~ Todd Boss ~

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.

Big Bridges: The smoke, the cars and clouds, the quiet, the river

“I think of the smoke, the cars and clouds, the quiet, the river, often…”
—Leonard Gontarek, “Thirty-Seven Photos from the Bridge”

Big Bridges contest logoI don’t often enter contests or film festivals. I’m happy to plug away working on short documentaries and experimenting with new ways to create filmpoems. But I was alerted to the Big Bridges exhibition by my weekly Sunday afternoon Moving Poems digital digest, and at the time I was in Florida. According to the submission guidelines, there was about a month to submit an entirely new piece, never seen online before, to address the nature of our deficient bridges and infrastructure. I had a personal connection to the subject matter, and the Motionpoems and Weisman Art Museum (WAM) collaboration with artists, poets, architects, engineers and filmmakers piqued my interest. There was also a healthy cash prize associated. I thought, why not?

With little time to spare, I started looking for bridges in Naples, Florida, where most were new, though I found some good shadows and water movement to shoot during my time there. However, the main reason I wanted to work on the project was because a bridge within walking distance from my home is noticeably crumbling. In fact, living at the New Jersey shore, I’ve seen quite a few old bridges in dire need of replacement, damaged by years of rampaging weather and salt water.

As citizens we often take our bridge and infrastructure needs for granted. In the tri-state New York metro area there are many structurally deficient bridges, as we are in a major hub where consumer products are transported through the Interstate 95 corridor, on rail and by ship. The daily traffic on our roads and bridges is mind-boggling. My local bridge, built in 1939, is over 75 years old. It connects several small communities, and according to Transport for America, 13,618 cars travel over it every day. Surely when it was designed, engineers didn’t anticipate that type of usage and impact. The bridge makes a beautiful arc through the widest part of the river and gracefully curves between several historical homes. It has a movable deck (span) controlled by US Coast Guard employees which allows sailboats and larger yachts to pass.

I worry every time I drive over the bridge. It has been closed off and on over the past five years and is clearly structurally deficient, as the New Jersey Department of Transportation records and news articles document. What I observed and captured under the bridge is consistent with data and reports. According to a bridge repair log from 2008 to 2010, the repair costs were $1.3 million, and every year they’ve been steadily repairing the bridge, which has probably added up to between five and ten million dollars. A local newspaper recently reported a rough cost estimate of replacement at over $100 million. The county’s entire budget is $488 million. Additionally, there are citizens who are arguing for the same exact type of bridge and don’t want a taller one, and New Jersey has a Transportation Trust Fund that is basically bankrupt. This means that money needs to come from the federal government with approval from Congress. I’m afraid either these bridges will be closed altogether causing traffic havoc, or they will fail and lives will be lost. Solutions seem to be in short supply.

The Weisman Art Museum doors

The Weisman Art Museum (all photos by Lori H. Ersolmaz)

The good news is that the Big Bridges exhibition takes on an ambitious and difficult conversation that should be in the forefront of our local and national concerns. The Weisman Art Museum and Motionpoems collaboration began with a poetry contest judged by Poetry Society of America Executive Director, Alice Quinn. There were five overall winners with three chosen for filmmaker adaptation, including Ann Hudson’s “Elegy with a Train in It,” Jessica Jacobs’ “Bicycle Love Poem” and Leonard Gontarek’s “Thirty-Seven Photos from the Bridge.” Instead of reading the winning poems first, I decided the project should begin with my journey to the bridges and then match a winning poem with what I observed and documented. I shot the bridges as if they were people: intimately and from every vantage point except using aerial footage. (Patrick Siegrist, one of the filmpoetry judges, shot incredible drone footage for the Weisman/Target Studio Collaboration Exhibit, Big Bridges: An Aerial Tour.)

Shooting over several weeks, I went into stealth mode to document every detail of four bridges, and it wasn’t until I went out to film that I fully appreciated the beauty and wide span of the bridge near my home. In the final edit I tossed out all pedestrians and used additional footage shot in Paris and Belgium a few years ago. Nearly all my bridges were filmed from below where I found them to be dark and eerie with the sounds of cars above whizzing and droning by on their way to myriad destinations.

