~ Motionpoems ~

Weighing In by Rhina Espaillat

An uplifting animation about age, gravity and being human, Weighing In is from a poem by Dominican-American writer Rhina Espaillat. The film was directed by Casey McIntyre for MPC Creative in Los Angeles in partnership with Motionpoems. It was especially designed as a film for children. The poem can be read on the page here.

The posh mums are boxing in the square by Wayne Holloway-Smith

The posh mums are boxing in the square is a marvelous piece from U.K. poet Wayne Holloway-Smith and Dutch film-maker Helmie Stil, both award-winning artists. The synopsis:

The film poem is about a mother re-imagined into life and given boxing gloves to fight off cancer.

Producer Director and Editor: Helmie Stil
Writer: Wayne Holloway-Smith
Swimmers: Adele Carlson and Katie Fried
Underwater Camera: Philip Bartropp
Underwater camera assistent: Aaron Hindes
Camera: Edmund Saunders
Soundscape: Lennert Busch

The film was made in association with the Healthy Scepticism Project, The Poetry Society and Motionpoems.

Moving Poems has previously shared several other poetry film collaborations from Helmie Stil.

Morning Walk by Joyce Sutphen

A new film from Motionpoems—the first in a couple of years—underwritten by the Center for the Art of Medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School. My elderly mother takes a morning walk every day, so Joyce Sutphen‘s poem really resonated—especially as embodied by the actor here, Debra Magid. Zack Grant directs.

The text on the front page of Motionpoems suggests that while the nonprofit organization has shut down, we can expect more occasional films like this one:

Motionpoems Inc., was a 12-year initiative known for turning contemporary poems into short films, while also producing educational programs, public installations, and events. Founded by filmmaker Angella Kassube and poet Todd Boss in 2008, and officially dissolved in 2020 after having made 150+ shorts, today Motionpoems is a project of Todd Boss Originals.

My English Victorian Dating Troubles by Analicia Sotelo

This Motionpoems film by Maeyen Bassey expands Analicia Sotelo‘s poem into a sci-fi fable about beauty standards and high-tech body modification in a society where racism and sexism are as strong as ever. Narrative-style poetry films always risk sacrificing the poem to the director’s vision, but this feels like a logical outgrowth of the text. Sotelo wrote about what she was trying to do with the poem, and the collection in which it appears—Virgin—in a post for the Poetry Society of America:

As I was writing the collection that became Virgin, I became obsessed with how female identity is represented in Victorian England. Particularly, how female “innocence” is seen through the eyes of male figures—and how that has or has not changed in the last few centuries. Even Dorothea from Eliot’s Middlemarch entered the poem, bringing her moralistic intelligence and misguided taste in men. In these lines, the male gaze is an orbiting problem—it keeps returning. At the same time, I was thinking about what it means to be a Latinx woman with an English Literature degree – about the volume and weight of the Western canon. In the poem, I conflate timelines and histories, wondering if the power dynamics of gender and culture are all-consuming energies that influence us even in the smallest of moments.

Even as I write this, English rhetoric is present in these sentences. It reminds me of how high school and undergraduate students who do not identify as English often use the word “therefore” to transition the paragraphs of their essays. As a Mexican-American student, it never felt natural to use the word “therefore,” but I’m sure I used it in those first essays, hoping it would bolster the arguments I didn’t yet know how to make. How do we succeed in the language of a conqueror? How do we make the best and finest of arguments? And how do we find our voice in that conflict? Therefore, this poem. A poem for any person who doesn’t identify as this or that, but exists in the in-between, and must be heard.

The Dream by Tishani Doshi

This 2013 film from Motionpoems, directed by Babe Elliott Baker, adapts Tishani Doshi‘s poem “The Dream” from her collection Everything Begins Elsewhere. For the full credits, see Baker’s website.

“The Dream” was featured on PBS NewsHour in 2016, and Doshi talked about how she came to write the text.

In 2008 she was commissioned to write a series of poems about migration and movement. One of them, “The Dream,” is directly based on her impressions when she first moved to North Carolina.

