A Poet’s Words Pressed through a Tube Named lyw

https://sabiscuit.wordpress.com/WordPress allows me to subscribe to one artist’s journey the way traditional forms of publishing never did.   I am always comparing, because I am still always amazed, at how different the literary world is from just twenty years ago.

Today, I launch two new poetry videos on the lyw YouTube channel, because a WordPress poet and artist allowed me to play with some of the work on her site which I had admired.

SB is a poet and artist on WordPress at Sabiscuit.wordpress.com.  You’d think that I would be less interested in making a video of poetry that was not my own.  It’s actually a very creative and engaging process to make them.  The research and development of these videos open me to new ideas for my own creative writing.  The David et Goliath video-poem has some bright celestial punch to it and is nicely counter-balanced by the softer and quieter video-poem, Luminous.  These videos feature a writer and an artist who has a talent for working with the different shades that can happen with light.

Please check out the links to these videos at the bottom of this blog, and let’s let the work speak for itself.

This opportunity to work with another writer’s poetry is very unique to my current literary climate. Most of the real books (as in not e-books) in my personal library are of great masters whose human bodies have long since passed on or, they are writers who I could never imagine writing back to me if I had a question about their work.  I will most likely never have direct contact with them.  I will most likely never have access to their daily, personal thoughts as writers or human beings.  My impressions of these writers remain as theories in my head.  This is a good thing, in many ways. For one, eventually, I learned to answer some of those questions myself thereby truly making these writers’ novels and poetry my own — as a reader.  There is a lot of value in giving myself that time to be immersed in another’s artwork.

However, this WordPress/social media thing does something for writers that I believe may be historical, at least to my creative writing world.  Not only are creative writers given more power to be their own ‘companies’, make their names their brands, but we do this by showing how human and individual we are as artists.  Twenty years ago self-publishing was either an act of desperation or that of a hobbyist.  Writing on a day-to-day personal level, as bloggers often do, would not have been deemed professional. Bloggers would have probably been classified as self-publishing columnists back in my day.  Today, social media allows writers to develop an unique kind of relationship with their readership, one that can be both social and professional.   On this plane, writers present themselves as humans, just like everyone else.

Well, of course, writers are humans, you might say.  And I would tell you that it was a popular way to think, when and where I was a wee lass, that writers, as people who were trying to be true observers of life, were isolated and different from the rest of society.  Either we were too brilliant or too spaced out from observation to fit well with the rest of society  The fact is that we have had some amazing writers in our human history who have had the wisdom and foresight to fit the more flattering version of that persona. However, there is a more heart-warming connection to those great writers when I allow myself to observe, even in the most brilliant of them, their beautiful human flaws.

Writers on social media, such as SB, present literature and art that is accessible, responsive and actively part of everyday life.  When we think of writers like that, I think, this will go a long way to make fiction and the literary market more accessible in popular media.

These are new lit thoughts for me and I thank you for letting me share my chew on them through this blog.  I’m not quite sure about them and am curious to see how they will evolve with time.

Here are those video links that I mentioned earlier.  I hope you enjoy them:

David et Goliath – a poem by SB:

Luminous – a poem by SB:

© lyw 

Warsan Shire: the Reads of a Modern, Living Poet

Warsan Shire is a great example of a modern poet who inspires her readers to the point where they engage.  At risk of infringing on copyright laws, her fans have produced their own Youtube videos, blogs and websites to honour her work.  She has inspired her readers to be active and passionate about poetry.

As a result, Warsan Shire has achieved exactly what I aspire towards as a poet.  She has achieved what I think poetry needs in its readership: active engagement — not just for our beloved ‘dead poets’ societies’ but also our living ones; the poets of this era and generation.

Warsan Shire’s popularity on YouTube alone has garnered over 100K views from these independent videos.  Her poem, ‘For women who are ‘difficult’ to love’ has generated so many different interpretations by other artists that it inspires me to think: Wouldn’t it be great, if all great poems, from living poets, were celebrated in such an unabashed way — giving pop music videos a real run for their money?  And suddenly the reader becomes more involved in judging and valuing what today’s poetry market will and should be.

However, we should note that while her readers are showing love, they aren’t obtaining proper copyright permissions; a sensitive issue with the level of share on the Internet. We all need to hesitate when at risk of infringing on another artist’s intellectual property, no matter how good the intentions are. These laws are in place to protect the work of the artists as well as the publishing industry.

However, I have met lots of obstacles in producing the videos for the current poetry campaign on the lyw Youtube channel.  I, too, have worried a few times if I was going too far in the liberties I was taking to show my appreciation for some poets and poetry. Copyright permissions are hard to get.  Contact information for the poets or the publishers is hard to get, as well.   I have done my best to adhere to the ‘fair use‘ concept used in copyright law and persisted because I believe poetry would have more love and reads, if it were more accessible, in a contemporary way.

