“Productively different interpretations of a poem”: an interview with Eric Burke

Eric Burke profile shotThis is the 18th in a series of interviews with poets and remixers who have provided or worked with material from The Poetry Storehouse — a website which collects “great contemporary poems for creative remix.” Anyone who submits to the Storehouse has to think through the question of creative control — how important is it to you, what do you gain or lose by holding on to or releasing control? This time we talk with Eric Burke.


1. Submitting to The Poetry Storehouse means taking a step back from a focus on oneself as individual creator and opening up one’s work to a new set of creative possibilities. Talk about your relationship to your work and how you view this sort of control relinquishment.


EB:
When I finish writing a poem, I have a much narrower view of what the poem is (does, means) than I do much later, after many re-readings. What I am discovering with the creative remixes at The Poetry Storehouse is that there are often productive interpretations of the poem that I have missed altogether. This is a very rewarding experience. Of course, in addition to offering interpretations of the poem on which it is based, a video remix is itself a work of art that offers its own riches. The video remixes of my poems at The Poetry Storehouse have all been very accomplished and interesting in their own right. The group of video remixers working with The Poetry Storehouse are both sensitive readers of poems and talented film makers.


2. There is never any telling whether one will love or hate the remixes that result when a poet permits remixing of his or her work by others. Please describe the remixes that have resulted for your work at The Storehouse and your own reactions to them.


EB:
Nic S. created a video for my poem “The Convert” that uses suggestive and symbolic video images (waves of water, shattered glass, an hourglass, an alarm clock). The orchestration of these suggestive images works wonderfully with Nic’s reading of the poem to explore the inner state of the convert described in the poem. Marie Craven took a different approach to the same poem, using Prelinger Archive footage of a circus performer to explore the situation of the convert, adding the interesting perspective of the convert having to perform according to the expectations of various audiences. Both videos very effectively explore the poem in ways that add to what I had originally envisioned in the poem.

Othniel Smith skillfully used footage of the allegorical figure Hercules from the old movie “Hercules Unchained” to elucidate my poem “Aphorism”. Jutta Pryor used her own marvelous footage, filled with suggestive images (along with suggestive sounds and music by Masonik), to set the hermit in “Aphorism” alone in a hotel room in a strange country. Both videos suggest an interpretation of the mud in the poem that is productively different from the way I originally thought of it.

Paul Broderick made a cool video remix from my poem “Self-Portrait” that features dinosaurs rather than rotifers. Though it is self-described as whimsical, it nonetheless reflects a sensitive reading of the poem.

Marc Neys combined three of my poems, “December 22”, “Mineral Rights”, and “Calyx” to create a film titled “Fog”. Rather than using an audio recording of the poems, it displays the words on the screen in various fonts along with expressive video images and sounds. This is an amazing piece that takes three poems and creates a carefully structured work of art greater than the sum of its parts.


3. Would you do this again? What is your advice to other poets who might be considering submitting to The Poetry Storehouse?


EB:
Yes. I would definitely do it again. This has been a very rewarding experience. My advice to other poets would be to submit.


4. Is there anything about the Storehouse process or approach that you feel might with benefit be done differently?


EB:
No. This is a really exciting project and I love the way it currently works.


5. Is there anything else you would like to say about your Poetry Storehouse experience?


EB:
I really like both the concept of making work freely available for creative remix and the results coming out of The Poetry Storehouse. I am also excited about the growing collaboration and overlap between the Poetry Storehouse remixers and poets and the poets, artists and remixers in the POOL collaboration group that Jutta Pryor introduced me to. A lot of really interesting work is being made (and being made available for remix) by the talented folks associated with both groups.

Nic S.

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