“I loved that there were all these houses that had front porches and there were no gates. The houses themselves seemed so welcoming. Unlike India, there were no gates around the American houses— they were all just so open. In India there is a boundary around everything.”

But the poem is also about what immigrants do to create a sense of home in a new place.

“You want to hold onto something old, but you want to create something new. You want to make the new place feel like home, even though you’re not in your home. There’s a constant tension between the past and the present.”

While this background is certainly interesting, I wish they’d acknowledged in the discussion how the film suggests other interpretations as well. (And it’s a tribute to the poet that her text has this quality of openness.) I’m not sure why I didn’t share the film back when it first came out, but to me it really speaks to our present moment of pandemic gardening and surveillance-state oppression. As someone who dabbles in ecopoetry myself, I’m fascinated by what might be called postmodern pastoralism, which is totally not a phrase I just made up (thanks, Google!) so this week that’s what we’ll be looking at: how videopoets and poetry filmmakers imagine nature and the pastoral in a world of accelerating ecological impoverishment and deprivation.

I come from the fire city. by Eve L. Ewing

Chicago poet and sociologist Eve L. Ewing‘s 2017 poem in a 16mm film adaptation for Motionpoems (Season 8) by director Daniel Daly, with cinematography by Josh Farmelo. See its page on Daly’s website for the list of festival selections, which include ZEBRA in Berlin and the 50th Poetry International Festival in Rotterdam.

The voiceover is from the lone actor in the film, Khadija Shari, and while I would still like the film without knowing that, I do love how much this suggests about the way a cherished, powerful poem can inhabit someone until they know it by heart and it becomes part of the rhythm of their life. At that point, can it really still be said to be the sole property of its author?

The poem originally appeared in Ewing’s widely praised first collection Electric Arches from Chicago’s Haymarket Books, an increasingly prominent left-wing press named for the famous Haymarket riot of May 4, 1886. In a review for Public Books, Jehan Roberson notes:

To read Eve L. Ewing is to read Chicago. […] It’s important to know that Chicago has historically been an oasis for Black aspirations, particularly during northern journeys during the Great Migration; it is also the place where so many of those dreams fell prey to institutions built to halt Black prosperity. Redlining, predatory lending, forced segregation, and some of the nation’s highest homicide rates are part of the city’s backdrop, past and present. So are the hopes of Black folks. Black artists have charted both Chicagos: Lorraine Hansberry in A Raisin in the Sun, Richard Wright in Native Son, Gwendolyn Brooks in poetry that registered the city’s awe and perils.

In many ways and for many artists, Chicago is a genesis and a promised land. Ewing’s Chicago burns brighter than the many fires that have leveled the city, illuminates more strongly than the spotlights wielded by a media eager to highlight Black death. Her writing maps the spirit of the city, a spirit that many argue has vanished, but that Ewing maintains is still pulsating with Black dreams and potential.

This poetry film invites us to imagine that city by imagining how the poet or actor/reader might imagine it — a lesson for so many filmmakers whose first instinct is to treat a poem as a script.

Poetry film festival news round-up

Poetry film festival season is now in full swing. Major festivals are just ’round the corner in Vienna, Berlin, Mexico City, and Athens.

poster featuring Motionpoems

First up is the biannual Art Visuals & Poetry Film Festival scheduled for 29 November to 1 December in Vienna. Though mainly a German-language event, this year it includes a special focus on the US-based production company Motionpoems.

Then it’s time for the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival in Berlin, whose full programme is now online. They sent along a press release, worth reproducing nearly in full due the central importance of this festival to the poetry film genre.

Once again, Berlin becomes the centre for the poetry film. From 5 to 8 December, the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival will for the 10th time be presenting the poetry film in all its facets in the Kino in der KulturBrauerei cinema. For the first time the current poetry film from Germany is the centre piece of the festival. Poetry film creation in the United Kingdom will be given a special spot in the limelight. The programme is now online. And Tickets go on advance sale in mid-November.

THU 5 Dec | 20.00 | Kino in der KulturBrauerei

Guest of honour will be Jochen Kuhn, artist and film maker. A voice of contemporary German poetry, Özlem Özgül Dündar, is reading her latest poems. The music of the British and Berlin based multi-instrumentalist Rowan Coupland is often referring to poetry.

