My own videopoems, plus videos made by other people for poems that originally appeared at Via Negativa. This is a sub-category of Poems & poem-like things, but posts are also cross-listed to Video (which contains a few non-poetry-related videos, too). I maintain a separate blog devoted to videopoetry: Moving Poems.

Swoon (aka Marc Neys) is a Belgian video-artist and soundcreator who is, in the words of Dave Bonta, one of the most “prolific and (obviously) fast-moving, …one of the most inventive and interesting artists working in the medium” today. I have so much respect for his work, and also the great good fortune of having Swoon produce a book trailer for my new collection out this week from Phoenicia Publishing, The Buddha Wonders if She is Having a Mid-Life Crisis.

I am also eternally grateful to Via Negativa founder and co-blogger Dave Bonta for making possible the connection to Swoon and a host of other creatives all over the world. It’s going on the eighth year of my daily poetry writing practice at Via Negativa— let me just say that when I started, I couldn’t even imagine how many full length collections and chapbooks would come out of it.

Swoon and I have collaborated before on at least 5 other video poems, which are viewable at Moving Poems— including “Foretold,” a poem I wrote in response to a “first draft” of Swoon’s video used as a prompt in the Poetry Storehouse First Anniversary Contest; and “Trauermantel” (which he turned into a triptych of video poems to include my 2 other poems “Mortal Ghazal” and “Oir.” 

This is the book trailer that Swoon (Marc Neys) produced. I hope you enjoy it, and that you will follow more of his work and visit his blog. Please also visit Phoenicia Publishing for information on how to order the book.

This entry is part 38 of 38 in the series Poetry from the Other Americas
Nicanor Parra in 2014 (photo by Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, visiting the poet for the celebration of his 100th birthday)

Nicanor Parra, far from imaginary, was all too real, according to David Unger in the Paris Review blog — though Alejandro Zambra, writing in the New Yorker, did call the Chilean poet, who died on January 23 at the age of 103, “almost immortal.” The English-language Wikipedia refers to him as

a Chilean poet, mathematician, and physicist. He was considered an influential poet in Chile and throughout Latin America. Parra described himself as an “anti-poet,” due to his distaste for standard poetic pomp and function; after recitations he would exclaim “Me retracto de todo lo dicho” (“I take back everything I said”).

I’ve always admired his work as a useful corrective for extreme lyricism and romanticism, but as the following demonstrates, his poems could still pack quite a punch. This appears in a 1985 collection with a punning title, Hojas de Parra (Grape Leaves or Pages from Parra).

The Imaginary Man

The imaginary man
lives in an imaginary mansion
surrounded by imaginary trees
on the banks of an imaginary river

On the imaginary walls
imaginary old paintings hang
imaginary irreparable cracks
that represent imaginary events
occuring in imaginary worlds
in imaginary times and places

Every afternoon an imaginary afternoon
he climbs the imaginary stairs
and leans out the imaginary balcony
to gaze at the imaginary view
which consists of an imaginary valley
encircled by imaginary hills

Imaginary shadows
advance down the imaginary road
singing imaginary songs
for the death of the imaginary sun

And on imaginary moonlit nights
he dreams of the imaginary woman
who gave him his imaginary love
once again feeling that same pain
that same imaginary pleasure
and that imaginary man’s heart
once again throbs

El hombre imaginario

El hombre imaginario
vive en una mansión imaginaria
rodeada de árboles imaginarios
a la orilla de un río imaginario

De los muros que son imaginarios
penden antiguos cuadros imaginarios
irreparables grietas imaginarias
que representan hechos imaginarios
ocurridos en mundos imaginarios
en lugares y tiempos imaginarios

Todas las tardes tardes imaginarias
sube las escaleras imaginarias
y se asoma al balcón imaginario
a mirar el paisaje imaginario
que consiste en un valle imaginario
circundado de cerros imaginarios

Sombras imaginarias
vienen por el camino imaginario
entonando canciones imaginarias
a la muerte del sol imaginario

Y en las noches de luna imaginaria
sueña con la mujer imaginaria
que le brindó su amor imaginario
vuelve a sentir ese mismo dolor
ese mismo placer imaginario
y vuelve a palpitar
el corazón del hombre imaginario

I made a video for the poem; see Moving Poems for the process notes.

It’s a two-video day! Both of these began as photo-and-poetry posts at Woodrat photoblog and Instagram. Both were shot on my aging iPhone.

As the green drains from the leaves, why doesn’t it pool underground like a reservoir of eternal summer?

Why don’t the green, leaf-shaped katydids turn brilliant colors before they die?

When lovers intertwine, why don’t they fuse like roots from adjacent trees?

