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.

View at Moving Poems

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 S. 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.

16 Replies to “Hollow”

  1. I hope I have some credibility to be heard saying that this video is one of the finest poetry shorts I’ve seen. The tantalizingly tenuous connections among image, music, voice, and text transcend the poem and, by so doing, honor it. I think any poem worth its hoot should take me places its writer never imagined. Dave, I’m so honored, and touched.

  2. I like this a lot. The footage of you and the trees is really mesmerizing, and I love the moment where the rock disrupts your reflection. Stunning.

    1. Thanks, man. Total serendipity that the rock happened to land right in the middle of my reflection. I had the camera strapped to a sapling on the other side of the pond and didn’t know what I’d get.

  3. This is beautiful. It’s so exciting, to me, to see this kind of internet collaboration between gifted artists across all mediums…Peter’s words, Dave’s keen eye and skill, Nic’s beautiful reading voice. I love it that working together, the possibilities are endless. This is a beautiful poem, Peter, on its own…good to see it honored, the word you used, here and on Whale Sound. I feel like I’m seeing the beginning of something very fine with this kind of collaboration. Keep leading us on, Nic and Dave. And my thanks to all three of you for this fine treat.


    1. Thanks so much for these kind words, Pat, which articulate also some of what I feel re: collaboration on the web. If Nic is amenable and I can talk some other poets into it, perhaps there will be more videos based on Whale Sound readings.

  4. Indeed, this is everything Pat says: beautiful, engrossing, startling, soothing and opening an exciting vista into collaborative work. Wonderful!

    (Is that footage of you walking in the trees all one film – or one of the reflections in water and one of you walking, somehow superimposed/spliced together? It’s so satisfying to watch – and made perfect, of course, by the stone landing in the water)

    1. Jean, I’m so glad you share the others’ high opinon of this. I’m beginning to believe the film was not a total flop. Yeah, that was all one take, cut and spliced. Glad it works.

  5. “films that suggest additional meanings and avoid a straightforward illustration of the text”

    Yes. It sort of reminds me of the occasional group readings at Whale Sound – the different layers and perspectives that each reader brings to a poem – but of course from different sensual & technological platforms. It’s all great, but the water shots are peculiarly wonderful. I keep coming back to this – thanks for bringing us all together in this way, Dave.

    1. Hi Nic! Thanks for this most generous appraisal. My head has swelled quite out of proportion now.

      As I mentioned in my reply to Pat, I’d certainly be interested in working with more Whale Sound audio, as opportunity, inspiration and serendipity permit. But I can also suggest some other videopoets who’d probably jump at the chance to envideo your readings, if it’s a direction you’d like to pursue.

      1. Sounds like a wonderful idea. I am game for any Whale Sound audio to be used (assume that whoever uses it would, like you, also get the permission of the poet to use the text). Thanks again! N

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