Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

The Monotony of Ice

Your heart would break if you knew how many times we walked back from the hole in the fence when the guards weren’t looking. My old jacket smells like incense and french fries now. It took almost an hour to tape our eyes shut. It’s the only way we could be trusted to go outside. The monotony of ice can be unbearable, so say the old explorers. We move slow against the frost. We keep reading the news. We turn to stone.

The Miner Digging His Way Out

Fifteen layers of blue obscured the sky, but he was determined to peel off each one like escaping from an onion with the hope of someday catching a glimpse of the planet without its borders. It was a wintry night and icicles formed in his chest, growing from his heart and poking his lungs so that when he bent sideways, he experienced sharp jolts as if being stabbed or lied to by a lover. He rubbed his stubble, stumbling through explanations he would give when he reached the stratosphere and had to lie about what he thought he might discover. Such was the nature of the times, the red poison they’d given him, the green pills, the blue lies. Somewhere there was music, but everything had rusted over and no one had seen a bird in three years.

State Surplus

I had to put my coffee down when the ticket taker came to the window and asked to see my papers. She smiled like a wolf on a hot day. The archivists were trying to get rid of a backlog of surplus anger, eight years worth stacked neatly in a corner of the Capitol back in the 1890s. Starting bids for the smallest lots were only a few bucks, but you had to qualify. Promise you’d only use all that rage for good. You take bribes, right? I asked. She waved me in with her flashlight. Trains rumbled along tracks on the far side of the river.

all roads lead here & Notes on Adapting Poetry

 

Lately, I’ve gotten back into making videos. This is my fourth in the past month. This one is from a sequence of three related haiku from Highway Sky called “all roads lead here,” a series of LA-related poems.

Since the “poem” is sort of three poems, I wanted the video to have three parts, and I choose footage that I felt would complement the parts, which in essence tell a story of driving to LA in the middle of the night with the intention of watching the sun set on the beach. If you travel to LA from Texas, you’ll probably come in on I-10 which turns into the Santa Monica Freeway and kind of ends at the Santa Monica Pier. So I wanted footage that followed that trajectory. The footage came from Videvo.net, and I was fortunate to find the LA shot and the Santa Monica beach shots with the others shot who-knows-where.

Things got interesting as I was editing. The more I looked at it, I realized I could cut a line from the first haiku which originally read (as published at tinywords):

a hundred miles out
the glow of Los Angeles
desert starlight

The second line seemed redundant with the footage of the LA skyline and city lights. Likewise, I was able to cut the first line from the third haiku as the sunset-over-the-waves image did the work of the first line.

the sun falls to sea
here at the end of the road
nothing left to say

The central haiku was left alone, but I played with the text to try to put it in motion and show the action of the waves erasing the name.

For the sound, I originally imagined some reverb-soaked surf music. I tried something on my guitar and looked for CC music online, but didn’t find anything. On a lark, I tried some wave sounds and liked how it sounded like highway noise while the cars were on screen, but sounded like waves once the beach shot comes in. Interesting how the image can affect what we think we’re hearing.

I liked this process of adaptation. When movies are adapted from books and stories, filmmakers change things. They fire characters and compress scenes in part to save money on paying actors and renting space, but also because there is often no need to say what is shown. Why not something similar with poetry?

I think writers and probably poets especially can get locked into the sanctity of their words and lord knows there are times when that makes sense, but if poetry is to be a conversation even if as in this case with oneself, I think it’s important to let go a little bit especially when changing mediums. My academic background is in film production and screenwriting where the expectation is that the written word is not final so maybe this comes easier for me, but it’s a comfortable way for me to work and I think it’s useful to see where your words can go and a worthwhile exercise to keep playing with what you’ve made and, if you dare, open it up for others to do so as well.

Starting Up Again

There must be something in the air. For many months, I’ve missed the sense of community in the poetry blogging world that I found when I stumbled onto readwritepoem back in 2009. Like many, I do better as a writer when I feel there are others on the same or similar journeys. I really admired Carolee’s commitment to revitalizing her poetry blogging practice in November, and I’d made a private resolution to do the same here in 2018. Seems there were a lot of us out there thinking along the same lines as I saw on Donna Vorreyer’s blog. So I joined in committing to trying to post something poetry-related here at least once a week.

Blogging made me a better writer, more focused, disciplined and adventurous than anything else other than perhaps grad school, and since I let it start to slide several years ago I have missed it terribly, both the blog and the people I encountered through the community of blogging poets.