Part 1: Yearned-For Places FRI 6 Dec | 19.30 (Repetition SAT 7 Dec | 14.30)
Part 2: Common Values SAT 7 Dec | 19.30. (Repetition SUN 8 Dec | 14.30)
all in Kino in der KulturBrauerei

From more than 500 submissions from all over Germany the Programme Commission has chosen the best poetry films for the Competition. The international Jury of three will be awarding the prizes to the winning films at the awards ceremony on 8 December.

SUN 8 Dec | 20.00 | Kino in der KulturBrauerei

The international Jury, comprising Jana Cernik (AG Kurzfilm), Charlotte Warsen (poet) and Tim Webb (filmmaker), will be awarding four prizes: the ZEBRA Prize for the Best Poetry Film, donated by the Haus für Poesie, the Goethe Film Prize, donated by the Goethe Institute, the Prize for the Best Film for Tolerance, donated by the German Foreign Ministry and the Ritter Sport Film Prize, donated by Alfred Ritter GmbH & Co. KG. Musical accompaniment for the evening will be provided by F.S. Blumm.

We Are Poets FRI. 6.12. | 5 pm
Very British FRI. 6.12. | 10 pm
State of the Art SAT. 7.12. | 5 pm
Stiff Upper Verse SAT. 7.12. | 10 pm
all in Kino in der KulturBrauerei

The country focus this year is on the United Kingdom. The programme ‘State of the Art’ shows the latest British productions, curated by the poets and film makers Chaucer Cameron, Helen Dewbery, Lucy English and Sarah Tremlett. The ‘Very British’ programme is a Best Of from the past few decades of the British poetry film. The documentary ‘We Are Poets’ by Daniel Lucchesi and Alex Ramseyer-Bache celebrates its German première at the festival. In ‘Stiff Upper Verse’ the British poets Simon Barraclough, Lucy English and Roseanne Watt will be reading in English, Welsh and the dialect of the Shetland Isles.

Journey in the Mind FRI 6 Dec | 19.30
Transit SAT 7 Dec | 17.00
Parlour Games SAT 7 Dec | 19.30
Interrelations SAT 7 Dec | 22.00 | all in Kino in der KulturBrauerei

The Programme Commission has selected 35 films for Prism; three programmes present the broad spectrum of the German poetry film including animations, experimental films and features. The programme ‘Transit’ shows documentary portraits of poets.

design akademie berlin & Hochschule Anhalt, Dessau FRI 6 Dec | 17.00
UdK Berlin & KHM Köln FRI 6 Dec | 22.00
HFBK Hamburg & Hochschule Düsseldorf SAT 7 Dec | 14.30
HFK Bremen & Hochschule Mainz SAT 7 Dec | 22.00
Bauhaus-Uni Weimar & HBK Braunschweig SUN 8 Dec | 16.00
all in Kino in der KulturBrauerei

Colloquium: The Eye of the Poem SUN 8 Dec | 11.00 | Haus für Poesie
Master Class: Between Film and Poetry FRI 6 Dec | 14.00 | Haus für Poesie

The poetry film is a popular genre at universities and film academies. Students at ten German higher education institutions will be showing poetry films made in the course of a collaboration over a year. In the Colloquium Anna Anders (UdK Berlin), Sophie Maintigneux (KHM Cologne), Ulrike Almut Sandig (poet), Tim Webb (Royal College of Art) and Sarah Tremlett (Liberated Words CIC) will be discussing the position of the poetry film in German and British higher education institutions. And the director Jochen Kuhn will be giving a poetry film master class.

FESTIVAL POEM: [native vegetation a natural resource]
SUN 8 Dec | 17.00 | Kino in der KulturBrauerei

In response to ZEBRA’s call for entries, film makers have submitted their film versions of this year’s festival poem, [dieses regionale getreide] ([native vegetation a natural resource]) by Daniel Falb. Film makers Zihrong Lu, Gruppe Leuchtstoff, Holger Mohaupt and Gabriele Nugara will present their film versions and be talking to the poet about poetry and film. You can read the poem on lyrikline.org.

