Rewilding: a Marc Neys film from Failed State

still from Rewilding by Marc Neys

Watch on Vimeo

Filmmaker and composer Marc Neys surprised me yesterday with this great new adaptation of one of the haibun from Failed State. He may be semi-retired from making videopoems, but he doesn’t seem to have lost any of his mad skills. His impressionistic style really fits the poem, I think. I was also chuffed to hear the poem read in someone else’s voice. Here’s the text:

The wolves have finally come to me for advice. Avoid making eye contact with saints and ranchers, I say. Stick to the suburbs where no one else goes to hunt. The wolves are tired; their tongues glisten like the neckties of bankers crowded into a London tube carriage at rush hour. In the window of the building opposite, a white cat levitates on a sudden carpet of arms. The headline in the Evening Standard reads, Is Your Child a Psychopath? It’s More Common Than You Think. My love has taken five sharp sticks from her bag and begun to knit me a sock. What big toenails you have, she says.

autumn lake
gang members lower
their voices

*

Pasting this in just now, I discover a typo, the first I’m aware of in the book: voicies. Nuts! Guess I shouldn’t have blown off Blurb’s typo-finding tool (which seemed tedious because of course it was flagging every word not in its apparently quite limited dictionary). Live and learn.

Speaking of Blurb, some people might’ve noticed the irony that I didn’t in fact include any blurbs on the book. I sort of feel like blurbs are superfluous on physical books of poetry in bookstores or at live events, because people can just leaf through a book and make up their own minds. If sales are mainly or exclusively online, the author and/or publisher can just update the book page(s) with favorable quotes as they come in from readers and reviewers, and I’ve started to do this on Failed State‘s page here. I’ve also added some more of my own video adaptations to the bottom of the page: Killing Time, Ornithology, and Falling, the latter two newly edited to include the haiku. You can also watch all eight videos on Vimeo. (I’ll add the two films by Jack Cochran and Pamela Falkenberg, In West Virginia and Flag Country, when they’re made public. Right now they’re both still making the rounds of festivals.)

New videopoem: “Temblor” from Failed State

still from Temblor

Watch on Vimeo

Let’s say you make a videopoem in response to some intriguing footage, but then years later you change the text: add a few lines, decide it’s really a haibun in disguise, and tack on a haiku which fundamentally reorients it. What to do? Find that original footage and re-make the video, of course!

It’s not as if Failed State needs another video, but this one was kind of obvious. (I’ve actually been working on one for the title poem as well, but I’m not very happy with it so that may never get released.)

Here’s the text:

A voice in my dream said: Don’t be so eager to find yourself. The deer rolls her eye in panic at your approach, birds take flight, the rabbit freezes then bolts.

Consider the possibility that they’re right about you, these creatures who we know to be capable of predicting earthquakes. Stop trying to dot your I’s — broken columns from a Greek temple where no one now remembers the name of the god.

Get lost, because the found are insufferable.

bed-shaking tremor
everyone running out
into the street

Failed State now available as paperback, hardback and PDF

Failed State cover with image of waiting room with televison displaying flames

Failed State cover with image of waiting room with televison displaying flames

After many delays, I’m pleased to report that my new collection of haibun, Failed State, is out! I chose to self-publish because reality had kind of overtaken it — that’s the risk you take with dystopian writing in this day and age. The paperback is priced at $15 and the hardcover at $28. Here’s the dedicated page with all the details.

I used Blurb for the printer, which wasn’t ideal (the Kindle and ePub versions were crap, which is why I’m not offering those options), but the price point for the paperback, especially, was very good, and the quality of the physical copies is adequate. (Part of the delay involved waiting for the proofs to arrive.) I am not selling copies myself at the moment, so I’m afraid you have to order from Blurb. As I note on the book’s webpage, I am happy to send out free copies of the PDF to anyone willing to write a review or blog a reaction. If you don’t have a blog, a social media post of at least 250 words will suffice. Otherwise, the PDF will set you back $4.99 (which is the base price; I’m not collecting any profit on that).

I’ve been delighted by all the film/video adaptations people have made from privately circulating drafts of the manuscript. Some of those are available on the web and I’ve included them on the webpage, with more to come when they finish touring festivals (online and otherwise). I also challenged myself to submit haiku and haibun from the manuscript to as many different journals as possible, with pretty satisfactory results. I figure when you’re self-publishing you have to at least pretend to be respectable.

