Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Blog Tour

Today I’m going to do something different and talk about myself. I’ve been asked to take part in a kind of blog-chain blog-attack called, apparently, "The Blog Tour” and answer the following questions and, given that some time has passed since my last post, I’m happy to do so.

Thanks, Min Kang and Laura Mullen, for being the immediate predecessors to this occasion. I’m not sure who started the Tour, but I hope readers will dig into at least these women’s work (both have poetry-films available for viewing online) and the work of the two amazing poets I've tagged to respond next: Emily Kendal Frey and Derrick Austin. I’ll post their bios with links again at the end.

***
1. What are you working on?
I’m working on "rejuvenation," to use a word that makes me think of body wash, which requires a lot of “down time.” I just finished my first manuscript as well a trialing first year in grad school, during which, among other demands, I was shoved to the front of the class and instructed to instruct. Interesting. My feeling has always been that teaching comes from a place of wanting to teach and having things to say. But anywho.

Since finishing the manuscript, I’ve had a hard time finishing the manuscript. I’ve been stuck in a loop writing poems that belong in the manuscript, but I’ve had some success working my way out of it, with the help, I should say, of Claudia Rankine’s book Don’t Let Me Be Lonely and its diary-meets-journalistic approach to confession, its little digestible squares of revelation, and horror, and filament.

My ms is finished, however, and I’m looking for a publisher. Please email me at lidleida@gmail.com if interested.

I’m sort of cooking up a poetry-film in my brain—maybe a longer one this time, that combines film essay with poetry-film, and documents the bizarre, constructed world of the MFA, or maybe just college, and personal life, and “creativity.”

I’m working on being a person, though, and not anything much else at the moment.
  
2. How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?

How does a Magnolia leaf differ from the shadow of a house? Or a clover from an earthworm? I am thinking of the genre of poetry as my backyard and of me as the backboard for horseshoe left by previous tenants. But that’s because I’m me. Imaginary things can also exist.

My friend said recently that there’s an economy of language, but I think, “but I’m a poet.” Another says “humor,” but I think heartbreak. Someone says “directness of speech” and I’m like, “Yeah.” It’s pretty hard to be objective about these things. I’m coming from a very liberal, pretty feminist place.  

3. Why do you write what you do?

I get stuck in a loop. A line from one of my poems is “i think a thing about rivers / and i forget like how to walk into a field.” I get stuck on a thing. Sometimes for years. Mostly the thing is love, romantic love—very seldom am I not talking about love. But I am thinking of breaking out of that loop (if possible).

4. How does your writing process work?

Sometimes, like with the film-essay/poetry-film I mentioned above, there are ideas that take shape and start to solidify in my brain. These are harder to execute. Sometimes they don’t get made. A lot of times they don’t get made, because they feel made before they are made. Like “What’s the point of making this? I’ve already seen it now in my brain.”

It’s better when a thing comes up sudden like. (Like puking?). My first chapbook eraser poems (forthcoming, H_NGM_N Books) happened that way. My second chap (unpublished) was unexpected. The ms happened pretty sudden (for a book length work). But all this is after a decade or so of trying to figure out what kind of writer I am and trying things. I’m still trying of course.

Having “success” come this way kind of reinforces the idea, for me, that art shouldn’t feel too much like work, which maybe reinforces my “laziness” to some extent. I don’t do heavy editing; I don’t write every single day; I don’t have a routine. I’m ok with giving myself “time off.” I trust that my instinct is to write, and make art, and be engaged, and that you don’t lose your instincts. If something “doesn’t feel right” or “isn’t working,” I usually lay off and trust that if it’s important enough it’ll come up again later ("come up" again, heh).

Writing seems sometimes a lot like faith, which is weird because I’m not really big on faith in general. It’s like that Skittles commercial where the kids are sitting on a rainbow and one kid is like “How are we doing this?” then falls through the rainbow. I think it’s like that. The creative process is not, in my experience, quite as nice as chilling on a rainbow, but it is probably about as unusual and isolated, and you have to be okay with a certain amount of mystery being involved.
***
See what these amazing poets have to say about their process during the upcoming weeks:

DerrickAustin is a Cave Canem fellow. He earned his MFA from the University of Michigan. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Image: A Journal of Arts and Religion, New England Review, Crab Orchard Review, Memorious, Unsplendid, and other journals.

Emily Kendal Frey lives in Portland, Oregon. She is the author of several chapbooks and chapbook collaborations, including FRANCES, AIRPORT, BAGUETTE, and THE NEW PLANET. THE GRIEF PERFORMANCE, her first full-length collection, won the Norma Farber First Book Award from The Poetry Society of America in 2012. Her second collection, SORROW ARROW, is available now from Octopus Books.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

on manifestos and the critical need

It should be noted that Moving Poems, a site devoted to the pursuit of poetry-film since 2009, or more specifically Dave Bonta, the curator of the site, has accumulated a considerably sizeable (given the relative “newness” of the subject) collection of articles, essays, and manifestos, etc. on the topic of poetry-film—which, as he points out, might otherwise be known as “cinepoetry” or “videopoetry.” (See the links section there.) At the time of Moving Poems’ conception, UBU Web had, of course, already been doing its thing of cataloguing every artistic performance and bit of digital ephemera it could get its hands on since 1996, but a number of other poetry-film sites were much more recent: Rabbit Light Movies, spearheaded by Joshua Marie Wilkinson (which evolved into The Volta: Medium in 2011), had been soliciting and making its own poetry films since 2007; and Motion Poems (2008) had just begun; while Film Poem, a poetry-film festival and hosting site headed by Alastair Cook, began in the same year (2008); Short of the Week, a site devoted more broadly to video “stories,” was still in its earliest stages (2007).

