Wanderers and garden eels


Watch on Vimeo.

More footage from the algae exhibit at the Kew Gardens. The garden eels were fascinating to watch: shy creatures, but more or less habituated to the steady stream of humans on the other side of the glass. Rooted as they were, they were clearly very far from home indeed. I somehow got the idea of pairing them with a poem by Nic S. from her collection Forever Will End on Thursday, which I read and wrote about in April. Fortunately, Nic saw the logic in my seemingly bizarre choice, as she wrote in an email and subsequently blogged:

I would never have thought of pairing the footage and the poem, but the footage speaks to the themes in the poem — solidarity yet separateness; deep wariness and alertness to the environment; the need for camouflage and the longing for connection — all things that characterize the ‘order of strangers and interlopers.’ The music resonates as well – made me think of yearning and unfinishedness. It’s an unexpected connection you made, but I think it works.

This is the third videopoem I’ve made with a Nic S. reading in the soundtrack, but the first for one of her own poems. If you only know her as the editor and main reader for the audiopoetry magazine Whale Sound, you’re missing a real treat: her own poems are wonderful, too. I hope this video helps win her a few more fans.

18 Comments


  1. “rooted far from home” – love that juxtaposition – again, another idea in the poem. Thanks for this, Dave – greatly enjoyed it.

    Reply

    1. Well, thanks for being so amenable. I did once have a poet whom I greatly admire nix a video I’d made for one of her poems. It can happen! (It featured snakes, and she has a phobia. Also, she said it didn’t fit her idea of the poem at all.)

      Reply

  2. I find this pairing fascinating, and was also interested to learn more about Sebastian’s project of web poems.

    Reply

  3. It probably does not matter what the poet thinks–the poem has gone out in the world.

    However, I can see that there’s a deep rift between people who are trying to make a video in service to the poem without at all getting “in the way” and people who try to make a new thing out of footage and music and poem that may be wholly surprising. I think that the differences (and maybe likenesses) between those two stances would be an interesting conversation to have on your blog.

    Reply

    1. Yes, that is the big divide in poetry videos, regardless of the specific technique used: whether to place the video in service to the poem and illustrate it, or whether to conceive of the videopoem as something new unto itself. This is a discussion we’ve had off and on at the Moving Poems forum blog — see for example Konyves’ “Brief summary of videopoetry” and Alastair Cook’s essay, “The Filming of Poetry.”

      Reply

      1. Thanks for the links.

        Actually I would say that the matter of “illustrating” could be split into several parts and should not be dismissed casually. I mean, if you look at children’s book illustrations, say, there are clearly many illustrators that add nothing more to the book than illustrating precisely or sometimes not-so-precisely what is happening in the text–a lower but perfectly respectable thing to do. But there are others that bring much that feels new, either in emotional content or setting or minor, barely-suggested secondary story lines, say.

        Those are radically different sorts of illustrators.

        Reply

        1. Well, clearly, good “illustrations” are really new interpretations, as can be seen from some of the most inspired poetry animations.

          Reply

          1. When I was once teaching a class on adaptation from literature to film, we had a similar sort of discussion. But Marly is right: once the work is out in the world, it no longer really belongs to the writer in the same way. The work we read becomes a wholly different thing–cf Borges and “Pierre Menard,” his story about the person who rewrote Don Quixote word for word, and because it was written now, made a different work entirely.


  4. Extraordinary and fascinating juxtaposition. For me, all of it works harmoniously as an ensemble.
    I’d say that a videopoem should be something new unto itself, not necessarily illustrating the poem but certainly in tune with it, in whatever form the video-maker chooses to translate it.

    Reply

  5. “It probably does not matter what the poet thinks–the poem has gone out in the world.”

    I’d agree with Marly on this – ‘ownership’ lines become very blurred once you put a poem out there and poets should be able to stand back and be gracious about pretty much whatever happens to it.

    Reply

      1. And if you’d given any hint that you did not, I would’ve taken it down. Unless the author specifically releases a piece for modification with a Creative Commons or similar license, I think other artists should respect her copyright.

        Reply

  6. Without the back story, this alludes to all the hesitation and wariness I experience in human relationships as I age.

    Reply

    1. Interesting reaction. And I don’t think it’s wrong to read Nic’s poem that way, either. The epigraph may be seen simply as the source for the final line.

      Reply

  7. You know I’m not a great fan of the “moving poems” but I do find this one very effective. The combination of the video of these alien creatures, nic’s low-key reading, and the music you picked seem to blend perfectly to create something like a ballet. Even the critters seem to know their choreography.

    Reply

Leave a Reply