~ Valerie LeBlanc ~

New Art Emerging: Notes from a Symposium on Videopoetry

Editors’ note: the symposium titled New Art Emerging: Two or Three Things One Should Know About Videopoetry took place on 5 November 2022 in Surrey, BC, Canada. It was convened by the renowned theorist of videopoetry, Tom Konyves, who also curated a related exhibition program, Poets with a Video Camera: Videopoetry 1980-2022. Valerie LeBlanc and Daniel H. Dugas were guest speakers at the symposium and kindly accepted our invitation to write an account to appear here at Moving Poems Magazine…

To start, instead of cutting the information down to fit, it might be easier to just start a new videopoetry blog. That is not a serious proposal, it is just that every videopoet holds the potential to write a book in a conversation and each videopoem is a complete story in itself. Writing a report from within is new for us and to begin, we admit that our comments must be somewhat biased.

The exhibition Poets with a Video Camera: Videopoetry 1980-2022 at the Surrey Art Gallery formed the base for the Symposium, as well as providing the impetus for Poems by Poetry Filmmakers, readings at Vancouver’s People’s Co-op Bookstore that were organized by Fiona Tinwei Lam, Vancouver’s Poet Laureate, 2022-2024 and the Symposium’s keynote speaker, Sarah Tremlett.

On Friday night, November 4, a major windstorm blew through the Lower Mainland with the City of Surrey being one of the hardest hit in the area. Large trees, weakened by months of drought, had been toppled, and on Saturday morning scores of BC Hydro customers were affected. Surrey was at the epicenter of the storm and the Gallery was without power but not powerless. Thanks to the quick action of Jordan Strom, Surrey Art Gallery’s Curator of Exhibitions and Collections, Rhys Edwards, Assistant Curator, and Zoe Yang, Curatorial Assistant, the symposium was efficiently moved to the Surrey Public Library, a stunning building in the City Centre. The schedule had to be retooled into a shorter program, but the room was packed and ready to see all the facets of this videopoetic diamond.

The symposium audience

To contextualize the place of the smposium it might be useful to have some information about the exhibition. From the gallery’s website:

Poets with a Video Camera presents the largest retrospective of videopoetry in Canada to date. The exhibition features over twenty-five works by some of the world’s leading practitioners. It is organized around five categories of videopoetry: kinetic text, visual text, sound text, performance, cin(e)poetry.

The title is a reference to Dziga Vertov’s 1929 film Man with a Movie Camera that has become iconic in experimental film discussions in advocating for a complete separation between the language of theatre and literature. Similarly, Konyves argues for videopoetry to be thought of as outside of poetry and video art. Instead, Konyves states that it is a form that is in its “early days . . . still in a process of redefining poetry for future generations.” This exhibition shows the humorous next to the serious, the experimental alongside the genre bending, the ironic with the sincere, and the timely together with the timeless expressions of this new form.

Jordan Strom opened the Symposium and introduced Guest Curator, Tom Konyves.

Tom Konyves

Tom stated his intention to provoke dialogue and to challenge perspectives. While developing a course in visual poetry for the University of the Fraser Valley, Abbotsford (2006), he had come to realize that he needed more sources for videopoetry than his own work. After contacting Heather Haley, she sent him 76 examples. From there, he came up with a definition of videopoetry that proposed a triptych of text, image, and sound in a poetic juxtaposition. He was able to further clarify his research findings in Buenos Aires when he met Argentinian artist Fernando García Delgado. Finally, Tom arrived at the idea that the role of the videopoet was that of juggler, visual artist, filmmaker, sound artist, and poet. He concluded that, within that mix, the videopoem as an art object, poetic experience, and metaphor, is created.

Sarah Tremlett

UK-based videopoet Sarah Tremlett delivered the symposium’s keynote speech in which she spoke about her definitive volume The Poetics of Poetry Film, as well as the importance of sound and subjectivity in an artist’s experimental audiovisual journey. Through her own work, as well as her contributions to the examination of poetry film, film poetry, and videopoetry, Sarah occupies a central place in the videopoetry world. While addressing the symposium, she also introduced her current work: research into a complex family history, spanning several centuries.