Two related documents that appear in the immensely instructive “About” page on Moving Poems, and that seem to be referred to commonly by a number of the proponents of the poetry-film “movement” that I have listed above are Alastair Cook’s self-described “manifesto” “The Filming of Poetry” and Tom Konyves’ "Manifesto," (2011). Konyves is a poet/video-poet currently teaching at the University of Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, British Columbia, and purportedly one of the first to work in the genre of poetry-film He is also credited with coining the term “videopoetry” in 1982 to refer to his own work. (Although, as P. Adams Sitney points out in his book Eyes Upside Down, artists like Jonas Mekas, Stan Brakhage, and Marie Menken, among others, (some of whom I’ve tried to talk about on this blog) were approaching ideas about poetry and film much earlier. For instance, Mekas is quoted in the ‘60s by Sitney as saying of Menken that her work is among “the very best of our contemporary poetic cinema.”) However, since these two documents seem to serve as placeholders and items of reference for a number of internet-based poetry-film sites and festivals, I think they certainly merit a close reading here.

Konyves begins his Manifesto, intriguingly, by stating the presence of a distinction between terms that I might think of as interchangeable—some of these are “poetry film,” “film poetry,” “poemvideos,” and “poetry videos” (notice my most frequently used term “poetry-film,” with the hyphen, does not appear among these)—though, to my understanding, he does not provide grounds for this distinction in the manifesto, nor does he allude to a previous text which might illuminate his meaning. He defines “videopoetry” in relation to my own two unique “categories” of the genre (which I described in my second post on Laux d’Artifice as existing as two types: (1) those that may not possess textual elements (a poem, per se) but which nonetheless elicit a “poetic response” and (2) those in which the subject of the films seems to be a poem) as encompassing the latter type, by excluding any works that do not supply a text, audible or otherwise, from his definition of the term. Konyves also suggests that the juxtapositions of sound, to text, to image, should remain, as a rule, indirect—that a direct correlation/relationship between these would cause the film to fall into some other category and diminish the poetic quality of the work; he describes the effect of such an indirect relationship, much as I have in my former category, as a “poetic experience,” but does not permit that these types of films should be called “videopoems.”

Konyves also presents the useful term of “poetry haiku,” which he defines as a poetry-film of 30 seconds or less, presented in contrast with the “videopoem”—which, he says, should theoretically not extend past 300 seconds (5 minutes)—and outlines a precise five categories of videopoem, which are potentially overlapping and which are described in the following way:
  • kinetic text:  the animation of text over a neutral background (something perhaps like this “poemflow” by Bruce Covey or possibly the work of Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries);
  • sound text: which “presents the text on a soundtrack” (or in which, it seems, the “text” is presented audibly, rather than visually, like in Steve Roggenbuck’s films);
  • visual text: in which text is superimposed over found or recorded images (Kate Greenstreet);
  • performance: the on-screen appearance of the poet, reading the poem (like this); and
  • cin(e)poetry: like the “visual text,” category, except that the visual elements appear to be computer-generated (like the films featured on Motion Poems).
Alastair Cook, as I said, is the founder of Film Poem, based out of Edinburg, Scotland, where he works, according to the bio provided in his “Manifesto,” predominantly with lens-based media. In his text, Cook quotes William Wees, Professor at McGill University in Montreal and author of a number of books on film, as providing a foundational text on the genre—which he refers to as “poetry-film” (with the hyphen)—with his 1984 essay “The Poetry Film.” Like Konyves, he provides some eloquent prose articulating the “poetic response” or experience of the poetry-film through Wees, who says that it is the juxtaposition of film and text that expands upon the specific denotations of words to provide new meanings and “directs our responses towards some concretely communicable experience.” Rather than focusing on providing functional set of parameters for the genre, Cook seems more concerned with describing the merits of creating such works, though he does provide a series of categories:
  • the use of graphic text of a poem, in part or in whole, without any visual movement or film; the literal filming of a text
  • the simple use of the graphic text of the poem, in part or whole, under-laid with visual movement, either animation o[r] natural filmic elements; a visual film of text and audio
  • performance
  • the unabridged reading of a poem by the poet, or another, over a film that attempts to combine the poem with visual and audio elements
While the last two categories unquestionably correlate with the last two of Konyves’, it is unclear whether his first category would encompass works that Konyves calls “kinetic,” since the idea of no visual movement in film is in itself somewhat problematic. Additionally, while Cook, in the course of his essay stresses the importance of the poem’s vocal presence, reminding one of the historic oral tradition of poetry, he does not seem, as Konyves does, to allow for a category that describes the presence of sound and visual elements without a visual representation.

Cook permits one other rather egregious assumption in his essay, namely that the poet and the filmmaker are not one and the same. While the ideas here may serve to address the artistic aims of his site (it seems it is likely his purpose), they do not do much to inform genre as a whole, which is comprised, I would dare to guess, mostly of poets who are also the authors of their films. At the same time, Cook is modest about his claims and points to other figures who are more outspoken about the genre, like Ron Silliman, whom Cook quotes as saying in regards to Billy Collins’ poetry-film The Dead that it is “neither poem nor cartoon threatening enough to break any new ground”—a sentiment the full weight of which seems to be a little lost on Cook.

Indeed Silliman’s blog (which Konyves also refers to in his Manifesto) seems to be a fine resource in regards to films that fall into the realm of the “poetic” (Chris Marker and Samuel Beckett are among these), poetry-related biopics, and some rather pleasantly severe opinions on these and other mediums. This post, from which Cook and Konyves derive their perspective quotes, identifies Konyves’ desire to create a formal set of parameters for the genre in question, and the impediment to this task as its simply overwhelming number of participants. With all these participants (and the number of sites devoted to them), one might think that there would be no shortage of critical analysis of the form. And, yet, here we are.

