London Poetry Systems “came into this world when a few friends decided to put on a kind of club night mixing poetry, music and live visuals. We wanted to see poetry in a new context, one that made sense to us, that spoke of our generation.” They’ve emerged as one of the most vital spaces for contemporary filmpoetry and videopoetry screening in the UK. On February 16, they’ll mark their 5th birthday with appearances by, and live mixes from, Scottish filmpoem maker Alastair Cook and Belgian videopoet Mark Neys, A.K.A. Swoon, as well as the composer Luca Nasciuti, whose work features in the soundtracks of a number of Cook’s filmpoems. Other poets and musicians will perform as well. The location is Edel Assanti, near Hyde Park. Get the complete details from their Facebook event page, or, in a somewhat more abbreviated form, from their website.
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Nic Sebastian at Voice Alpha interviews Katherine Leyton, who stops people on the street and gets them to read poems on camera for her site How Pedestrian.
The visual element of the project, of course, was the main idea. I wanted to bring poetry to people in pubs and streets and taxis around Toronto, capture it on video and post it online. However, the visual aspect of a poem itself is also very important, and I think to fully absorb a poem you need to actually read it; this is why I decided to post the work next to the video. I really wanted the viewer be able to read along.
One of the most surprising results of the project so far has been the overwhelmingly positive public response.
The enthusiasm with which pedestrians agree to read for me is astonishing. I would say that out of every ten people I ask to read a poem, nine say yes. When I started, I never expected a 90% response rate, which speaks of my own misperceptions about the way the Canadian public views poetry. People are willing and curious, they just might not be inspired to seek it out on their own – they need a push. Many of my readers want to discuss the poem or poet with me after they read, and almost all are fascinated by the project.
A great example of an author-reading video made riveting not only by gripping material and a good reading but also by judicious editing and the inclusion of still photos. This really makes me want to read the memoir.
Hat-tip: the Women’s Poetry (WOMPO) listserv
Check out How Pedestrian, the latest addition to the Moving Poems linkroll. As described in a recent article in the Toronto National Post, the site’s curator and videographer, Toronto poet Katherine Leyton, stops people at random and asks them to recite a poem on camera. Most of the time, they agree.
“Poetry has such a bad rap,” Leyton says. “People will tell me about how they had to analyze Robert Frost poems in high school, and how boring it was, but poetry doesn’t have to be like that.” She’s hoping her blog will change the public’s perceptions about poetry and make it more accessible to those who might otherwise shy away from it.
Most of the participants read the poem Leyton provides only moments before they recite it, and while in some videos this is obvious, in others, the readers recite with such feeling and conviction that it’s hard not to think it’s rehearsed. “Good poetry should always work first on a gut level — it should communicate with you intuitively,” Leyton explains. “I think that for most poets, that’s the aim.”
As a proof-of-concept, the site is brilliant, and with Leyton’s short but substantive blurbs about each featured poet, I should think How Pedestrian could really come in handy in the classroom.
Today’s post at Moving Poems, The Lovers by Dorianne Laux, is equally a testament to the imagination of the director, Bob Lockwood, as to the performers: great care has obviously been expended on both the filming and choreography. Lockwood says that the video is “an amalgam of takes of two rehearsal runs.” Having three female dancers take turns reciting the poem worked brilliantly to universalize the very personal, intimate subject-matter of the poem, I thought. The only way it might’ve been improved would have been to have made them wear masks.
“The Lovers” joins a small number of other very impressive offerings in Moving Poem’s Dance category, which several people have told me includes some of their favorite videos on the site. Perhaps the best-known of these poetry-dance videos are the ones for Anne Carson’s series of lectures in the form of sonnets, filmed by Sadie Wilcox, but the approaches to filming, choreography, and integration of text are diverse and also very multicultural, including Iranian, Burmese, Indian and Swedish poets. Together, these videos should serve to remind us that poetry has been a part of multi-media productions for millennia, as dance, drama, and/or musical performance. From this perspective, the merging of poetry with film or video is simply the latest manifestation of a very ancient impulse.
Here’s a link to Annie Clarkson’s reading:
I’ve read her chapbook, Winter Hands, and it’s beautiful. Her video reading interests me because she first talks about her writing in general, as well as the authors who have influenced her. As she reads, she stands next to an antique lamp with tassel fringe, in front of a wall painted deep red. The sound of dishes clinking in the background gives the reading an immediacy. The filming is good, because normally when a reading is recorded the poet stands on a stage in front of a mike.
I doubt I would ever have a chance to hear Annie read live, so this recording is almost as good as hearing her in person.