Sitting downtown in a railway station; or, On videopoem “Everywhere West” by Chris Green and Mark Neumann

I am mesmerized by this videopoem, linked below, the rapid flash images that nevertheless seem rarely to change, short stops in motel or diner parking lots nothwithstanding, and an occasional glimpse of the changing character of the landscape, but only a glimpse, as the landscape is chiefly anti-land, it’s the roadscape, mostly the highwayscape. We all know it. The blacktop, the yellow lines, the signs flashing by flashing by and the rear ends of trucks, stolid, unimpressed with your own meager mileage-eating.

The voice drones on and I mean that in the nicest way, because it’s saying interesting things, mournful things, meaningful things, and I drift in and out of focus, as I do on the road as the miles slip by and I think suddenly, wait a minute, where am I.

There is music in the background that is meant to live in the background, the way the radio blurbles along as if anyone is really listening, when often times it’s just noise against the great and awful silence, the silence of Life, or Aloneness, or Eternity, or The Grave, and the DJ prattles on, and the songs merge as if one long song and what you thought at one point was your finger bopping to a beat had become many miles before just a nervous tapping, or vice versa.

And arrival becomes a strange and new way of being, disorienting, and for a moment you forget how to live in one place, and you miss, a little bit, the moving road.

I skied today under a wide blue sky, and had the trail to myself, and was thinking about this videopoem, and also wondering, as I often do, what is the purpose of life, if life has a purpose. Sometimes I go down a nihilistic spiral with that question, but often I end up at Rilke: “Maybe we are here to say: house, bridge, fountain, gate…”

Burning Bright; or, Innovation and Authenticity in Videopoetry

I’m interested in things different, innovative; but look, I am not interested in them for innovation in itself. I still want to be communicated with, emotionally touched and intellectually engaged. I want art to change me, shift my perspective, rattle my mind, open my eyes, tilt me to one side. I want my heart to grow three sizes.

When someone says of a movie “the special effects were great” I don’t bother to go. If that’s what the movie was then it’s not what I want to do with my time. When poetry does fancy things on the screen, or if I can “interact” with it, it better be worth my while in terms of what I get out of the experience. I can be impressed, sure. I can be diverted, yes. I’m easily distracted from tasks at hand by something shiny and moving. But give me yourself, not what your technology can do.

I struggle with this in making videopoems. My grasp of technology and visual arts is tenuous, my understanding of what sound can do rudimentary, and my distrust of the way emotions can be manipulated by sound is high, but I stick with it. Because this is the era of the audiovisual milieu, and I’m interested to explore how poetry can be engaged actively in it.

I watch a lot of videopoetry. Most of it does nothing for me, I’ll tell you the truth. Often the text puts me off. (But as I’ve discussed here, I am having a problem with much contemporary poetry, and I know the failing is often mine. But sometimes a poem that is a string of barely connected lines is just a bunch of barely connected lines.) Often the visuals are repetitive and flashy for no purpose that adds value to the equation: text+visuals+audio=videpoem.

The end product must be more than the sum of its parts. How to do this? Damned if I know.

I need to amass for myself a little library of kickass videopoems that I can go back to and think yes, that’s the stuff; now why does it work so well.

Although I wouldn’t consider this a videopoem per se, although its inspiration is Blake’s “The Tyger,” its strangeness and creepy wonderfulness is the height of inspiration for me:

Here’s the videopoem that sparked my interest in the form initially: It’s a bit long, but very interesting to me.

And here’s a recent well-balanced videopoem, I think, that creates something that is more than the text/images/sound alone:



Videopoem up at Gnarled Oak

from Orchards




I’m posting this again because I just watched it again recently and it just pleased me — the process of finding the found poem, the process of developing the stop motion animation. Cracks me up. It is quite possible that it pleases me more than it pleases you…


Go Stop

I don’t play enough. I mean, I don’t with sufficiently frequency approach my creative day with the thought “I wonder what would happen if I…” or “today I’m going to try…” or other what-the-heck kinds of approaches to creative effort. It’s when I’m in that mode that I feel most satisfied, closest to some timeless, spaceless existence from which interesting things emerge. When I play, I don’t necessarily make great art, but I do great process. And that’s what this is all about, right? Here is my first attempt at creating stop motion animation, pairing it with a “found” poem pulled from conversations with friends about loss and life. What the heck.

Glass Half- or This is Not a Pipe

I’m playing again in the world of multimedia — videpoetry, specifically — and am again considering the kind of interaction I want between the poem and the images I am showing. Not be too Glass-y-eyed all the time (Philip, not Ira), but again, something I found in Glass’s Words Without Music was relevant and thought provoking. Glass was talking about working in film. He said he would not spend a lot of time looking at the images. He’d look at them once or twice. He said, “…I depend on the inaccuracy of my memory to create the appropriate distance between the music and the image. I knew…that the image and the music could not be on top of each other, because then there would be no room for the spectators to invent a place for themselves….When you listen to a piece of music and you look at an image at the same time, you are metaphorically making a journey to that image…and it’s in that journey that the spectator forms a relationship to the music and the image….The journey that we make from the armchair to the image is the process by which we make the image and the music our own. Without that, we have no personal connection. The idea of a personal interpretation comes about through traversing that distance.” I knew I didn’t want to err on the side of showing AND telling, but I didn’t really understand why (other than the obvious redundancy). This gives me a way to think about the necessary difference between what the poem is saying and what I’m showing, that difference being a creative space in which the audience can be a part of the conversation.


AH feel good datta datta datta da

I heard in an interview recently that when James Brown began to hear all instruments as percussion instruments, he really began developing his own sound. This got me thinking about words and percussion, language and rhythm, language as rhythm, rhythm as language, the way rap, for example, or that archetypal slam-poetry delivery emphasizes and sometimes slightly distorts the rhythm of language, torqueing rhythm with extra words, overemphasizing certain syllables to maintain the rhythm of the piece. I am interested in that tension between text and rhythm, how it can be nudged and twisted or elongated. It was this I was trying to play with when I recorded the second section of “Ny Verden” in such a text-as-percussion way, and then when I added images, tried to use the still photos’ flash-ups also rhythmically.

I think an interesting urgency and unbalance is suggested, which I didn’t necessarily intend, but is perfect for the situation of the poem. In this second section, the narrator has arrived on foreign soil for the first time, disoriented, afraid, hyper-alert. The imagery is too literal, perhaps. But I noticed when choreographer Beth Fecteau set that poem to dance, she also went literal with movement clearly referencing birds. I guess sometimes it’s just too hard to resist. Section two starts at minute 1:33.