I’m pleased to have a piece in the June 2019 issue of the online journal Haibun Today, selected by Melissa Allen—the first I’ve appeared in HT. It’s based on an incident that happened 15 years ago. Which makes me think I really ought to be a bit more assiduous in editing my old drafts for publication… Anyway, go read “At the Museum” (and click through to the rest of the issue).
Spring may not quite be over yet in Pennsylvania, but it is for me, since I’ve just made my annual eastern migration across the Atlantic to spend the summer and much of the fall with my partner Rachel in the UK. And I’d accumulated 24 spring-themed videohaiku—two more videos than in Winter Trees—so it was time to see whether they worked as a sequence, and I’ve decided that they do. Voilà: Pennsylvania Spring.
As I noted on Via Negativa just now, all but one of the videos was shot on an iPhone without any advance planning, just capturing things of visual interest and letting them prompt haiku a day or more later. The exception, “coal country spring”, uses old home movie footage that came to me in a similar serendipitous fashion: via @HomeMoviesBot on Twitter. As with Winter Trees, I feel that these are best experienced as they unfold, scroll-like, in the video series (which Vimeo now calls a showcase—previously album—and YouTube calls a playlist), in part because the visuals and audio are meant to add an extra dimension to the haiku, as with any videopoem. I am composing as much with video editing software as with the pen, and some of the haiku fall a little flat on the page. But I do include a transcription for the visually impaired. Go read/watch.
I’m very pleased to have my Winter Trees videohaiku sequence included in the UK-based journal Poetry Film Live, accompanied by a generous review from my friend Marie Craven. It’s the sort of highly personal reaction I really appreciate, and from a poetry filmmaker whose work I admire. She writes about her favorite videos and why they work for her, and also zeroes in on the series’ weakest point: the text-on-screen font and effect choices. She concludes:
Overall, I found Dave’s collection a rewarding experience. I recommend it to anyone interested in poet-made videos, or in smaller, subtler and more personal approaches to the genre.
Three videos from Winter Trees in HaikuLife Festival
It’s been really gratifying to have people responding warmly to Winter Trees on Twitter and elsewhere. I sent along the link to the Haiku Foundation website for possible inclusion in their extensive bibliography of haiku-related publications, and got back a request to submit three of the videos for their 5th annual online HaikuLife Haiku Film Festival, along with some encouraging words about the sequence from Jim Kacian, whose own haiku I deeply admire.
Does this mean I’m a big poet now?
If you’re in the UK, mark your calendar for the Big Poetry Weekend, formerly known as the Swindon Poetry Festival, to be held in Swindon, UK at the Richard Jeffries Museum, October 3-7. Rather a thrill to see my ugly mug on the front page surrounded by a bunch of real poets. I’m helping to judge a film poetry competition alongside Lucy English, and will be part of a panel discussion on poetry film with her and Helen Dewbery, following a presentation by Lucy of her fantastic Book of Hours collaborative project, and followed by the awards presentation and screening. That’s all happening on Friday evening, October 4. Here’s the full programme.
If you’d like to enter the competition, by the way, there’s still time. The deadline is July 12th. Here are the guidelines.
In West Virginia
Many years ago, I was stranded in West Virginia for several days when my brother’s car broke down, and instead of going camping in the Monongahela National Forest, we got to explore the strip mall and downtown of scenic Summersville, a town famous for its speed trap and its old-time music scene. A blog post followed, and eventually a prose poem which mutated into a haibun. Now it’s been adapted into a film by Pamela Falkenberg and Jack Cochran of Outlier Moving Pictures. In West Virginia isn’t available on the open web yet because it’s still making the film festival rounds, and some festivals require films to be web virgins. But I’m pleased to report that it’s a lovely film that makes unique use of postcard-like images, and that it was selected for screening in April at the Newlyn International Short Film Festival in Cornwall.
Speaking of Newlyn: such is my neglect of this poor blog that I forgot to mention I had a video of my own screened there in 2018, Ornithology. A birder struggling through quicksand becomes a metaphor for our mostly fruitless efforts at transcendence:
Bloodshot Cartography at Cadence Video Poetry Festival
I was pleased to have a videopoem I made for a poem by Sarah J Sloat, Bloodshot Cartography, included in a couple of events in the month-long Cadence Video Poetry Festival held at Seattle’s Northwest Film Forum in April. It didn’t qualify for the main screening, but apparently they got a deluge of submissions this year… possibly because I promoted them on Moving Poems. D’oh! Regardless, it was great to be able to support such a fantastic new videopoetry festival. I’m always happy to submit films or manuscripts for a reasonable fee to organizations I believe in.