I had an unusual moment when shooting a newer bridge. While staring through the viewfinder, I was surprised to serendipitously film two small packages tossed off the side of the bridge, where one made its way to me at the bank below. As it came closer I noticed it was a plastic-wrapped WAWA hamburger carton. At the time I thought the carefully wrapped carton seemed odd because if someone is going to toss garbage, it would seem to have been already eaten and messy. But, I didn’t take it out of the water to inspect it. That very scene still stays fresh in my mind. The experience resonated with Leonard Gontarek’s poem: “…There is a lot of isolation and silence in our world. Birds land nowhere. Say that. Code it in. Let it play…” I specifically placed a plop-sound effect to punctuate what I felt Gontarek was alluding to.

“A little darkness and violet sticks to the river…” I still wonder what was inside that package, but metaphorically the scene represents the seedy and mysterious side of life—the underbelly—which may serve as a safe haven from harsh societal conditions. Possibly a dry place in the rain for homeless, or youth looking for a secret hiding space for drinking or drugs and to get away from everyday life. While bridges are connectors between two shores, often we have blinders on by not considering what else goes on underneath those dark, dank and lonely places. Confronting these ideas brings a deeper level of meaning, not just as structural failings, but overall societal deficiencies which go denied and disregarded. I chose a repetitious clip of a vibrant highlighted arc to depict a flash of this idea—the spirit of the ‘other’ we often don’t let ourselves see.

Inside the WAM

Inside the WAM

The submission guidelines stated that filmmakers had the option to rename the poem with the number of stanzas used, and my film is entitled Fourteen Photos from the Bridge. The film used nearly all non-sync sound with a music mix, and for narration, the voice of poet (and Motionpoems director) Todd Boss, whose intonation, weight and measure became important to emote the overall audio/visual integration.

I was surprised and elated in early September when I heard from Patrick Siegrist, WAM Artist in Residence, with the news about my winning submission. I was flown to Minneapolis, all expenses paid by the museum, for a September 30th exhibition screening date. Myself and another winning filmmaker, Sam Hoiland, and two runners-up were hosted in a WAM gallery with public networking after the screening. Craig Amundsen, Target Studio Director and Public Art Curator at WAM stated they received hundreds of submissions, and introduced Todd Boss of Motionpoems and Patrick Siegrist of City Visions, who each spoke briefly to explain the idea behind the Big Bridges poetry and film contest and exhibition.

It was an honor and a privilege to have my filmpoetry hosted at the magnificent Weisman Art Museum, designed by the renowned architect Frank Gehry on the banks of the Mississippi River alongside such 20th-century artists as Marsden Hartley, Charles Biederman, Georgia O’Keefe and Louise Nevelson. I’m grateful to the judges, WAM staff, Motionpoems, the artists, poets and guests who I met during the evening and will forever hold the memory of my time in Minneapolis for the Big Bridges exhibition close to my heart. While I started out saying I tend not to enter contests or film festivals, I have to admit, it’s a great opportunity to collaborate and learn about those who share the same ideals and values about society, culture and the making of art and poetry, all in an effort to find new ways for collective dialogue and ultimately solutions to our nation’s most important problems.

Watch Lori’s winning film on Moving Poems, and then find out about bridges in your state. —Ed.

Weisman Art Museum architecture

Frank Gehry’s magnificent design of the WAM

Call for submissions + new documentary on Motionpoems’ “Arrivals and Departures” installation

If, like me, you’ve been wondering just how Motionpoems managed the logistical hurdles of projecting films onto the front of a train station, what it looked like, and how it was received by the general public, this great little “micro-documentary” gives a pretty good indication.