While Silliman’s criticisms of the works of poetry super-giants like Billy Collins and others are refreshing and entertaining, and while he does seem to acknowledge the legitimacy of a pursuit for the distinction of form, his assessment of the genre of poetry-film is somewhat lacking. For example, he cites Nico Vassilakis as being, for him, a pioneer in the genre, despite the fact that the (admittedly few) films of Vassilakis’ I watched on Youtube present no text at all—neither visual nor spoken. I suppose that since Silliman provides no specific example, we can’t be certain of his opinion of the merits of Vassilakis’ films as models of the genre. Many of them seem to resemble works like Brahkage’s more than any of the films I’ve discussed on my own blog; others seem less notable. Despite his own preference Silliman describes a need for the genre’s “Baudelaire” as he puts it—a poet to embody the form. I would argue that at this point (this post was authored in 2009) we have several—some of whom I have tried to acknowledge in my earlier posts. What we lack is that ongoing, up-to-date, analytical stance (with Konyves as an exception), which seeks to determine the parameters in an effort to uphold the form as a legitimate and distinctive pursuit.

As a bonus, here's a videopoem that serves the dual-purpose of serving as a trailer of my own poet-professor Lara Glenum's Maximum Gaga. "Is it absolutely necessary to make such abominations? It is absolutely necessary to make such abominations." 


video



Friday, March 7, 2014

DAKOTA, I lived among girls

DAKOTA
Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries
This week’s post is brought to you firstly by Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, a Seoul-based producer of a substantial collection of text-based poetry-films translated into a number of languages, comprised of the duo Young-Hae Chang and Marc Voge (and brought to my attention by the lovely Lara Glenum). The films on their site consist of the same basic elements: black and white Flash-animated text and music. The animation is not terribly advanced or extreme (the letters are not, for example, dancing off the page, or morphing into landscapes), the tall, bold, sans-serif (Monaco font) words simply appear and transition in time with the music—for the most part. In some of the films, the words might flash to grey, black, or white, or the text might appear in red or other colors, or inside of a box outline, but typically the principals  remain the same: technically nothing terribly advanced appears to be happening in these films; they don’t appear to require a great deal of skill. And yet, they are undeniably dynamic, gripping—their overall aesthetic is completely identifiable; however easily a similar video might be produced, it would unavoidably bear the trademark of YHCHI.

Chang and Voge are of course aware of the relative technical straightforwardness of their achievement, as pointed out in the conversational video “FIRST WORKSHOP EVER” (apparently an instructional video intended specifically for a class of students at Brown in 2008) they seem to challenge the perception that art must be “difficult” or labor-intensive, and stress the point that art (its process, the making of art) should be enjoyed. One might be tempted, as I am, to recall the fact that poetry primarily exists today in, technically, one of the most straightforward formats imaginable: ink on paper. Their work seems to hearken back to the truth that lies before us: the truth of the written word, the power of the word as image. So, why Flash? It would seem that the simplest answer is that it makes use of a new medium, brings the written word like an offering before the throne of the internet. The use of Flash in their videos also helps to determine the unique aesthetic of YHCHI’s work.  It also, as I have said, brings the text to life, makes it dynamic, in a sense “new.” It creates a sense of urgency to the work.

Usually you can’t pause a Flash film (you can never pause YHCHI’s films). You can’t rewind one either. If you’re unable to remain rapt enough in the text to not miss anything for the 4-8 minutes that the videos normally take, your only option is to rewatch the entire video. The strategy here, I suppose, is not to coerce the viewer into rewatching the text over and over (although, certainly I wouldn’t exclude that desire on the filmmakers’ parts). The benefit, I suspect, is the sense of urgency that is created out of the elusivity of the text: the words literally flash before your eyes—there one moment, gone the next—and as much as any text amounts to a narrative of any kind, or to a cohesive “whole,” each of its parts is essential. The tone of the musical score, of course, in conjunction with the speed and rhythm of the animation itself, primarily determine the intensity with which any of their films is watched, and yet, they all, despite these two factors (of music and rhythm) possess the same “ephemeral” quality—ephemeral, and yet, as in “Dakota” in particular, an ephemerality approached with the force of Thor’s hammer—not at all delicate, rather, somehow, in the “heaviness” (“Heavy Industries”) of its type, the matter-of-factness of its black-and-white, the simple largeness of the letters on the screen, definite, static. These films seem at once to introduce and undermind their quality of impermanence.

The “stories” or poems of the films seem to be primarily anecdotal in nature.  Despite being obviously highly choreographed, they seem (sort of like the “text” in Roggenbuck’s films) off-the-cuff, almost unrehearsed, or, as I said before, conversational. They are disseminated impersonal (as they say in their video/“interview” “THE ART OF SLEEP”) to a “ready-made” internet audience, and  yet, in their tone, feel extremely intimate—perhaps, at least in part, due to their collaborative nature. One could imagine, for example, the “text” existing initially in the form of a recorded dialogue between Chang and Voge, and then being transcribed into hypertext. However, as I argue is the case with Roggenbuck’s videos, the “spontanaity” of its tone does not, of course, detract from the artistic quality or merit of the content. In fact, as we see, YHCHI’s films, out of all the contemporary poetry-films I’ve looked at so far on this blog, have received the “highest” critical acclaim, having been shown, for example, in the TATE Modern. In their video “CREDITS” they seem to provide a list that attributes the scores of their various other works to the rightful musicians, but the text is original—in the case of “DAKOTA,” they'vesaid, based on Ezra Pound’s Cantos I and II. But, they also stated, (and this seems to be, for the duo, a particularly relevant point in the context of their apparently very complicated relationship to art) this relationship to a primary text is not essential in appreciating the work.