FRI 6 Dec | 22.00 | Kino in der KulturBrauerei

Poems by Özlem Özgül Dündar, Adrian Kasnitz, Ulrike Almut Sandig, Kathrin Schmidt and Raed Wahesh are the basis of this year’s films in the Competition and Prism. In the ZEBRA Night of Readings the poets will be reading their texts and talking to Alexander Gumz about making films based on poems.

Media Workshop: The Spirits We Conjured up
WED 4 Dec | 9.00 | Haus für Poesie
Sorcerer’s Apprentices in the Moor of Horror: Programme of Ballads
THU 5 Dec | 9.00 | Kino in der KulturBrauerei
Holes in the Head: Programme in Focus Language English
THU 5 Dec | 9.30 | Kino in der KulturBrauerei
I Made It Myself: Films by Children for Children
FRI 6 Dec | 9.00 | Kino in der KulturBrauerei
ZEBRINO Competition FRI 6 Dec | 9.00 | Kino in der KulturBrauerei
Poetry Workshop Writing Netflix! FRI 6 Dec | 9.00 | Haus für Poesie
Workshop Slam: Rucksack and a Journey FRI 6 Dec | 9.00 | Herder-Gymnasium

The Best Poetry Film for Children and Young People will be chosen by the young audience themselves in the ZEBRINO Competition. There will also be a colourful programme of workshops and films for Berlin schoolchildren with, among others, the Spoken Word artists Bas Böttcher and Nicole May.

Festival Fotogenia poster

As great as it is to see ZEBRA continuing to flourish, now to the point of becoming an annual festival, I’m equally excited to see a new poetry film festival springing up — in Mexico City. Check out FESTIVAL FOTOGENIA, I missed the call-out (sorry) but thanks to social media posts by filmmaker Helmie Stil, this didn’t escape my radar altogether. The description on their website suggests an avant-garde perspective on the genre:

FOTOGENIA, FIRST INTERNATIONAL FILM POETRY & DIVERGENT NARRATIVES FESTIVAL promotes a space with alternative conception of films, a celebration of experimentation and avant-garde framework, the love of curiosity and research of the seventh Art. Everyone is invited, taking into consideration the disruptive nature of the selected works.

We welcome you to watch films in another way!

If you are an audiovisual maker interested in provoking the cinematographic image through the exploration of the frontiers and limits of film narrative, genre, format and the nature of film itself, in order to converse with the viewers in innovative and critical ways to ignite a confrontation between reality and cinematic phenomenon, this is your place to exhibit your passion.

The +Institute [for Experimental Arts] and Void Network present the 8th International Video Poetry Festival 2019

Meanwhile in Athens, the International Video Poetry Festival will be held on the weekend of the 14th and 15th. (But submissions remain open until November 20!) Special events this year will include a screening of videopoems by my co-editor Marie Cravens as well as the touring program of videopoems from around the world that she’s pulled together, Poetry + Video, plus the Margaret Tait 100 program celebrating the first Scottish woman to make feature films, who was also a pioneer of poetry in film. And there will be a videopoetry seminar panel including film-makers, writers, performers, and musicians.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a reminder that submissions are still open for REELpoetry/Houston TX 2020 (Deadline: December 9) and the 2020 Newlyn PZ International Film Festival (Deadline: February 24) .
Newlyn PZ International Film Festival poster

Deadline extended for Art Visuals & Poetry Film Festival Vienna

Just signal-boosting some news from the latest Art Visuals & Poetry Newsletter:

The deadline of the major competition [for] German speaking countries has been extended to May 20. The next Poetry Film Festival Vienna will take place from November 29 to December 1, 2019 at Metro Kinokulturhaus. There is also a intercontinental poetry film competition called SPECIAL AWARD after a given festival poem by Sophie Reyer. The festival offers this poem as a free sound recording under Creative Commons including English translation. Check the rules & guidelines of submitting to the Art Visuals & Poetry Film Festival Vienna.