Anyway, the video combines Sarah’s evocation of travel in the tropics with a beautifully decayed old home movie, in a sort of lazy person’s homage to Stan Brakhage. The soundtrack is courtesy of the bird-sound library xeno-canto, from recordist Rodrigo Dela Rosa in the Atlantic rainforest of Brazil. The footage has been lightly edited from a single movie at the International Institute for the Conservation, Archiving and Distribution of Other People’s Memories (IICADOM):
Taking the Waters goes on tour with Poetry + Video program
A final bit of videopoetry news that I’m excited about brings us back to my Australian film-maker friend Marie Craven, who has put together an hour-long touring program of videopoems from around the world called simply Poetry + Video, and was kind enough to include an old collaboration I did with filmmaker and composer Marc Neys, with my partner Rachel Rawlins in the soundtrack: Taking the Waters. Here’s the very complete description on the website, and here’s the full program. If you’re a teacher, run a poetry reading series, or coordinate a film series in your community, get in touch with Marie — “The program is designed to be highly portable, and easily obtainable on request to screening spaces in any location. It is available to cultural organisations internationally during 2019-20.”
The world premiere screening was on May 4th in Murwillumbah, Australia, and two further screenings are on the schedule so far, one in Kathmandu and another in Muncie, Indiana.
Single-author videopoetry collections are a relative rarity, but I’ve been inspired by such stand-out examples as the multi-filmmaker Book of Hours collaborative poetry film project coordinated by poet Lucy English, and the Twelve Moons collaboration between poet Erica Goss and filmmaker-composer Marc Neys. While my own approach to videopoetry is a bit more basic than most of the filmmakers in these projects, the connection of both anthologies to the changing seasons definitely helped shape how I envisioned my own, inaugural collection, a chapbook-length sequence of 22 videohaiku called Winter Trees.
The link takes you to a new, dedicated page on this site, accessible via a drop-down from the main Videopoetry tab in the navigation menu. I also posted process notes at Via Negativa. As I remarked when I shared the link on Twitter, videopoetry collections are essentially unpublishable, so I saw no reason not to simply release this myself. Eventually I’ll probably combine all 22 videos into one, 20-minute film, but for now, I think the embedded Vimeo album (or YouTube playlist) provides a viewing experience that serves the collection pretty well.
Seasonality is of course a key feature in the haiku tradition; most classic haiku/hokku anthologies have been organized by season since the 17th century. Proper linked verse sequences, on the other hand, take a montage approach, with ever-shifting times, settings, and moods, and reproducing that experience in a videopoem sequence is a challenge I don’t feel I’m quite up to yet (and which in any case might work better as multi-author compositions).
But I do feel that haiku are especially well suited to the videopoetry medium. Haiku and videopoetry both rely heavily on the juxtaposition of images for their effect. Further, the modern haiku master Paul Miller (AKA paul m.) writes, “Ogiwara Seisensui is reported to have described haiku as a circle: one half to be completed by the poet, the other half by the reader.” Which reminds of something the leading theorist of videopoetry, Tom Konyves, has written:
What is specific to a hybrid form like videopoetry is not what is specific to its elements… text, image and sound tend to arrive complete-in-themselves, self-sufficient, if you will. For the hybrid form, the specificity, I would suggest, is in the collaborative properties (a more accurate term may be synergistic properties) of the individual elements. In other words, not all texts (a good example would be most previously published poems), not all images (obviously) or soundtracks embody collaborative or synergistic potential. This collaborative property implies an incompleteness, indicating the presence of accommodating spaces in each of the elements. [emphasis added]
A further argument for marrying haiku and videopoetry is the long history of combining images and haiku: haiga, a genre which has been exported to the West as well. See the haiga gallery at Wales Haiku Journal (scroll down) for some particularly inspired modern examples.
But most important, to me, is the way that the video/film medium can give haiku what they often lack on the page: necessary time and space. It’s not unusual for printed collections to isolate just one or two haiku on a page, surrounding them with white space in an effort to slow the reader down. It’s been said that haiku are the perfect form of poetry for our distracted, sound-bite-dominated society, but actually I feel the opposite is true. Even when I am away from all digital distractions, reading haiku alone on the front porch of my home in the woods, I still often have to keep admonishing myself to read more slowly. How slowly? Maybe something like half a minute to a minute per haiku… about the length of a short video.
