I made a video for my friend Peter Stephens’ poem “hollow,” which I love — and not only because I happen to live in a mountain hollow.
Though I’m sure I read the poem when Peter first posted it, I must not have been paying very close attention, because it didn’t make any particular impression. I am grateful to Nic Sebastian for rectifying that with her wonderful reading at Whale Sound, and for letting me incorporate that reading into the video. As Peter said in an email, “Nic’s rendition of ‘This cold has eyes’ gives the line life (death?) I never knew it had.”
Making a video for a poem that already exists is a different undertaking from making a poem in response to footage one has taken or discovered online. I most enjoy filmmaking as a kind of discovery; setting up shots, much less writing a screenplay, is much more calculating and deliberate than what I’m interested in doing right now. With this video, serendipity still played a large role: I looked at some footage I’d shot on a whim, turned it upside down, and immediately thought of Peter’s poem and Nic’s reading. I was afraid that my footage itself wouldn’t constitute a sufficiently interesting short film, however, so I decided to see if I could find something to add to it in the massive Prelinger Archives of so-called ephemeral films. Using the search term “hiking,” I stumbled on a wonderful short documentary which, among other things, showed some people taking peyote and climbing a mountain.
Though the poem has nothing to do with recreational drug/religious sacrament use, I decided that the film could. I also liked the images of hollowing I found in the 20-minute source material. Perhaps it’s an imposition to add meanings like this, and I’m certainly not arguing that the result is great art, but it does exemplify what I’m looking for both as a videopoem maker and a curator of a videopoem site: films that suggest additional meanings and avoid a straightforward illustration of the text.