Selected links to VIDEOPOEMS: 

"How it Starts" at Poetry Film Live 


"The Almost-Prayer" at Atticus Review

video poetry

Video still from film adaptation of "Night on Klamath River"

An earlier version of these process notes originally appeared in Poetry Film Live (April 2017).

1. First comes the language. That is the foundation. Then the video poem builds upon that language, goes to war with that language, prompts that language to shed its skin and become something new, albeit still grounded in voice, breath, and the body.

2. Film opens up the possibilities of language. It brings high tide to language, returns it to motion. That motion is part of its usefulness and power.

3. I take all of the film clips myself as a kind of of moving-picture journal, recording snippets of life and death whenever I encounter something in the material world that elicits a personal reaction and/or response, or is atmospheric or evocative in some way. 

4. Sometimes a poem wants to be born into a different body. As a person who sometimes speaks poetry, my first job is to listen. 

5. I click through my moving-picture journal while listening to a recording of myself reading the poem. On repeat. I do this until I lose sense of the words as words. I comb through the sand looking for little shells that share this state of mind: searching for video clips that resonate somehow with the language.

6. I like to let some of that somehow stay in shadow. In fact, that's essential to the work. 

7. The video clips are patch-worked together intuitively and associatively. I arrange/rearrange the images alongside the spoken poem in a manner that is similar to a dream, feeling out the affinities and opening myself to understanding interconnectivity by way of symbol and gut reaction. This often includes tapping into personal and shared memory. More dreaming. 

8. This is how you keep the shadow: the links between images, sound and meaning are invoked by words and yet not of words. There is, on the whole, a sense of encounter. 

9. Video poetry exposes the cracks in language. As Rumi explains, "The wound is the place where the light enters you."

10. Too much focus on the eyes creates a distance from the source of language, so I circle back to sound. The ambient soundscape layer undergirding the voice is composed last in my process. It is not song and I approach songwriting much differently. Soundscape is generated with an ear for both tension and complementarity to draw out the tonal elements in the poem’s content that aren’t immediately expressible through language. 

11. The sound layer is not an afterthought or mere accompaniment, but rather another adaptation of the poem.

12. It is through adaptation and translation between mediums that I come closer to understanding the content. Often, that content is language itself. 

13. Video poetry makes the process of meaning-making more transparent even as it seeks to complicate it. 

14. It is possible that video poems are a way of grounding written speech back in the body, evoking a multi-sensorial experience of language in relation to time and space. It is also possible that movements in digital poetics against narrative merely reiterate the varied ways in which all experience is inherently storied.

15. Language matters, and video poetry makes the materiality of language all the more substantive. This is but an entry point. Language opens endless doors.