I have a small story to illustrate a startling point.  In trying to find choice material for this blog’s poetry appreciation campaign, I started digging for poems from my own dusty library.  My library is a collection that comprises four years as an English Literature major, one year working in a bookstore, which gave me a huge discount on all books, and the rest found while wandering through used and new bookstores looking for random ideas to inspire me in any which way.  In this collection I found an anthology of ‘world contemporary poems’.  I must have bought it about 20 years ago and most likely only read about 30% of it.  Just one month ago, while producing the video ‘… a small piece of poetry can sometimes march’, I found the most amazing poet in this book  –  an amazing poet lying dormant and unknown in my own library all this time because he was buried in a 600 page anthology.  Apparently, he is also described as the greatest living poet of the Arab world.  I had no idea!  Again, he was buried in a 600 page anthology.  I was young when I bought that book.  I skimmed!  How easy it is to miss the extraordinary!

And when I discovered that his poems, ‘Song for A Man in the Dark’ and ‘Elegy for the Time at Hand’ weren’t copied all over the Internet like all my other English favourites, I just wanted to shout his poems to the world.  Adunis.  His name is Adunis, aka Adonis or Ali Ahmad Said Esber.  He’s around eighty years old now.  He has no lack of controversy posted about him online but too few poems.

I wish I could show you all the great poems in my library that are not being actively celebrated online.  I would love a great big, ‘show and tell’, online because there are too many poets lost in my library.  I think poetry needs readers to be encouraged to be active fans. I love the passion of Warsan Shire’s fans.  It gives me hope for the future of poetry.  But there is that fine line:  How do we protect the artists and the artist’s industry while keeping our reads bright and burning?   Something to think about.

Till then, this week’s poetry appreciation video(s) are links to two videos produced for Warsan Shire on Youtube by other artists.  Please enjoy this amazing poem, ‘For women who are ‘difficult’ to love’:

written by lyw

Have you Seen Poetry Yet?

Wildflower image c/o http://f.hatena.ne.jp/uralic/20120816053135

Poetry is the title of a film about a grandmother, from a small town in Korea, reacting to her current life and a recent local tragedy that has involved her family. Despite her age and the odds against her, she continues to try to better her circumstances by taking a poetry class.

The film itself is very visual and always gives just enough character and plot to keep your imaginations grasping for the rest of her; very much like the fragmented narrative style of modern poetry.

The main character is unable to plainly tell us or anybody how she really feels or what she is doing and why.  And never does.  At the end of the film … well, I’m a natural-born spoiler, so I won’t go any further about the contents of the movie.  Despite feeling quite melancholy after this 2 1/2 hour long film, I think it is worth seeing.  The story and main character are beautifully portrayed and I continued to think about the film for several days after seeing it.

Slide1As part of the poetry campaign for this blog, this week’s poetry video takes a sample from a poem within this film to entice you to either read the full poem or watch this film.

This is, by far, my favourite poetry video that I have done for the lyw channel on Youtube.  This poem so captures the delicate yet enduring quality of the main character of this film.  It was a pleasure to choose the quiet black and white photography to breathe with this meditative text.  I only wish I could have had the freedom to render the whole poem.

I don’t know if it’s a copyright thing but the entire poem is difficult to find on the Internet. The one I did find was not faithful to the English translation provided directly in the film. However, when I went back to the film to read the poem faithfully, I found the placement of periods and commas a little confusing there, as well.  Most likely, something was lost in translation. We just need to learn Korean, I guess, for the real version of the poem.

Please visit the following link to this week’s poetry video, sampling one of Poetry‘s poems:

blog written by lyw

Image Credits:

… a small piece of poetry can sometimes march

 

painting: "Charles Leslie - Landscape" by Charles Leslie (British, 1835-1890) c/o wikipedia

painting: “Charles Leslie – Landscape” by Charles Leslie (British, 1835-1890) c/o wikipedia

Watching the news, reading Hemingway and most non-fiction tends towards that factual quality that says: take it or leave it for what it is.  And when the news is unpleasant, it can leave one feeling a little helpless.  And when such a story meets a great poet, this combination can be an effective vehicle for delivering uncomfortable truths.

Like the news, a poem can inform a reader on all the realities of our day but with a lot more empathy. A great poet can make a news story, the poet’s story.  A great poem invites readers to make the poet’s story, their story – if for just the moment of reading.  Thus, this kind of news can be quite powerful.

Painting: "Magdalen with the Smoking Flame c1640 Georges de La Tour" by Georges de La Tour c/o wikipedia

Painting: “Magdalen with the Smoking Flame c1640 Georges de La Tour” by Georges de La Tour c/o wikipedia

Some of the best poems ever written are about the ugliest subjects such as war, hatred and other such human sorrows and evils.  My purpose in this blog is to attract more readers to poetry not disturb them away, however, since we explore the best qualities in poetry I think this less sunny side must be touched on a little bit.