Anyway. Do go watch Winter Trees.
Human/Kind is shaping up to be a really interesting publication, focused on at least two things that really interest me: haiku and related forms, and found poetry. I also like that it provides both PDF and web options, and the editors seem really savvy about social media promotion.
Finally, I was interviewed about Moving Poems in Quail Bell Magazine last week. Here’s a snippet:
The American poetry business model, such as it is, foregrounds single-author print publications to the virtual exclusion of anything else. When Beyonce’s Lemonade came out, I sort of thought that maybe some prominent poets or poetry publishers would think about releasing video albums, too, but so far that hasn’t happened. But that’s the kind of future I’d like to see: one in which poets feel free to (self-)publish in any and all media, depending on the needs of the product, and one in which poets, filmmakers and musicians regularly get together to collaborate. We might or might not reach larger audiences that way. But I’m here to tell you, it’s a hell of lot less lonely than the poet-in-a-garret model. And it’s so much fun!
As regular readers of Via Negativa know, I’ve been making erasure poems from the online Diary of Samuel Pepys since January 1, 2013, and though I’m currently almost a week behind, I’ve yet to miss an entry. (What’s an erasure poem? Think of it as a poem sculpted from, or discovered within, someone else’s text: one can only use words or parts of words as they appear in the original, and in the order they appear there.)
Pepys himself rarely missed a day in his diary, so in six years this project has generated rather a lot of poetry. Granted, it hasn’t all been brilliant, and I do it as much for the process as for the product. Has it made me a better poet? I believe it has. It’s certainly taught me humility and persistence, and I think I’ve become a more nimble writer of micropoetry as well. But I’ve never regarded the project as a way to generate traditionally publishable work. So starting in 2017, I got the idea of compiling my daily erasures into a single document, which I could then convert into a PDF and release at the end of the year for anyone in search of something a little different to read. So here are the download links:
After the conclusion of the nine-and-a-half-year diary, I hope to go back and compile the first four years into PDFs as well — if I’m not completely burnt out by then.
Haibun is a mix of lyrical prose and haiku, and in recent years I’ve written quite a number of examples, but made little effort to send them out until last fall. That bore fruit this week with the appearance of “Flag Country” in the January 2019 (vol 14 no 4) issue of Contemporary Haibun Online, and “World Bank” in Issue 1.1 of HumanKind, a “journal of topical & contemporary Japanese short forms & art.” That focus on topical content makes HumanKind a particularly good fit for the sort of haibun I’ve been writing, and I like their openness to experimental work, as well. Which is not to say I don’t also appreciate the more traditional CHO; in fact, it’s a real pleasure to place work in a magazine I’ve been regularly reading for so long.
Both haibun are from my manuscript Failed State, which I’ve also been privately circulating to filmmaker and musician friends interested in creative collaborations. I should have some announcements on that front fairly soon.
If you’ve stopped by within the past week, you might’ve noticed the top menu has become a bit shorter: the brewing section is gone! I decided it was well past time to give my homebrew posts and pages their own home: Herbal Brewing. And since my partner has an actual social life and I do not, I’ve had a number of free evenings in which to do the work.
Taglined “experimental beers with a botanical twist,” Herbal Brewing focuses on the aspect of my brewing practice that I feel has the most potential interest to other brewers. The move was motivated by my desire to make DaveBonta.com more focused on my writing and videopoetry, but I was also galvanized by my discovery that serious brewers use a data description standard called BeerXML that allows their recipes to be shared between different software systems, so I’ve started converting my recipes into it and embedding them in posts with a handy WordPress plugin designed for just that purpose. (Yes, there’s a high level of overlap between beer nerds and computer nerds.) You know me: I’m all about open source and open content.
There’s some more work to do on the site, but the basic architecture is complete, including a front-page index of herbs and spices and some descriptive text at the top of each ingredient archive page.
I’ve long wanted to make a site like this, partly for my own use as a transatlantic homebrewer — digitizing more of my recipes saves me the trouble of carrying the paper hard copies back and forth. Plus my recipes folder is absolutely chaotic, and I can barely read my own writing sometimes.
Ironically, perhaps, this separation of my brewing and writing-related content has led me to finally start treating my recipes in the same computer-forward way I treat everything else I write. It’s as if the current tagline for this re-focused author blog, “digital poet,” has a kind of prescriptive force.
I’ve been reading and writing a lot of haiku and haibun in recent months, so I was pleased to place haiku in two very different online magazines. Wales Haiku Journal accepted one of my stranger pieces for its Autumn 2018 issue:
the “tear-drop-shaped microconidia”
of my jock itch
It was great to be in such good company. (Helen Buckingham, Wally Swist, Chen-ou Liu…)
And tiny words accepted two of my personal favorites for its Issue 18.2 which is still unfolding at the rate of a haiku a day—one of the reasons I like that magazine so much. Its editors have always embraced the web’s unique features such as easy serialization and comment threads, where readers are encouraged to respond to haiku with haiku of their own. This seems like such a natural fit for the conviviality of haiku culture, which has foregrounded group composition and collaboration since the 17th century.
I’ve been enjoying the famed translator Hiroaki Sato’s new essay collection, On Haiku, but I continue to find that his insistence on translating traditional hokku and haiku as one-line poems in English, while sometimes appropriate, fails to acknowledge the importance of line breaks in slowing modern readers down and drawing attention to the possibility of multiple readings. I fancy that the second of my haiku in tiny words is a good illustration of this:
we take turns touching
the electric fence
Last year around this time, I was honored to be asked to contribute the closing piece to a unique film poetry project conceived and directed by UK poet Chaucer Cameron, Wild Whispers. Although it was a little intimidating to be part of a line-up that included some truly brilliant filmmakers and poets, I stuck with what I knew, minimalism and erasure poetry. Erasure seemed like an appropriate tool, since the project was all about translation and textual mutability.
Wild Whispers is an international film poetry project that started with one poem and led to 15 versions in 12 languages and 12 poetry films.
The films, in different languages, were all ‘whispered’ from the previous one. The project traveled from England to India, Australia, Taiwan, France, South Africa, the Netherlands, Sweden, Wales and the USA, creating poetry films in English, Malayalam, Chinese, French, Afrikaans, Dutch, American Sign Language, Navajo, Spanish, and Welsh.
The call-out to poets, translators and poetry filmmakers to be involved in Wild Whispers has resulted in something quite moving and extraordinary.
The film sequence debuted at the Swindon Poetry Festival in October, where attendees were furnished with a chapbook containing texts, bios, and artist statements. I didn’t want to post about the project until most of the films were up on the web. Read about how it started, then watch the films. (Here’s mine.)
In other videopoetry news, Marie Craven’s adaptation of my CIA erasure haibun, Human Resources, will be included in a curated program at Filmhuis Cavia in Amsterdam on December 16, programmed by Gwendolyn Audrey Foster. Filmhuis Cavia, according to its Twitter profile, was “founded in 1983 by a squatters movement” and “brings you counterculture cinema and showcases films you aren’t likely to see anywhere else.” Marie wrote, “I am really pleased that the video will be screened in such a context, in a program called ‘Crawling Through the Wreckage’, about artists responding to the trauma of the 21st century.” It does sound pretty awesome:
An evening of Surrealism, animation, political videoart, and handmade experimental short films (often incorporating archival materials) made in response to turn of the century trauma and shock! Highlighting punk, no budget, eco/feminist, lgbtq+, post-structuralist, hand-painted, hand-processed, etched and scratched films, agit-prop, personal films; détournements, and 3D animation; from Dadaism to one-of–a-kind surrealist dream cine-poems.
Featuring imploding blasts of eye-opening film/video art by international artists including Kasumi, Francesca Fini, Marie Craven, Gina Kamentsky, Indecline, Rhayne Vermette, Bill Domonkos, Jon Behrens, Sylvia Toy, Larry Wang, Jennifer Sharpe, Beth Holmes, Janie Geiser, Karissa Hahn, Wheeler Winston Dixon, Christina Raia, Charles Pieper, Sarah Brown, Donna Kuhn, Kim Balouch, Edward Ramsay-Morin, Eduardo Cuadrado, Isabel Chiara, Marco Coraggio and more.
Finally, I guess I should mention that my video adaptation of César Vallejo’s poem “Piedra negra sobre una piedra blanca,” made with the help of my friends Jean Morris, Natalie d’Arbeloff and Eduardo Yagüe, will be included in a screening of poetry films at the third annual Southern California Poetry Festival on November 17th, alongside proper poetry films from the likes of Motionpoems and Blank Verse Films. If you’re able to get to Venice, California this weekend, I’d love to hear how the screening goes. (Here’s the schedule.)