Yesterday, my dad spotted a cecropia moth — newly eclosed, from the looks of it — on the side of one of the black walnut trees in the yard. This is the largest moth in North America, and it’s in the same Saturniidae family as polyphemus and luna moths (which have appeared on this same tree or its immediate neighbor two years in a row, in early August). I shot some video footage of it right away, but figured it wouldn’t be flying until after dark, so I went back at dusk with a flashlight to shoot some more footage.
This morning, it occurred to me that the nighttime footage might make a good fit with one of Nic S.’s poems from her recent nanopress chapbook, Dark And Like a Web: Brief Notes On and To the Divine, edited by Beth Adams. Nic had given me “blanket permission to use any and all of my stuff out there, any time” in a comment on my post about the new videopoetry album, so I didn’t have to worry about the fact that she’s off on vacation somewhere and probably not reading emails. The poem I had in mind, “on being constantly civil towards death,” is very short, but I’ve made at least half a dozen videos for haiku poems, and this is twice the length of a haiku. Would the text and the footage make a good pair? Maybe. It would depend on what I did with the soundtrack.
I downloaded the MP3 link off the chapbook’s website and listened to it a few more times. Due to the poem’s brevity, each line does a lot of work, so the first order of business was to make sure they didn’t go by so quickly that they wouldn’t register with a viewer. I could have slowed down Nic’s reading — my audio software has a function that lets you change the speed of a track without altering its pitch — but unlike many poets, Nic already seems to read at just about the right speed. So instead I lengthened almost every pause, a strategy that seemed to work well with the first poem of hers I did a video for, “the wanderers’ blessing.” This made the poem half again longer, though it was still pretty brief.
After listening to a bunch of Creative Commons-licensed pieces of music at Jamendo.com and ccmixter.org, I decided not to use any background music this time — it just didn’t seem to fit a poem dominated by a “great black stillness.” But from one death-metal track with a telephone ring in it, I got the idea of turning the poem into a phone call. It seemed appropriate for the overall theme of Nic’s chapbook — attempting to commune with a perhaps unreachable Other. This was good, because I conceive of the video not just as Moving Poems material, but also as something akin to a trailer for the book. (It helps that, as a paying customer of Vimeo, I now have the ability to conclude embedded videos with a clickable link.)
But yes, I did briefly consider using death metal in the soundtrack. Which is why you should probably be very careful about giving someone like me blanket permission to monkey with your work.