I lived among girls
Keith Newton

Another poetry-film I want to look at features the poem “I lived amongst girls” by Keith Newton and the song “I Wanna Know Girls” by Portastatic. It was recommended to me by Max Greestreet, who said of it the following: “I don’t mean by ‘placed onto’ that a video existed first, because the person who made this video got the poem from Keith and then shot footage and built it around the song, as a commission job for Merge Records (maybe they reissued a Portastatic record or the company was celebrating an anniversary or something — I was told the story of how this happened, but I’ve forgotten the details.”
This video-poem interests me because, like works of YHCHI above, it did not, it sounds like, necessarily set out to make itself into a poetry-film—it presents itself, probably, to most viewers, as a music video—and yet, I think we can rightly call it one. Two things strike me as being particularly lovely about this video: 1. the attention to space in the film, and 2. the overlap between the lyrics of the song and the words of the poem and how these two separate “texts” interact with one another.
By attention to space, I mean simply the way the film seems to have considered and accounted for, either during some stage or at all stages in its production, the problem of the space of the poem vs. the that of the images. The shot of the airline runway, while being appropriate to the content of the poem (its theme of “leaving” and “returning”), but also works to cut the screen horizontally and provide a sort of “empty” background, in which the poem can reside.  
My second point you get a feeling of by looking at the titles of the two works (the poem and the song): their similarities are obvious and their differences slight. We might say that the poem does some of the work of storytelling that lyrics usually don’t. People do not always agree, although I would argue, that song lyrics are not the same as the words of a poem (in most cases)—that poems and songs do different work. Where a poem relies completely upon itself for all the weight of the emotional pull, lyrics have the instrumental sound to rely upon. In the case of this video, in a way, the music (central to so many of the poetry-films we’ve looked at so far, in setting a tone for poetry works) seems to “carry” both the lyrics and the poem, with the lyrics and the music echoing and reinforcing the words and emotional force of the poem. It’s a balance that could easily have become a kind of unintelligible cacophony, but that instead presents two “texts” at the same time that are so dissimilar in such subtle and compatible ways that they seem to work together. (Another trick is in providing visual backdrops that are interesting without distracting from that interplay.) To demonstrate some of the force that a poem must elicit textually, notice how, while the song goes about its business of being a song (leading into a guitar solo) the poem marches on with lines providing a kind of emotional conclusion to the the deeper, more personal account it has constructed:
There are revolutions among us,
but no names for what’s been overturned.
After the familiar rooms are ransacked,
even the girls look at one another like strangers,
as if they were strangers who we lived among.
How will you know who anyone is
among those blurred figures on the stairs,
vanishing like thieves in the daylight.  

Here, coincidentally, is the blog post of another poet talking about this video.
And, curiously, another one. (This one reports that Phil Morrison made the video.)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Eventually you will be dead but today you are not, the giant

Eventually you will be dead but today you are not, (2013)
Steve Roggenbuck

In following up with the “second” of the two divisions articulated and defined in my last post—“second,” perhaps, because it is, historically, the most recent to develop as an intentional form—I would like to focus on two contemporary video-poem artists who seem to me to be of central importance to the genre. In regards to the “canonization” of poetical forms, I suggest that these two poets—Kate Greenstreet and Steve Roggenbuck—though they are drastically different in approach, have pioneered the genre, as we understand it, of contemporary poetry-film, and set important precedents with their work.
The first of these, Steve Roggenbuck, has also championed the movement alt-lit, which is defined in a number of a ways, stylistically and in terms of content, that I won’t attempt much to summarize here, but which has much to do with “online presence,” online publishing, and internet culture, and, in Roggenbuck’s case, and sometimes others, intentional misspelling, “posi-core,” branding, straight-edge, healthy lifestyles, and veganism. Perhaps to some degree like Greenstreet, he is also known for a kind of “grassroots” approach in cultivating a “poetry-lifestyle” and following: he has traveled extensively in the states by bus and other means, organizing poetry events and gatherings outside (mainly) the realm of academia, appealing primarily to similar young poets and performers.  He has also set a precedent in conducting Spreecast poetry readings for the online public.



This poetry-video, titled “Eventually you will be dead but today you are not,” is a good example of Roggenbuck’s poetry-film aesthetic: a handheld camera is pointed by the poet directly at himself in close-up, often off-centered, partially out-of-frame, walking outdoors, “in nature”; ambient music accompanies the entirety of the film; Roggenbuck speaks directly into the camera; and the film is heavily edited, with short, quick intervals between shots. The overall tone is high-energy, full of impact, intense. In the case of this particular film, shots of the poet speaking into the camera are interlaced with “found” (appropriated) images from popular films and videos (“Independence Day,” “Air Bud,” Rebecca Black’s viral video for “Friday,”) and audio clips of motivational speakers—these images coincide with the poet’s "textual" references to popular culture: “Carlos Mencia,” “The Rock,” “Will Smith,” “Bagel Bites,” etc.

Like most of Roggenbuck’s videos, this one raises a number of questions about its terms. Roggenbuck has published three books/e-books of poetry that themselves push the boundaries of ideas about poetry by making the same sort of moves that we see in this video: by making pop-culture references (Justin Bieber), by using “internet speech,” jokes, and witticisms, and an “internet-y” conversational tone. None of these factors are, alone, groundbreaking, but, together, as we see in the video, they form an end product that somehow breaks from our traditional (or even nontraditional) understanding of poetry. In his videos, the characteristics that define Roggenbuck’s written works are intensified by the fact that Roggenbuck seems to be improvising the lines of the “poems” that he speaks into the camera. Whether or not he does in fact improvise, I don’t know for sure. I suspect (from interviews, blog posts, and the quality of the content) that some time is spent rehearsing or planning the scenes he films. Regardless, the videos seem to challenge collective notions about poetry, as Roggenbuck himself seems to recognize—specifically in his video “am i even a poet anymore?” Explicitly here Roggenbuck seems to raise a number of questions about poetry and literature and to dismiss conventional means of disseminating literature as outdated. He advocates, instead, a broader view of literary activities.

Yet, he still refers to himself as a poet, and is a poet, in the most obvious sense of the word (having published volumes of poetry). Can the poet’s words in “Eventually you will be dead” be considered poetry? Does the film’s seeming spontaneity cause us to resist this terminology—paired with the poet’s own self-imposed, or self-recognized, issues with terms like “poet” and “poetry”? Should it be referred to as a poetry-film? Perhaps, as with Anger’s Eaux d’ Artifice,” we should leave it to the filmmaker to determine the categorization of his films, and respect his hesitancy or intentional decision not to assign labels to his work. Most importantly, with Roggenbuck, we have a poet who seems naturally to understand the extreme malleability of language: that the written and spoken word, that terms and definitions, are inherently fluid and subject to change—a poet who navigates the terrain of language with astonishing caprice.

the giant, (2010)
Kate Greenstreet

Kate Greestreet’s work, on the other hand, provides a much more comfortable entryway into the genre of poetry-film (in my opinion) in its most agreeable form. On her website, she displays these works straightforwardly and unproblematically under the clickable heading “video poems.” The earliest of these, “the giant,” was made in conjunction with her second full-length poetry collection “the last 4 things” and appeared on a DVD enclosed in the inside of its back cover. The film, like Roggenbuck’s films, demonstrates heavy editing techniques: numerous short, quick shots spliced continuously together. The overall effect of the editing, however, the video-poem’s tone, is completely different than that of Roggenbuck's: it is reserved, steady, rhythmic in pace. Unlike Roggenbuck’s film, the poetry is non-diegetic, and, in fact, Greenstreet does not appear visually at all in this film. The visual elements, like Roggenbuck’s, are meticulously arranged, highly aesthetic, and at times refer to their audio components (corn when “corn” is spoken, an image suggesting “windows,” a blown out image or a negative for “flash of light”), while at other times, they do not.

video

Like many of Greenstreet’s films, the images seem to be comprised of the poet's own amassed footage, and often focus on travel (here, the train, images shot from a moving vehicle), often abstracted through close-up, high contrast, repetition (grates and grids), comparison (split screens), or partial or distorted context (the genius of the toy ship, which at first might seem to be an actual ship, but then is lifted out of its rocky landscape). One can't help comparing many of these quailties to Jem Cohen’s Lost Book Found

It’s notable that in the context of the earliest of the poetry-films featured on The Volta: Medium (a heavily aesthetically-selective publisher of poetry-film), Greenstreet’s was one of the first to utilize a number of the techniques that I have pointed out in "the giant": one of the first to do more than simply portray the poet on-screen reading or reciting poems for the camera in the course of one single, continuous shot; to open up the field to experimentation and a focus on the possibilities of the genre; and, seemingly, one of the first to recognize the poetry-film as (like any other film) being comprised of separate and equal parts. (Of course, we must remember that I am referring to a particular kind of poetry-film here—the distinction between Greenstreet's kind and others—that of Jem Cohen, Kenneth Anger, and others—is made in my second post.) The audio, one may notice, is clear and of good quality—not at all muffled by ambient or diegetic interference. Even Greenstreet’s vocal tone seems attuned: clear, conversational, not loud or quiet, expressive, inflected, one feels, in appropriate places, yet rhythmic, and, in that sense, lyrical.

Contrast once more the overall effect of “the giant” with that of Roggenbuck’s film. Although one might certainly watch “Eventually you will be dead but today you are not” a number of times with enjoyment, its primary concern (arguably, I'm sure) does not seem to be to create a work of art that may be enjoyed purely for its aesthetic qualities. Here its detail and intricacy, rather, seem to serve a different purpose: to facilitate the experience of an initial watching, to envelope and surrender its audience by presenting itself as a positive and fulfilling experience. In Greenstreet’s film, the attentiveness apparent in the visual elements and the sheer curiosity of the spoken words, along with their careful delivery (the sound), create a kind of complexity for the viewer that might be described, at moments in the film, as a battle between sight and sound. The viewer wishes to hear, then to see, then to understand—switching between these active positions of listener, viewer, processor of information, throughout the duration of the almost two minute film. This is the type of video one wants to watch more than once, in order to extract discriminately from its rich and careful composition.

Both, certainly, may be called poetry films, both are highly constructed, both I think achieve their respective purposes, and, yet, as with all similarly attentive works, their effect could hardly be more dissimilar. This is why, to my thinking, these two poets occupy such an important place in the realm of poetry film. They understand the power of film and all its elements and address these issues separately and with their own unique aesthetics.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Lost Book Found, The Moose, Laux d' Artifice

Lost Book Found, (1996)
Jem Cohen

This week Prof. Godshall and I looked at a few films that are, again, representative of a number of ideas about poetry and film. The first of these is “Lost Book Found,” by Jem Cohen, auteur of a number of documentaries following and/or collaborating with musical talents from the eighties and onward, including Elliot Smith, Fugazi, Blonde Redhead, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, R.E.M., and so on. “Lost Book Found,” predictably possibly, is a film that also leans in the direction of documentary, “documenting” as it were, retrospectively, a trajectory that leads the narrator to obtain a mysterious and, arguably, poetry-filled, anonymous found notebook, as well as the filmmaker’s own thoughtful meanderings in NYC during the 80s and 90s as a street vender and filmmaker.

