The Good Question

UPDATE: I rewrote the poem and remade the video on September 18, 2010. The post below refers to an earlier incarnation, using mostly the same footage.

Video link.

Although I’ve experimented with video poems before, this is the first one where I relied on audio for the text rather than superimposing the words on the screen. The footage was all shot this past Sunday, at the top of our field (which is also the top of the Plummer’s Hollow watershed). My friends Chris and Seung had come up from D.C. for a weekend of sledding, and while temperatures on Friday and Saturday stayed nice and cold, and we had some spectaular toboggan wipe-outs (which is the main point of tobogganing, as I understand it), on Sunday morning the thermometer climbed into the 40s (i.e. between 5 and 10 degrees Centigrade, for you farriners). The snow turned sticky. Snowballs flew back and forth like carrier pigeons with one basic but never monotonous message.

By the time we got to the top of the field it was time for some sunbathing, and that’s when Seung’s interest in snowball-making turned from skirmishing to art, as seen in the film.

I wanted to see if I could make a video shorter than a minute and a half, primarily because my most common reaction to other amateur videos is that they aren’t edited well enough. I’m sure there are still lots of things I could improve, though. I don’t particularly like the sound of my own voice, and in general the video doesn’t come close to conforming to the idea I had in advance. There are a lot of avant-gardey things I simply don’t know how to do, and probably can’t do until I get better video editing software (on order). But it’s a start.

For inspiration I am indebted to the poets who have been making videos for qarrtsiluni, especially Christine Swint, who recently tried to stir up interest in the art at Read Write Poem as well.

Incidentally, I also have a photo of Seung up on the photo blog — a badly underexposed, low-resolution snapshot taken with the camcorder that I altered almost beyond recognition in the digital darkroom for a portrait of an altered state which is not, I assure you, an accurate representation of our condition at the time.

9 Replies to “The Good Question”

  1. Agree with marja — that pattern with the snowballs is absolutely fascinating.
    So many good lines in your poem, but the part about the iron frying pan
    squealing as it goes into the water just slays me.

  2. This is just wonderful, from the footage to the reading, to the poem. I love it! You have far surpassed anything I’ve done. Now you are inspiring me.

    Seung sure knows how to play in the snow. It was fascinating to watch her spiral the snowballs, making lines and shadows, as if her actions were the question she had about the snow. Good stuff, Dave.

  3. Great things continuing to happen at Plummer’s Hollow, Dave. This synthesis works brilliantly. I await further developments with great interest.

  4. Hey, it’s a great start! I agree about the patterns of the snowballs.

    My favourite: living with the questions is like living with a house full of cats… wouldn’t you rather have an uninterrupted sleep?

    As the parent of a kitty with feline dementia, I can relate.

  5. Thanks for the comments, y’all, and sorry for the downtime lately. I hope to have a permanant fix for this site’s woes in place soon.

    marja-leena – Good to hear that from a professional artist! I have a couple of photos up on Flickr, too.

    bev – Thanks. After I finished the video I got to thinking that “iron skillet” might’ve been better, but it’s not too critical, I guess. I do worry that someone who’s never cooked with iron would have no freakin’ idea what I’m talking about there.

    Christine, I really appreciate your enthusism for the video, but I do not agree that it “far surpassed” anything you’ve done. In any case, it was fun to find a use for that footage in the same way that I discover things in photos I’ve taken. If I’d written and directed from a script, the process wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable as that sheer serendipity.

    Dick – Hope I don’t disappoint! Actually I think my highest priority now is to get some good footage of my niece. You’re only four once.

    Danika, that “house full of cats” line is the one I’m proudest of, so I’m glad it resonated with you as a cat owner.

  6. Oh, most excellent, Dave!

    I was prepared to be icked — these kinds of things usually trigger an unpleasant recoil — but instead I was captivated, amused, and gleefully impressed! Your poem is lovely, your reading is wonderful, and Seung’s snowball trails are enchanting.

    Thank you!

  7. I enjoyed everything about this very very much. You’re quite skillful with what you do, Dave. I’m amazed …going to watch and listen all over again.

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