~ POOL group ~

“Productively different interpretations of a poem”: an interview with Eric Burke

This is the 18th 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 Eric Burke.

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.

When I finish writing a poem, I have a much narrower view of what the poem is (does, means) than I do much later, after many re-readings. What I am discovering with the creative remixes at The Poetry Storehouse is that there are often productive interpretations of the poem that I have missed altogether. This is a very rewarding experience. Of course, in addition to offering interpretations of the poem on which it is based, a video remix is itself a work of art that offers its own riches. The video remixes of my poems at The Poetry Storehouse have all been very accomplished and interesting in their own right. The group of video remixers working with The Poetry Storehouse are both sensitive readers of poems and talented film makers.

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.

Nic S. created a video for my poem “The Convert” that uses suggestive and symbolic video images (waves of water, shattered glass, an hourglass, an alarm clock). The orchestration of these suggestive images works wonderfully with Nic’s reading of the poem to explore the inner state of the convert described in the poem. Marie Craven took a different approach to the same poem, using Prelinger Archive footage of a circus performer to explore the situation of the convert, adding the interesting perspective of the convert having to perform according to the expectations of various audiences. Both videos very effectively explore the poem in ways that add to what I had originally envisioned in the poem.

Othniel Smith skillfully used footage of the allegorical figure Hercules from the old movie “Hercules Unchained” to elucidate my poem “Aphorism”. Jutta Pryor used her own marvelous footage, filled with suggestive images (along with suggestive sounds and music by Masonik), to set the hermit in “Aphorism” alone in a hotel room in a strange country. Both videos suggest an interpretation of the mud in the poem that is productively different from the way I originally thought of it.

Paul Broderick made a cool video remix from my poem “Self-Portrait” that features dinosaurs rather than rotifers. Though it is self-described as whimsical, it nonetheless reflects a sensitive reading of the poem.

Marc Neys combined three of my poems, “December 22”, “Mineral Rights”, and “Calyx” to create a film titled “Fog”. Rather than using an audio recording of the poems, it displays the words on the screen in various fonts along with expressive video images and sounds. This is an amazing piece that takes three poems and creates a carefully structured work of art greater than the sum of its parts.

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

Yes. I would definitely do it again. This has been a very rewarding experience. My advice to other poets would be to submit.

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

No. This is a really exciting project and I love the way it currently works.

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

I really like both the concept of making work freely available for creative remix and the results coming out of The Poetry Storehouse. I am also excited about the growing collaboration and overlap between the Poetry Storehouse remixers and poets and the poets, artists and remixers in the POOL collaboration group that Jutta Pryor introduced me to. A lot of really interesting work is being made (and being made available for remix) by the talented folks associated with both groups.

“I like how pithy the video poem can be”: an interview with media maker Marie Craven

This is the 17th 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.” This time we talk with Marie Craven.

1. Would you briefly describe the remix work you have done based on poems from The Poetry Storehouse?

I have a history with media-making but the video poem is a new form to me. I’ve put together four so far, based on wonderful poems by Janeen Rastall, Nic S., Michael A. Wells and Derek J.G. Williams.* Enticing readings by Nic S. feature. Images are from that marvelous source of historical film footage, the Prelinger Archives. Music is from talented online friends: SK123, 4our5ive6ix, Anguaji and Dementio13. Each of the videos has thus been a collaboration between artists on three continents: USA (poetry), UK (music) and Australia (video). The pieces I’ve put together are all less than one and a half minutes long. I like how pithy the form of the video poem can be.

2. How is The Poetry Storehouse different from or similar to other resources you have used for your remix work?

I have previously spent time on poetry websites but none so attractive to creative remixing as the Storehouse. The two major advantages of the Storehouse to a remixer are: (a) everything is published on a remix-friendly Creative Commons licence; and (b) there are excellent voice recordings available for easy download on the site. On top of this I’ve found a warm and inclusive attitude to remixers. The Poetry Storehouse is great!

3. What specific elements do you look for when you browse offerings at The Storehouse (or, what is your advice to poets submitting to The Storehouse)?

Selecting a poem for a video has been a combination of personal response to the writing and practical considerations relating to available media. There are so many poems at the Storehouse that would be interesting to remix but in some instances suitable images or music are elusive. These are uncontrollable aspects of the process. The main advice is simply to make a voice recording available for download. That’s number one for attracting remixers. Well-recorded audio with good levels is a plus.

4. Talk about how the remixing process comes together for you — for example, does your inspiration start with a poem, or with specific footage, for which you then seek a poem? How does sound play into the picture for you?

In the videos I’ve made, the poem and the voice recording have come first in the process. After that I’ve searched for music and images that might work with these. The mood of the music is, of course, very important. Aside from this I look for music with a key and basic beat to fit with the pitch and general rhythm of the spoken words in the reading. I then like to cut and place the voice to fit with the music before cutting images. Working with archival film material means spending a lot of time searching and viewing films, looking for both literal and lateral connections between poem and images. Once selected, the images become a new rhythmic element in the mix and that involves further fine cutting and adaptation between the elements.

5. Most Storehouse remixers are video-makers who combine a poem with video footage and a soundtrack, but all in very different styles. What have you learned from seeing how other remixers work?

I’ve seen some wonderful videos in my short time exploring the world of The Poetry Storehouse. The main thing I’ve learned is that there are a lot of possible approaches to video poetry and that each remixer has a ‘voice’ of their own.

6. Is there anything else you would like to say about your Poetry Storehouse experience (or anything related)?

MC: I found my way to The Poetry Storehouse via Jutta Pryor and her Pool creative group on Facebook. Jutta, like me, lives in Australia and has recently generated quite a burst of creative exchange on Pool between Storehouse poets, video makers and musicians. This crossover between creative groups internationally has inspired me to participate too. I’m thankful to Jutta, Nic S. and all involved for the experience.

*She’s actually up to seven video poems now (the interview was conducted a week ago). View all of Craven’s videos on her Vimeo page.