Last week, Godshall and I discussed the concept of the “poetic” in film, contemplating the ideas that this word encompasses for people who talk about films as possessing this uncertain quality: What does it mean when we say that a film is “poetic”? For one, the word seems at times to describe an emotional response: the film feels like a poem, it evokes a feeling that we describe as “poetic”—the elements (lighting, sound, editing, etc.) coincide in a way that produces a particular kind of emotional response—a response of the kind that we expect from a poem. It may be used to describe those moments in a film that present themselves in ways that permit expression that goes beyond the literal. In the case of “Lost Book Found,” we have a landslide of examples of this occurrence: scenes in which words from the abstract noun-lists that seem to fill the pages of “the lost book” (“forest, a clock, a fossil, undertow”) are spoken monotonously over sequences filled with unassociated, or freely-associated images of sign posts, shop windows, graffiti, trash blowing in the streets. Think back to scenes in “Wings of Desire”: scenes with eclipsed whispers and sullen crowds. The “meaning” behind these sequences is not immediately clear, and there is not, I suppose, a singular meaning to be extrapolated from them. In this sense, these sequences represent our general ideas about what a poem is like: there may be no singular “answer” or explanation. They lend themselves to subjective interpretation. As Max Greenstreet, who recommended to me “Lost Book Found,” said of the film “it 'thinks like a poem.'” They resist useful summary, in certain instances meeting that “requirement” for the poetry-film; they refuse an objective account; they encourage, rather, freethinking, imaginative thought. They "feel" poetic.


Another interpretation of the concept of “the poetic” in film is that it may arise at times in a film in which the progress of the narrative slows, stops, or otherwise breaks away from time as we experience it—a trick we see so frequently in film that we hardly see it at all, and one that is executed in an eternity of ways—it may involve a simple jump cut, for example, or a change in scene. There are moments in “Lost Book Found” in which Cohen shoots the footage “in slow motion,” manipulating the recording process in such a way that an image of a plastic bag swaying over a sidewalk is slowed slightly, almost imperceptibly at first. It is interesting that scenes like this, which manipulate time—specifically, in which time is slowed—also feel more poetic—as if there is the subliminal understanding that poetry also produces the effect that time has slowed or stopped. And it is likely that this feeling—this experience of time almost standing still—would be described by readers who find themselves enraptured by a work, “caught-up” in the world that the artist has created. Alternatively, it seems to be moments that are more literal, more realistic, and “natural” (that seem to portray time accurately) that that strike us as “less poetic.”


What happens during these moments—in which the viewer/reader becomes rapt? Godshall referenced a passage from Joyce's “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” which talks about the experience of “aesthetic arrest,” to help articulate this experience:

The instant wherein that supreme quality of beauty, the clear radiance of the esthetic image, is apprehended luminously by the mind which has been arrested by its wholeness and fascinated by its harmony is the luminous silent stasis of esthetic pleasure, a spiritual state very like to that cardiac condition which the Italian physiologist Luigi Galvani, using a phrase almost as beautiful as Shelley's, called the enchantment of the heart.
In these moments of “the luminous silent stasis of esthetic pleasure,” which we might also describe as an emotional response to some poetic element, perhaps what we are experiencing is an absence of thought, a release from anxiety; we become something like wholly receptive vehicles, fully absorbed in the act of experience, pushed out of consciousness by the force of the vision that imposes itself, and it is this removal, this distancing from the self, this momentary separation that allows for a kind of enjoyment. 

To refer back again to our working criteria regarding the tentative aspects of the poetry-film, “Lost Book Found” does not seem to resist a useful summary—albeit one would surely need to leave out much about those moments that are most “poetic,” least literal, those that hold the most interpretive value. It does possess a pretty straightforward narrative structure, in line with our (admittedly increasingly worrisome) criterion that the poetry-film should typically not possess the same narrative conventions as a dramatic film (more on this in my discussion on “The Moose” by Elizabeth Bishop). Furthermore, the subject of the film does not appear to be a poem, an assertion based somewhat on the supposition that the “lost book” of the film should not be interpreted as a poem—a question we must leave for to Jem Cohen and to another day.

Rather, I think, bearing in mind the personal nature of the film, the documentary-style narrative structure, the effect of self-examination through an outward gaze, the constructed “seeking” nature of our protagonist-persona, the presence of spoken narrative text, the apparent method of inquiry in the film, and to an extent even the heavy editing and non-exegetic play with sound in the film, the film is able to fall rather squarely into the realm of essay-film (refer to essays by Adorno, Lopate, Rascarolli, and Renov, e.g., for more on the subject). 

The Moose, (1997)
Elizabeth Bishop

This four-and-a-half minute poetry-film is from an hour-long segment by the “Voices & Visions” television series and is another recommended by Max Greenstreet. The series began in 1988, and featured 13 major American poets. This short film obliterates our first criterion, by presenting us with, undoubtedly, a poetry-film, which uses a very conventional narrative structure to tell the story of the poem, which itself is narrative. It is questionable, however, whether or not the poem can be said to resist useful summary. One could, I think, summarize the film (and the poem) by saying that a weary traveler taking a bus from the coast of Nova Scotia “all the way to Boston” is suddenly struck with joy by the unexpected presence of a moose standing momentarily in the bus’s path. Such a summary is useful to some extent, in helping a reader to understand the basic structure of the film and the poem, but, how important to the poem are those aspects that are left out of this summary? What do we lose, in other words, as readers, by summarizing in this way?

