After reading “If Walt Whitman Vlogged” by Kenneth Goldsmith, I actually gained a new understanding for digital media being used to enhance, supplement, or communicate poetry. I’m glad that I read the article and was able to gain a new perspective on this phenomenon before actually exploring it on Motionpoems first.
First, I watched the video for All-American. At first I was confused by all the contradictions in the poem before I realized that it was supposed to be contradictory as to give voice to all the different people who are American. While I definitely enjoyed the actual poem and the reading, I did not find the video content to be particularly relevant or expository to the poem itself. To me, it just seemed like a bunch of random “artsy” shots that were trying too hard. However, there was one particular scene I thought actually fit with the poem: the woman who had kaleidoscope-like colors projected over her face. To me, that actually made sense because it pointed to the diversity and vibrancy in the variety of Americans. I did enjoy the reading of the poem, which was done by someone with a non-American accent. I felt like it was a purposeful juxtaposition that sort of challenged what and who we consider American.
Next, I watched the video for The Painter, which followed a painter who attempted to give up his life of painting and struggled to escape from the constant inspiration that surrounded him. I thought it was a beautiful poem that showed that an artist cannot escape from their art because they are inspired by literally every sight, sound, smell, taste, etc. I think the visuals in the video were excellent in further communicating this idea by showing everything as multi-colored and vibrant – even the falling snow and the trackmarks in the fallen snow. This imagery really showed that the painter was surrounded by his art even when it came to things that are usually mundane or colorless.
Last, I watched The Mysterious Arrival of an Unusual Letter. I thought the poem was entertaining, if a bit eery for its ending and its failure to explain the letter left for the speaker. Still, I was even more interested by the video, which is described on Motionpoems as not “tak[ing]many interpretive liberties with this poem.” The animations simply animated the words and events of the poem by showing the man coming back home from work and finding the letter on his table. However, I saw that this precise interpretation continued even past the conclusion of the poem’s reading – by continuing the eeriness of “nothing”. Once the poem ended, it was followed by credits and then about 2 minutes and 15 seconds of a black screen. Just as the poem introduced a story but never gave resolution, and just as the letter had an introduction but never was concluded, so the video presents a poem followed by nothing, offering no further elaboration of explanation. This definitely extends the creepy feeling and the questioning attitude we’re left with in the poem. I thought it was a great visual supplement to the poem.
In school, I only ever read written poetry; perhaps a few over the years came with some kind of illustration to supplement it, but spoken and video poetry were not introduced at all. I think this idea of visual poetry is a great medium that could be used to supplement and expand upon written poetry. However, I still think video poetry can be considered a poem of its own merit if the poem is written solely to be communicated through video. That’s what I think is great about video poetry — it can communicate poetry either as a supplementary medium or as a primary medium.