In addition to the competitions, the international programme of the Art Visuals & Poetry Film Festival 2019 is dedicated to the host country USA. The American poetry film specialist Todd Boss will travel from Minneapolis to present his production label Motionpoems. So far Motionpoems has produced 120 film adaptations of poems. The non-profit production label recently launched the largest international poetry film competition in the USA, the EPIPHANY Awards.

Alongside Todd Boss, leading German curators Thomas Zandegiacomo del Bel and Winfried Bettmer will be guests at the international Poetry Film Festival. This international get-together of important curators was made possible by the support of the American and German embassies in Vienna, for which we would like to express our sincere thanks! With its international focus, the Vienna Poetry Film Festival has once again established itself as the second largest poetry film festival in the world after ZEBRA Berlin.

We are looking forward to welcome you in Vienna!

The deadline for the Special Award is much later—August 30, according to FilmFreeway.

Motionpoems to launch 9th season on May 10 at Minneapolis Institute of Art

Motionpoems, the nonprofit organization that has been producing award-winning films with texts by American poets for a decade now, today announced that the premiere screenings of their ninth season will be held on Friday, May 10, 2019, from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm, in the Pillsbury Auditorium at the Minneapolis Institute of Art:

Motionpoems, the world’s largest producer of poetry films, will launch its highly anticipated ninth season at Mia, featuring the work of award-winning emerging poets and an international group of filmmakers in this world premiere public screening.

Season 9 poets: Dom Bury, Lyrik Courtney, D. Gilson, Jackson Holbert, Rachel Inez Marshall, Meghann Plunkett, C. Russell Price, Analicia Sotelo, Brian Spears, and Emily Jungmin Yoon; and filmmakers: Maeyen Bassey, Richelle Chen, Fergal Costello, Sean Donnelly, Kenneth Kegley, Kristian Mercado, Ged Murray, Malin Sandberg, Zanete Skarule, Helmie Stil, and Najeeb Tarazi.

Motionpoems is a small, Minneapolis-based nonprofit arts organization with a vast reach. Founded in 2008, they have produced over 120 poetry films with filmmakers, cast, and crew from all over the world. Partnering with top-quality for-profit and nonprofit publishers, film companies, and literary organizations, Motionpoems is dedicated to creating opportunities for artists to collaborate in innovative, hybrid ways. For more information, visit www.motionpoems.org.

Please join us for a night of poetry, film, and conversation!
Select one of two screening times and take in a panel conversation before or after:
6:30 p.m. Motionpoems season 9 screening
7:30 p.m. Poet and filmmaker panel discussion
8:00 p.m. Motionpoems season 9 screening

This event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required. A separate ticket is required to attend each screening as well as the panel conversation.
Reserve tickets online here, or call 612.870.3000.

Please reserve a ticket to save your seat, then feel free to join us for an after party at Black Sheep Pizza on Nicollet Avenue.

Those of us who can’t attend this or other screenings will have to wait for the films to appear on their website or Facebook page, usually at a rate of one a month.

Motionpoems announces Season 9 premiere + new “Hothouse” program

Back on February 22 I shared the call-out for Motionpoems‘ new Epiphany Awards, but that isn’t all that the Minneapolis-based arts organization has going on, as their latest newsletter makes clear. For one thing, their upcoming season sounds right up my alley:

Save the Dates for Motionpoems Season 9!

Our ninth season of motionpoems is nearly complete! This season, called “Future: Earth,” features work from brilliant emerging poets and filmmakers. Want to be one of the first to see the new motionpoems? Join us:

  • In Minneapolis on May 3rd at the A-Mill for a special, donors-only sneak-preview!
  • In Minneapolis on May 10th at Mia: Minneapolis Institute of Art
  • LA and NYC: stay tuned for dates and locations TBA!

Then there’s this:

We’re launching a new program: The Motionpoems Hothouse. Our vision for Hothouse is simple: Taking a page from the 48-hour Film Project’s playbook, we’ll challenge filmmakers to capture the raw beauty of a poem and run with it.

For our pilot program, we have selected four dynamic poets and four teams of amazing filmmakers from our vibrant literary and film communities here in the Twin Cities. These filmmaker-poet teams will meet at our premiere on May 10, and the final films will be screened at the WordPlay festival at the Loft on May 12!

