time and inclination, Dave, I’m interested to hear your thoughts about the piece on Haunted Memory, by Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin, that we published recently on the main Moving Poems side of the site.

Dave Bonta: It was an interesting essay, but I do feel that if its makers call something an essay film or an audiovisual essay, it’s not entirely fair to re-brand it as a film poem just because that’s what our site is about. I’m wary about a kind of hegemonic impulse that leads critics to expand the bounds of their favorite genre beyond a point that’s helpful for the average reader, listener or viewer. (I feel that TriQuarterly, for example, does this all too often for the pieces in their video section, branding them all as “video essays” even when they’re clearly adaptations of texts termed poems by their authors.)

Yes, Haunted Memory is very lyrical and resembles a lot of poetry films, but proponents of creative nonfiction would argue I think that it is a separate category distinct from journalism on the one hand and poetry on the other. So by the same token I’ve resisted the temptation to showcase especially poetic documentaries over the years, though there’s clearly plenty of overlap and mutual influence, and one can find examples of film-makers who work in both genres, such as Lori H. Ersolmaz and Roxana Vilk.

MC: Thanks for the feedback.

In one way, I see critical and theoretical writing about any art as inherently hegemonic, in that a position is adopted above the field it is mapping. But I take your point about re-branding, especially the part about stretching things to a point beyond what might be helpful to audiences.

About TriQuarterly: they published one of my videos in their current issue as a video essay. I have no problem with it. That piece, Kitsch Postcards, from a poem by Amanda Stewart, fits both categorisations, I think. Perhaps from a film-maker’s point of view, there is an element of pragmatism in how and why we may identify with certain genres or forms. The terminology may be more fluid for a film-maker than a critic or theorist.

DB: It’s not a bad thing to keep continuously challenging the rules, even one’s own rules. It’s entirely possible that I’ve gotten a little hide-bound about Moving Poems over the past ten years. And I can see where you’re coming from as a film-maker. But all categories are ultimately arbitrary and fluid; the question is, do they help or hinder our understanding? Poetry itself is notoriously hard to define, and I tend to side with those who simply say that a poem is whatever a poet says it is. So if a video artist declares themselves a poet and starts making what they call videopoems, I’ll consider their work for the site on that basis.

I’ve also somewhat arbitrarily ruled out films or videos lacking in anything that might be considered text, either in the soundtrack or on screen. I follow Tom Konyves in that regard. If I don’t also attempt to distinguish between poetry films and videopoems in a thoroughly Konyvesian fashion, that’s mainly because I see myself as a curator rather than a critic. It would simply be too confusing, and possibly off-putting, for general visitors to Moving Poems to try and navigate between separate videopoem, film poem, poetry film, and cinepoetry categories, for example, so I’ve treated all these things as roughly synonymous and let it go at that. I guess you could say I’m trying to respect the populist impulse of the avant-garde without succumbing to its more elitist tendencies, because I want the site to appeal to people from all kinds of educational and cultural backgrounds.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying yes, I agree with your pragmatic outlook, but I do feel that some distinctions are still useful.

MC: I like the idea that “a poem is whatever the poet says it is”. Artists are often not given that much power over their own work in the broader culture arising around them. I guess we have to leave something to the critics/theorists, who draw on our work to inspire what they do in their own distinct fields of endeavour. I wonder if what they do is a kind of appropriation? I might be less ambivalent about critical theory if I were to view it as a new creative work arising from one that came before it.

Another thing that may have prompted some of what I wrote about Haunted Memory, is an email I recently received from someone in the German-speaking world who is very dedicated to our area of interest. They mentioned how unhelpful they find the term “videopoetry”. As I understood this email, most of their dislike of the term seemed to be about funding policies in that part of the world, as they relate to staging festivals and events in our genre. But they consider the term old-fashioned too, belonging to the 1990s at the latest.

There was also a recent discussion in the Poetry Film Live group on Facebook, in response to a post about the terminology most acceptable within a PhD. Alongside responses from several others highly engaged in our field, I confessed that I tend to interchangeably use terms like poetry film, film poetry, poetry video, videopoetry, and any others in this vein. Part of that discussion was also about whether videopoetry (or whatever) is a “genre” or a “form”. I find this to be of little real consequence (except in the context of a PhD), and again tend to use the terms interchangeably.

DB: Well, there’s no doubt that the Germans, like the Brits, consider “film” the proper term, and are snobby about “video”. And I can well believe that funding organizations might be more impressed by applications using a term perceived to have more gravitas and prestige. But most of the rest of the world goes with some version of “video”.

