Taking the Waters (videopoem)

This new film by Marc Neys (AKA Swoon) grew out of our shared experiences in Dunbar, Scotland at the beginning of August, where Rachel, Marc and I spent a great deal of time together, walking, talking, and taking the local beverages. (Unmentioned in the prose poem is the fact that a fairly major brewery, Belhaven, is located there. When we arrived at our campground that Thursday evening, the air was suffused with the sweet smell of boiling mash.) Since we were in town for the Filmpoem Festival, it seemed only fitting that a new filmpoem/videopoem should come out of it. However, Marc’s first attempt with footage he’d shot on the Dunbar shore used an old poem of mine with which I’d become somewhat disenchanted. In the meantime, I’d written the prose poem “Taking the Waters” and suggested he try working with that instead, and obviously that’s what he did — but with almost all new footage, shot not on the North Sea but high in the Austrian Alps.

Marc describes the whole process in a recent blog post at his new website. As he quotes me as saying in the post, prose poetry is closely associated with surrealism, but sometimes, as here, real-life incidents provide more than enough bizarre material to keep the prose from getting too prosaic. Rachel’s story about a man reading to the sea was obviously key to the success of the text, so I’m glad she has a major part in the videopoem as the primary reader. Marc himself is “our friend the musician.” It’s interesting that he ended up not using much of the footage he shot that weekend, but I think avoiding too close a correspondence between subject matter and film images makes for a more suggestive videopoem. There are still enough visual and auditory artifacts from that weekend in the film to make it an apt memento for the three of us without, I hope, coming across to other viewers as exclusive or overly self-referential.

It’s always hugely satisfying to collaborate with artists like this, despite or perhaps because of the fact that the results aren’t the sort of publications that more ambitious American poets climb all over each other to bag for their CVs. I can’t think of a filmmaker I’d rather have envideo my poems than Marc; he’s the most-published filmmaker on MovingPoems.com for a reason.

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