Tag Archives: videopoetry

While Sitting in Church

My videopoem “While Sitting in Church” was featured yesterday over at qarrtsiluni as part of the Worship issue. The poem is from my Birds Nobody Loves series, which will hopefully soon become a short collection when I can find the time to finish it off. Anyway, check it out, and thanks to issue editors Kaspa and Fiona who accepted it within hours of my submission. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten an acceptance so fast. It’s a great issue they’ve put together so spend a while checking things out, especially Sherry Chandler’s “Doxology.”

While Sitting in Church (videopoem)

I made this back in March and never got around to uploading it and then forgot all about it until something sparked my memory yesterday. It’s based my poem of the same name, originally posted a little over a year ago. This is the second video I’ve made from my Birds Nobody Loves series (the first was “Chasing Westward”).

The images are photoshopped versions of some of my pictures of black and turkey vultures. I’m planning to use these as illustrations in the Birds Nobody Loves collection I’m slowly (so slowly) putting together.

The real purpose of this video was experimental. I wanted to try to figure out how to make my editing software do the “Ken Burns effect” that was so nicely done in “Beach/Snow” a beautiful video by Peter Stephens. It was complicated but once I had it figured out, it got a lot easier to get the pans and zooms I wanted.

The music is by Oleg Serkov downloaded from Jamendo and licensed under a cc-by-nc-sa license. This is the first time I’ve used Jamendo for music for a video. There’s a lot of good stuff there besides Mr. Serkov’s wonderful work.

As to the poem, it comes from the church I attended when I was in high school. It was built on the edge of a cliff overlooking Lake Travis. They built it lengthwise and placed the altar on the long side which was made entirely of glass so it was easy to let your mind wander out to the open sky above the lake where turkey vultures circled endlessly.

I’ve always found it strange that church is held indoors but that church anyway made it feel like you weren’t completely disconnected from the natural world, which is why I still consider it the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen.

It is also where my fascination with vultures began. Watching them each Sunday, thinking about their place in the scheme of things and watching their effortless flight, I couldn’t help but fall in love with them while witnessing in awe the sheer wonder and beauty of creation.

Chasing Westward

Chasing Westward

The vultures are heading west, their slow flying
shadow grace just an illusion of the blank sky.

Clock them. They’re racing away fast as thought.
Faster than often-repeated certainties and fears.

They escape with gizzards full, hurtling toward the sun,
shuttling some soul’s nourishing remains westward.

Out there, I hope, they’ll catch the day that never ends,
the place, I believe, night will never fall.

After sunset, I hear the rumbling highway, cars
chasing westward, chasing dreams, the fading light.

I wrote the poem the other day in response to some footage I shot a few months back. I was going to try letting the poem grow out of the video to see how that worked (there’s a great discussion on this over at the Moving Poems Forum), but as it turns out the footage I based the poem on is nowhere in this video.

Here’s how this video came about. Yesterday, I was sitting in traffic when my phone rang. After the call, I set the phone on the dash. While I was sitting there looking at it, I thought maybe I could turn the videocamera on and let it just film sky while I was driving. I did and whenever I came to a light, I’d just stop the recording and reset it in a different place, either on the dash or against the window. It never occurred to me until yesterday just how useful it is to have a perfectly flat camera.

By the time, I got home I had the footage and I thought this poem would work well with it.

The birds at the beginning are not vultures. They are grackles, and that was just a lucky shot. I’d love to have more than a few seconds of that, but they just happened to fly over at that moment. I didn’t even realize I had gotten them since I was watching the road. I left them in because I think it’s a cool shot and decided not to change the poem.

The grackles there work on another level for me too since this one feels like both a Highway Sky and a Birds Nobody Loves poem.

This videopoem is posted both at YouTube and Vimeo. Feel free to share it if you like it.

The Ramble

This is an attempt at doing a video haiku, basically using Dave Bonta’s approach, which I really like. In this case, it’s almost documentary. It’s from my day in Central Park last week. One thing I noticed while birding in The Ramble was that whenever I stopped for a few minutes and just watched, the ground started to move with squirrels, sparrows, and all sorts of other critters. To see it, I had to stop. I tried to capture a little bit of it on video and the haiku came from notes I wrote at the time. Sitting and watching (or in this case, standing and watching) and that quiet openness to experience that ensues is the essence of both birding and haiku. At least for me. I don’t know if this video captures any of that, but it at least documents the process.

drylung

This is the videopoem I made for “drylung” by Clayton Michaels. It comes from his chapbook, Watermark, winner of the 2010 qarrtsiluni chapbook contest.

