~ The Poetry Storehouse ~

Grassland by Sarah Sloat

A Moving Poems production in which I experimented with some abstract live footage meant to evoke animation. I sourced the
text—by American poet Sarah Sloat—from The Poetry Storehouse, where I also used one of the sound recordings, a reading by poet Amy Miller, to pace the titling, but then removed it from the soundtrack.

This replaces an earlier video I made for the same poem that I was never quite happy with, because its point of departure from the text was a bit too obvious and clever for my taste. (That one never made it onto Moving Poems.) The footage this time is a clip of fiber optic tips from Beachfront B-Roll, source of some the least generic free stock footage on the web, and the soundtrack is a public-domain field recording from Freesound.org of a prairie in eastern Oregon, complete with meadowlarks.

Speaking of Freesound, they’re currently on a fundraising campaign to cover their development and maintenance costs, which I’m guessing are not insignificant. Please give if you can. They’re a great resource for filmmakers and audiophiles.

Dictionary Illustrations by Sarah Sloat (2)

I’ll end the week with a poem by one of my favorite poets, Sarah Sloat, interpreted by one of my favorite poetry-film makers, Marie Craven, in what I think is one of the most effective examples of the kinestatic style in videopoetry that I’ve seen. (Kinestasis is properly defined as “an animation technique using a series of still photographs or artwork to create the illusion of motion,” but I use the term, in the absence of a better one, a bit more broadly, to refer to any faster-than-slideshow series of still images in a video.) Craven’s masterful deployment of images from the Brockhaus Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary (1890-1907) unfolds to music by Podington Bear and the Poetry Storehouse voice recording by a young boy identified only as DM. Someone on Facebook described the overall effect as “sumptuously austere.”

This isn’t the first poetry film to use this text; no less than Marc Neys AKA Swoon has also tried his hand at it. But Craven definitely gave him a run for his money here. Sloat’s text seems especially ripe for videopoetic adaptation, given its musing on the relationship between words and images. Pen-and-ink illustrations in a dictionary break up the columns of text, Sloat says, “like little windows opening / from one side of the brain // to the other.” That’s exactly what happens to me whenever I watch a good videopoem.

Advice Dyslexic by Lisa Vihos (3)


Last year, I shared two videos made with Lisa Vihospoem “Advice Dyslexic”: one by Dale Wisely and one by Marc Neys AKA Swoon. Now Marie Craven and Nigel Wells have given us two more. Craven explained on Facebook that she and Wells had challenged each other to each make a short video out of the poem over the long holiday weekend, and both decided to use Nic S.’s voice recording in their videos.

Both of the videos take a fairly literal, illustrative approach to the text, but for once, this seems to work, I think because the poem is so playful. The videos simply build upon that playfulness, keeping things light and fast-moving.

Ghazal Before Morning by Colleen Michaels

A new Swoon (Marc Neys) film using a text from The Poetry Storehouse by Massachusetts-based poet Colleen Michaels, in a voiceover by Nic S.. In a blog post, Marc notes:

I had images of jellyfish and other ‘floating creatures’ in mind for this poem/soundtrack. I found what I was looking for at Mazwai; filmed by Justin Kauffman & Randy Perry.

The music in the soundtrack is, as usual, Marc’s own composition. It’s also included on his Timorous Sounds album.

Double Life in REM State by Cindy St. Onge

A Swoon (Marc Neys) videopoem using a text from the Poetry Storehouse by Cindy St. Onge. Marc used footage by Jan Eerala, Videoblocks and Grant Porter, and says:

Double Life in REM State […] has all the dreamlike quality and strange reality that I look for in a poem. […] The poem was perfect for text on screen (and I love the line ‘Dreams are always about the dreamer’)
I started collecting footage for certain lines (insects, animals, nature, movement, and a few haunting ones)

Meanwhile I also began working on a fitting soundtrack;
[Bandcamp link]

Once I had all my building blocks, I could start ‘composing’.
Image by image, placing lines, adjusting pace,…

It’s what I call fun.

Advice Dyslexic by Lisa Vihos (2)

Back in April, I shared Dale Wisely’s video interpretation of this poem from the Poetry Storehouse; here’s Swoon’s version. This is the first I can remember that Swoon (Marc Neys) has put himself in a videopoem as an actor (assuming that’s acting, and not just the way he starts each day). The result makes an extremely effective fit with this unsettling text.

