REELpoetry, February 2023, ecopoetry presentation, & still time to submit
REELpoetry, based in Houston, Texas and online will be with us once again February 24–26, 2023. There is still time to submit for the festival by the 19th not 15th of December, which isn’t themed this year, and entries are given prizes for the best film under four minutes and the best 4-6 minutes long.
There will be a host of different programmes apart from the exciting open juried screening: live events in Houston (Café Brasil) include: Texas Poets and Filmmakers screenings; ASL poets and performers, (a particularly important and unique feature of this festival with Sabina England now part of the team and top interpreters), an Open Mic and Deaf Open Mic, and Jack Cochrane and Pamela Falkenberg (see this site to learn more about their working methods) hosting an activist ecopoetry film screening. Online will include an online discussion with Deaf and Hearing participants; curations from around the globe – Mexico, Canada, Italy, Australia, England etc. and REELcafe networking opportunities. All in all a great lineup for a post-COVID event with Houston itself firmly back in the centre of things.
Fran Sanders, the organiser, is very active on the poetry scene in Houston through Public Poetry publicpoetry.net and, apart from the COVID hiatus has been building a strong foundation for poetry film in the city for a number of years. Submissions are via FilmFreeway: https://filmfreeway.com/REELpoetry2023
I am fortunate enough to have been part of the organising meetings and one of the judges (currently being confirmed), two of whom, alongside Fran Sanders, are: leading Australian digital artist and eco poetry filmmaker Ian Gibbins, and Canadian digital artist Mary McDonald.
As a triad Ian, Mary and myself are also making a short 40-minute video for the festival entitled:
Ecopoetry Films & Subjectivity: Behind the Making Process.
With the devastating effects of climate change, Ian Gibbins, Mary McDonald and
Sarah Tremlett present their films and discuss each other’s work and their varying
approaches in relation to the theme of ecopoetry and subjectivity.
Mary’s films will be Wishing Well (poet Penn Kemp) and Utility Pole (poet Fiona Tinwei Lam); Ian’s floodtide, and colony collapse, and mine I Cannot be Human, and Villanelle for Elizabeth not Ophelia. More to come.
FOTOGENIA, Mexico City, is back!
For a full week this year, Fotogenia festival (who I partner with at Liberated Words) and directed by leading curator Dr Chris Patch, is running from November 23rd to December 1st. At https://www.fotogeniafilmfestival.org/en it is now in its fourth edition and is packed with a broad and eclectic selection of international works and includes live events alongside an online programme. I am one of the judges of the poetry film section and the entries were very difficult to judge, although one or two were highly innovative and a real delight to watch. My poetry film Villanelle for Elizabeth not Ophelia is also in the festival programme 6 alongside artists such as Jane Glennie, Deborah Kelly and Tova Beck-Friedman in a section primarily related to women’s issues, and I am looking forward to being involved next week from an online point of view.
I think I should let the festival speak for itself:
See you there!
MALDITO 2–6 November, Albacete, Spain
So pleased to announce that Maldito festival in Albacete, Spain is here again, and looks to have a really versatile and compelling curation programme. I am very proud to say that it includes my interview (translated into Spanish and English) on The Poetics of Poetry Film and videopoetry with Javier Robledo, director of VideoBardo celebrating 25 years of VideoBardo festival in Buenos Aires, Argentina. My own ekphrastic poetry film Villanelle for Elizabeth not Ophelia (Spanish version), bringing to attention female suicide, is also in the programme and I wish I could be there, maybe next year.
Sarah Tremlett interviewed by Dr Tereza Stehlíková – from Marinetti to Danny Boyle – Tangible Territory 4 & The Poetics of Poetry Film
Issue 4 of leading avant-garde art journal Tangible Territory came out recently https://tangibleterritory.art/journal/issue-4-content/poetics-of-poetry-film/ and I am humbled to say I am included amongst a rich collection of writers with their fingers on the cultural pulse (for example, digital media theorist Lev Manovich, also quoted in TPOPF). In terms of subject matter, the content really opens up how we might think about our role in the biosphere (for example place in terms of different ‘time scales’ (Václav Cílek) or the magic of VR enchantment (Célia Quico).