The form vs. genre discussion is interesting I suppose, but to me a poetic form implies fairly strict rules, so for example a sonnet ought to fit or at least strongly suggest the received opinion of what constitutes a sonnet. What sorts of rules define a videopoem? Precious few. So videopoetry as I understand it is a genre of poetry, yes — as well as a genre of film/video. But not a form.

One could make the distinction that videopoetry or film poetry is a genre of poetry, whereas poetry film, including most animations, is a genre of film. And I think that can be a useful way of thinking about different tendencies or orientations in the work we see. But in reality, I think, many poetry videos emerge from collaborative partnerships between a writer and a film-maker, in which sometimes the text does not precede the project but arises in response to images or music. Or sometimes it might have had a separate life in print or as live performance, but becomes a new thing when adapted to film/video. So the question of whether to consider the final product a film adaptation or an original videpoem becomes fairly academic. They’re poles on a continuum, basically.

MC: Poles on a continuum, yes. I think that videopoetry is both a genre of poetry, and a genre of film. It is a hybrid embodying the histories of both art forms.

In terms of “the Germans” and “the Brits”, it could be argued that “video” is the term that should always be adopted, as it is the most accurate description of the technology we are using, i.e. digital video. The term “film” fundamentally describes moving images on celluloid. There are global subcultures that can be snobby about anything other than celluloid film, especially in the experimental film world. I was once one of them, back when video and film were more clearly different things, and video was recorded on magnetic tape.

DB: Not to beat a dead horse, but it’s worth remembering that the term “video” was invented decades before the advent of video cassettes, and deployed as early as 1937 to describe what was broadcast on television. Nobody talks about “film games” or “online film hosting”. So I do feel it’s a better, more neutral catch-all term for moving images in the era of mass communications.

Marc Neys

I guess one thing I’ve learned over the years is that one can become a great videopoet or film poet without necessarily being a brilliant poet on the page or the stage. Just as Arthur Waley was a great poet with a distinctive voice only when he translated other people’s poems into English, so, for example, is someone like Marc Neys able to develop a distinctive and powerful poetic voice in videopoetry despite not being a page poet himself. Over the years, I’ve really grown to appreciate how rare a truly original eye is, and how a genuinely great poetry film-maker’s work might as well constitute a unique new genre.

And then there are all the poets I’ve come to know who learn how to make videos themselves and find that it revitalizes their writing, and sometimes also changes their whole perspective on publishing, simply because the way videos are hosted and shared online tends to make a hash of traditional, scarcity-based publication models.

Which brings me in a somewhat circuitous fashion back once more to the film vs. video distinction. To the extent that screening work in festivals (or in rare occasions in limited theater runs) may prevent it from being freely shared online, it might still make sense to distinguish between something shared as if it were a scarce artifact analogous to a celluloid film, versus something that can be shared as if it were an endlessly replicable composition analogous to a poem.

MC: You mentioned Marc Neys. I almost see videopoetry as revolving around his work. It embodies something unique in the contemporary genre. To me, what he has done represents a true expression of the avant-garde in our midst, opening ways forward that many of us haven’t yet seen. Much art is labelled avant-garde, but not so much fits the description. It’s not that I feel we all should emulate what he has done (on the contrary), but there is much to learn from the spirit of his approach.

Jumping on to another of your thoughts: it’s wonderful for me to think of video revitalising the work of poets. Poetry certainly has reinvigorated film-making to a huge degree for me. This give and take between the parts of the hybrid form is inspiring.

I like what you say about distribution as well. Online publishing is liberating in relation to the older models. Scarcity-based distribution seems so tied up with capitalism. I like things free.

DB: Amen to that. Thanks for the discussion.

Marc Neys in front of the camera: The Swoon interviews

I visited Marc Neys this past July mostly for a social visit. We’d really hit it off the year before at the Filmpoem Festival in Dunbar, Scotland. Also, I’m a big fan of strange beers and Medieval history, and Belgium has plenty of both. (See my photo essay at Via Negativa, “Embodied Belgium.”)

But I certainly didn’t want to let the week go by without filming the filmmaker and getting Marc to talk about how he makes his videopoems. After all, he’s one of the most productive poetry filmmakers in the world right now; his work as Swoon is inescapable at international poetry film festivals, not to mention at Moving Poems.

Fortunately, Marc was game. I originally thought I would make a single, twenty-minute video — I’d shoot a couple hours’ worth of footage, then edit and condense the hell out of it. The problem is that Marc really had a lot of interesting things to say, and what I’ve ended up with instead is a 42-minute documentary split into four, semi-independent sections. These can be watched in any order, I think. I’ve put them all into an album on Vimeo for easy linking and sharing.

