Friday, January 17, 2020

Wild Fridays #2: Roving the Web





Video Poetry 

This particular roving wasn’t random, but guided. While I was staying a few days with my old friend Linda Stevenson, she introduced me to another friend of hers, Michael Mavracic. One of the things he does is make videos, and he had the idea of making one of Linda and me speaking our poetry. We arranged a time. Then I read her my latest, a sombre piece on the Australian fires. She generously said it deserved to be the sole subject of the video.

Because of the nature of the poem, she suggested, the visual should just be me reading it, no embellishment. On the day, Michael tried some other possibilities too, but the final decision was to go with what she, with her artist’s eye, had envisioned. So that happened: my grim old face in close-up somehow suiting the theme. I was reading from a text that was out of view. ’Should I have looked at the camera sometimes?’ I asked my son later, when I showed him. To my relief, he thought not. Already, in that one small project, I've had a taste of the variety of ways to go and decisions to make.

Yes, you may see it: here. But that was just the start of a discussion with Linda about the possibilities of videoing poetry. She lives in a capital city, and is friendly with poets who do that. I had no idea what a big thing it is these days. It’s such a big thing that there are now competitions in this art form. She explained that there are many different approaches. Some people make whole movies to illustrate a poem, or as background to the reading of it. Others blend just a few elements – e.g. the poem (of course), visuals and music. It works best, she feels, when the poem remains the primary focus. All this was fascinating to the country bumpkin I have become!

Some to look at

Linda showed me some examples online to illustrate her points. She mentioned the work of Australians Ian Gibbins and Brendan Bonsack. I've linked you to those sections of their extensive websites. Neither of them videos every poem they write, by any means. It seems to be a thing that suits shorter poems best. I was interested to see how Brendan in particular, as performance poet, singer-songwriter and photographer, uses a number of different approaches to videoing his work.

I, in turn, showed Linda the YouTube video of Nimbin (Australia) poet Christine Strelan, which I shared late last year in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’. She was enraptured – with the poem itself, and with the way all aspects of the video – the background images, directly related to the words, and the expressive voice – combine to bring it to life but don't overwhelm it: the poem is still the thing.

So then I went exploring, and found a different kind of video poetry at Moving Poems, subtitled 'the best poetry videos on the web'. Though again the approaches are very varied, overall these are more ambitious and experimental, with as much  emphasis on the filmic qualities as the text. Here, video poetry becomes a new art form in its own right.

Antecedents

This kind of thing is not altogether new. I think of the theatrical production of Ntozake Shange's For colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf, a brilliant piece written to be a theatre perfomance (which I was lucky enough to see when it came to Melbourne) and later filmed – though it was also published as a book and works wonderfully as plain text too. (I haven't had time to check the many items to see at this link, but it looks as if you could access the movie.)

What is new (or newish, anyway; new to me) is the use of video, which is no doubt more readily available to more people now that we can all make videos on our phones. Creating a work of art takes a bit more than that, but still....

 What's in it for you?

I thought all this might be of interest, not only for your viewing pleasure, although there is plenty of that to be had, but also for the possibilities which you too might like to consider for sharing your work. Perhaps you are already doing this? But probably not, or else I think I'd be more aware of it when visiting your blogs.

Obviously, we're writers. The words are what we love, and getting them to do as we desire can be challenge enough. Yet plenty of us like to illustrate our poems with photos or pieces of artwork; and some of us put our words on Soundcloud as well as supplying the written text. Video takes things just another step further. 

Don't get me wrong; I still love to read the written word, on page or screen. That can happen with the visual medium too: some videos incorporate the written text. So there are many possibilities one might play with; hopefully not to eclipse but enhance the poems.

(Can you put videos on Instagram? Yes; Google gives instructions. But the maximum length is only 60 seconds! Never mind, there’s always YouTube.)