Founder and editor Dr Tereza Stehlíková now based in Prague, works as an artist, filmmaker and a senior lecturer and PhD supervisor. I am a great admirer of Tereza’s work, not only as a deeply intelligent editor, (she co-founded Artesian journal, featuring the writings of luminaries such as John Berger and Don DeLillo) but also in terms of her innovative research concepts. I really first got to know her through her interview with Christian Pacheco-Cámara (Chris Patch) for Fotogenia Festival, Mexico City, back in 2020, when she was introducing her film-based practice in relation to the senses – taste and smell. A fascinating discussion and impressive research. See Cinema for all the Senses
Cinema for all the Senses, Dr Tereza Stehlíková
Bringing up this subject in relation to contexts such as the enforced isolation of COVID she notes: ‘My practice is informed by my ongoing exploration of the role of the senses and our embodiment in communicating meaning, often using narratives to help activate imagination and provide a framework. Beyond this, the core themes in my creative practice are built around our relationship to landscape and place in general and how our environment can become an extension of our inner worlds.’
And in terms of the journal: ‘Tangible Territory is a platform that offers a space for various voices to meet and discuss themes relating to the importance of place and embodied experience, in giving meaning to our everyday experience of life and art.’ Tereza notes that the focus of this issue is centred on the relationship between human beings and the different environments we occupy ‘which shape us as much as we shape them’. See for example:
Herbarium. Flowers of Transhumanist Fantasies: Artist Adam Vačkář shares the story of his fascination with invasive plants and his subsequent artistic journey into the world of biology.
In her editorial comment she brings to attention one contributor’s use of the term ‘quiet activism’ and also observes that a key word that has arisen in this edition is ‘empathy’, with a final comment that we need ‘hope for the future’. For her, cultural thinking is certainly via a philosophical lens of connective aesthetics, rather than divorced from our position in the biosphere. Through Tangible Territory, she would like to build an open community where ‘key values are celebrated, explored, promoted’. I would also like to note in this post-BREXIT Britain (which has floundered without proper government since the suicidal severing) that I am pleased to be part of a really internationally inclusive group of authors. So, it was a joyful challenge to be asked quite complex questions by her on The Poetics of Poetry Film and really think hard about the answers.
Here are a couple of fascinating questions:
When speaking of poetry films, I am reminded of the filmmaker Werner Herzog’s ‘ecstatic truth’, which he understands as a form of deeper, poetic truth independent of facts. In one of his typically provocative statements, Herzog claims that “Academia is the death of cinema. It is the very opposite of passion. Film is not the art of scholars, but of illiterates.” You are a poet, poetry filmmaker but also an academic. How do you reconcile the two different ways of approaching the same subject, and do you feel there are dangers or advantages in coming from two different “camps” or angles?
I was also struck by your statement of poetry films dealing with “things in process”, examining and reconfiguring time. Can you expand here on what you mean by that and how does this relate to ideas of vertical time, subjectivity, and being attentive?
Cocteau to Danny Boyle
From Marinetti to leading experimental film poets Gwendolyn Audrey Foster and Wheeler Winston Dixon,from Cocteau to Danny Boyle and Trance (2013), we cover a whole field of filmmaking. For example, Trance with ‘Baudelairean’ cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle, is for me an extended film poem. It could in some ways be compared to any of the dream-like films by the early experimental filmmakers and the Surrealists, or even Deren in the use of mirrors and reflections, or staring into the camera; except that the strident use of colour to help tell the narrative adds digital, 21st-century volumes to those who are receptive.
Trance, Danny Boyle
A Body, Milena Tipaldo
I was also pleased to be asked about animation today and how I feel it seems to have developed in recent years. Artists mentioned in this context include: Efrat Benzur and Yuval and Merav Nathan, Lise Fearnley and Kaisa Naess, Stephanie Dudley and poet Erin Moura, Suzie Hanna, Susanne Wiegner, Melanie Ludwig, Milena Tipaldo and Ann Isensee.
It was also very gratifying to bring into the discussion my own wider philosophical / political influences. Early feminist theorists who I value, admire and who are also mentioned include: Somer Brodribb Nothing Mat(t)ers: a feminist critique of postmodernism (1988), Carol Bigwood Earth Muse (1993), and Discovering Reality: Feminist Perspectives on Epistemology, Metaphysics, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science (1983) by Sandra Harding. These important thinkers (and note the relatively early dates) put the injustices of the inherited hierarchical dualities of Western philosophy in context, especially in relation to how we conceive of mankind’s position in relation to the biosphere. Their ideas are, unfortunately, even more relevant today and give a strong foundation for rethinking the nature/culture divide, as we all work to save the planet.
I would also like to give a warm mention to all the artists that I have cited and who aren’t mentioned here, and who continue to inspire in the field. And now, go read!