Pepys Diary Erasure Project: 1667 erasures released as PDF

bust of Samuel Pepys at the site of his former residence

bust of Samuel Pepys at the site of his former residence

Navigating blog archives can be tiresome, so for the past four years I’ve been compiling my daily erasures from the Diary of Samuel Pepys into documents which I then convert into PDFs at the end of the year. Yesterday I released the latest one, for 1667. Links to all four free ebooks may be found at the top of the Pepys Diary Erasure Project page at Via Negativa, as well as the project’s page here.

As I mentioned in the announcement post at VN, alert downloaders will notice from the URLs that I have ambitiously designated these compendiums as Vol. 5, Vol. 6, etc., which raises the question whether there will ever be Vols. 1-4. I guess it depends on how burnt out I feel when the diary comes to an end a year and a half from now (or slightly longer, given that I am now nearly a month behind). For the first three and half years of this project, my erasures generally sucked — that’s over a thousand erasure poems that will need to be revised or replaced. (I’m not saying they’re always brilliant now, only that I have a somewhat better idea of what I’m trying to do.)

Click to access The-Hidden-Poems-of-Samuel-Pepys-Vol-8.pdf

A new direction for Woodrat Photohaiku

as for me the mossy side of the trunk

My long-running photo blog has gone through a couple of re-inventions over the years as my interests have shifted. On New Year’s Day, I decided it was time to re-invent it once again, and start featuring photo haiga (A.K.A. shahai), since I’d already starting incorporating haiku text into images on Instagram. In a way, this isn’t new territory for me: back in 2008-2009 I edited a short-lived journal called Postal Poems that tried (and mostly failed) to get poets to create haiga-like images incorporating text (mostly micropoetry, but not necessarily haiku). And I’ve been incorporating haiku into videopoems for years, usually as text-on-screen.

The difference now is I have a somewhat more sophisticated idea of what haiku is or could be. For decades I was hampered by too much formal education, convinced I knew what haiku was by scattershot reading of mostly mediocre translations in the course of obtaining a comp lit degree focusing on Japanese and Chinese, which included a year abroad in the Kansai region of Japan. The latter did leave me with a healthy aversion toward Japonisme in all its manifestations, important to my growing realization that preserving the possibility of at least occasional originality in a tradition-bound art-form paradoxically requires an openness to the avant garde. As I noted this morning in a tweet reply to the Norway-based poet and blogger Ren Powell, my first real introduction to so-called gendai (modern) haiku was the Haikunaut issue of Cordite in 2009. From there I discovered Roadrunner/R’r journal and the 2011 anthology Haiku 21 from Modern Haiku journal, and it was off to the races.

But for some reason I persisted in keeping text off of the photos at Woodrat Photohaiku, even as the accompanying haiku themselves slowly improved. I’m nothing if not a creature of habit. I think it was mostly the cumulative effect of seeing other haijin posting photo haiga on social media, especially Instagram, that finally broke down my resistance. And I discovered that a photo editing app I’d been using for several years, Snapseed, had an easy-to-use text tool, allowing me to make and post haiga directly from my camera (allegedly also a phone). I could even copy and paste the text directly from the Notes app, a nearly frictionless haiga composition process for the digital age.

I’ll still be using what I deem to be the first line/semantic unit of the haiku as a post title, with the remainder of the text below the image, for continuity’s sake with the archive and to help those using assistive technology. But I’ve also begun appending additional thoughts to some of the posts, which represents another radical change for the blog: process notes, interesting out-takes, notes on potentially obscure details of the content, etc. And having text both beside as well as within the image allows me to present it in contrasting ways, which I like because sometimes a haiku can have quite different effects depending on how it’s arranged, in one line or several, and I feel readers should be able to choose which they like the best.

This may seem like much ado about nothing, considering how few actual readers the blog has, but to me, its small readership is one of the things I most enjoy about it. It makes it feel more like a sandbox where i can indulge my inner child and don’t have to take things too seriously. For a writer, that’s one of the real, unsung pleasures of blogging in general.