I took a four-year detour into the world of editing and while it was such a wonderful experience, I came to miss writing and reading what I wanted to read. Most of my poetry reading the past few years has been the submissions queue for Gnarled Oak, and while I have been blessed to have read so much fine work, I want to get back to reading poetry books and chapbooks–oh, how I miss chapbooks.

In December, I made three new videos, one of which was even featured over at Moving Poems (Thanks, Dave!). I thought a lot about how much I miss this sort of thing. The creating, the sharing, the discovery and growth.

I’ve written very few new poems over the past few years and I’m chomping at the bit to get back to work, so here I am resolving for 2018 to do this. I plan to try to post at least once a week on poetry-related matters, whether draft poems, reviews, commentary or new videos and also, just as important, read and share some of what I find from the other blogging poets whose work I really admire and who are a constant source of inspiration. Thanks for stopping by.

26 January (Videopoem)

 

This is a video I made from “26 January” a poem from Dave Bonta’s excellent Ice Mountain: An Elegy. Dave releases his poetry under a creative commons license, which makes this sort of thing possible. I plan to review the book (and several) others in some future posts–more on that later.

I stumbled on this footage on the ESA/Hubble site while working on Aurora is the effort, and it immediately made me think of Ice Mountain, which I then went back and reread. The ice age reference in the last lines and the fact that “26 January” is one of the more linear poems seemed like a fit for the 1-shot video I imagined.

The footage is an artist’s conception of Pluto, an icy world, apparently lifeless, that resonated for me with the sense of loss and environmental themes that undergird much of Ice Mountain.

For the music, I wanted something that sounded sharp (not musically sharp but sharp as in pointy like icicles) and crystalline with delayed echoes. I decided to try to do the audio myself, so I used my guitar and garage band with some pedal and amp sims that gave me the sound I wanted and then tried to play along with the video I had made. This was my first time trying to score live, and I did multiple takes until I felt it was right. Afterwards, I mixed two of the takes together until it sounded the way I imagined it. I really liked this aspect of it, and plan to do more in the future.

Do check out the other Ice Mountain-related videos on Dave’s site by Marie Craven and Swoon. And thanks to Dave for making his work available like this.

Merry Christmas

Goddess / Gasolina / For Gasoline

 

This is the video I made for “Goddess” by Cwtch, which is Marie Craven and Paul Foster. “Goddess” is a remix of my poem “For Gasoline” that appears in my book Highway Sky. Paul and Marie remixed it into a song along with a few others on their EP Chasing Headlights. So it is, as Marie described it, a remix of a remix or also to paraphrase her words, a conversation between artists on three continents. I like that.

It’s an odd thing for a poem to move like that from the screen during the mad rush of a napowrimo to the printed page, then to a song, a pair of videos one Spanish and one English by Eduardo Yagüe and Javi Zurrón that have been screened at venues around the world and now full circle (for now) with this music video offered back to Marie and Paul.

 

 

I love this. I love being part of this. I love the idea of the words being set free. We all read and listen to and watch other people’s work and walk away with wildly different ideas. I see this everyday in my classroom. We look at a poem and I am always surprised by what various students take away from it. What if everything were free for us to take that next step and not just think about or talk about what it means to us as individuals but to actually make something new and let it grow?

 

 

I am surprised that “For Gasoline” has traveled so far and in such surprising ways. I am so deeply honored and fortunate to have run into so many wonderful artists who have seen something in this little poem worthy of taking it on new trips.

 

 

“For Gasoline” (and all the poems in Highway Sky and on this site) is licensed under a creative commons by-nc-sa license and is therefore available for remix and interpretation. Feel free to join the conversation.

Aurora is the effort (Videopoem)

 

This is a video I made for Emily Dickinson’s “Aurora is the effort.” I stumbled on the Jupiter aurora footage at ESA/Hubble and wanted to do something with it. I had Dickinson on my mind since we share a birthday, and I often find myself turning to her work around this time of year, so I started searching for aurora-related Dickinson poems and liked this one for its simplicity and unusual syntax and wording. The sounds are radio static and me rubbing the strings and hitting the back of a bass guitar with some effects from garage band.

I’ve been wanting to do a Dickinson poem for years and even have a concept for another one that maybe someday will get done. Thanks for watching.

even in Austin
longing for Austin
the grackle

–after Bashō (tr: Jane Reichhold)

« Older posts

© 2018 Coyote Mercury

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: