Absolute gold, thank you! It’s been a dream to be able to dedicate time to talking about the nature of poetry film. Perfect! More!
Poetry film workshop was developed by Steve Smart and Colm Scully for Scottish Poetry Library with support from Creative Scotland. It was delivered over two days in October 2023 (about the workshop).
This web page provides access to films and other web resources connected with the workshop. Mostly thumbnails link to the relevant item, there are also lots of extra links in the notes..
If you can think of something else you feel should be here, or you just want to comment - please use the contact form.
Some films and filmmakers
Alastair Cook archive at SPL
Alastair Cook is a photographer and filmmaker who is a significant figure in Scottish filmpoetry, and documentary film making. Scottish Poetry Library has an archive of many of his works. Even more of Cook's films can be found on his Vimeo.
A tree speaks by Steve Smart 4m20s
In a sense the form of the animated text in this film is kind of 'concrete film-poem' - I was playing with using ways in which I could animate text that felt relevant to the meanings of of different lines of poetry.
Culture Night by Colm Scully
I used a Deco Pro Board to create the drawings for this animation of a recitation I wrote several years ago. I used Fire Alpaca to create the 500 still images necessary and Final Cut pro to stitch it all together.
Drumshanbo Written Word Weekend Shortlists
See the complete shortlist selection of Poetryfilms from the 2022 and 2023 Drumshanbo Written Word festivals held in County Leitrim, Ireland
Four attempts at making a human by Dylan and Jonathan Brennan
A mixture of stop motion animation and camera work obliquely referring to the text, the mystery of the words carries you through to the end. I did not realise what it was about until someone suggested to me after, then it all made sense.
Hairbrush by Kate Sweeney
A beautiful combination of animated sequences of (mainly) painted still images, a rich and tender reading, and strangely disjointed sound. The artistry on disply is elegant and wonderful, and I found the result very touching.
Interior Group Portrait of Penrose Family by Colm Scully
An example of how a single image (of a 18th century painting) can be used as the sole visual content for a Poetry Film. In this case an Ekphrastic Poetry Film.
Lightenings viii by Eoghan Kidney
More animation. Short films can often work best, and great words make it easier. As in this case, an interpretation of Seamus Heany's poem. I think the simple drawings and dark backgrounds capture perfectly the magical feeling necessary.
Margaret Caroline Tait (1918 – 1999) was a Scottish medical doctor, filmaker and poet.
The Lux Archive hosts many of the films of Margaret Tait.
New Arctic by Allain Daigle
The photography and cinematography is excellent. The juxtaposition of a soft and gentle music track with hard edged more industrial imagery works well. The hard and the soft meet - melting, somehow, like the subject. I'm not sure I understood, but I heard - and maybe that's the point.
nothing to declare (excerpt) by Kyra Clegg
Part of a longer work, read by author Kathleen Jamie. This film uses graphics and layered video in an almost slideshow like fashion. The pictures do refer quite directly to imagery in the poem, but they also allow these to drift past the timings of the spoken word, and so invite us to linger longer over experiences which we may well find uncomfortable to think about.
Our Bodies (A Sinner's Prayer) by Matt Mullins
This is composed of 'found video', but brought together in a very ingenious way. It's editor as poet, or poet as editor. A terrific sense of poetic rhythm is combined with the onscreen movement, splitscreen, and video insets. It's showy! Like the preacher's original performance there is conspicuous self-knowledge here. But, damn, it's clever!
PAUSE by Rebecca Goldsmith collection
Made while Rebecca was Poetry Filmmaker in Residence at the Birmingham Literature Festival 2023, PAUSE is a collection of poetry films shot in Birmingham and around the West Midlands. It explores the ways in which we connect to place, and how taking time to pause can impact on those connections.
Stravaig by Steve Smart
Again, playing with the form of text on screen, this is a video acrostic. Some of the elements came out of another workshop at SPL.
The Book of Hours
48 poetry films made for watching through the year. Commissioned by Lucy English from video makers around the world as part of her PhD studies.
The Eye Chart by Steve Smart
One of a series of quite tightly formatted to-camera video readings from a project called Poems for Doctors. In this film author Nuala Watt also talks about her poem.
She explains that the printed poem has a strong visual aspect, echoing the letters of the Snellen eye chart familiar from the opticians. I tried to use animated text to directly parallel that visual reference, adding a blurring effect around the lines to suggest visual difficulties. It’s a simple device, but I think it works.
The Wave by Janet Lees
Janet Lees is one of the doyennes of UK poetry film. This piece has a lovely drifting vocal score, a sensuous reading (by poet Lucia Sellars), and long lingering images of reflected light. Delicate, contemplative, transitory - I think it is gorgeous.
Things I found in the hedge by Kate Darnell
I highly recommend this American caligrapher's work. Many of her films have no spoken poem, but in this case the poet's voice illuminates the experience immensely. This is one of the poetry films in Lucy English's (The Poet) Book of Hours Project.