(Update) Marc has posted some process notes to his blog. Here’s a snippet:

I felt like making a small series of videos with myself in front of the camera again (it’s been a while), this being the first one, another for a poem by Yves Bonnefoy coming up later this year. I love working from the safe and confined place that is my home. Setting up the camera, finding the right angle… exploring the possibilities and getting the most out of almost nothing.

I wanted the video to be subtle, almost no movement or action. A silent dialogue between me and a bust of my father (made by my sister). Slightly absurd and somewhat sensitive.

Flick the Switch: The Making of “Homeopathy”

When I shared Lori Ersolmaz’s film Homeopathy on Monday, she got in touch and offered to write up some process notes. The resulting essay is of exceptional interest, I think, in showing just how closely a poetry-filmmaker can identify with a text—and how much she can make the resulting filmpoem or videopoem her own. —Dave Bonta

This filmpoem is a very personal endeavor, reflecting my feelings and emotions while I was undergoing treatment for an ovarian mass. From the time I received the head-spinning news, I spent most of my time trying to gather as much information as possible from the Internet, and spoke with friends who had been through a similar situation. At the onset of my symptoms I found myself awake at 2:00 AM experimenting with video in a darkened hotel room lit only by the TV. The footage is quite metaphoric in numerous ways. My conversations with doctors, family, and friends were often chaotic and distressing at best. I quickly found that my primary care doctor’s bedside manner didn’t mesh well with me because she insisted that I had ovarian cancer, while my oncologist surgeon and gynecologist gave me somewhat better odds.

While in despair and feeling incredibly uncreative, I searched for an appropriate poem on The Poetry Storehouse to re-create my feelings with visual storytelling. I didn’t have to look very far. Nina Corwin’s poem “Homeopathy” had just been uploaded, and I downloaded it along with the poet’s narration, which I used in my final piece. Corwin writes in “Homeopathy,” “We can play in the dark” and ironically this was represented with my hotel footage before I even read her poem.

I sat on the poem for several months, but during that time I made notes of additional visuals needed, filmed more and searched on Pond 5 and Archive.org for horror movies and nuclear bombings. While I edited the first minute or two prior to my surgery, it was largely left unfinished until a month after my recovery.

This is my longest filmpoem, and I purposely wanted it that way. Although I only had to wait two and half months to hear whether I had cancer or not, it felt like an eternity. Even though I kept a positive attitude, every waking moment I considered how my health issue would change my life and those around me forever. It was nothing short of gut-wrenching, and felt like it would never end. When I awoke from the five hour surgical ordeal and heard the good news from my husband—benign—indeed, as Homeopathy reveals, I felt incredibly lucky to be able to “play flick the switch…”

The film uses linear imagery that reflects the known yet unknown, and darting screen movements resemble the chaos and lack of control I felt. In the end I’m left with five new linear scars as a reminder of my experience.

As for the music, I hadn’t realized it, but on an earlier visit to Pond 5 I downloaded the free Chopin Sonata No. 2 in B-flat music file. The music was familiar to me, and I didn’t know why, but it hit the somber note of my feelings. Slow. Deliberate. Making peace with what could be next. Little did I know until I Googled it that this is Chopin’s well-known Funeral March!

I couldn’t be happier to have had access to Nina Corwin’s fine poem, and the process provided me with recovery and closure, yet helped me to document my emotions before, during and after a traumatic life event.

[UPDATE] I asked Nina Corwin if she would be willing to share a bit about the composition of the poem and her reaction to my filmpoem. This is what she wrote:

Homeopathy started with a line from an e-mail to a poet friend coming in from out-of-town. A riff on “playing” sick associated playing hooky, playing doctor and the healing powers of child’s play. Once the homeopathic references suggested themselves, the poem found its name.

This is one of those rare poems that wrote itself—much more quickly than is usual for me. It got accepted by an on-line journal I admired (and had previously been rejected by) called Anti- before I knew it.

There’s something wonderful about poetry (and other art forms), especially poetry that makes such associative leaps, is that people reading it can evoke their own associations. It’s the ineffable connection between expression and experience.

Lori had a very different experience of the poem. I have had my poetry rendered by composers on several occasions. Sometimes the piece involves collaboration, though others given with the idea that once I “hand it over,” I give free rein to the interpretations of that artist. It’s rather like a game of telephone. Another sort of play (maybe something I could weave into the poem after the fact),

The result that Lori has created gives a whole new life to the poem.