There is much the textual poem “sees” that its visual counterpart (the film) does not reveal in its effort to portray the poem literally. In fact, huge sections of the poem are left out of the film: nearly sixteen stanzas altogether. We see nothing, for example, of the minutia described of the fog that appears in the full text of the poem:
Its cold, round crystals
form and slide and settle
in the white hens' feathers,
in gray glazed cabbages,
on the cabbage roses
and lupins like apostles.
What does it say of the process of poetry-film that the filmmakers found it necessary to omit such a large part of Bishop’s poem? Was the struggle they were attempting to overcome by their omission the struggle to portray the story visually in a literal way? What would it say about poetry as a whole, if we were to assume that some of the reasoning behind the abridged version was that the filmmakers felt that the full poem would not hold a television audience’s attention? How might Bishop have felt about this version of a poem that, evidently, took her 20 years to accomplish?

“The Moose,” surely another of the earliest poetry-films, satisfies two other of our criterion for the genre: (1.) the subject of the film seems to be a poem, and (2.) it is short (roughly the length it would take to read a typical poem). Of course, it satisfies this latter requirement by omitting a good deal of the four-page poem’s content, but in doing this, it comes to mirror the length of a “typical poem,” which we might say is about a page. 

As a note, “The Moose” employs a kind of pleasant and unusual construct: aberration not only through omission, but through the introduction of commentary and readings from multiple voices. A method echoed somewhat by the presence of the haunting “voice” of the book of Cohen’s “Lost Book Found.”
 The effect is unusual and pleasing. Although aberrated, it gives Bishop's poem a different sort of breadth, the breadth that comes from the sense of the poem effecting many lives, having a living audience and lineage. 


Laux d’ Artifice, (1953)
Kenneth Anger

Kenneth Anger’s films (brought to my attention by Zack Godshall) are an important inclusion to the topic of our conversation for a couple of reasons. For one, they raise the question of intent, and for another, the question of the necessity of a textual component in a poetry film. 

Consider the poem appearing below, by Man Ray. (Thank you for this example, Laura Mullen.) The title of this poem “Lautegeicht” (1924) has been translated from the German as “Loud Poem” or “Sound Poem.” The piece has at times been referred to as a painting of a poem or as an erasure, but even these terms imply that what is at the heart of the piece, despite the fact that there is no text in it, is a poem. (There is also this version of “Lautegeicht” floating around). 
Why do we grant or accept that “Lautegeicht” is a poem, considering it has no text? In part, I suppose it is because the black horizontal lines seem to equal about the length of words set in type on a page, that the combination of shorter and longer lines gives us the clear impression of words arranged in a logical order, and that these lines seem to be end-stopped rather than continuous, in the way of most poems. Certainly, visually, despite the tremendously important omission of text, “Lautegeicht” looks like a poem (similar to the way, perhaps, many films feel “poetic”). One implication of “Lautegeicht” is that a work may be referred to as a poem, even if it does not have text, if it is similar enough to a poem in some other substantial way.
Man Ray's "Lautegeicht"
But I think there is another important reason that we are able to agree on this classification of “Lautegeicht,” and that is that it calls itself a poem—it presents itself as one by Man Ray eponymously. This is what I mean by intent and also by the importance of the presence of language. If we do not need text in order for a poem to be considered a poem, then do we need it (or dialogue, or narration) for a poetry-film to be called a poetry-film? Is the artist’s intent enough, or should the film resemble a poem in some other way?

I do not mean to suggest that Anger has called “Eaux d’ Artifice” a poetry film. According to this interview, another of his films—“Fireworks,” perhaps his most popular—was awarded a “prize for poetic film,” but typically his films seem to be described as experimental. Indeed the line between experimental and poetry-films is a fine one. Especially since experimental films, as a rule, seem to be frequently referred to as “poetic.” In this article, (found on the Wikipedia page for “poetry-film”),
William Wees (author of several books on avant-garde film) says that “a number of avant-garde film and video makers have created a synthesis of poetry and film that generates associations, connotations and metaphors neither the verbal nor the visual text would produce on its own,” suggesting that one difference between experimental film and poetry film might have hinged upon the presence of text. As this same article states, many filmmakers that we think of as “experimental” have referred to themselves as “film poets” and their films “film poems,” but their descriptions of this genre seem simply to stand in contrast with dramatic cinema, documentary, and something called “abstract film,” which Maya Deren describes as imitating abstract painting. But these early definitions of poetry-film seem to do no more to define themselves outside of oppositional terms than to say that its films are “poetic”—poetic in the sense, I would guess, that I have tried to illustrate in the above section on “Lost Book Found.”
However, it would be unjust, it seems, not to allow for the claims that earlier experimental filmmakers laid about their works, for the artist’s intent. For the time being, it seems best to say that there have been historically two types of poetry-films: those that define themselves as “film poems” according to the description above (may not possess textual elements, but possess other “poetic” elements, i.e.: “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” many of Brakhage’s films) and those that place themselves within the realm of poetry-film by meeting another central tenet: that the subject of these films seems to be a poem (“The X Is Black,” “The Moose”). This premise allows that, following the example of Man Ray’s “Lautegeicht,” a poetry-film, like a poem, need not possess text. It also allows that Anger’s “Eaux d’ Artifice” could be called a poetry-film, even though it also contains no text. In making the distinction, then, in this case, the filmmaker’s intent would need to be consulted: whether or not “Eaux d’ Artifice” is a poetry-film would be based on whether Kenneth Angers would describe it in these terms.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Night Mail, Wings of Desire, The X Is Black

