When I was young, I did have a few ambitions. I remember wanting to be a tree, or to achieve orbital velocity, or even to fall in love — falling was especially attractive. I remember trying to feel full of potential: an odd proposition, like following the map of veins in the back of your hand, or praying to an unresponsive power company. I hadn’t yet learned how to listen to the silent land. Back then, my mania for writing was only kept in check by my mania for crossing things out, like scratch answering to itch. I kept everything: my papers, you’d say, if I were anyone famous. Leaves from a tree that no longer exists.
I filmed a short walk through the woods during a snowstorm yesterday, but in the absense of image stabilization it turned out to be fairly unwatchable except in short segments. So most of this videopoem consists of game cam footage from our neighbors, Troy and Paula Scott. The cameras are motion-triggered and shoot both normal and infrared, 30-second films. The soundtrack incorporates music by DJ Rkod licensed under a Creative Commons Noncommercial Sampling Plus licence, found at ccmixter.org, which Peter Stephens turned me onto last month (check out his videopoetry on Vimeo).
The power was out for four hours this morning, forcing me to resort to pen and paper, which now strikes me as a very odd way to write.
I got the urge to make a videopoem today — perhaps because the videopoetry site I curate, Moving Poems, is on hiatus until Monday. The soundtrack here is from suonho and licensed under a Creative Commons Sampling Plus 1.0 license. (If you’re into making video or audio, The Freesound Project is an invaluable resource, “a collaborative database of Creative Commons licensed sounds.” Check it out!)
The flies were half-frozen, they could
barely rub their forelegs together.
How was it the mind still managed
its manikin dance? The galvanized
steel bucket had yet to heal
where a hunter had shot it
beside the old settling pond, now green
with duckweed. What was it like
to flicker wingless, like a flame,
among the ranked objects of desire
from the latest raid? And as
the utmost treasure sang its drone note
into the palm, to feel the fever leave.
I have only muscle memory
of this now: a hooded falcon
ruffling its index feathers
& the bare oaks like a ribcage
through which I passed.
A Facebook friend linked to a website with instructions on how to make a thought shield to protect oneself from space aliens with telepathic powers. If I don’t link to it, it’s because I don’t want this post to become crank-bait. All I’ll say about the troubled people who take such sites seriously is that they are only more haunted than most by an angst about the nature of thought and scientific inquiry which seems endemic to our civilization. Here’s the text of the videopoem.
There’s nowhere to hide. Ever since
the first abduction, I have felt them
sifting through my thoughts,
pinpoint headaches never in
the same spot twice.
Other times, something almost
imperceptible, more felt than heard,
like a breeze so slow there’s only
one moving blade of grass.
But I know it’s their doing that
I find myself questioning who I am.
When I start to doubt my
own memories, I know it’s time
for action. I will line a swim cap
with eight sheets of carbon-
impregnated Velostat, attach
grounding wires for when I sleep
& the silver-fingered aliens slip
through the walls like fish.
My mind will appear in their probes
only as an absense, black
as any hole that used to be a sun.
Yet another one-minute videopoem. We had a series of violent thunderstorms the night before last, and rather than film the lightning itself, I decided to try and capture what the lightning illuminated. It was interesting how sometimes the camera managed to focus and other times it didn’t.
The use of a cursive script for the title was a first for me. The poem arose like all the others in this one-minute series, as a response to the footage. Influenced I think by my two recent videohaiku, it makes a literal connection with the film imagery at the end.
How I Knew Her
I knew her the way a lake knows a mountain:
from the top down.
Through careful reassembly after every breeze.
I knew her the way a clown knows boredom:
better than I knew that absurdity my self.
I knew her the way an ear candle knows an ear:
through the most intimate of failures
& the sincerest form of flattery.
I knew her the way the night knows lightning:
by inference from the series of missing moments.
