New videopoetry collection: Summer in the UK

still from "cows on the common"

I’ve just completed Summer in the UK, my third online anthology of videohaiku. Go watch! Or read on for a little bit of background.

Much as I love my Pennsylvania mountaintop, I’m not as fond of our humid and increasingly hot summers; the cooler and drier maritime climate of the UK, where my partner lives, is far more to my liking. Regardless, summer is my least favorite season, and I often find it difficult to get in the mood for creative work. For most of July I fell off the videopoetry wagon altogether. But with a rush of catch-up videopoeming and a generous definition of summer (early June to the autumn equinox), I think I now have just enough to make a satisfying collection of haiku videos, if not quite as coherent a sequence as I put together for winter or spring. The high point, I think, is a nine-verse renku (linked verse) sequence called “Sea Levels” based on a low-tide visit to the submerged forest off the Welsh coast at Borth. Other locations in the collection include Aberystwyth, Hebden Bridge, Brill in Buckinghamshire, and various places in London, including Kew Gardens and the British Museum. To preserve a sense of seasonal progression, the videos are presented in the order in which the footage was shot rather than the order of composition.

As before, I’ve given the collection its own permanent page here (linked in the drop-down menu under Videopoetry if you’re viewing this on a proper computer), in addition to a showcase on Vimeo and a playlist on YouTube. The individual videos have also been shared on my Instagram and Twitter accounts (but not Facebook, because I have no truck with that hell site). If anyone would like to share this collection, first of all, thank you! And I think that YouTube will actually give you embed code. I’m happy to share the Vimeo embed code on request. Or of course you could simply share the link to my page.

A new videopoetry collection: Pennsylvania Spring

still from "spring woods at dusk"

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.

“Winter Trees” in Poetry Film Live and other videopoetry news

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.

Read the rest.

Three videos from Winter Trees in HaikuLife Festival

HaikuLife banner
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.

Oops

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.

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.

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.

Three new videopoems

still from "El Otro"

A videopoetry commission in January, which I don’t think I’m free to write about yet, nudged me back into making video remixes for Moving Poems, prompted also by the deaths of two prominent Latin American poets, neither of whose work had ever appeared on the site: Nicanor Parra and Claribel Alegría. I’ve posted each of the following three videos to Moving Poems now, together with process notes, so I’ll link to my posts there for anyone who wants to read more about what went into them.

1. El hombre imaginario (The Imaginary Man) by Nicanor Parra

2. I Am a Mirror (Soy Espejo) by Claribel Alegría

3. El Otro / The Other by Rosario Castellanos

I’m not sure whether I’ll keep going or not, but I do enjoy the challenge of making bilingual videopoems (though “I Am a Mirror,” the most experimental of these, does not include the original text).

In which I use the word “gestalt” and manage to sound like I know what I’m talking about in two different conversations about poetry film

Last May, I was honored to serve on the jury for the second Weimar Poetry Film Award, along with Nigerian-German artist and filmmaker Ebele Okoye and German writer Stefan Petermann. All three of us, along with other poets and filmmakers in attendance, were interviewed during the course of the festival, and the resulting video, released on 23 December, serves as a sort of précis for poetry film in general:

Then in July (or was it early August?) Helen Dewbery and Chaucer Cameron of the poetry-film production company Elephant’s Footprint, who edit the journal Poetry Film Live, met me in London for a several-hour-long conversation about poetry film and videopoetry. Just today, Helen released an 11-minute segment, in which I fear I am given the lion’s share of the screen time. (It’s not like I dominate conversations in real life! OK, maybe I do.)

Wow, my hands sure move around a lot while I talk! I had the same reaction to Ebele’s delightful silent film of our jury proceedings in Weimar. Some people who watched this thought we were on the verge of fisticuffs, but I can assure you it was a highly civilized — if somewhat frenetic — proceeding.

Videopoems screened at Cinema Poetica and Filmpoem festivals

finalist, Cinema Poetica 2017

I rarely send work out, so it seemed like an odd coincidence that two of my videopoems were screened on the same day—October 28—at poetry film festivals more than 4600 miles apart. First, my minimalist video remix of a poem by Sarah J. Sloat, Grassland, was shown at the Filmpoem Festival in Lewes, U.K. Then in Oregon, a video I made with one of my own texts, Falling, was one of three finalists at Cinema Poetica, sponsored by the Timberline Review as part of the Ashland Literary Arts Festival. They even sent along one of those de rigueur laurel-wreath things:

finalist, Cinema Poetica 2017

So, yay! and also LOL. Best of all, as far as I’m concerned: both videos are online and can be watched by all and sundry almost anywhere in the world. Here they are.

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A bit of unrelated housekeeping news: davebonta.com is now more secure (you may have noticed the https prefix), which means that anyone leaving me a contact message need not worry about their data being stolen. It also means that if I ever want to sell books or merchandise directly through the site, I can. And! Google search has begun to punish sites without https, so I may see my traffic double from 10 to maybe as many as 20 visitors a day! So I’d say it was totally worth spending half the weekend figuring out how to do that, and then moving the site from one of my shared webhosting accounts to the other so I could do it for free. Yes, I probably have way too much time on my hands.