If you’re a U.S.-based poet and would like the chance to be considered for next year’s version of Arrivals and Departures, the deadline is fast approaching: November 30! I got this reminder in my email inbox yesterday from the CRWROPPS-B list:


See your poem turned into a film and projected onto the 1,000-foot neoclassical facade of Saint Paul’s Union Depot in Motionpoems’ latest annual public art installation. Poems accepted on the theme of “Arrivals and Departures” through Nov 30. Broad interpretations of the theme encouraged. Poems accepted from all non-Minnesota U.S. residents (Minnesota poets will be invited to submit again in Year 4).

Entrants are urged to consider the theme of “Arrivals and Departures” in broad terms. Although this project celebrates the newly revitalized Depot, the Depot isn’t the project’s subject. It’s just the canvas upon which the poems will be experienced. Entrants should consider not what the Depot is, but what it represents, as a source of diversity, culture, commerce, influence, inspiration, and exploration. Also consider the Depot as an early manifestation of newer depots in modern life, which may include the International Space Station, for example, or other ways in which mankind is ‘departing’ or ‘arriving’ culturally, intellectually, spiritually, etc. Poems about trains are less encouraged. Poems published within the last five years will be considered in addition to previously unpublished poems.

Submissions can only be made online via Submittable at https://motionpoems.submittable.com/submit/34138. Submit one poem only; multiple submissions will disqualify you. The poem should be no more than 500 words. Translations are not eligible, but poems published within the last five years are eligible. Use the “bio” and “cover letter” fields to tell us who you are, how you learned about this project, and why you would like to be part of it.

Entry deadline is November 30, 2014. No entries will be accepted after the deadline.

All finalist poems will be presented to filmmakers, but only a handful will be developed into films. That handful of poems will be selected by participating filmmakers based on individual preference, as part of an open call to filmmakers in partnership with Independent Filmmaker Project New York. Motionpoems does not guarantee the number of films to be made. Remember: Not all finalist poems will be made into films.

To read the complete guidelines and submit: https://motionpoems.submittable.com/submit/34138

To read the Official Terms of Entry: http://www.motionpoems.com/a-and-d-2-terms/

For more about Arrivals and Departures Year 1: http://www.motionpoems.com/arrivals-departures-at-st-pauls-union-depot/

To learn more about Motionpoems and watch 5 seasons of motionpoems: http://www.motionpoems.com

In other Motionpoems news, there’s an interesting note on their About page regarding their next regular season of films: “Season 6 is a special collaboration with VIDA: WOMEN IN THE ARTS, designed to balance the Motionpoems ecosystem with more poetry by women.” I’ll be looking forward to that. VIDA is a good organization.

Motionpoems’ “Colossal 3D poetry film installation” prepares for first run, issues nation-wide call for entries for 2015

Most poets seem to limit their greatest bursts of creativity to their writing, but Minnesota-based poet and force of nature Todd Boss (check out his new website) seems to come up with ingenious ideas for public poetry projects almost once a year — and given his background as an arts administrator, he then makes them happen, too. He’s really committed to bringing poetry to the people. He of course co-founded Motionpoems, of which he is still Executive and Artistic Director. In 2012, he worked with Swedish visual artist Maja Spasova on a large-scale public art project in the Mississippi River, Project 35W, which included audio stations and a print supplement of the associated poems in the local newspaper. Then there’s this:


“Arrivals & Departures at Saint Paul’s Union Depot” has a page on the Motionpoems website. Let me paste in the first part of the announcement (minus some of the formatting):

A   L   L           A   B   O   A   R   D

F O R   A   M A J O R   M O T I O N P O E M S   P U B L I C   A R T   P R O J E C T 

“Arrivals & Departures at Saint Paul’s Union Depot”

C O M I N G    |     S T .   P A U L      |      O C T   1 0 – 1 1 ,   2 0 1 4

Motionpoems and public artist Todd Boss present “Arrivals & Departures at St Paul’s Union Depot,” a colossal 3D poetry film installation that will magically transform the facade of one of St Paul’s most impressive landmark buildings.

Follow #DepotPoems
for weather and late-breaking updates.