To be truthful, I probably won't be doing any more in the near future. But it might be different if I lived closer to someone with the requisite skills, or troubled to acquire them myself. Um, well, come to think of it, maybe I do know someone....


Image in Public Domain.

26 comments:

  1. Nice treatise poem, Rosemary. The recording video was great too, and reading along was better still, at least for me. I like to read the lyrics while I'm listening to the song. Not all singers think we should understand them so that works nicely for those too.
    Video is the present media for the young generation
    Our youngest granddaughter, age 10, listens to and watches teen videos and is in need of a tutor to get her ready for the State reading test.
    She makes her own also, and e en makes them as we ride along, she in the backseats. When she is the single one in her videos she mostly uses the interview form although her annotations are interesting as well. I have about a dozen YouTube videos on line, all old now. About half were of my now deceased Beagle Dog Adi Jane doing her antics. Not 'ballestic' but a few have been listened to by K's of watchers.
    Let us know when there is another by you.
    ..
    p.s. Our TV news is saying your fires are diminishing as heavy rains have come. About time, or are they early?
    ..

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    1. Thanks for all that interesting stuff, Jim. I see what you mean about the younger generation!

      I think the rains have helped a bit, but may cause other problems. It's a bit early to tell, yes.

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  2. Daaaaaaaaaaaaaang. Rosemary, I got chills listening to you read your poem. Your delivery was so good.

    Yes, it has crossed my mind that Instagram might be a good place to share some of my shorter pieces in a video format. I don't think I'd like it to focus on my face while reading though! I might play around with the idea of adding a voice recording to a still picture that suits the piece though.

    I am hoping that you folks on Australia get some real relief from the wildfires soon. *hugs* Stay safe.

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    1. Thank you so much for saying so. All of it.

      Looking forward to your video poems on Instagram!

      I am lucky that the terrible smoke haze, which has been over much of eastern Australia fort many weeks (and probably other areas too) doesn't affect me too badly. Ironically, I already have some mild lung problems, and use an inhaler twice a day (not Ventolin, a different kind of thing). I can only suppose this is also helping me cope with the smoke. But that's just me; many, many are affected. I'm away from home right now, visiting family. We're safe enough but there are fires in surrounding areas. As was the case at home – and still is, I see from the app on my phone. Many Australians now are constantly checking that app. But we have had some rain in some places, and more is forecast.

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    2. Sorry to hear of your lung situation, Rosemary. I know the smoke compounds that. Mrs. Jim has developed asthma in her old age so that all bothers her, would be very much over there.
      ..

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  3. I have maintained a video library of my poetry on YouTube for years. For my family to enjoy in the years to come. No fancy stuff, me - the webcam - my words.

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    1. How exciting! I just went over to your blog to see if I could find a link – and sure enough, you've posted a whole video there! And oh boy, what a reader you are! As I said in my comment there, the simple setting is perfect. You read so well (and look so good too) that no more is necessary. I loved your expressiveness, ease and aplomb. You'd be a hit at a spoken word event if ever you felt so inclined.

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  4. Your reading of "Destruction" left me shaky, especially the ending. Your tone added to feelings. And I agree with you son, not looking at the camera really worked here.

    Brendan Bonsack's readings, especially "Caught in the Storm" and "Beautiful Traveler" blew my mind away. What a voice.

    I'm not the best reader. I always tell Rommy that I envy her reading skills. Still, even if I don't think I'll jump into recording my words this way, I can see me giving it a go at some point.

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    1. Hint: always read slower than you think you need to, for oral presentation of your work. You could practice with audio recordings first. (If this advice gives you the idea I'd like to see/hear you, well yes ... when you're ready.)

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  5. So sorry, I neglected to tell you how really special watching / hearing you read was. Please do so again!

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    1. Many thanks, Helen! Perhaps I shall. Did you have someone taking yours, or did you set it up yourself and then talk to the camera?

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  6. Wowzers - again, AMAZING information. Thank you.