Langston Hughes was the first poet, in my research, to pull me in this direction.  While his work is very soulful and searching, his poetry is also very politicalfor lack of a better word.  I don’t think he crafted himself that way as a poet.  His life was simply submerged in political and social circumstances and he let that out in his poetry.

painting: James Ward - Gordale Scar c/o wikipedia

painting: James Ward – Gordale Scar c/o wikipedia

Deeper into this research, I found two incredible poets who wrote amazing poetry about war. It was late at night. I was alone in front of my laptop.  I fell into the war poetry of Miklós Radnóti and Wilfred Owen and it felt like the world stood still.  The poems are disturbing but I can honestly say I am grateful to be disturbed by this work, especially the postcard series from Miklós Radnóti.  Not only did he write powerfully but he gave the raw story about his circumstances, while still retaining his humanity and helping me feel my own even when reading about such a horrible time in our history.  I’m being deliberately vague.  If interested, please find the full poems.  They are uncomfortable, though.  His poems brought me closer to that time in history than any film, book, teacher or documentary I have experienced on that subject.  And they are very short poems.

If this blog has peaked your interest, please check out this week’s ‘poetry appreciation’ video on Youtube, … a small piece of poetry can sometimes march, which is a short collection of fragments from brilliant war and political poetry, with a fitting intro from one of Dylan Thomas’ famous poems.  I took care to exclude anything that was too graphic or depressing.  The purpose of this video is not to disturb anybody but to suggest that some poems, some poets – like some subjects – may be worth being disturbed by and to invite readers to seek out these poems, as well as other poets that have the skill to tell our harder stories.

Also, if interested in exploring other art forms that were inspired by social/political circumstances, please check out:

  1. ANPO: Art X War – a 2010 documentary film directed by Linda Hoaglund. This film discusses the post-war American military occupation in Japan through the eyes of visual artists.  http://www.anpomovie.com/
  1. The Wasteland – an uplifting documentary of an artist who goes to Rio de Janeiro’s largest landfill site to create portraits with garbage aided by local garbage pickers. http://www.wastelandmovie.com/
  1. Also please check out Andrew Graham Dixon’s art documentary series on Russian Art where he features the courageous work of the Wanderers. It was available online but unfortunately I was unable to find an active link. He’s prominent on YouTube. I imagine it will become available again soon.

Why Choose a Poet?

 

Slide1

quote from a poem by Leonard Cohen

Unlike the usual handshake and hello, if you want to get to know a poet, meet him or her in their poems.  Poets reveal themselves in their work though not always directly or deliberately.  It’s like having a backdoor to somebody’s character, bypassing small talk and public appearances.

Maybe we don’t want to get to know people that intimately.  Maybe we are already buried with what people want to share.

Langston Hughes continues to be one of my favourite poets and though many of his poems are brilliant not all of them are great.  His contribution to poetry goes beyond his acclaimed and academically studied poems.  This poet wrote so prolifically that it is easy to feel like you can meet him through the various stages of his life, and through his poems I always have access to a beautiful searching soul.

Slide2

quote from a poem by Sappho

We are all beautiful souls.  Not all of us have the talent (or time) to express or study them the way our master poets have.

Now there are many writers and poets who I have found beautiful in their work and not so much in their biographies.  ie. Dylan Thomas, Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, etc … So, maybe I am being naïve about a writer’s humanity being revealed in their work? Maybe a horrible person can still produce beautiful poetry?   Fact is, there are many beautiful souls who do not write beautiful poetry.

To the not-so-beautiful poems, a voice needs the opportunity to evolve and they don’t all evolve the same way.

And to the beautiful writing but questionable characters?  Go ahead and call me naïve but I think if these writers did not always live their lives well, or to my best opinion, anyway, they got a chance to show their better sides in their writing.  Better doesn’t always mean pretty or nice.  Hughes’ beautiful soul didn’t always write pretty poems or happy ones.  Sometimes, it’s that courage or chance to be more real.  And that can often happen by accident in creative writing.

Poets never leave; they don’t die.  Poets never stop asking their questions; they never stop looking for their answers.  Poets are always accessible and alive whenever you are ready to open their poems.

Poets make good company.

Check out this great link to ‘life lines’ that people have found in the poetry of others:  https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/life-lines

Please also check out the latest addition to the lyw channel on Youtube, making poets and poetry our daily treat and exercise.  This new addition is a video in two parts called, ‘… a small piece of poetry can often feel very big…’  In this video, I collected some fragments of poetic gems and animated them with a little eye-candy and background music.  I hope I am not too biased when I say the animation does actually animate the text.

Video Part 1: ‘… a small piece of poetry can often feel very big …’

 

Video Part 2: ‘… a small piece of poetry can often feel very big …’