To help kick-off this one-of-a-kind event, we’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign. Support local artists and take advantage of our exciting rewards–including cameos, producer credits, and undying gratitude–here!

One thing I’ll say about Motionpoems director Todd Boss: he never seems to run out of new ideas. (Also, his own poetry is pretty great.)

Motionpoems announces Epiphany Awards for poetry filmmaking

A press release from Motionpoems.

Eppies logoMotionpoems is thrilled to announce the first ever Epiphany Awards: an annual awards program recognizing outstanding international contributions to the field of poetry filmmaking. As the world’s most robust poetry film producer, Motionpoems is thrilled to recognize and support poetry filmmakers with this exciting new series of awards.

A Motionpoems Epiphany Award—aka, an Eppy—is open to any poetry film not produced by Motionpoems, Inc., and will be awarded annually by a rotating jury of Motionpoems collaborators. Honors will be conferred to work deemed uniquely innovative or important in three categories: Adaptation, Production, and Innovation. The inaugural Epiphany Awards will be presented to six top-winning films during a Motionpoems screening, and winners will be invited to attend. Winning films will be awarded laurels, a $500 prize, and recognition across Motionpoems social media channels.

Entrants can submit up to three eligible films on Submittable by April 1, 2019, with an entry fee of $5 to cover administrative costs. We will accept films previously released or distributed online or elsewhere. Eligibility: Films of any length, based on a poem or poems, crediting all collaborators, and completed within two years of the entry deadline are eligible. By entering the contest, Motionpoems is granted the right to screen and share the work, and the entrant attests that relevant rights to show and distribute the work have been obtained.

The jury for 2019, selected to represent diversity and prestige, will be revealed after the awards are announced. For complete information, please visit us at motionpoems.org or our Submittable page.

Having begun as a collaboration between animator/producer Angella Kassube and award-winning poet Todd Boss in 2008, Minneapolis-based Motionpoems has grown into a 501c3 nonprofit arts organization with over 120 films in circulation with hundreds of cast and crew from around the world. Currently producing its ninth season of poetry films, Motionpoems has a longstanding record of partnering with top quality for-profit and nonprofit publishers, film companies, and literary organizations.

American Arithmetic by Natalie Diaz

At the National Museum of the American Indian,
68 percent of the collection is from the U.S.
I am doing my best to not become a museum
of myself. I am doing my best to breathe in and out.
I am begging: Let me be lonely but not invisible.

Mohammed Hammad‘s polyvocalic film of a poem by Natalie Diaz — the first of two of her poems included in Motionpoems‘ Season 8, “Dear Mr. President” — is everything a socially engaged poetry film should be, giving the viewer a powerful sense of the political and cultural contexts from which the poem emerged. There’s a very good interview with Hammad in Director’s Notes; here’s a snippet:

How did your conceptualization of Natalie Diaz’s poem evolve from an initially abstract narrative to its current form and how do you feel the use of portraiture and mixed format cinematography strengthened your interpretation of the poem?

I initially had a visual treatment that was more abstract and super ambitious production-wise relative to the budget we were working with. Part of the initial concept was to film portraits of residents of the reservations. After much consideration and a push from my producers, we decided it would be best to have the film feature portraits of indigenous people living in a city to better relate to Natalie Diaz’s depiction. We felt it would create moments of intimacy that would contextualize the statistics mentioned in the poem.

I felt that the camcorder footage would add that extra layer of intimacy between the film and the viewer, to show a more intimate perspective of the illuminating conversations happening behind the scenes.

From its opening moments, American Arithmetic’s soundtrack is peppered with a multitude of vocal fragments discussing the hostile environment encountered by the Native American community. Could you tell us more about the process of building the film’s soundtrack?

The more I embraced the portraiture treatment of the film, the more the pieces of the puzzle came together more, especially with regards to the audio part of the film. It just made sense to add snippets of our subjects’ interviews and to weave together a collection of reflections, each contributing to the conversation on what it’s like to be a Native person in America today.

Read the rest. And do read Diaz’s poem in its original form on the Motionpoems page.