Heather Haley and Kurt Heintz spoke of their individual activities and collaborations in what is recognized as their history in the world of videopoetry. Their presentation, titled Entangled Threads: How One Canadian and One American Poet Took on Technology and Charted a Genre, proposed an engaging exchange on the shared commonality of early events linking not only poets in different geographic locations, but also text/voice to technologies. Among these commonalities was the early 1990’s Telepoetics project, a series of events using videophones to connect poets. As noted by Heather Haley on her website: “[…] before Skype or Zoom poets were using videophones to connect, to exchange verse, despite a myriad of limitations and challenges. […]”

Kurt Heintz and Heather Haley
Adeena Karasick

Poet, performer, essayist, media artist, professor, thinker Adeena Karasick, and artist-programmer, visual poet and essayist Jim Andrews delivered a high-powered and mesmerizing performance of Checking In, a work about our insatiable appetite for information. Jim’s coding meshed seamlessly with Adeena’s texts and her high-level acrobatics of spoken word and movement. Through the fusing of voice, text, and image, Jim’s video, and Adeena’s recitations/movements, the two delivered a performance that never missed a beat!

Founder and Director of the VideoBardo Festival, Javier Robledo (in absentia), planted himself onto a sofa and placed a bird cage on his head to present a playful performance/poetry mix. Reminiscent of early 20th-century Dada performances, he closed the performance when he blew a whistle that mimicked a caged bird. In his video presentation, and speaking about his work P-O-E-S-I-A, Javier spoke about the importance of the performative gesture and its repercussions in articulating meanings.

Javier Robledo
Matt Mullins

As Matt Mullins was also in absentia from the symposium, Tom provided an introduction to his work in the exhibition, as well as Matt’s own pre-recorded intervention about his creative process and the decisions made in the making of the three videos: Our Bodies (A Sinner’s Prayer), 2012; Semi Automatic Pantoum, a collaboration between Mullins and the Poetic Justice League of Chicago, 2019; and america, (i wanted to make you something beautiful but i failed), 2022.

When we spoke with Annie Frazier Henry a few days following the Symposium, she felt energized by taking part in the event. She is a writer with roots in theatre, music and film. In her presentation, she mentioned the influence that E. Pauline Johnson had on her growth. She generously expressed that the warm and safe space created by the meeting was about all of us. Grounded in her perspective, Annie talked about encouragement and relevancy. The words from her 1995 poem Visions resonate forward to the contemporary platform of videopoetry:

I don’t want to see stars in my eyes
I want to see stars in the sky,
Where they belong

When you enter a room
There’s invisible war paint on your face
And it looks good

Annie Frazier Henry

Fiona Tinwei Lam, the Vancouver Poet Laureate (2022-2024), presented The Plasticity of Poetry, a series of videopoems based on the dilemma of plastic pollution and its dizzying accumulation. Many of Fiona’s works are collaborative endeavours with animators. She also screened the work Neighborhood by Pamela Falkenberg and Jack Cochran which they state “is a look at modern life in the suburbs as the world courts climate disaster.” Neighborhood juxtaposes a poem by Fiona over live-action and animated scenes of suburbia. At the root of all of these works resides a deep desire to make a difference in the world.

Fiona Tinwei Lam

As for us, we presented Rust Never Sleeps: Nuances in Collaborative Creation, a talk on collaborations and the diverse ways that we have collaborated while continuing to each work on our own individual projects. Collaboration begins with a discussion, and that exchange frames the outcome of any project. It is a shared authorship and to work in such a way, one must be ready to let go of preconceived ideas and to be ready for whatever might arise.

Valerie LeBlanc and Daniel H. Dugas


To accommodate the time frame for the venue afforded by the library, the Q&A was pushed to the end of the day. One member of the audience, Surrey-based poet Brian Mohr, has a story worth mentioning. When he showed up at the gallery to see the exhibition on Saturday morning after the storm, he was redirected to the library. He knew about the exhibition but not about the symposium. Brian, who is in the process of making his first videopoem, went with the flow and ended up participating in the event. He had a question for the panel about using video games as source locations for videopoetry. Several presenters addressed his question and according to discussions we had with him later, the symposium gathering was of utmost importance to his development as a videopoet.

