Friday 9 June 2017

Videos: The Last Days, 25 January, 7 March

The past few months of video and music collaborations have involved two outstanding poets...

The Last Days

Full credits and poem

'The Last Days' began in a way a couple of years ago, when I first heard the voice of Lucy English in other poetry films arising from the (now disappeared) Poetry Storehouse website. Lucy's voice and poetry remained with me over time, arising at odd moments in the course of my daily life. Then, in 2016, I saw on social media a call-out for new film collaborators for her multi-artist film and poetry project, 'The Book of Hours'. Exploring further, I found extraordinary films from Eduardo Yagüe, Marc Neys, Helen Dewbery, Matt Mullins and excellent others, all in collaboration with Lucy. As a whole collection, 'The Book of Hours' is a calendar of poetry films to encourage reflection. Excited at the prospect of being involved in this ambitious and awesome project, I made contact with Lucy. After a couple of brief email exchanges, I sent over a first draft assembly of images from a 1942 film by Joseph Losey and John Ferno, found in the public domain at the Prelinger Archives. This film, 'A Child Went Forth', was distributed at the time by the US National Association of Nursery Educators. Among other things, it dealt with the potential problem of wartime evacuation of city children. The images are sensitive portraits of children in various activities at a summer camp. I coupled selected images from this film with an audio recording found at ABC Radio National, of Lucy reading an earlier poem she had written. Lucy liked what I had done with this first draft of the film, but felt she wanted to write a new poem taking the images as inspiration. So earlier this year she sent over a new poem and voice recording. We went through a few more drafts of the film. I re-edited the voice and footage to three separate music pieces, giving a very different tone to each draft. We chose to go with a gentle piece by Kevin MacLeod, found on Creative Commons license. These three elements comprise the film, a lullaby for dark times and a call to the future.

25 January

Full credits and poem

By coincidence, the two other videos in this blog entry are both drawn from a poetry collection that also has a calendar theme. Dave Bonta's book, 'Ice Mountain', was released earlier in the year and I was quick to order a copy. I have been following Dave's writing on the net for the past few years, and also made two earlier videos from his writing: 'Anatomy' and 'native land remix'. 'Ice Mountain' was written from Dave's daily observations in the rural part of Pennsylvania where he lives. He also regularly publishes photos, including of his regular walks in this landscape. As with his individual poems, he releases these on Creative Commons license, allowing other artists to adapt his work into new forms. I love both poetry and images here so the idea naturally arose to combine the elements in video. '25 January' was the poem I chose to explore first. The video is a simple audio-visual presentation of the words of the poem as text subtitles, accompanied by selected images from Dave's collection. Music is by Josh Woodward, also on Creative Commons license.

7 March

Full credits and poem

After I had sent the first video to Dave, we discussed the possibility of me making another. This time I was interested in his poem called '7 March'. Dave suggested the possibility of including some of my vocals in the soundtrack. To this end, I contacted long-time music collaborator, Paul Foster (aka Dementio13 and other monikers). He was open to the idea, so I recorded some improvised singing of the poem and sent it over to him. Paul then composed the music piece around my vocals. I then found some magnificent footage of snow falling in a forest on the royalty-free video site, Videoblocks. From there I played with the elements in editing until I found a good fit for the images and sound together. The two videos are quite contrasting in their treatment of the poems. The first is very simple, the second with a touch of the epic. I enjoyed working on them one after the other, approaching each quite differently. It's always a delight to create video with Dave's marvellous creative output. He published both videos on the Via Negativa website.

Over the past few months, there have also been a number of appearances of earlier videos at festivals and events, and on various websites internationally. 'Dictionary Illustrations', 'One Dream Opening Into Many' and 'Joining the Lotus Eaters', all selected last year for the Ó Bhéal Poetry Film Competition in Ireland, continued their screening life in a touring program at the Belfast Film Festival. 'Dictionary Illustrations' was also screened as a finalist at the Weimar Poetry Film Competition in Germany. 'First Grade Activist' was screened at the 'Sinestesia' event in Barcelona. 'Double Life' was included in the first issue of a new UK-based online poetry film journal, 'Poetry Film Live'. 'Quadrant' and 'The Last Days' appeared at the US-based 'Moving Poems'. 'Anatomy' appeared at 'Gnarled Oak' journal. Forthcoming screenings include the Juteback Poetry Film Festival in the US and the MiX conference at Bath Spa University in the UK. More on these next time!