Moon at the station

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A videohaiku filmed at our local London Overground station, Kensal Rise. This is the final video in the seasonal series and also in the larger cycle of videohaiku that began last December with footage Rachel shot from the Amtrak approaching our crossing in central Pennsylvania. I know that leaves a month-long gap, but this feels complete now, and I’ve resisted mixing PA- and UK-based videohaiku in a single seasonal series, which I guess reflects some feeling that, however modern haiku might become, however much they might dispense with seasonal words and traditional conceits, they should still be rooted in particular times and places.

Imagine belonging like that. It’s easy if you try…

Guard dog

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My time in the UK is coming to a close for the year, so this is the penultimate video in the current haiku series, which I’m calling Autumn Metropolis. It was shot in a neighborhood of London we’ll call Anytowne, UK. It begins with a sign that I found both haiku-like and ironic:

do not enter
large dogs
may be running free

The ambiguity of “free”, especially in the British context where citizens are also subjects, and where a large proportion of them—possibly a majority—are demanding greater restrictions on their own and others’ movements, is not unlike the ambiguity of one of the dogs’ reactions to me. I feel as if it’s missing its calling as a member of the Border Force.

November rain

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The latest videohaiku combines footage shot this morning through a half-open upstairs window with an observation made yesterday through the downstairs window. I was kind of pleased with the way the footage looks like a mash-up of Impressionism and Cubism.

Hunting mushrooms

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A videohaiku shot yesterday on Hampstead Heath, where various autumn mushrooms are appearing in the leaf duff and meadows. I’ll admit, though, I had eyes mainly for the trees, as usual, and came home empty-handed except for some pretty images.

The vignetting effect is beginning to feel a bit cheesy to me, but I used it without hesitation here, perhaps because the subject of the second half of the video is the essence of cheesiness. The same thinking guided my choice of font. But it’s fine, because as I’ve said before, haiku are supposed to be somewhat light-hearted.

field mushroom, Hampstead Heath

In this human city

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The latest videohaiku stars the neighborhood ash tree and a flock of starlings, shot from the patio while I was drinking coffee. The text is a bit wordier than usual for me, shaped in part by the need to fit into a pseudo-concrete poem.

London after Blake

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My latest videohaiku is an homage to William Blake. The major Blake exhibition currently at Tate Britain features only indirectly, via a billboard above the escalators in Waterloo Station. Just to the southwest of that station, under the multiple railroad tracks, is another, permanent exhibition that Rachel and I took in on Sunday, before walking over to the Tate: the London School of Mosaic’s project Blake’s Lambeth (2005-2015):

Blake’s Lambeth is a collection of 70 mosaics installed in the tunnels alongside Archbishops Park, close to Waterloo Station. The project was part of a 10 year collaboration of Southbank Mosaics (our former company) with Future’s Theatre and Southbank Sinfonia supported by Heritage Lottery.

William Blake lived for ten of his most productive years in North Lambeth at 13 Hercules Buildings. The old house has been knocked down, but there is a plaque where it once stood on Hercules Road. This mosaic project pays homage to his genius and some of his greatest work. Our artists worked with 300 volunteers over a period of 7 years to research, design, plan, create and install 70 mosaics based on the words and paintings of William Blake into the railway tunnels of Waterloo Station, turning them from dark unwelcoming places into street galleries bright with opulent and durable works of art.

There’s also an extensive photo gallery at the blog Spitalfields Life, which is how I found out about the installation, having Googled “William Blake Lambeth”, hoping for an historical marker or something.

I messed around with the text of the haiku quite a lot while working on the video, and it wasn’t until I decided to take it in a Blakean, satirical direction that it felt right. So it’s “after Blake” in two senses. (Here’s the text of his poem “London” if you need a refresher.) Each of the three lines is divided in two, using a similar font to the one in the Tate poster.

Here’s the (longer and much more slickly produced) official video for the project:


Watch on YouTube.

Wet sidewalk

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A haiku video shot near the Angel, Islington, which is apparently the third cheapest property in the British version of Monopoly. These days it’s one of the trendier, more gentrified neighborhoods of north London. In the video I decided not to reference any of this in connection with fallen leaves, since “fallen angels” is such a cliche. But videopoetry fans will doubtless roll their eyes at my use of one of the most hackneyed visual tropes in the genre, a shot of walking feet. In my defense, we were moving quickly (the video is at half speed) and I didn’t have time to frame the shot in such a way that it didn’t include my feet. The results were pretty enough to make me decide to embrace the suck.

Skyline

A videohaiku shot on Primrose Hill, London. The area where people are congregating includes a quote from William Blake incised into the curb/kerb: “I have conversed with the spiritual sun on Primrose Hill.” Here’s the background on that. Unfortunately, too many people were sitting or standing on the quote, posing for selfies or admiring the view — I wasn’t able to video it. I like the shot I used, but it took me several days to come up with a fitting textual accompaniment. One draft I particularly liked…

skyline
the moving domes
of umbrellas

…until I looked at my footage again and realized there weren’t many umbrellas in it.

Where the dead

The latest videohaiku uses footage shot in Kensal Green Cemetery, the oldest of London’s “Magnificent Seven” Victorian garden cemeteries, which is just a half mile from my wife’s house. The footage reminded me initially somehow of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73 (“That time of year thou mayst in me behold…”) — time and timelessness being hard not to think about in a cemetery in any season.

Sleep was of course the dominant metaphor for death in the Victorian era, a fact that was brought home in a lecture we attended at another of the Magnificent Seven last week, Brompton Cemetery, about the once-popular custom of posing the recently deceased for photographs. Hopefully the faceless figure in the video suggests something of my feelings about our fondness for euphemisms around death. I also gave the video misty edges as a general nod to Arcadian sentimentality.

I can’t help thinking though that this would be greatly improved by the addition of a black metal soundtrack…