Just as Jordan Strom finished his closing remarks, a loudspeaker announcement resonated through the building: “The library will be closing in five minutes!” Videopoetry is all about timing, and so was the conclusion of the symposium.

A symposium is designed to bring together, a group of people with common interests. When they come away from the meeting, they should have learned something new, made new connections, and should have possibly established the grounds for future collaborations. The Surrey Symposium made visible a complex web of relations and affinities between videopoets. It revealed the contour of a community of artists/poets, and affirmed that we are not isolated, that we are not living in a vacuum; that we have a place in the world. This sentiment was echoed in a comment that Kurt Heintz wrote on an email thread after the Symposium:

While I have long been aware that I’m not the only person doing what I do, I’ve often felt quite solitary. And so, one of the biggest takeaways for me is simply having experienced a critical mass of minds, if only for a weekend. Certainly, we’re all very different people with different perspectives on the art we make and/or study. Our critical languages often differ. And we’re far-flung; the exhibit plainly speaks to the international origins for poetry in cinematic form. And yet, that very mix is what actually pointed to a body politic.

This symposium answered some questions surrounding the creation of videopoetry. It also made it clear that videopoetry operates on many different levels of consciousness. The event accomplished its mission, and if there might be an idea to improve upon the gatherings, it might be to increase the meeting to a full day, which would allow more time for Q&A as well as informal discussions. A dream would be to have a bi-annual videopoetry symposium.

From the art gallery to the library, this symposium managed to bridge two of the fundamental sites of videopoetry: visuals and words. The voices that we heard on that afternoon were the third element — a perfect poetic juxtaposition.

Seated left to right: Adeena Karasick, Fiona Tinwei Lam, Jim Andrews, Annie Frazier Henry, Jordan Strom
Second row: Kurt Heintz, Sarah Tremlett, Heather Haley, Valerie LeBlanc, Daniel H. Dugas, Tom Konyves

Photos: Pardeep Singh

Recent talks on filmpoetry and videopoetry: Alan Fentiman, Tony Williams, Ross Sutherland, Valerie LeBlanc and Daniel Dugas

Terra Incognita: Mapping the Filmpoem is a beautifully shot conversation between filmmaker Alan Fentiman and poet Tony Williams. Two years ago, they collaborated on a documentary about the link between walking and poetic inspiration called Roam to Write, which is also very worth watching. As for Terra Incognita,

This film paper was shown at the “Topographies: places to find something” conference at Bristol University on 15th May 2015.

This is the beginning of an ongoing discussion. We would welcome any comments or suggestions for other film poems to look at. [link added]


And here’s a very different talk: Ross Sutherland‘s Thirty Poems / Thirty Videos: End of Residency wrap-up for The Poetry School. I’ve been sharing some of those videos at the main site, but you can watch them all in chronological order at the Poetry School blog or in reverse chronological order at Sutherland’s Tumblr.

It’s instructive to compare these two videos. Right away, the difference in production values should clue us in to the gulf that separates these two aesthetic philosophies. Fentiman is a trained filmmaker, as shown by the care taken even to coordinate their wardrobe with the background, while Sutherland’s vlog-style video seems relatively unpremeditated and completely unedited, with the annoying result that the sound and picture get badly out of sync by the end of it. But Sutherland’s background as a maker of poetry videos is in literal videotape:

So in some respects, the aesthetic differences between these two talks, both in their style and in their substance, can be ascribed to the distinction between poetry film and videopoetry often drawn by Tom Konyves, for example in his recent essay, “Redefining poetry in the age of the screen“:

The way I see it, the writer who uses “poetry film” automatically designates the work as more film than poetry. I myself began to create what I called “videopoems” when I was more a poet than a video artist, so I naturally considered these works as “poetry”.

However, it’s not quite that simple, because none of these gentlemen seems quite ready to think of a film or a video as a poem per se; some of Sutherland’s videos are mere illustrations of pre-existing texts, while Fentiman and Williams speak favorably of Alastair Cook’s Filmpoem model, which goes part-way toward Konyves in its embrace of the centrality of poetic juxtaposition of images and text. But most interesting of all, I think, is the fact that the talks converge in emphasizing the positive results that can come from working ekphrastically: starting with film footage or found video and writing a text in response. So more than anything, I think, the differences here reflect a difference in venue and audience. Sutherland is making web videos for a younger audience weaned on YouTube remixes, vlogging, and live performance poetry, while Fentiman and Williams are oriented toward the film world with its focus on art houses and festivals, and perhaps share a preference for more mainstream, page-poetry.