This is the first of an annual projection.

Click here to enter.

We selected a handful of original poems by Minnesotans (theme: “Arrivals & Departures”) from a statewide call for poems (CLOSED), then commissioned Minnesota film teams to turn finalist poems into short films to fit digitally mapped 3D templates of the building.

In Oct 2014, we’ll project the films onto the screen-filled facade of St Paul’s historic Union Depot to loop at 5-minute intervals like trains, with accompanying audio from lawn-area speakers, during the St Paul Art Crawl, October 10-12, 2014.

The artistic vision for this project is to celebrate Union Depot’s renaissance as a rail hub with an act of place-making that will reclaim the space in the hearts and minds of all who experience it.

Read the rest (including the 2014 winning poems by Brian Beatty, Robert Dougherty, Mike Rollin, and Linda Back McKay).

Todd Boss, meanwhile, isn’t resting on his laurels. Next spring, Minneapolis-Saint Paul residents will get to experience the Wee Cinema:


Todd Boss’ “Arrivals and Departures,” The Poetry Storehouse, and “12 Moons” featured at Connotation Press

Erica Goss‘ monthly column on videopoetry at Connotation Press, The Third Form, focuses this month on “three video poetry projects … that demonstrate how talent, collaboration and the DIY spirit continue to expand this art form.”

Viewers will see poetry films projected on the gigantic backdrop of St. Paul’s Union Depot train station. Todd Boss, poet, co-founder of Motionpoems and public artist, has embarked on an ambitious project called Arrivals and Departures. The historic Union Depot, saved from demolition and now the focus of a $243 million project, will get the video poetry treatment from Todd and his crew beginning in early October.


The Poetry Storehouse is Nic S.’s latest venture. Well-known for her vocal interpretations of poetry and for her innovations in the world of video poetry and poetry publishing via the nanopress, Nic said that “the idea came about through a couple of conversations I had about poetry, collaboration and influences.” One of those conversations, with poet and rabbi Rachel Barenblat, got Nic thinking about a place where people could contribute their poetry with the specific agreement that it be used in another artwork. The result was The Poetry Storehouse. Launched in October 2013, it’s already well-stocked and ready for remixing possibilities.


Finally, I have had the honor to be part of a team that includes Kathy McTavish, Nic S., and Swoon (Marc Neys). 12 Moons is based on twelve poems I wrote, one for every month of the year, with vocals from Nic, music from Kathy, and video plus concept and editing from Swoon. One by one, the team members added their parts: Nic made haunting, poignant recordings of each poem, to which Kathy added the soul-stirring music of her cello. Marc took those building blocks and added his special magic: combing through the archives of public access, vintage film to choose just the right scenes, plus adding his own film, he created twelve videos that explore one person’s life, month-by-month. I blogged about this in several posts at Savvy Verse and Wit.

Read the rest.

Moving Poems and Motionpoems profiled in Connotation Press

I was pleased and honored to have been interviewed by Erica Goss for her second column on videopoetry at Connotation Press, along with poet Todd Boss, the founder of Motionpoems. Todd and I do have some differences in perspective, but Erica highlights our areas of agreement — especially our interest in widening the audience for poetry.

It’s always useful to see one’s work through another’s eyes. What struck me in Erica’s description of Moving Poems was her quite reasonable analogy between author-made videopoetry and self-publshing, which had for some reason never occurred to me before.

Since the site focuses on poets and poetry, the videos Dave shows must include the poem’s text, whether spoken or as a visual element. This is a site for DIY, creative types, and therefore Dave features many poet-made videos. (Poets are well-known for self-publishing; Walt Whitman published the first edition of Leaves of Grass at his own expense, and gave away more copies than he sold.)

I guess I am so focused on the creative side of things, and so accustomed to looking at the web through a blogger’s eyes, that the act of uploading to Vimeo and YouTube just seems like a natural and necessary final step of making a video these days. I am of course aware that some poet-filmmakers market their work on DVDs, and so don’t upload more than a sample to video-sharing sites, but they’re the exception rather than the rule.