Introducing Estado Fallido (Failed State), a film by Eduardo Yagüe

screenshot from Estado Fallido showing a woman examining her face in the mirror

So today I put the finishing touches on my book of haibun Failed State and uploaded it to the print-on-demand service I’m using (Blurb, which is ironic because I didn’t solicit anyone for blurbs). But it won’t be available for general purchase until I get a softcover copy and can proof it, so probably not till the end of December or early January.

In the meantime, there’s a fabulous new film adaptation incorporating several haiku from the book. Eduardo Yagüe, a filmmaker friend from Spain, has just released his appropriately dark and disturbing interpretation. He included some process notes in his email which I’ll paste in below. Rebeca Minguito is the actor, and the music is by Hinterheim.

Watch on Vimeo

[Scroll down for the Spanish original.]
This project has been with me for a long time and for me it is very special. I always liked the title a lot and I wanted to bring it over to my own domain: “What would happen if the failed state were a person, what would it be like?” Then your haikus became the memories of the protagonist, in a kind of delusional inner monologue.

The production was lengthy and I had to cancel the recording several times, change the script, the location, the actors, the expectations. Until I found Rebeca, who lent me her house to record in, and she herself was a brave actress to investigate everything I proposed to her through your texts. Then came the pandemic and confinement and we had to wait again, and in the end (in the final shot) it was noticed. Somehow the entire failed state of the world in which we have lived this year appeared.

I know it is a hard video, difficult to watch, in a rather harsh mode. I hope it does honor to your poems, which I find extraordinary. I wish your book a long and successful track record.

Este proyecto me ha acompañado mucho tiempo y para mí es muy especial. El título siempre me gustó mucho y quise llevarlo a mi terreno: “¿qué pasaría si el estado fallido fuera una persona, cómo sería?” Entonces tus haikus se convirtieron en los recuerdos de la protagonista, en una especie de delirante monólogo interior.

La producción fue larga y tuve que cancelar la grabación varias veces, cambiar el guion, la localización, los actores, las expectativas. Hasta que encontré a Rebeca que me prestó su casa para grabar y ella misma fue una actriz valiente para investigar todo lo que le proponía a través de tus textos. Luego vino la pandemia y el confinamiento y hubo que esperar de nuevo, y al final (en el plano final) se notó. Apareció de algún modo todo el estado fallido mundial en el que hemos vivido este año.

Sé que es un vídeo duro, difícil de ver, en cierto modo áspero. Espero que haga honor a tus poemas, que me parecen extraordinarios. Le deseo a tu libro una larga trayectoria de éxitos.

New page for “Crossing the Pond”

Crossing the Pond title screen

Crossing the Pond title screen

The half-hour film I made with 33 of my videohaiku from 2019 now has its own page here, thanks to the Internet Archive, which unlike my Vimeo Plus account, doesn’t limit the size of uploads, so I’m able to embed it from there. Previously, I could only share the link to Google Drive, which doesn’t have an embedding option. And YouTube requires extra verification measures to upload files of that size, doubtless to try and limit illegal uploads of full-length movies.

This was the first time I’ve used the Internet Archive to host video, but I suspect it won’t be the last. It’s a bit geekier than other video hosting platforms, but the degree of control over metadata is impressive, and the upload and conversion process wasn’t clunky at all. (I don’t know why I thought it might be.) Pretty impressive for a nonprofit. Other appealing features include the total lack of advertising on the site and the ability to attach a variety of Creative Commons licenses. Also, they automatically generate a torrent file — how cool is that?!

Anyway, here’s the new page. I’ve included a transcript of the haiku and links to each of the four seasonal sequences from which it’s derived, which allowed me to remove those pages from the navigation menu and simplify things, so all in all, I think it’s a wrap.

In other videopoetry news, it appears the haibun series that I’m still calling “Pandemic Season” will continue for a while longer. I had thought it might be done in September, but no. After my hiatus making a renku video in October, I’m right back into haibun — so much so that I’m pushing myself to finish up and publish my collection of earlier, more experimental haibun, Failed State, so I will have a clearer picture of where I’m going with this new collection. Funny how that works.

Two haiku in Issue 20.1 of tinywords

scrseenshot from tinywords

scrseenshot from tinywords

I’m pleased to have not one, but two haiku in the currently serializing Issue 20.1 of tinywords, “climate strike…” and “steel band…” Both began life as the texts of videohaiku (here and here); “climate strike” was shortened following a suggestion by the editors.

