Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Tag: process notes

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.

Along the Forest Parkway (Videopoem)

This is a video I made for a Tim Suermondt poem at The Poetry Storehouse. The readers are NS and Amy Miller. The music is “Simple Delayed Guitar + Violin Loop” by Candle Nine from Soundcloud. All of the pieces that comprised the video had been released under a Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license (the same one used here at Coyote Mercury). That license makes projects like this possible.

The video came about quite by accident. I was playing with Hyperlapse on my phone while at ACL Fest, just experimenting during Gaslight Anthem’s set. Later I came across the Suermondt poem and thought that some of the images might work with the poem.

I also liked the fact that the poem had multiple readings because I wanted to see what would happen with two different and distinct voices. I tried them both, and opted for NS’s as the front in part because it was shorter, and I didn’t have much footage.

I edited to the rhythm of the words and the video. Then went searching for music. I wanted something with guitars, and the Candle Nine piece at Soundcloud worked well, and was the correct length. This was a fun one to put together, and I’m pleased with the result.

“A Ghazal On Birth Of The Buddha” Videopoem

This is a video I made based on Uma Gowrishankar’s “A Ghazal On Birth Of The Buddha: Bardo 3” from The Poetry Storehouse.

I had recorded a reading of the poem the previous week (along with a few others) with no intention of making videos because I didn’t have any time or ideas. But then while searching for some footage on Videvo for something else entirely, I came upon that clip that imagines an approach to the Milky Way. I’m an astronomy nerd and ever since traveling with Carl on the Ship of the Imagination, I’ve always liked this sort of thing.

I watched the clip a few times and started thinking about the poem, about the soul approaching the womb and how the stars in that footage move so fast that (I would think) the clip could encompass millions of years and so the whole thing started to seem like something that was completely outside of time and space. That reminded me of a line from the finale of Lost (which I’m re-watching): “There is no now here” which made me think of souls outside the body and outside time and space which led me back to Gowrishankar’s poem.

I had the reading and the footage so I put them together, but thought I needed something less spacey and metaphorical, which is why I added the audio of the fetal heartbeat. It seemed to ground the thing and make it more earthly, which is one thing I really like about the original poem.

It’s funny to me how things like this just kind of happen, and maybe this is the main thing I have to say about my creative process: I don’t always intend to write a poem or make a video, but then one thing leads to another: experience, image, something I read, something someone says and then the next thing I know there’s a poem or a video or something waiting to be written or made. I guess it all comes down to being open and willing. And then, as Stephen King says, showing up at the keyboard.

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