Introducing my first videopoetry collection: Winter Trees

still from the video "winter trees"

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.

New publications and an interview

screenshot of Quail Bell Magazine

I’m delighted to have another haibun in Human/Kind Journal: “Polling Places” appears in Issue 1.2. Both my publications there to date are gathered on a separate author page.

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.

Another journal with both web and PDF/print versions, the Weimar-based PoetryFilm Magazin, also includes a piece of mine in its latest annual issue, my review of the Versogramas documentary.

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!

Read the rest.

Two years’ worth of Pepys Diary erasure poems available as free ebooks

Painting of Samuel Pepys by John Hayls

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 published in Human/Kind Journal and Contemporary Haibun Online

Human/Kind Issue 1.1 cover

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.

My homebrewing blog moves to HerbalBrewing.com

Yarrow page screenshot

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.

screenshot of Herbal Brewing front page

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.

screenshot of a recipe from Herbal Brewing

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.

New work at Wales Haiku Journal and tiny words

tinywords Issue 18.2

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:

skin walker
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:

puberty
we take turns touching
the electric fence

Wild Whispers + upcoming videopoetry screenings

Crawling-Through the Wreckage Poster

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.

Southern California Poetry Festival poster

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.)

Ambitions: Selected Poems from Vimeo

 

Vimeo recently made their albums embeddable, with a dropdown playlist, so I’ve pulled together a collection of videos made for/with my poetry over the years, both by myself and others. The UI is better on Vimeo itself, I think.

The ability to rearrange quickly by drag-and-drop is a killer function. (I wish OpenOffice Writer would let me do that with my manuscripts!) I’m grateful to Marc Neys, Marie Craven and James Brush for classing up the collection with their video art. Some of my own videos are pretty basic, and included more for the text than for the overall success of the poetry video.

This could probably be trimmed down a little more; I think it probably tests the patience of even the most poetry-mad viewer to try to watch all 36 videos in one sitting. But there’s a whole related discussion about the ideal length of print collections, too, isn’t there? Sometimes I’m in the camp of those who think that a chapbook/pamphlet is the best length: something that can be read in under an hour. Perhaps the same rule should apply to videopoetry album run-times.

New videopoem by Marie Craven

Failed State. That’s the working title of my book-length manuscript of prose + micropoetry, which draws equally upon my lived experience, dreams, and nightmares. In the last category, I have a section of seven untitled found texts from the CIA’s Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual, which was used to train right-wing counter-insurgency interrogators throughout Latin America during the last and most brutal phase of the Cold War. I extract a haiku-length erasure poem or two from each text and place them below it, haibun-style. Back in March, an online journal called The Other Bunny, which specializes in experimental haibun, published a selection of these under the title “Human Resources.” Then the Australian multimedia artist Marie Craven surprised me with this damn-near perfect video version. I strongly recommend expanding it to full screen and using good headphones:

Marie describes it on Vimeo as “A video about mind control and hidden meanings.”

The original text here is sections of a CIA document from the 1980s, concerning mind control techniques. […] The video is made up substantially of this text on screen, overlaid on a delirious blend of movie images from the Prelinger Archives. I chose to ‘mash up’ two different films for this background. The first, and most visually recognisable, is ‘Duck and Cover’, a famous documentary film from the 1950s containing advice on how to take cover in the event of a nuclear blast. The second film is ‘Destination Earth’, an anti-communist animation also produced in the 1950s. Both films were ‘doubled up’, making four superimposed layers, sped up considerably, with some parts appearing in forward motion, others in reverse, and some images rotating so that they appear at odd angles throughout the piece. The rapid melee of images is designed to express the hallucinatory effect of mental confusion engendered by mind control. The music is a psychedelic piece by The Night Programme (aka Paul Foster), with whom I’ve collaborated musically for over a decade, all via the net (he’s in Wales, I’m in Australia). The track is entitled ‘Cxx2’, from his album, ‘Backup 010318’. In a contemporary sense, the poem and video seem timely in this era of rampant fake news and unabashed propaganda.

Human Resources is Marie’s fifth videopoem based on my poetry. This is the sort of collaboration the web was built for, I think, and it’s always deeply gratifying to me as a writer to have been able to inspire an artist of Marie’s caliber.

Reblogged from Via Negativa.

Glowing new review of Ice Mountain on WPSU

WPSU Ice Mountain review

I couldn’t be more pleased with a new review of Ice Mountain on our local NPR affiliate WPSU, which serves a huge chunk of central and northern Pennsylvania. Not only is it a favorable review, but it’s also very comprehensive and deftly put together. I particularly liked this bit:

“Ice Mountain” as a collection trades indignation for intimacy. Its poems are awake to the complexities of a nature whose rhythms both govern and respond to human presence. The experience in these poems is a lived experience: one that draws from a deep well of knowledge about the local ecosystem without shying away from the often imperfect ways humans participate in that system.

I don’t know the reviewer, Talley V. Kayser, but according to her Penn State webpage, she’s “been teaching at the intersection of literary studies and adventure education since 2007. […] Talley’s research interests include environmental literature, environmental justice, and new materialist theory.” This appears to be her first review for WPSU’s bi-weekly BookMark program. I heard it live over the air, but kudos to BookMark for promptly uploading both an MP3 and a full transcript to the web. Check it out.