But this has me thinking, because I’ve always considered author-made videopoems the ideal to strive for, and I most admire those poets who have taught themselves filmmaking in a serious way (or were smart enough to take film in college). Is it possible that in a literary culture in which self-publication is significantly less prestigious than publication by others, that the poet-filmmakers I so admire are at a disadvantage?

Motionpoems at the AWP book fair

A brief interview with Todd Boss, poet and co-founder of Motionpoems — the most ambitious poetry animation project in the U.S. to date, on a par with Comma Press’ film division in the U.K.

Help Motionpoems animate some “Best American Poetry”

In case you missed the note to “Sea Salt” by David Motion on Monday (or the Kickstarter widget in the main site’s sidebar) let me repeat what I wrote there:

Motionpoems has some pretty exciting news: they’ve partnered with David Lehman and Scribner’s Best American Poetry 2011, and are lining up animators to produce videos for poems in the anthology. If this is the kind of thing you’d like to help support, please consider making a donation to their Kickstarter campaign. With 15 days to go, they’ve raised more than $10,000 in pledges toward the $15,000 needed. Click through for the details, including a video that tells the story of how they got started.

Here are Angella and Todd to tell their story and give their pitch:

Watch on Vimeo.

Please note that I am not connected with Motionpoems in any way other than that I like Angella and Todd and believe they are advancing poetry animation enormously in this country, comparable to, but more ambitious than, the efforts of Comma Press in northwest England. Of course, there is some enlightened self-interest at work here: I’m eager for more quality poetry videos! But I would also encourage other poetry video makers to consider following Angella and Todd’s example and get more aggressive about fundraising — and let me know if you do, so I can promote your efforts here.

Once again, here’s the link to help Motionpoems meet their $15,000 goal. The deadline is June 15.

Motionpoems fundraising campaign breaks $10,000 mark

I’ve included notes about the fundraising campaign for Motionpoems in several recent posts at the main site. The donation page is now reporting that they’ve raised $5,112 from 53 donors, exceeding their goal of $5000 — but why stop there? It’s great to see poets and artists working so hard to bring compelling videopoetry to the masses, and they deserve all the support we can give them. An article at mnartists.org tells the story of how Todd Boss and Angella Kassube teamed up in 2008.

(Update) Angela tells me via email that the GiveMN fundraiser will be done next week, and pointed out that they qualified for $5,000 in matching funds — “kind of amazing that we’ve had ZERO money for 2 years and suddenly we have $10,000” to support Motionpoems! And they’ve just been accepted into the Kickstarter fundraising program, as well.

Suddenly the future is looking very bright for professionally made American poetry films.

New “motionpoems” to be unveiled October 8 in Minneapolis

“Motionpoems” is the term preferred by filmmaker Angella Kassube and poet Todd Boss at motionpoems.com for what the rest of us variously call videopoems, film poems, cinepoetry, etc. Kassube and Boss are responsible for a number of quite lovely films illustrating not only Boss’s own poems, but a growing number of others’ as well. They’re helping to raise the bar for mainstream poetry animation in the U.S.

Click through to their website for a description of the upcoming screening event (which I can’t copy-and-paste from or directly link to because it’s a Flash-based site). The list of films to be screened looks tantalizing — poems by Jane Hirshfield, Terese Svoboda, Alicia Ostriker, Thomas Lux, and Robert Bly are among those featured. I hope we can expect to see them at motionpoems.com and on YouTube after their Minneapolis debut.

(Update) Angella Kassube provided some additional detail about the event in an email. She wrote:

The really groovy thing about our screening is it is actually a great discussion about poetry and interpreting poetry. Everyone talks about how their piece came together, the audience is engaged and they ask great questions and have great comments. It’s an incredible evening—we expect about 150 people to be there.

“It is a lot of work,” she added about the motionpoems project in general, “but Todd and I just keep going.” I hope anyone in the upper Midwest who can make this screening will turn out and support them.