What comes first, the video or the poem?
…The videopoet’s version of the chicken-and-egg question. I was discussing this with my fellow amateur videopoet Brenda Clews over at a new online community site called Writing Our Way Home, where Brenda set up a videopoetry group, and I thought I’d pose the question here, too. Brenda wrote:
Do you plan out beforehand what you might create a videopoem out of, and then go looking for footage? Or do you take what you find and make something out of it?
I am fully in the latter camp, working with ‘found’ images, sort of ‘oh that looks good, can I videotape it, & then what can I do with this footage?’ though think to try to storyboard a little might be good just to see what that might produce.
My reply is a bit long-winded, but I guess it boils down to “sort of”:
I rarely plan anything in advance, and when I do, it doesn’t tend to work. For example, for that Egyptian poem, I thought it might be cool to start with some footage of the front of my woodburner, which has an isinglass window with bars on it — I thought the image of flames dancing behind steel bars would be interesting and suggestive. It wasn’t. Instead, I decided to make my first documentary-style videopoem, without hopefully getting unbearably literal: for example, when the poem says, “From Tunisia, to Egypt, to Lebanon and Yemen,” it would’ve been cheesy to flash shots of each of those countries — but I still had to do something to suggest movement. And I was pleased when, during my playing around with juxtapositions, images of police soaking a crowd with a water cannon coincided with the line about people becoming as combustible as dry wood.
But that was a rare-for-me example of a videopoem done on assignment. Usually I am working with my own footage in an ekphrastic manner: watching the raw footage prompts a poem — maybe right then, maybe a week later. When I’m satisfied with the text, I record and edit the audio. Then I start cutting video to fit and looking for other sounds or music to fill out the soundtrack. It is usually at this point that I become acutely conscious of my limitations as a visual artist…
I’d love to hear from other videopoets on this.