March 26, 2010

Painting Out the Poem

The surging interest in pairing poems with visual media isn’t new, of course. Many canonical poets included illustrative elements with their poetic work at one point or another. Consider the examples of William Blake, e.e. cummings and T. S. Elliot. More recently, we’ve seen Paul Muldoon, in Plan B, pair photographs with his poems, and Charles Simic has collaborated with artist George Nama in the creation of two recent collections, Wonders of the Invisible World, and Eternities. Wendell Berry took his turn with his second book November Twenty Six Nineteen Hundred Sixty Three. There are numerous other examples of artists and poets working towards a synthesis of word and image, though until recently these collaborations were generally confined to printed books. (There are, of course, examples of poems being presented through film.)

Piotr Florczyk, a poet, translator, and friend, brought the Motion Poem project to my attention. While Motionpoems is not the originator of this viral format, Boss and co. are attempting to popularize the form, employing established talent to give the medium an initial dose of clout.

By combining speech, images, text, and sound, “motion poems” have the potential to show the poem’s complex characteristics. This mode of communicating a poem may slowly affect the way poems are written, with poets becoming more aware of their work’s clarity and organization, and less concerned with lineation, form, and the subtler tropes. If a change does occur it might be similar to the creeping evolution of the stage play to the screen play.

Resistance to this movement seems to reflect the most notable schism in poetry today, namely the one that exists between paper-poetry and spoken word poetry. “Traditional” paper-poets often find spoken word poetry to be a performance, a contest of personality and delivery which lacks substance and subtlety; spoken word poets find paper-poetry to be dead artifacts, a precious and elite riddle. (There are crass generalizations, I know.)

The trouble (and wonder) is that the poem is amphibious, is at home both in the mouth and on the dry page. Some days I feel that the poem is more a fish, other days it seems more a snake. But perhaps the poem is better described as an eel that spends most of its life moving between the water of the mouth and the land of the page.

Motion poems are not innately superior to the page or the recitation. They have the ability to obscure or reveal the poem, but what excites me most is that the movement seems to respond to a change in how much of the public prefers to experience creative works. Motion poems presume that poetry is durable and malleable, a fact which is easy to forget during the often fragile process of their creation.

1 comment:

  1. The God of Our Farm Had Blades is working for me. TYJB. & HB 2 Old Man. Maria