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)
The poem and video were released first in The Winnipeg Review of september.