If a human falls in a city and there are no trees around, does it leave a hole?

An early snow prompts memories of last year at this time: three haiku-like things.

the sky is falling:
autumn leaves turning
white with snow


November surprise:
white supremacists elect
an orange leader


it’s not winter
it’s white springtime

Luisa’s poem from last Saturday seemed like a good match for a video I shot on my iPhone through the dusty window of a Greyhound bus as I was leaving Newark, New Jersey on Monday. The light was wonderful and evocative, as were the murals on the wall below the train tracks.

Footage shot from car, bus and (especially) train windows is exceedingly common in videopoetry, but I’m hoping my use of moving text saves this instance of it from cliche.

A quick, silent videopoem made with text-on-screen from the latest erasure poem. I’m indebted to a friend, Rachel Shaw, for commenting on the footage I’ve used here — a shot of London’s Notting Hill Carnival, which I posted to Facebook last night — that it was “weirdly beautiful with the sound off. Like anemones and seaweeds waving in the current.”

This comment was much in my mind as I selected lines for the erasure poem, which lo and behold turned out to be just the right length for a half-minute video. Enjoy.

During a visit to Kew Gardens the other week, I was charmed by the interactions of the visitors — a highly multi-ethnic crowd — with an installation called The Hive, by artist Wolfgang Buttress, which is designed to raise consciousness about the plight of bees and other pollinators. Looking at the videos I shot on my hand-me-down iPhone, I was reminded of an old poem-like thing that seemed to complement the footage rather well, which I later supplemented with a couple of other shots from Tate Modern. After extensive tinkering, I decided that the best soundtrack was simply the audio I’d picked up at The Hive, which generated a kind of ambient soundscape “triggered by bee activity in a real beehive at Kew.” Unfortunately, the gardens are right under the flight path of jets landing at Heathrow, but given the subject matter of the videopoem, that noise didn’t seem entirely out-of-place.

Since I’m spending the summer in London, where the wifi is blindingly fast compared to Plummer’s Hollow, it would seem like a waste not to make at least a few videopoems. My latest came out of a road trip this past weekend, in the course of which we visited the Flag Fen Archaeology Park near Peterborough and the John Clare cottage not far away:

The first lines came to me in a dream as I was sleeping in a room at the Bluebird Inn, next door to Clare’s cottage, where he worked as a potboy in the early 19th century. I didn’t get back to sleep for hours, which kind of sucked, but I’m fairly pleased with how the poem turned out. We stopped along the road the next morning to shoot the extra footage with which the video concludes. The first part of the video shows a section of the 3000-year-old preserved causeway at Flag Fen where bronze swords and other items were ritually deposited in the mud in a place which archaeologists believe was favored for its liminality — part land, part water. The John Clare poem quoted at the end is “Autumn,” which ends:

Hill-tops like hot iron glitter bright in the sun,
And the rivers we’re eying burn to gold as they run;
Burning hot is the ground, liquid gold is the air;
Whoever looks round sees Eternity there.

A week ago, I made a videopoem recycling an old text of mine to accompany some marvelous footage of a birder struggling through quicksand from an old home movie of unknown provenance. The metaphorical possibilities were just too good to pass up:

This followed a video I made for a poem by Sarah J. Sloat, also using old-home-movie footage in a kind of lazy person’s homage to Stan Brakhage, as I wrote when I posted it at Moving Poems.

I included some rather detailed process notes that I hope might be of especial interest to poets who’d like to get into working with videopoetry. Sarah wrote,

This poem began with my wondering whether the word ‘amazon’ had anything to do with ‘amaze,’ and finding out it doesn’t. Mix in a little homesickness, lack of sleep and antipathy for insects, and it’s done. The poem was originally published in Crab Creek Review.

Australian singer and artist Marie Craven is one of my favorite makers of poetry videos, so I was flattered and pleased last month when she surprised me with a video based on one of the first poems in Ice Mountain:

Watch on Vimeo.

She used some of my own still photos for a slideshow-style video with the text in subtitles and an instrumental track by Josh Woodward. It all hangs together rather well, I think. Then today she released another video based on the book:

Watch on Vimeo.

This time, she collaborated with her composer friend Paul Dementio to turn my words into a song, and built the video around it using stock footage. Here’s the text:

7 March

paper birch trees can only bend
so far before they break
under the weight of freezing rain

rhododendron leaves
tough as old scrolls are stripped
by starving deer

but some always resprout from the roots
having who knows how many
lifetimes of practice

It’s always such an honor to have one’s words incorporated into other artists’ work. Thanks, Marie and Paul!

Visit Phoenicia Publishing for more about the book, and to order.