About a month ago, Dave Bonta and Beth Adams, co-managing editors at qarrtsiluni asked if I would be interested in doing a video for one of the poems from Watermark. They sent the manuscript, which proved to be an embarrassment of riches. I read it a few times, went back and forth with a few and settled on “drylung.”

What will the world “look like when all the water leaves?” Last Summer we were on the tail end of a two-and-a-half year drought here in central Texas. The lakes were drying up. The aquifers were emptying. Austin and San Antonio were imposing harsh water use restrictions and through all those 105°F days, there was the underlying sense that this was the future. Those in the know—politicians and policymakers, the few who try to think long term—claim that water will be the issue in Texas in the 21st century.

Parts of Lake Travis that hadn’t seen the sun in decades were exposed, and docks and boats were marooned hundreds of yards inland. Everything shriveled as the ground compacted and cracked so slowly it could almost seem normal at times.

In October, the rains came and the drought ended. We had one of the wettest, coldest winters in a long time. Memory of such things is short and so water, or the lack thereof, was soon forgotten.

What will the world “look like when all the water leaves?” Mars.

Ever since I was a kid in the ’70s in Washington, DC where the Air & Space Museum was my favorite place, Mars has fascinated me. I can scroll endlessly through the images beamed back by NASA’s rovers. Mars is beautiful and stark. It is the subject of a few of my poems, one published earlier this year at qarrtsiluni and another here at Coyote Mercury. I’m even writing a novel (slowly, too slowly) set on Mars, that world from which all the water really has left (actually, it’s possibly still there, trapped below the surface in a layer of permafrost, but I digress).

Texas and Mars collided in “drylung.” In my mind, it sounded like prophecy such as one might hear between channels on a weather radio. This summer had been (it isn’t now) unusually mild. Mid-90s and regular rain. It was easy to forget the previous year. “drylung” forced memory and took me to Mars where ancient water likely flowed.

I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to make this video. Thanks to Beth and Dave for inviting me to do this and for their suggestions on improving the final edit. Thanks to Clayton for his wonderful poem and reading and for allowing me to interpret his work like this.

Watermark will be published August 30th. You’ll be able to read it and listen to Clayton read his poems at watermarkpoems.com, and you can order it from Phoenicia Publishing. I’ve got a few of Phoenicia’s books, and they’re tip-top all the way and speaking as someone who’s had the privilege of reading Watermark, I recommend buying a copy. It’s an incredibly good read, the kind that makes me want to be a better writer.

God Bless Johnny Cash

This is my first attempt at a video poem. I haven’t made a video for fun in 16 years. Perhaps it was the time spent working on film sets in the early ’90s, but I lost interest somewhere along the way. The inspiration for this came from Christine Swint’s “Anybody’s Child” and  Dave Bonta’s post on poets and technology over at Very Like a Whale. In the comments I mentioned that I have a film degree and probably should take a crack at doing a video poem sometime.

Then, this evening, I was about to post this poem along with audio of me reading. The poem started with some pictures I had taken of my guitar with the iphone Hipstamatic ap, and I thought it would be cool to put one of the pictures up. Next thing I knew, I was building this video.

The “music” is something I recorded a few years back by overdubbing several tracks of me playing my guitar (well, really I was mostly playing the amplifier) and my wife’s bass. I’m not sure if it’s too loud, but I was trying to submerge the voice a little bit without losing too much clarity.

Here’s the text of the poem. The title is from a bumper sticker I saw twice last weekend while driving through the hill country outside Austin:

God Bless Johnny Cash

I drove to the river;
it followed me home.

Sweated the night surrounded
by lesser freshwater demons.

Sang pelagic chantys
heard second hand

from deep-gulleted
birds plucking a thunder bass.

The earth ate the moon,
broke the fall of morning.

Twisted roads passed tallgrass hills
that can’t remember trees.

In the morning, I prayed
the dusty pick-up truck petition,

God bless Johnny Cash.