Poem as Screenplay: Six Video Collaborations
What's the difference between a poem and a screenplay? According to these filmmakers, not much.
We've compiled a list of six video adaptations of poems by Wanda Coleman, Rita Dove, Allen Ginsberg, Amy Hempel, Mark Strand, and Anne Waldman—including cross-genre collaborations with Juan Delcan, Ryan MacDonald, Gus Van Sant and more.
No need to read—just sit back and watch:
Commissioned for the 12th Annual Juniper Literary Festival, held on April 13, 2012 in Amherst, MA, Ryan MacDonald's video presents a series of overlaid images—including found footage of a family vacation—paired with a robotic female-sounding voice reading Amy Hempel's poem.
This short was produced by Todd Boss and Angella Kassube—who founded Motionpoems, an organization that pairs professional animators with poets to create a visual interpretation of their work.
Mark Strand's "The Poem of the Spanish Poet" first appeared in the journal Salamagundi and Best American Poetry 2011 before being adapted by Juan Delcan into this crisp, black and white "motionpoem."
They were masculine toys. They
were tall wishes.
The award-winning PBS series for which this video was created, by Bob Holman and Josh Blum, aired in 1995. Here, Dove ruminates on the rural/industrial qualities of silos—over a beautifully photographed montage of these strange, architectural containers.
"Silos" appears in Dove's collection Grace Notes (W. W. Norton, 1991).
Allen Ginsberg collaborated with an all-star lineup of musicians, including Philip Glass and Paul McCartney, to adapt his poem "The Ballad of the Skeletons" into a song. Film director Gus Van Sant joined the project, which Ginsberg calls "a great collage...of old Pathé, Satan skeletons...local politicians, Newt Gingrich, and the President."
we need to talk money. to
understand the current currency
of our time.
The initial image that appears—before cutting to Coleman's poetic/mock infomercial—is the conceptual artist Barbara Kruger's poster We Get Exploded Because They’ve Got Money and God in Their Pockets (1984). Coleman offers a similar critique, reframing her call to action via the visual cues of advertising. Featured in the PBS Documentary The United States of Poetry, Wanda Coleman's poem parodies the medium on which it was originally aired.
"Talk About the Money" appears in her collection Hand Dance (David R. Godine Publisher, 1993).
Anne Waldman's 1982 video of her poem "Uh-Oh Plutonium" brought poetry to new wave. She writes, in her afterward to Fast Speaking Woman, that she had been teaching a class at The Naropa Institute in which they "tried out various enactments of words to create a force field of energy for protest demonstrations at Rocky Flats plutonium plant in Boulder." Waldman "began chanting 'Mega mega mega mega mega mega mega death bomb—ENLIGHTEN!' the summer of 1978, later working the lines into [the] recording of 'Uh Oh Plutonium!'"