I’ve also added closed captioning to each of the four videos, as I do with all Moving Poems productions these days, to make them as accessible as possible — but also to facilitate translating. If anyone would like to translate the videos into other languages, please get in touch. Vimeo will host and serve as many subtitle files as we want to upload.

Swoon on Sound

Marc explains how he creates the soundscapes he uses in his videopoems and other projects, despite not being a musician. He then takes us up into the bell tower of the cathedral in Mechelen, Belgium, famed for its massive carillon.

Swoon at Home

Where the handle Swoon comes from, and why Marc’s home and city double as a film set for many of his videopoems.

Swoon’s Secrets to Filming No-Budget Videopoems

If you only have time to watch one of these, watch this one. Marc lays out his basic DIY approach to making art, talking about the usefulness of water footage and other home-made filter effects, filming to music, cheap editing software, and more.

Swoon on finding a new angle in videopoetry composition

Marc talks about a new direction he’s recently taken: composing videopoems with the poem in text on the screen rather than in the soundtrack. Along the way, he talks about the influence of theater and classic film, and why he never follows scripts and works mostly by instinct.

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.

The separate lives of poems: an interview with Sherry O’Keefe

This is the 15th in a series of interviews with poets and remixers who have provided or worked with material from The Poetry Storehouse — a website which collects “great contemporary poems for creative remix.” Anyone who submits to the Storehouse has to think through the question of creative control — how important is it to you, what do you gain or lose by holding on to or releasing control? This time we talk with Sherry O’Keefe.

1. Submitting to The Poetry Storehouse means taking a step back from a focus on oneself as individual creator and opening up one’s work to a new set of creative possibilities. Talk about your relationship to your work and how you view this sort of control relinquishment.

If a poem is a rock, and if that rock is in my hand, I look for its entry point. Rocks can be cracked open to reveal a network of both the beauty and the ugly inside, but where exactly is the best entry point? And how and when? Submitting to The Poetry Storehouse is submitting to the experience of watching another hand with that rock, turning it over and over, searching for an entry point. So many possibilities, it’s liberating to witness. There’s more than one way to gain entry, to crack that rock cleanly.

2. There is never any telling whether one will love or hate the remixes that result when a poet permits remixing of his or her work by others. Please describe the remixes that have resulted for your work at The Storehouse and your own reactions to them.

I tend to write from a state of confusion, seeking clarity. But if I focus too much on clarity what I write becomes a narrow experience. I like most when the seemingly disconnected connect with points coming from a wider field. Finding the balance between holding on and letting go has become easier because the remixes present views from that wider field.

Through The Poetry Storehouse, my poem about a pilot building the N a universe using the table setting at a café became a film featuring a wolf in the wilderness. The poem was a result of a dinner conversation; the remix expanded it, offering a new vista point from which one could experience wider implications of a universal law.

A second poem featuring a setting of an afternoon spent at a remote ranch became a film based on vintage news reels of beavers and men moving houses, a young girl watching from the window. On the surface my poem presented honey and bees, bells and dying goats, but beneath the surface was a respite from the solitary path we each face, this respite appearing in the random, circular ways we connect to one another.

Both remixes kept from bopping the poems on the nose and instead expanded into a wider view, allowing for so many more entry points.

3. Would you do this again? What is your advice to other poets who might be considering submitting to The Poetry Storehouse?

I would love to do this again. It’s too easy to hold tight to what we intend the poem to be, but every time the poem is read by someone else, it takes on a life separate from its creator. I have learned something new each time my poetry has been featured in a remix. The experience of letting go is liberating.

4. Is there anything about the Storehouse process or approach that you feel might with benefit be done differently?

I like the relaxed atmosphere at the Storehouse. It allows for organic response from the film makers. Each poem takes on new life when we hear someone else read it, or watch another’s video of the poem.

5. Is there anything else you would like to say about your Poetry Storehouse experience?

My first experience with video poetry was when Marc Neys approached me a few years ago seeking permission to turn my poem, “This Was Supposed to Be About Karl…” into a moving poem. I had no idea what he felt about the poem and was curious to see what he would do. It was a great experience. The poem had specific meaning to me, but through his film the poem allowed for many layers to be explored and experienced.

Film production is labor intensive and yet I hope more and more of us find the time to explore a poem through musical and visual portraits. If 12 videos were produced for one poem, we’d have 12 different experiences and this is what interests me. So: many thanks to the crew at TPS for making this possible. I appreciate what you are doing.