12 Simple Songs: the videopoem

What a wonderful surprise from Nic S. and Marc Neys (who periodically ducks into a phone booth and emerges as artist and filmmaker Swoon). I am gobsmacked. And I’m very glad I placed a Creative Commons license on the collection that explicitly permits derivative works. (Not that Nic and Swoon couldn’t have just contacted me for permission — but that would’ve spoiled the surprise!) I love the fact that listeners to the poems now have the option of hearing them in a voice other than the poet’s, and — especially interesting for love poems — in a female voice. I tried to include enough particulars to make the people in the poems (Rachel and I) seem real, but not too many to prevent identification from readers who don’t know us. This video hugely advances that. And by deploying images that complement the images in the texts without attempting to merely illustrate them, the film preserves and extends the poem’s allusiveness and essential freedom rather than leaving it tightly bound to the writer’s original vision and voice.

Marc posted some process notes to his blog. Here’s a snippet:

Nic send me the audiofiles of her readings. Very good readings.
I wanted a track with a simple melody that pops up a few times against the backdrop of atmospheric disturbance. I went for this one;

and added a stream of atmospheric noises, clicks and crackles.

For images I went for a combination of simple images of nature, birds, the ocean, movement and structures. Most of it I filmed myself and I added a few pieces of footage by Matthew August, H.Hattori, Swee Sin Eng.
In the editing proces I chose to let slowed down footage of in and out of focus images (with a small touch of ‘zen’) go into battle with a sometimes frantic and nervous way of editing against the reading and the background noises.

And back on March 23, Nic was kind enough to blog about Twelve Simple Songs as an example of multi-format poetry publishing, something she’s been championing for several years. Nic also happens to be one of my favorite poets, so I’m pleased and humbled that she thought enough of my work to record it in her own voice and talk Marc into making a video. Now I just need to finish tweaking the PDF for the printer and order a second proof. If all goes well, a dead-tree version of the collection should be available to purchase at cost by the middle of the month.

6 Comments



  1. Wow, Dave, this is stunning. What a cool surprise.

    I’m making a point of sharing poems by real live poets with my students this month and had planned to show them 12 Simple Songs. Now I have a video to show them too.

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  2. What a gorgeous work — the poem, the reading, the video, and the soundtrack. All four extremely inspired and well integrated.

    One of the greatest things to happen to me in the past decade was to have Nic perform one of my poems and then to find that you had put Nic’s recording in a marvelous video. So I know how good you must feel and, one good turn deserving another, how much justice was done here.

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