I’m especially happy to be a part of tinywords‘ 20th anniversary year. As a web publisher myself, I know what’s involved in making it to that milestone — qarrtsiluni lasted all of seven years, and Moving Poems has only been around since 2009. Also, from a tech and usability standpoint, tinywords is one of the (sadly) very few online literary magazines that is doing nearly everything right, in my view. Here’s some of what Kathe L. Palka and Peter Newton wrote in the intro to the issue:

Here we are, nearly twenty years after Dylan Tweney started publishing tiny poems, one per day, like a daily vitamin for wordsmiths.

Dylan comments: “When I started tinywords in November 2000, I was bored, wanted to explore the possibilities of text messaging, and craved more poetry in my daily life. I never thought my little project to fuse these three impulses would grow so big or last so long. And I’m continually amazed by and grateful for the work that Peter and Kathe have done since taking over editorship of this site that I think of as ‘the world’s biggest, tiniest poetry magazine.’”

T I N Y W O R D S has grown over the years and now, as issue 20.1 begins, nearly 1,000 poets have seen their work appear in its pages. Today, almost 7,000 folks subscribe to and read T I N Y W O R D S each day, either through our email subscription list or via Twitter. We also get about 10,000 visitors per month on the website.

A remarkable achievement.

Crossing the Pond and three other videopoems featured at HaikuLife 2020

HaikuLife 2020 banner

HaikuLife 2020 banner

The Haiku Foundation’s Jim Kacian, a poet whose own haiku and haiku videos I admire, was kind enough to select four of my videos for their annual online HaikuLife Haiku Film Festival, which debuted this morning as part of International Haiku Poetry Day. Here’s the link.

It would probably seem churlish to offer criticism, so I’ll just say that this festival is clearly designed by someone with an archivist’s mindset, and as the son of an academic reference librarian, I couldn’t be more pleased to have my videos added to the Haiku Foundation’s digital library and uploaded to their own servers. More usability-minded librarians might give them a hard time over the number of clicks it takes to get to the content, however. And as is to be expected with independently hosted videos, they don’t scale down well for people on slow internet connections, so I will have to wait until I get back to London later this year to watch the other films in the festival myself, unless the local public libraries and coffee shops with good WiFi reopen in the meantime.

The main film of mine in the festival is Crossing the Pond, archived here. It’s a selection of 30 of the best videohaiku from the 80 I made last year, pulled together for a program at the REELpoetry festival in Houston back in January. If you’re on crappy internet, it’s probably easier to watch it on Google Drive (it was too big for my Vimeo account). Here are the other three links, accompanied by embeds of my own uploads to Vimeo:

Pandemic Time

Sea Levels

Self-Quarantine

Do check out the other videos in the festival if you can.

I’m not sure anyone has referred to me as an auteur before. I am feeling an inexplicable urge to don a beret and smoke Gauloises cigarettes.

“Failed State” in Failed Haiku!

cover of Failed Haiku Issue 52

I was chuffed to place two pieces in a special haibun issue of Failed Haiku, a journal otherwise specializing in senryu — humorous or satirical haiku. Guest editors Terri and Raymond French chose “School of Quietude” as well as the title haibun from my still tragically unpublished manuscript Failed State. (Which these days is feeling more prophetic than ever, I’m sorry to say.) Here’s a direct link to the issue [PDF]. My stuff is on pp. 40-41. The whole issue looks terrific.

I aspire to be a haiku poet, but most of the time I do feel as if I fail at it… in a kind of senryu direction, if I’m lucky: just a bit too unsubtle, a bit too arch. So while this was my first submission to Failed Haiku, I’m sure it won’t be my last.

One of the cool things about the journal is they don’t give a damn whether a piece has appeared anywhere else before, and they can’t be bothered to mention it if so. But I do feel compelled to point out that a different version of the closing haiku in “Failed State” appeared as part of a multi-author haiku-year-in-review broadside from Broadsided Press a few years ago. All the other haiku are new to the interwebs. I seem to recall I shared the prose portion of “School of Quietude” on social media (Instagram?) a year or two ago.