A few months ago I got in touch with Ray Hsu.
We decided on a collaboration early in our correspondence. Ray had just sent me some of his words when in the US this happened;
The events made him write a completely different poem. A poem of the urgent kind.
A poem I could not resist.
This is how Ray describes the whole proces:
Set Your Clocks Back to Now
I sat at my desk in Vancouver, Canada. Soon after it was announced that George Zimmerman was declared innocent of killing Trayvon Martin, a classmate from graduate school posted this status update on Facebook: "Don't forget to set your clocks back 50 years before you go to bed tonight"
Other friends began to post.
I opened a new document window.
Another friend shared this article
I kept writing.
Then somebody posted this song
Then I finished my poem.
I knew that Marc was waiting in Belgium for a poem.
I had previously sent a poem that was interesting, but it wasn't like this poem. I sent it to Marc.
"Completely another direction, this," he said. "I like it (a lot) Very 'now'."
I think about that. "Now" strikes me as so dispersed that it's very difficult to understand what any shared present moment might be.
Perhaps we empower journalists with the task of giving whatever "now" is back to us.
When I saw on my newsfeed so many of my friends express a moment of shared pain, it seemed a "now" we could share.
But it was also a "now" shot through with other moments, such as the moments that Marc highlights with archival footage and audio.
Someone posted this video this morning.
How strange to see this alone on my newsfeed.
No one shared it.
I watched it scroll down my screen.
Even though I'm broken hearted my faith is unshattered
Even though I am broken hearted my faith is unshattered I WILL ALWAYS LOVE MY BABY TRAY -- Tracy Martin (@BTrayMartin9)
I saw what might have been a clock
turned fifty years ago.
In the grass, a young man lies still
eyes upward in the sweet magnolia air
jeans cuffed once, legs crossed
like an upside down man
mouth slackly open. The light
across him glares. I stand
about, I realize, with others.
Numbers, too, lie stiffly
in the grass, pointing things
towards somewhere. The clock is still
here and the young man lies
as if washed onto that other shore.
A wind sucks at the blades
of grass, blood at the root.
As always I started out making a track for the reading Ray made.
I re-edited pieces of this track:
Ray and I mailed back and forth about possible images and ideas I had.
I wanted to do something with old stereotypes or period footage and link those to the poem.
Though I began with images from these 'Prelinger Docu's': Teddy & Integration Report
In the end I kept soundbites from it but I soon ended up with something completely different.
Old footage from a couple of cartoons around the 'Amos & Andy' characters.
After a few versions I choose to use images from the cartoons that were less referential to the content of the poem. Hopefully they add another layer, raise questions,... rather than 'illustrate'
Anyway, look and listen:
Words & Voice: Ray Hsu
Concept, add. camera, editing & music: Swoon
Footage and soundbites: 'Teddy', 'Integration Report I' 'The Rasslin' Match' & The Lion Tamer'
(Prelinger Archives - Public Domain)
09-12/10/2013: International Festival of Audiovisual and Experimental Poetry TARP
TARP is the only international festival of audiovisual and experimental poetry in Lithuania uniting interdisciplinary arts and poetry.
This year I was invited to host a workshop around videopoetry (we're going to make videopoems with local writers/filmmakers on the spot) and screen my poetry shortfilm 'Cirkel/Circle'
12/10/2013:Visible Verse 2013.
Visible Verse, The Cinematheque’s annual festival of video poetry and film, is back! Vancouver poet, author, musician, and media artist Heather Haley curates and hosts our celebration of this hybrid creative form, which integrates verse with media-art visuals produced by a camera or a computer. The 2013 festival will be selected from more than 200 entries received from artists around the world. As well, we are happy to host Colorado poet and filmmaker R.W. Perkins, who will give an artist’s talk on video poetry and filmmaking.
My collaboration with Johan de Boose, Day is Done, will be screened.
19/10/2013: 3rd Co-Kisser Poetry-Film Festival
3rd Co-Kisser Poetry-Film Festival will take place on October 19, 2013 at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
The mission for the fest is to see how poets and filmmakers are defining the genre of poetry-films and to challenge and be inspired by any and all of these definitions.
My videopoem 'Day is Done' (a collaboration with Johan de Boose) is selected for the festival.
Needless to say I am happy, proud and humble to have received all these opportunities...
For me, it was a pleasure to pick one poem out for a new video. I fell for 'Mortal Ghazal'.
My friend sent me a lei of strawflowers from the city of our childhood:
brittle corollas of yellow undercut by orange that we called Everlasting.
I remember the slides in the park, and the kiddy train one summer: it looped around its
periphery, a blur of red and orange. Just a few minutes, but the ride seemed everlasting.
And women from the hills, their baskets filled with dried snipe, amulets, herbs;
their woven skirts striped vivid orange (the sound of their voices, everlasting)—
In that world, everything seemed possible; in that world, time seemed almost too slow.
Now I’m brought up short in the shoals as the sun reddens in a sky unrelenting—
At sunrise, two birds call— heraldic, but fleeting. Such tender things in the world:
smudged with blue, capped with little streaks of rust. Glyphs from the everlasting.
Tell me I haven’t done too little, that I’ve made some difference to you;
even if in the end I might be judged wanting, unhinged: mortal, not everlasting.
Luisa made a recording of the poem and I created a track where her reading could lay in.
Along with her ecording Luisa gave me some ideas and pointers where to look for possible images.
