Cuba, Coltrane, and videotape


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I made another video with one of Nic S.’s readings, this time for a poem by Nicelle Davis, “Cuba and Coltrane,” from her Whale Sound audio chapbook, Studies in Monogamy. I may not have any personal familiarity with marital discord, but who can’t identify with a relationship built on a shared longing to be elsewhere and otherwise than we are?

Process notes

As is almost always the case, this started with me noticing that something looked cool and needed to be filmed: in this case, the cattails blowing in the clear morning light with my new pink flamingo garden ornament slightly out-of-focus in the foreground. So I set up the camera on Saturday morning, knowing too that at some point someone would drive up the road and pass between cattails and flamingo. Once I had the footage, I began looking through Nic’s Whale Sound material for something appropriate, and “Cuba and Coltrane” immediately struck me as the best fit. Cuba, after all, actually hosts a breeding population of flamingos, unlike — say — Florida. And the blowing cattails were nothing if not jazzy.

I contacted the author for permission before I got too far along in the editing, gave her a rough outline of what I wanted to do, and linked to my videopoetry album on Vimeo. When she wrote back, she mentioned that she and her 3 1/2-year-old son had watched all of my videos, which was astonishing, and added that her son actually requested more of them this morning in preference to cartoons! High praise indeed. I remember just how addictive cartoons were when I was that age.

Maybe it was the mention of cartoons, but I got the idea of putting in some clips from slapstick comedies of the silent film era to illustrate the domestic conflict a bit more graphically. This may be a bit of overkill, I’m not sure. But it gave me a good excuse to browse through the online Edison Motion Pictures collection on the Library of Congress website.

I also thought it important to include some Coltrane in the soundtrack, and one way to do that without breaking copyright laws was to find a cover of a Coltrane tune licensed for remix/reuse under the Creative Commons. I decided to try SoundCloud this time, and hit paydirt right away with a great cover of “Naima” by a group called The VIG Quartet. SoundCloud has advanced search capability within Creative Commons-licensed material, so searching for tracks with the word “Coltrane” in the title, description or tags was quick and painless. I duly added SoundCloud to my page of web resources for videopoem makers at Moving Poems.

2 Comments


  1. I like this – I think the jazzy upbeat music and the included slapstick add the proper dimension to the poem. It’s a little messy – just like the situation.

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