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  7. I let Ian Gibbons know I'd mentioned him here. He replied to me, and I think it;'s worth sharing with you all:

    Thanks Rosemary! The video poetry genre has been going for quite a while, with many artists crossing over into experimental video and performance art etc. There are many international festivals of varying styles. You are right that the form is often short - I don't know why. Many festival and competitions have time limits of less than 4 minutes. My work tends to be longer but still is rarely over 8 minutes. The genre is not well represented in Australia but the Australians who do make video poetry are doing very well in the overseas festivals and competitions! 🙂

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  8. I think it was a great idea to record you reading ‘Destruction’, Rosemary. I loved listening to your voice and the way your face was at a slight angle away from the camera at first, and then that little glance at “We know it’s monstrous” emphasised the words. A touching performance of a powerful poem.

    I love the idea of watching poets perform their work on video. I have performed poetry live to an audience, but find it very difficult and nerve-wracking, as I get terrible stage-fright. A video would be a more comfortable way to go, but I’m not that good with technology and would need someone to record for me. I think I’d prefer to read to a background of a picture or animation – that I can do. But I agree that the poem should be the main focus.

    I remembered Christine Strelan’s ‘This is the Place’, which I really enjoyed the first time you shared it.

    Thank you for the links to Ian Gibbins’ and Brendan Bonsack’s videos, they are inspirational. I’d quite like to work on something like that when I have more time.

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    1. Thanks, Kim. I'm glad you got so much out of it. I was concerned about using the video of me, because I didn't want to be making this about me – but it's one I could share as I own the copyright, and also the discussion with Linda and collaboration with Michael was educational. It's encouraging that you and others are glad I shared it. And I'm thrilled you found Ian and Brendan inspirational; I think they're doing lovely work.

      Yes, a pictorial background to the words could be very effective. And yes again, if you suffer stage fright (congratulations on getting up there and doing it sometimes anyway!) then video could indeed be the way to go.

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  9. Rosemary, your reading/video of the poem left me speechless!💝 The tone is very effective and drives the message across .. while evoking emotions in the listener. I am so touched and so glad you shared it with us!

    I think Instagram offers us the choice of uploading videos on IGTV though I have yet to explore that option. I was discussing video poetry with a friend of mine just a few days ago so needless to say I squealed with delight when I saw this week's Wild Friday!💝


    Looking forward to trying out video poetry in the near future! xoxo

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    1. OK, I'll have to explore the Instagram option more fully, ta. And I'm sure you'll do wonders with it! (Can hardly wait.)

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    2. Definitely! IGTV lets us upload videos from 1 to 60 minutes!💝 That gives us enough time and we can do much more with that amount of time.

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    3. Hooray! Thanks for finding that out.

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  10. Rosemary- BRAVO! You are a true natural in front of the camera. Your poem is so powerful, and hearing and seeing it from you made it even more so. I am humbled by your grace and courage.

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    1. Thank you so much. It is so hard to see oneself as others see us; the feedback is valuable.

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  11. when i think of video, i think of costly cameras and lights and fancy editing equipment. but then again, a smartphone, why not?
    perhaps images, be it a photo, a drawing, a comic and of course a video, captures our attention better than words. but then words, spoken or written, and used rightly (or wrongly) can lead a nation to war.
    maybe with video, this is poetry's path to go?

    I loved your prose poem, and the way you delivered it. This is not a poem of resignation, but more of defiance. yes, "Come the apocalypse, I’ll go out
    scratching one last poem in the dirt with the nearest stick."

    and thank you for the link to Christine Strelan's poem, her description of a magical place which i hope not, devoured by the fire.

    i will remember the video of that Australian firefighter who refuses to shake your prime minister's hand.

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    1. Thanks for this. I see that the reply I thought I had sent didn't post. I had some troubles getting onto the internet whilst I was away from home last month. Anyway, much appreciate your comment. As far as I know, Christine's home didn't get burned.

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