One of the video's she proposed was http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90qcjBE-jlA, the film is part of a collection of motion picture films that John Van Antwerp MacMurray shot during the time he served as American Minister to China (1925-1929).
The 16mm silent movie was shot during a trip to the Philippines in October 1926, where MacMurray and his wife spent a few days at Camp John Hay, Baguio.
I asked Princeton University Library if I could use these images. Yes I could.
Together with Luisa, I went looking for the right images from that film.
Mailing back and forth, trying out new and different edits... It was fun to work this way and, I admit, a big help. I do not know a lot of the rituals and history the film shows. Luisa does and this is what she had to say about the project:
Dave Bonta first alerted me to the idea of a film poem collaboration with Marc Neys (Swoon), just a little over a week ago. When he mentioned this possibility, he referred to "Reprieve," the video poem he himself (Dave) had made as a surprise in time for my 50th birthday two years ago. Dave said that he had something similar in mind for marking the publication of my new book THE SAINTS OF STREETS, but that it would be a little difficult to achieve a collaboration without me being informed or in the loop.
After getting more directly connected with Marc, I recorded three short poems from the collection that I thought might be good candidates. Marc selected "Mortal Ghazal" and I'm really happy that he did.
The poem's recurrent rhyme is the word "everlasting" - it had started out as a meditation of sorts on a flower indigenous to Baguio, the mountain city where I grew up in the Philippines. The locals refer to them as "everlasting" flowers, but they are strawflowers or helichrysum bracteatum (family asteraceae), Locals wind them into leis and sell them to tourists. One of my dearest friends from childhood recently returned from a trip to Baguio, and brought a lei back for me.
Around ten years ago, this friend lost her only son, who grew up with my daughters in Baguio; and she has never really recovered from that grief; she has also just had surgery, and thinking about her and about our lives in that small mountain city so long ago, before we became what we are now, led me to writing this poem which is also a meditation on time/temporality, passage, absence and presence.
When I write poems, I am often guided first by images and their interior "sound" or texture, even before I can bring them to bear upon each other in some totally explicable way... What draws me in the first place to poetry is the sense it offers of mystery, of how not everything in language can be completely grasped, so that we can continue to think of possibility.
Therefore I love so much how Marc has been able to intuit the poem's themes of recurrence and memory and render them in such a way that both sound and imagery, artifact and dream, loop one into the other in the video poem.
I added a few 'contemporary' images and an extra layer (image of a big spinning mirrorball) of colour and light.
Have a look and listen and enjoy;
Words& Voice: Luisa A. Igloria
Concept, add. camera, editing & music: Swoon
Footage: Princeton University Library - John Van Antwerp McMurray Papers - Public Policy Papers Division -Princeton University Library / Christy Hermogenes (PHILIPPINES Part 14 The Road to Baguio City)
After the festival I asked her and her translator Jan Mysjkin if I could make a video for one of my favourites of her performance;
'Kijk hoe we onszelf aanvullen (Uite cum ne mai rotunjim)'
Kijk hoe we onszelf aanvullen met de levens van anderen, hoe we ons aan elkaar vastklampen en samendrommen als blinde egels. Kijk hoe al onze zuchten en narigheden in een en dezelfde vijzel worden verbrijzeld. Zullen we ooit echt alleen kunnen zijn, met enkel de zon boven ons hoofd? (Translation into Dutch by Jan Mysjkin)
Uite cum ne mai rotunjim cu vieţile altora, cum ne agăţăm unul de celălalt şi ne înghesuim laolaltă ca nişte arici orbi. Uite cum se macină de-a valma toate suspinele şi nenorocirile noastre. Vom sta oare vreodată singuri, numai cu soarele deasupra creştetului?
There we go, rounding ourselves with each other’s lives, clinging one to the other and huddling together akin to blind hedgehogs. There go all of our sighs and misfortunes, grinding against each other in a jumble. Will we ever be standing all by ourselves, with nothing but the sun above our heads? (English translation by Florin Bican)
The images of this piece were taken from 'Lost landscapes of Detroit' (Prelinger Archives) and I re-edited them, adding an extra layer of colour and light.
The result is a short (moody) piece.
Have a look and listen for yourself...
This year it's Filmpoem's first festival. Submissions ended and the organisers are in their own words 'quite surprised at the variation in quality of the submissions. This is a new genre, that’s for sure.'
Also in the open call for filmpoem: A Westray Prayer is a poem by John Glenday (from 'Grain', London: Picador, 2009) Filmpoem Festival invites entries of films based on this poem. Three films will be selected and presented in conversation, with selected other entries being shown.
A Westray Prayer
i.m. Mike and Barbara Heasman
Let us now give thanks
for these salt-blown
where outgrass and timothy
shrink from the harrow of the sea
where Scotland at long last
wearies of muttering its own name
where we may begin
to believe we have always known
what someone in his wisdom
must have meant
when he gave us everything
and told us nothing.
Filmpoem Festival 2013 will be held on the 2nd-4th August 2013 in Dunbar Town House, a beautiful building in the centre of Dunbar, itself an attractive fishing town 20 minutes east of Edinburgh. It is supported by North Light Arts, who will be offering the opportunity to have your films screened the subsequent week in their Solar Cinema.
When asked if I also wanted to make a video for this poem, I immediately took a dive into it... I re-edited a piece of this track to lay John Glenday's reading in;
The images for this video were all made during our visit to StAnza earlier this year.
They speak for themselves...
Have a look and listen for yourself...
Words & Voice: John Glenday
Concept, Camera, Editing & Music: Swoon