Incidentally, for those who’d like to see Sutherland in person, there are still tickets available for the second run of his Standby For Tape Back-Up performance at London’s Soho Theatre, July 6-11.

Bridging the gap between these two talks is a third pair of talks given by Valerie LeBlanc and Daniel Dugas in late April at the Galerie Sans Nom in Moncton, New Brunswick, as part of the Text(e) Image Beat videopoetry exhibition. These however are available not in video form but as a PDF. LeBlanc alludes to the influence of yet another audience and medium: television.

Creators are now presenting their texts visually and / or performing their poems. Many have realized that messages can be effectively conveyed using the multimodal character of video poetry. Similarly to advertisements created for marketing campaigns, these works are characteristically short, less than 5 minutes in duration. You have probably all seen the new ads that read like poetry, drawing you into new lifestyles through product placement. Picture the mood and a message without the bottom line and you might be closer to the concept of video poetry.

She goes on to say:

While many of the historical examples of text(e) / image / beat used in combination do come from advertising / product placement / war propaganda, the tools and techniques out there for relaying messages have become highly accessible for artist use in this new century. In the late 1990’s when access to digital tools opened up, artists stepped in to embrace the possibilities for expanding their use. While New Media currently tends to imply experimental computer programming, video use in storytelling continues to hold interest.

Whether working with images, text and sound or all three, these media tools offer the possibility of bringing something that has escaped from the marketing machine we are all rolling with, and sometimes under. It is the possibility for impacting an internal change through a product that is not defined by its bottom line. It might be through ideas embedded in a world apart from imagined clichés. It might be an opportunity to change the pace, which at times might be useful for resetting the clock.

Do read the whole thing. Brief as it is, her talk opens up new avenues for thinking about videopoetry, at least for me.

As for Dugas’ talk, “DONNER UN SENS AU MONDE ENTIER,” I don’t know French, so I’m not entirely sure what he said, but I gather from Google Translate that there’s some emphasis on the influence of video art, the relationship with political and environmental activism, and the central role of the digital revolution. His conclusion:

Lorsque j’ai commencé à écrire de la poésie, j’ai aussi commencé à expérimenter avec le super-8, créant des bandes sonores en direct pour mes films. Le mélange du texte, de l’image et de la musique semblait une opération naturelle, mais aussi magique. Il ne s’agissait pas seulement d’un va-et-vient entre le texte, l’image et le son : la nouvelle entité devenait une traverse pour découvrir quelque chose de nouveau. Nous savons maintenant que l’espace entre les disciplines est fragile, que les murs sont maintenant pénétrables et nous sommes reconnaissants pour cette évolution des choses. Nous pouvons enfin voyager d’un genre à un autre pour essayer de donner un sens au monde entier.

[When I began to write poetry, I also started to experiment with super-8, creating soundtracks live for my films. The mixture of text, image and music seemed a natural process, but also magical. It was not just a back-and-forth between text, image and sound: the new entity became a crossbar for discovering something new. We know now that the space between disciplines is fragile, the walls are now penetrable, and we are thankful for this evolution of things. We can finally travel from one genre to another to try to make sense of the world as a whole.]

News roundup: Text(e) Image Beat exhibition, “Send and Receive” videos, Facebook video embedding and more

Text(e) Image Beat banner

The videopoetry exhibition Text(e) Image Beat, curated by Valerie LeBlanc and Daniel H. Dugas, is now showing at the Galerie Sans Nom in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. It runs through May 1.

With: Heid E. Erdrich + R. Vincent Moniz, Jr + Jonathan Thunder; Hannah Black; Matt Mullins; Martha Cooley; John D. Scott; Tom Konyves; Swoon (AKA Marc Neys) + Howie Good; Michel Félix Lemieux; Kevin Barrington + Bruce Ryder; Maryse Arseneault; Fernando Lazzari; Matthew Hayes + Sasha Patterson + Lee Rosevere.


