Two very different but equally intriguing poets were interviewed recently in wide-ranging discussions that included questions about their film and video projects. The March 2019 issue of an Australian, bi-annual online literary journal called StylusLit featured Ian Gibbins in conversation with Rosanna Licari, and on March 5 the blog HeadStuff.org posted ‘It was an experiment and I didn’t really know how people would react’ | Interview With Lucy English. Taken together, they present an interesting range of possibilities for how to translate poetry into film/video, and the backgrounds of the poets are a study in contrasts: Ian from the world of science, and Lucy straddling the creative writing and slam/performance divide. It’s hard to select just a couple of quotes, but these should give you a taste:
Constructing the videopoems can happen in many different ways. Sometimes, I will have pre-existing text and then I get an idea for a video sequence which I will then go out and acquire. Sometimes I have some images I’ve collected for no special reason, and then I’ll match them to a pre-existing poem. Sometimes I’ll come up with a concept and then write some text and get the video more or less simultaneously.
The audio part of the video is an important element too. I’ve been putting some of my poems to my own music for a long time now either as performance or as part of art installations. So for some videos, I already have the complete soundtrack. Otherwise, I’ll compose music or soundscapes to suit the project at hand. In general, I prefer to have the soundtrack first and then fit the video to it. This allows me to closely match the visual and aural rhythms of the piece.
I’ve always enjoyed experimenting with animation and some of my early video poems were entirely based on animated text. More recently, I’ve been learning advanced video compositing techniques and 3D animation which allow me to create totally new visual environments from a mixture of pre-existing images and computer-generated scenes or effects. This process is 100% analogous to the way I use found or sampled text in my poems.
Ian Gibbins in conversation with Rosanna Licari
What I have learned from making short films in collaboration is that there is a visual language which although I was aware of I hadn’t fully taken on board how this works. I was so used to looking at films I wasn’t analysing them. I have now got a deeper insight into how using images affects the viewer and how a film maker doesn’t need to ‘illustrate’ what is in the poem. The language of film isn’t necessarily narrative; we are shown a series of images and we ascribe ‘meaning’ to them. Obviously when writing a novel there is a narrative structure which I don’t need if I am writing a poem or making a poetry film. I have a visual imagination and I have really liked exploring the world of visual images in poetry film. It’s going to be interesting to see if any of this is transferred to my writing of fiction. Perhaps my prose will become more ‘poetic’ and less led by ‘story’!
‘It was an experiment and I didn’t really know how people would react’ | Interview With Lucy English