Monday, 9 February 2015

Videopoems with Laura M Kaminski

Notes on the making of three videos from poems by Laura M Kaminski, in rural Missouri, USA. Laura is also Associate Editor of the excellent online journal, Right Hand Pointing.

Joining the Lotus Eaters



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At the time of making this first video of Laura's poetry, I had not yet 'met' her online. I found the poem at The Poetry Storehouse, where writing and audio readings are available on a Creative Commons remix licence, readily available to be woven into video. The poem kept coming to me on my regular visits to the Storehouse, but at first I wasn't sure how to approach it. The site curator, Nic S., had already made a wonderful video of it, but the Storehouse is open and encouraging of different media takes on poems so I wasn't deterred. I remained drawn to the poem's rich sensuality, the sense of hypnosis by perfume. I imagined a garden in late twilight and found some beautiful stills, also on Creative Commons licences, at Flickr and Deviant Art (image credits here). A little time before this, I had been in contact with online music friend, Qubenzis, in Spain. We chatted about an electronic/experimental trio he is part of, anunusualleopard. He sent me an unreleased track, 'Flying Cats', based on live studio improvisations by Qubenzis, dmcq and Marty Snapes. I knew I wanted to make a video with the music but wasn't immediately sure how to bring it off. The music track and the poem did not seem an obvious match but, in playing around in the video editing software, I brought the two together and was surprised to like what I heard and saw in the mix. This was especially the case once I hit upon the idea of animating the images in a triple layer arrangement, cut in tight rhythms with the beats of the music. These ideas happened in the process of making the video rather than being thought out in advance. The cohesion of elements was greatly enhanced by the voice of Nic S., whose readings I always love. I cut the voice in rhythm with the music too. Both Nic's and my video of 'Joining the Lotus Eaters' were featured at the Moving Poems website, with comments by site editor, Dave Bonta. Laura Kaminski talks about her response to the videos here.

Lilies of the Field



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I met Laura on social media after the first video, and our mutual membership of the Pool creative group put us in more contact after that. I sent her a message about making something new with her writing, and asked if she would be interested in responding in poetry to four pieces of royalty-free video footage I had found at VideoBlocks. She was interested in a continued collaboration and willing to write a new poem. But her first response to the images I sent was that they reminded her of a poem she had already written, 'Lilies of the Field'. I loved the poem, agreed there was a fit, and so went to work. I decided text on screen might be the way to go for this video. To that end, I rearranged the line breaks in the poem to better suit the screen, which Laura welcomed in the final result. In response to the poem, I also found additional video images to go with the original ones I had sent Laura. One of these - the road at night shot - is by videographer, Gene Cornelius in Alaska, whose fantastic videography is featured in some of my previous videopoems. The music in the video is Slow Blizzard by Clutter (aka Shaun Blezard in Cumbria, UK). Shaun and I have been in online contact on and off for several years and this is a track I've loved since I first heard it in about 2010. Once the video was completed, I contacted Nic S. at The Poetry Storehouse to ask if she might be interested in publishing the poem and video at the site. They are both now there.

Security



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When Laura sent me the text of 'Lilies of the Field', she also sent me some other poems for possible videos. One of these was 'Security', which struck me for its joyful, grounded embrace of one of the most basic of points of faith in our everyday lives, one that we rarely even think about: gravity. I'd enjoyed the process of working with text on screen in the previous video and so decided to go this way again. Again, I rearranged the line breaks of the poem to better suit screen presentation. This time, Laura gave valuable feedback on the arrangement of text and rewrote a couple of lines of the poem to better suit the video. For the image track, I found at VideoBlocks a series of studio shots of everyday objects falling in slow motion: oranges, rocks, playing cards, apples, a water-filled balloon. There were other similar shots but I chose these ones for their subtly comic resonance with the themes of the poem. The orange is visually comparable to the sun; the rocks to a comet; the playing cards to chance; the apples to Newton's discovery of gravity; the bouncing balloon to human resilience. The first part of the poem asks what if gravity wasn't as we know it. I played with backwards motion on the images here, creating the visual effect of gravity reversed. Then when the poem 'turns' to its positive statements, I reverted to forward motion. The music is by long-time collaborator, Paul Foster aka Dementio13 in Cardiff, Wales, a piece from 2010 called 'How Fragile'. In the past Paul has written about the ephemerality of creativity on the net and how he removes previous releases from time to time. Luckily I have a large back catalogue of his past music and permission to mix it up with my video projects. This was a poem that Laura had submitted to The Poetry Storehouse at the time I was making it. The poem and video are both now there.

Since my last blog entry I have made two other videos. Native Land Remix is a retake on an original video by Dave Bonta. He writes about both videos here. The second is Quadrant from a poem by Matt Dennison. These and more can be seen here.