The call for Text(e) / Image / Beat did not specify particular themes. Through the necessity of paring down the choices and assembling a flow of works that complemented and gave space to each other, we became aware of recurrent elements. In spite of the fact that the videos originate from many distinct locations, ideas of awaiting / finding miracles and mysteries of living, are frequent. Each work exhibits innovation and imagination, calling upon a wide range of skills to layer meaning. Slam poetry, rants, softly spoken words, hand written notes, and remixes are all used to articulate.

Click through to read the rest of the detailed and annotated curators’ commentary.


I discovered this week that videos of presentations from the “Send and Receive – Poetry, Film and Technology in the 21st Century” conference at FACT in Liverpool have been posted to the web at artplayer.tv. The videos are embeddable, but with code that will probably not show up in feeds or email, so I will just link to the presentations here. Check out presentations by: Suzie Hanna; Zata Kitowski; Marco Bertamini; Deryn Rees-Jones; Jason Nelson; George Szirtes; Judith Palmer; and Roger McKinley (the host). They’re all worth your time, but I found Rees-Jones’ talk to be especially thought-provoking. (See also the earlier report at Moving Poems Magazine: “Conference on poetry, film and technology at FACT: three views.”)


News emerged this week from Facebook’s annual developer conference, F8, that Facebook videos will soon be embeddable. Venturebeat reports.

A lot of poetry videos, especially of the more rough-and-ready sort (e.g. self-recorded recitations), are only uploaded to Facebook, so it will be helpful to have the freedom to share them on sites like this one. But Facebook launching a proper video hosting platform isn’t necessarily something I welcome, given the corporation’s poor track record with privacy and its ambition to swallow up the independent web, which Facebook succeeds in reproducing about as well as the Mall of America reproduces an agora.


More details are emerging about Media Poetry Studio, the multimedia poetry summer camp for girls in Silicon Valley. The website now lists the time and location (July 20-31 at Edwin Markham House in San Jose’s History Park at Kelley Park, home of Poetry Center San Jose). And a March 27 article in the San Jose State University newspaper Spartan Daily interviews camp organizers Erica Goss and David Perez:

In terms of tuition, Goss said the program is “pretty reasonable,” costing $799 for two weeks.

The three poet laureates started planning the camp last spring.

“We had to secure funding, we had to write grants, we had to come up with curriculum—which we’re still working on—we had to find a place to do it and a fiscal sponsor since we’re not a nonprofit,” Goss said. “There’s lots of work and we’ll be doing it right up until the day it starts.”

Goss said they want to be able to give each student individualized attention so there is room for about 20 young women.

The Indiegogo campaign is now 62% funded, with $3,075 raised toward a $5,000 goal.


And finally, speaking of Erica Goss, she has an essay in The Pedestal Magazine about her experience at the 7th ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival last October.

Call for submissions: Text(e) Image Beat exhibition at Galerie Sans Nom

(The following press release is from Annie France Noël, co-director of the GSN.)

GSN logoThe Galerie Sans Nom (GSN) in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, is organizing a screening of videopoetry with the curators Daniel Dugas and Valerie LeBlanc. The exhibition will be presented from March 20 – May 1, 2015.

The work should be screen-based poems where the text, image and sound intermingle. The maximum duration of the work cannot exceed 5 minutes and must have been realized after January 2013. The works must be in either French or English. If the language in the video poem is other than French or English, the artist is required to submit a version that is subtitled in French or English. All video poems must be received by the December 15 deadline through a file hosting service (Dropbox) or through Vimeo. A short artist bio and synopsis of the video poem must accompany each submission.

No entry fee, CARFAC rates will be paid.

Deadline: December 15th, 2014

Submissions must include:

  • Director’s name
  • Address
  • Email
  • Duration
  • Year
  • Format
  • Link (Vimeo / Dropbox)
  • Previous screenings
  • Synopsis
  • Bio
  • Artist portrait (JPEG, 300 DPI)
  • Still image of video (JPEG, 300 DPI)

Submit as a WORD .doc attachment to: videopoesieGSN@gmail.com