Poems by Poetry Filmmakers in San Francisco – Marc Zegans and Sarah Tremlett
Marc Zegans and I will be sharing poems and poetry films on Thursday November 10th at Adobe Books in San Francisco. Thank you so much Prasant! Marc has an exciting and topical new collection out, Lyon Street (on San Francisco itself), which is a wonderful and really evocative read, with memories of a more laid back time. I will be discussing The Poetics of Poetry Film and also reading poems from TREE on family history. Excited to tap into the place where amongst many other creative significances, Herman Berlandt began the first poetry film festival back in the 70s.
Utility Pole – Behind the Scenes of a Masterful, Binaural Ecopoetry Film
I am very pleased to share details on this important ecopoetry film.
Utility Pole is a poetry film collaboration between two leading Canadian poetry filmmakers: Vancouver’s current Poet Laureate Fiona Tinwei Lam and award-winning poetry filmmaker Mary McDonald. I have known Mary as a good friend for some time, and she was one of the judges of my Frame to Frames: Your Eyes Follow ekphrastic poetry film prize this year.
Vancouver reading and Poets with a Video Camera symposium
I will be presenting alongside Fiona [and Annie Frazier Henry, Heather Haley, Kurt Heintz, Adeena Karasick, Tom Konyves, Valerie LeBlanc and Daniel H. Dugas, Matt Mullins and Javier Robledo], at the videopoetry symposium (5th November) at Surrey Art Gallery related to Tom Konyves’ Poets with a Video Camera: 1980–2020 exhibition. Fiona will also take the stand as the emcee for the Poems by Poetry Filmmakers reading the next day at the Co-Op Bookstore [see other posts on presentations and readings]. A great Canadian welcome, so a BIG HUG to VANCOUVER.
I am a huge supporter of tree planting, and reforestation, and so this particular poetry film means a lot to me. As they say in their description of the film: ‘Utility Pole explores the transformation of trees into the poles that hold our communications, the many branched network that connects us, as the trees have been severed from each other and their own living networks. The soundscape is a binaural, 360 soundscape featuring a mix of urban forest sounds, with the sounds of technology today and the pointed call of Morse code, our earliest technologically enabled transatlantic communication. The Morse code recording is from Freesound.org.’
As you can see the construction of the film is very interesting and quite complex, it is rare to have a binaural soundscape; and do check out Mary’s development of her visual techniques (below) if you want to learn more about making poetry films.
FIONA TINWEI LAM
“Utility Pole” was one of the many odes to ordinary things I was trying to write for my 2019 collection, Odes & Laments. https://fionalam.net/home/odes-laments/
For years, I’d been walking up and down the same alley way to get groceries, and noticing these telephone poles right next to live trees. I started noticing all the attachments to these poles, and then started researching the history of telephone poles, which became the genesis of the poem. I met Mary at REELpoetry in Houston, and when she was in town, I suggested we collaborate. We went to UBC Botanical Gardens to do its Greenheart suspended walkway through the trees to get some footage. I obtained permission to use some photos of clearcuts taken by the local Sierra Club. I also took some photographs of telephone poles for Mary to incorporate. Mary did a fabulous job incorporating and integrating all this material.
For me, the key visual component for this work, is anchored within the first lines of the poem – “teeming green”. I wanted to create a lush, moving cornucopia of life, a living green network in contrast to the stark, mechanical world of the utility poles, fraught with the vicarious life of our human communication networks. I played with various apps to turn my photographs of trees, leaves, needles into abstracts [see end for a demonstration of the transition].
Turning a Photo into a Webbed Image
Before I painted on the movement in Pixaloop, I turned the Live Photo into a long exposure. I started with the app Tangled FX which took the photographs of the cedar branch that closes the film, and reduced it to webs of filaments, hashed lines/abstract thick virtual finger-painted swirls. I then moved these transformed images into the app Pixaloop where you can literally paint on movement, using my fingers on my iPad to draw out the movement I choreographed into the still image. The resulting moving image, full of noise and aliasing hit the perfect note of the seemingly disordered, moving chaos of life [see end for an example of the process with a borage flower].