So as I mentioned, yesterday was the Big Sit. Though I didn’t count birds, not being a real birder, I did watch a bird for close to twenty minutes, and sitting was most of what she did. I actually don’t know whether she was male or female, but for some reason I thought of her as female. Since I didn’t have a tripod with me, most of the video I shot was kind of shakey, which is why I opted to make this into another one-minute videopoem and cut straight to the standing-up part. Otherwise, I think it would be neat to try and share what it’s really like to watch wildlife (as opposed to what tends to make it onto Animal Planet and the like). When the vulture yawned, I think she was expressing a deep truth about sitting in general.
I approach videohaiku a little differently from regular videopoetry, as you’ll see. For one thing, I prefer the poem to appear as type, without audio. Also, the text can flow more directly from the imagery than with a regular videopoem. And finally, while some videohaiku makers use three short scenes in imitation of the three-line pattern that characterizes most English-language haiku, I prefer the style I’ve followed here: holding the poem until the end of a quiet, meditative scene or two. This resembles the effect of a poem on a scroll, or a haiku following a passage of prose (haibun).
I might get a second videopoem, haiku or otherwise, out of footage I shot today, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.
Another one-minute videopoem, this time featuring the Play-Doh creations of my dad and niece. Here’s the text.
Before I learned to write, I could barely see. My days were empty Os to be filled at random in a multiple choice exam & fed into some mechanical reader. Then the pen came down & baptized me in its blue or black ichor, & I traveled whole through insomnia’s corrosive labyrinth. The snowpack had melted & frozen again, & the ground was blinding in the sunlight, an immaculate foolscap. This is it, I thought, everyone has preceded me into the next life. I walked with eyes averted until I passed between columns & entered the temple of trees, the ordinary forest.
More and more publishers are producing video trailers for new books. Perhaps it’s time to start making them for websites, too. This action-packed trailer, though, is intended less to promote The Morning Porch than simply to introduce it to new readers — something to embed on the About page.
I shot the video yesterday for my one-minute movies project, and I suppose I’ll still class it as such even though it goes five seconds over with the addition of the Paul Eluard quote (which I stole from a friend’s pseudonymous Facebook profile a while back). This one is definitely more documentary than videopoem. I could probably make it more exciting with a few, brief inserts of other images: you know, close-ups of things glimpsed from the porch. But that might clash with the message of the text, I don’t know. Here’s what I wrote for it:
I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be a prisoner, condemned to the same round every day, compelled to do things I had little appetite for, surrounded by others in the same situation, all of us desperate with loneliness and the desire to be somewhere, anywhere else. What would I do? I’m a writer, so I suppose I would write. It would be an almost enviable situation: all that free time. I would take note of everything I saw, immerse myself in the moment no matter how bleak, because daydreaming would only lead to despair. I would write small, spare things 140 characters in length that some would call poems, but that I would see as clauses of one long sentence. I’d be in for life.
A flash-fiction videopoem featuring the hands of my niece Elanor and members of her plastic entourage. The depressing subject matter might have something to do with the fact that I had just seen the documentary Gasland (highly recommended, by the way). And in fact, my preferred style of videopoem-making borrows heavily from documentaries, relying as it does on discovery rather than invention (e.g. actors following a script), and using voice-over narration to convey the text of the poem.
The Machinery of Time
The time machine was our only answer to the apocalypse we’d set in motion. Some chose to travel 10 million years into the future, by which time, they figured, new multicellular organisms would’ve evolved. Others of us decided to go back & try to change history. Someone thought she could help Carthage win the Punic Wars. Someone else wanted to insert a fable about hubris into the Homeric epic. But the backwards travel unraveled us, thinned us out & made us ineligible for death. We appeared only in mirrors, or to people with second sight, provoking fresh terror at a haunted world. When after millennia of helplessness we reached our own birthdays, we crumbled like the pages of a burnt book.
That’s about the maximum length for the text of a one-minute videopoem, by the way. I had to cut out a few phrases and read more quickly than usual to fit it in. Still, after almost three years of writing for the world’s tiniest daily newspaper, The Morning Porch, one minute seems like more than enough time to get an idea across. The above text would fill five tweets.