Stepping into the heat

Watch on Vimeo.

A small, volunteer sunflower growing alongside the footpath between my house and my folks’ house has attracted a huge following, from mordelid beetles to flea beetles to some kind of plant bug that lurk on the back side. Add to that the small wasps and bees coming in for shorter visits, and it’s quite a happening little scene.

That’s what tempted me to stand out in the sun for ten minutes yesterday evening videoing it. But when I brought up the clips on my desktop monitor, it was the sun-struck footage rather than the footage focused more on the insects that seemed the most striking. I hadn’t had anything specific in mind when I shot it, but I picked up my copy of Nic S.‘s book Forever Will End On Thursday and quickly found a nearly perfect fit: the poem “homesteader,” which begins:

I step into the heat
as into a dress

the sun fits me, it is
my size

and the heat is

Every time I make a videopoem, even one as simple as this, I feel I learn something new. This time, I discovered that the natural sound from the video itself made a perfectly satisfactory soundtrack, as long as I was careful, in my couple of splices, not to cut off the field sparrow in mid-song. I’m also refining my technique for massaging the poetry reading. In general, I find it necessary to lengthen the spaces between phrases when adapting a sound recording for use in a videopoem, in order to counteract the distraction-effect of the video images and give the words time to sink in. Nic’s readings lend themselves especially well to this kind of spacing, since her readings are already slower and more clearly articulated than most other people’s. On the other hand, there’s nothing that says a viewer or listener has to catch every word on the first listen. We certainly don’t have that expectation with music!

This is my third video so far for a poem by Nic S.. In case you missed them, the other two were “on being constantly civil towards death” and “the wanderers’ blessing.” Two other videos used Nic’s readings (originally recorded for Whale Sound): “hollow” (text by Peter Stephens — possibly my best videopoem to date) and “A Bigfoot Poem,” Nic’s rendering of one of my own pieces.

8 Replies to “Stepping into the heat”

    1. It’s worth noting that when you left this comment yesterday, you had no idea I was about to feature you on the Woodrat podcast! However, I don’t think of this as being generous so much as getting out of having to generate my own content for the day.

  1. On the other hand, there’s nothing to say that the viewer or listener has to catch every word on the first listen.

    That’s a really interesting observation, to me at least, having come from an audio/video background where the mantra was “they’ll only have one chance to hear/see this”. Repeatable performance, but with no guarantee that the consumer will choose repetition unless it suits them. That changes some of the assumptions about the form, possibly.

    And it’s a beautiful marriage, not just because I’m a sucker for sunflowers.

  2. Rachels, Maureen – Thanks for commenting. I think videopoetry as I practice it is somewhere on a continuum between documentary and music video. One of my goals with each video is to make it just intriguing and mysterious enough that people will want to watch it more than once, but not so obscure that they’ll just go “WTF?” and click away. Come to think of it, I strive for that happy medium in my poems, too.

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