TRAWL by Steve Smart 2m5s
A collaboration between poet Matthew Caley, composer Alex South and me for Stanza, the texts on screens are text fragments from a collection by Matthew. I find it intersting working with other people's poetry - it has more unknowns and uncertainties than when I read my own work, and I like that. It also screened at Zebra, which was great.
Velella velella by Steve Smart 9m16s
A collaboration between poet Rebecca Sharp, composer Alex South and me. During the workshop I used this example of working with someone else's poetry to describe one method that I use in the process of making poetry film. I sometimes think of this approach as being more like acquiring a palette of 'colours' of film and sound, and then painting over a video timeline rather than across the space of a canvas. The link above goes straight to the film, for a little more about this piece see the film web page.
I love the simplicity of this film. As well as a strightforward use of just one visual sequence. The sound moves from very busy to entirely silent. It's so marvellously succinct.
Virginia gave me roses by Fiona Aryan
As a narrative poet myself I am often drawn to Poetry films with a story. For me this film works because it focuses on one event during the story, a divorce party, and uses a limited palette of colours (oranges, reds, rose colours) to capture the tone of the poem. Fiona uses Da Vinci Resolve to edit. It won 1st prize at O Bheal in Cork.
We are the device by Mark Niehus
Using all the graphic effects a good editing suite can muster, this film maker creates a distopian future in mere moments. I would consider it in the Tony Konyves school of videopoetry, where the poem may not necessarily stand on its own outside of the video. Still, it works.
Yesterday's Wardrobe by Colm Scully
My first attempt at traditional animation. Animation frees you to use literal representation of the words in a way that is still akin to imagery, rather than being simply a visual record of the poem, (the big No No of poetry film).
Other resources: places to submit or find out more
An on-going anthology of the best poetry videos from around the web, and an active resource of information about opportunities and what's going on.
An online resource for submitting your own work to film festivals around the world. Using FilmFreeway is free, but many festivals charge an entrance fee for submission.
The link on the image above is to search results for film festivals - open or closed - that relate to the keyword 'poetry'. Last time tried this got 166 hits!
Filmpoem is an artists’ moving image project founded by Scottish filmmaker Alastair Cook. It delivers cultural projects and promotes the work of poets, filmmakers and composers.
Founded originally by another significant figure in UK and international poetry film, Sarah Tremlett Liberated Words is a website with strong interests in poetry film, and exists as social media on Instagram and Twitter/X as well as a Facebook Group.
An article by filmmaker and artist Charles Olsen written ahead of the inaugural Aotearoa Poetry Film Festival in New Zealand that pulls together interesting ideas from many makers about poetry filmmaking processes and products.
Get used to not forcing everything to make sense all the time. It’s poetry. It’s fine to let the audience join the dots however they want. They are already way ahead of you.
Start with a strong poem or visual idea. Your poetry film should be built around a powerful and emotionally resonant idea. The visual elements are just as important as the poetry itself. Consider using metaphor, symbolism, or visual techniques to deepen the impact of your work. Also, be mindful of pacing.
Journals accepting poetry films
Online poetry journals and magazines are increasingly accepting video submissions. Here is a list of a few that do:
The Poetics of Poetry Film by Sara Tremlett
The first book of its kind, it classifies the different types of poetry film, shedding light on the fast-growing genre and citing works from poetry filmmakers worldwide.
Other resources: software and stock
Adobe Help: Editing with Premiere Rush
This is a link to Adobe's help for basic editing with Premiere Rush. We chose Adobe Rush for editing in the workshop as a free version of it is available for just about any platform (Mac, Windows, iPhone, Android), and it's simple, and easy to get going with.
If you decide you are interested in doing more with video editing, you'l probably want to look at other editing software such as DaVinci Resolve, Adobe Premiere, or Final Cut Pro X.
Even the free version of DaVinci Resolve is a powerful tool. It is a suite of video editing sofware that can run on MacOS, Windows or Linux, and includes editing, color correction, visual effects, motion graphics and audio post production tools. It's used professionally in Holywood and many other production environments.
Because it is widely used YouTube is stuffed with helpful answers to most questions you might ask. If editing poetry film is something you value enjoy, it's worth a look.
Other video editing software
There are many other editing packages, at heart they do similar things, but offer varying degrees of complexity of image processing. Some that you might come across:
- Final Cut Pro X - not free (there is a free trial) Apple computers or iPad, from the App Store
- iMovie - Apple devices only, free from the App Store on iPhone, iPad or Apple computers
- Adobe Premiere Pro - not free (there is a 7 day free trial, but Adobe is a subscription not a one-off purchase) iOS, Windows
Pexels free stock
Other stock libraries are availble...
Pond5 free stock
Other stock libraries are availble...
Drawing and painting software. Available free for iPhone, iPad, Windows pads, and MS Surface (supported devices).
Free digital painting software that can be used for drawing animation.
Flip a clip
A simple free drawing app available for iOS and Android from App Store and Google Play.