For stark contrast, I turned other photographs like the aerial view of the clearcut [clearcut logging is a forestry/logging practice in which most or all trees in an area are uniformly cut down] into hashed drawn images that morph into threaded webs. I painted movement onto these, moving from images full of colour and multiple shades of green to grey, black and white. The rhythms of the sound clip of Morse code that appears halfway through the film, can be heard underlying the entirety. The 360 natural soundscape contains wind and leaves, squirrels and birds as well as the sounds of airplanes and traffic in an ever-changing mix in contrast to the urgent pulse and pitch of the Morse code clip. The images at the end of the poem pull us back into the teeming web that is then frozen into a single, still, stained glass image of a tree trunk. It is here at last, that we clearly hear birds and a chorus of forest voices which play as if in eulogy following the stilled image of the tree trunk.
Example of Mary’s process as shown with the cedar branch in Utility Pole
Borage Flower on Nasturtium Leaf
Fiona Tinwei Lam
Chinese-Canadian writer Fiona Tinwei Lam was born in Scotland but raised in Vancouver, British Columbia. She holds an LL.B. from Queen’s University, an LL.M. from the University of Toronto, and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. Fiona is the author of Intimate Distances (finalist for the City of Vancouver Book Prize), Enter the Chrysanthemum, and Odes & Laments. She also authored the illustrated children’s book, The Rainbow Rocket. Her poetry and prose have been published in over forty anthologies (Canada, Hong Kong, and the US), including The Best Canadian Poetry in English (2010, 10th anniversary Best of the Best edition 2017, and 2020). Three of her poems have been featured on BC’s Poetry in Transit. She is a co-editor of and contributor to the creative nonfiction anthology, Double Lives: Writing and Motherhood published by McGill-Queen’s University Press with Cathy Stonehouse and Shannon Cowan, and also the editor of The Bright Well, a collection of contemporary Canadian poetry about facing cancer. She and Jane Silcott co-edited the creative 2018 nonfiction and poetry anthology, Love Me True: Writers Reflect on the Ins, Outs, Ups & Downs of Marriage. From September 2020-21, she curated and hosted the online monthly poetry series In/Verse for the Federation of BC Writers to showcase local published poets. Her award-winning poetry videos, made in collaboration with local animators and filmmakers, have been screened at festivals locally and internationally since 2009. She has recently been appointed Vancouver’s Poet Laureate for 2022-2024.
photo credit: Holly Hofmann
Vancouver’s Poet Laureate 2022–2024
The Poet Laureate, “the people’s poet,” is an honorary position with a two-year term. Serving as a champion for poetry, language and the arts, the Laureate creates a unique literary project and represents the City as Laureate during readings and public poetry events. Funded through a generous endowment by Dr. Yosef Wosk, OBC, the position was established in 2006 by the City of Vancouver in partnership with the Vancouver Public Library and The Vancouver Writers’ Festival.
Fiona Tinwei Lam’s Legacy Project will involve community outreach to encourage the generation of new poems and poetry videos to foster greater understanding about significant historical, cultural and ecological sites on the unceded traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples now known as the City of Vancouver.
The first stage of the project was the City Poems Contest, a poetry contest for youth and adults April-June 2022. The second stage of the project is the City Poems Poetry Video Contest based on the award-winning poems and other curated site-based poems, which will officially launch in January 2023. Preliminary information will be posted in the fall of 2022 on this website.
Schools in the Vancouver school district may book a one-hour workshop with the Vancouver Poet Laureate through the Poet in Class program with Poetry in Voice, or with the Vancouver Writers Fest’s Writers in the Classroom program, or through contacting Fiona directly. Information about the Poet Laureate position is also available through the Vancouver Public Library and the City of Vancouver (Cultural Services).
Mary McDonald is a Canadian writer and multimedia artist whose work explores words through sound, image, and movement. McDonald is passionate about creating with digital technology, bringing text and multimedia art directly into community, historic and natural spaces through AR (augmented reality). McDonald’s multidisciplinary practice encompasses text, photography, poetry film, music and immersive sound, interactive AR (augmented reality) installations, and community participatory arts projects. Her poetry films and AR installations have been exhibited widely in Canada and internationally. McDonald’s poetry film and AR installation, On the Margin of History, was awarded first prize in new media, performative and digital work. Her most recent collaboration with Vancouver Poet Laureate, Fiona Tinwei Lam, explores the fibres of connectivity in our natural and technologized world. This work encompasses Mary’s multilayered approach to poetry and poetry film.
Mary is very fortunate to work with a not-for-profit organization which partners with remote and rural communities across Canada to share digital skills and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) education. This work has brought her into contact with many fabulous people and to some very beautiful spaces on our shared world. McDonald is grateful for these opportunities to share her love for creating with technology, to meet new people, to learn about different ways of being and experience new landscapes.