Homeopathy by Nina Corwin

A film by Lori H. Ersolmaz using both voiceover and text-on-screen for the poem by the Chicago-based poet and therapist Nina Corwin. Ersolmaz found the poem at The Poetry Storehouse and the archival footage at Pond 5 and the Internet Archive.

Concerning Melchior (a chain of things that make me warm) by Hilde Susan Jægtnes

A Poetry Storehouse poem by Norwegian poet Hilde Susan Jægtnes gets the Swoon treatment.

I used her reading to create this soundtrack [SoundCloud link]. For the visual part of the video I wanted a strong contrast between blurry images of light (filmed at an exhibition on the history of light design) and extreme close ups of human skin and hair. Trying to create a mix of sensuality and a weird sensation of fright. Alienated.

Nic S. has also made a video with this text, using her own voice in the soundtrack, but I can see why Swoon chose Jægtnes’ reading: she’s the rare example of a poet who’s also an excellent interpreter of her own work—which is especially impressive considering that English is, I assume, not her first language. She is the translator too, I think: the Poetry Storehouse bio indicates that she’s published a collection of English translations of prose poems drawn from her first two Norwegian collections.

Considering Luminescence / Consideraciones Sobre la Luz by Laura M Kaminski


Spanish filmmaker Eduardo Yagüe has once again taken the difficult route and produced two entirely different films for the English and Spanish versions of a text. The author is U.S. poet Laura M Kaminski. For Considering Luminescence, Yagüe used the voice recording by Maureen Alsop at The Poetry Storehouse and music by Fourhands Project, and worked with the actress Gabrielle Roy. Consideraciones Sobre la Luz features Yagüe’s own translation and voice, music by Martin Rach, and the actor Faustino Fernández. Both films were shot this May, the first in Madrid and the second in Gijón.

One Story by Cristina Norcross

This Swoon (Marc Neys) film for a Poetry Storehouse poem by Cristina Norcross remixes footage from kenji kawasawa and Colby Moore. Swoon’s blog post about the film includes an interesting reaction from the poet:

Our lives are separate, yet we are bonded – part of an organic whole. Perhaps we are becoming more and more isolated. I would like to believe that there is hope for us to find common ground – to rediscover the beauty of our human connection.

When I first sat down to write the poem, “One Story,” I was actually in the middle of watching Charlie Kaufman’s film, Synecdoche, New York (2008), with Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The dialogue and concept of the film struck a chord with me, and I was unable to wait until the end, to start writing down thoughts. I was transfixed by the notion of how our separateness and isolation is actually a dream.

We are all one. We are all part of the same story. From this seed, I fleshed out images of people I knew or people I had seen on the street. The actress learning her lines on a threadbare couch, sitting on hope, was (and still is) me and my fellow poet, artist, songwriter friends. We are all dreaming about having our ideas take shape – having them take flight.

When I found out that Marc Neys was developing a video remix for my poem, I was quite excited to see how he would interpret the words through the lens of film, images, and music. From the first glimpse, I was captivated by the balloons and mesmerized by the atmospheric sounds and voices underneath the recording of my poem. Each time I view the film, I see more details that have meaning for me. Marc truly captures the bustling, city feeling of many individuals sharing space. He also skillfully conveys how each person is unique. Each balloon finds its own direction, and yet at the end, the balloons form concentric circles. There is a never-ending string that connects us. We belong to one another. You are those feet drifting back and forth in the hammock. You are the father holding a toddler on your shoulders. These images are a glimpse and a gift. Even the very end of the film leaves an echo of how we connect: “What is your name? Mary? That is beautiful. That is a beautiful name.”

Sometimes the Water by Kallie Falandays

Marie Craven remixed some surreal footage by Simone Mogliè and Fernanda Veron, music by Adrian Carter, and Nic S.‘s reading of a poem by Kallie Falandays at the Poetry Storehouse. (Nic has also made her own video for the poem.) I’m especially impressed by the bold choice of music. It shocked me at first, but I eventually came to feel that it provides just the right contrast for the dream-like imagery, throwing it and the voiceover into high relief. I can’t tell you how many videos I’ve chosen not to share here just because the music struck me as too stale or predictable.