The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari, (1920)
Robert Weine

This film was recommended to me by poet and Professor Lara Glenum as an example of a gem of early silent cinema and of high German Expressionsim, and as a response to my request for films that should be considered in the search for understanding of the genre of poetry-film. From this perspective, it seems, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari should have rich interpretive value—in terms of the psychological and artistic status of high German art and antebellum German society’s psychological bents. According to one critic, Weine wanted to reveal the “uncertainty” of the human mind, which goes far deeper than we are able to predict or understand clearly. “Therefore, there are some aspects in this film which significantly involve with the idea of mind control, dual identity and psychological terror.” One can see how these tropes might reflect the psychology of German society at this time—a time during which Germany was occupied by American forces and grappling with defeat after WWI, for example. Certainly the psychological underpinnings of the film's concepts have important implications for a time in which Nazism was gaining a foothold in German politics as well. 
However, being that my research has pretty exclusively to do with the question of the history, development, and current status of the genre of poetry-film, and being that I have neither the background nor the time necessary to devote to explorations into questions involving these aspects of the film as fully as their importance and seriousness would require, I will need to bypass questions regarding the socio-political implications of the film—and the German Expressionist movement with which it is concerned/associated—altogether and focus entirely on the film’s merits in terms of its relation to the genre of poetry-film. (Although I will try to at least acknowledge the context of the films in the course of my study, I imagine I will need to ultimately observe and note this context only in passing, in order to remain focused on the purpose of this course.)
What is interesting about Dr. Caligari and the first few films in this study—I will address these individually as well as broadly in this response—is that they seem to bare little resemblance to my concept and experience of “poetry-films” as I understand them. For instance, in-line with the standard tropes of horror films, Dr. Caligari depicts a number of heroes and villains, is driven by its plot, and resolves itself in an orderly fashion. To me, this type of transparent linear structure does not reflect the ideology of more experimental films, which might cross into the territory of “poetry-film” with less resistance. The plot of Dr. Caligari, for example, might be summarized in a few short sentences, while, to me, one concept that seems somewhat essential to poetry and, likewise, poetry films, is that it resists this kind of summary—what’s more: its very essence and worth lies in this resistance, in the distinctive qualities of the thing-in-itself and in the difficulty of “breaking-down,” synthesizing, or summarizing the “poem” or poet’s logic or intent. While this film, as I have already implied, is unquestionably complex in terms of its socio-political implications, it does not seem to me to resist this basic exercise.
It seems that if one is to understand the film as an example of, or even a precursor to, the poetry-film genre at all, one might focus on the visual aspects of the film—the obscure painted backdrops and hazy, shadowy effects that seem, in truth, to be intended to reflect the “psychological” implications of the film more so than any “poetic” intent: the horror is expressed visually in unusual and disorienting ways as well as in the action of the film. Therefore, one might ask, “Do these artistic qualities of the film (observed in backdrop, lighting, etc.) merit a ‘reading’ of the film as poetry?” My feeling is that they do not. While they certainly are “artistic” and interesting, and I’m sure, important in regards to the time period and the movement to which they belong, the visual elements do not register as “poetic,” to any notable degree.
In any case, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is clearly not a poetry-film, despite the fact that certain aspects of its composition may be called “poetic." To what degree, however, can we understand the artistic, expressionist methods employed in this film to inform later generations that move with greater intent and distinction into the realm of the poetry-film? That is a question that we must keep in mind, I think, as we continue to move through the content of this course.  

Night Mail, (1936)
Benjamin Britten & W.H. Auden

This film was recommended by poet and poetry Professor Laura Mullen in response to the same request for examples of the subject of poetry-film. The implications for this film as poetry are far more direct, and stated neatly by the author of this post, which also provides ample information on the film’s origins and on the process of its creation. Though technically not a poetry-film (rather a documentary produced by Great Britain’s General Post Office with a poem spoken into its tail end), Night Mail utilizes the work of the great English poet W.H. Auden to celebrate the marvel of G.B.’s modern automotive mail delivery system. The author of the post referenced above provides some insight into the possible socio-political motivations for the making of the short documentary and into some of the technical aspects of the construction of the film, but Night Mail, I think, serves us mainly here as a prime example of one of the earliest instances of poetry appearing in film. What is interesting about this particular example is that, as opposed poetry-films “proper,” the main focus of the film is not its poetic content, but rather the poetry serves the purpose of the subject—“serves,” I mean, both topically and in its enthusiastic approach to that topic. Referring romantically in this occasional poem to the train as “her,” Auden states,   


Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder
Shovelling white steam over her shoulder,

Snorting noisily as she passes
Silent miles of wind-bent grasses.

Birds turn their heads as she approaches,

Stare from bushes at her blank-faced coaches.
The staccato rhythm and incessant rhyme of the four-part poem mimics both the monotonous chugging of the train’s engine and Brittan’s musical accompaniment, while the content of the lyric relishes beholding and describing the train’s progress into the lives, and through the emotive implications of mail, the hearts of English countrymen and women. It is interesting to note that poetry-in-film’s earliest history mimics one of the most prevalent utilitarian purposes of and traditions in poetry: to exalt, to compliment, to provide tribute. In this sense, Auden is the perfect choice to elicit a rallying response in viewers. Visually, the film survives as a lovely early document of trains, if you like trains, and a brief but rare revealing of the guts of a mail-delivery system. A short scene depicting a number of men standing, sorting before a much greater number of cubbies labeled with the names of towns, for example, is a quaint and accurate reminder of the lives behind the letters that appeared in early 20th century mailboxes. 

Wings of Desire, (1987)
Wim Wenders

The next two films were recommended to me by friend and great thinker Max Greenstreet in response to my request for fodder to help me along my quest for the meaning of “poetry-film.” Here, I think, in the film that inspired the super-Hollywood-Meg-Ryan-Nicholas-Cage production of City of Angels, we have a film that serves to define our understanding of the concept of poetry-film in much the same way as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. By this I mean that both films, while they contain “poetic” elements, exist well within parameters of a traditional feature film. Wings of Desire has, for example, like Dr. Caligari, a pretty straightforward plot—a plot that drives the action forward to a defined climax and resolution—and, in this sense, is not extremely experimental. However, the film does devote large chunks of itself to spanning shots with little-to-no dialogue, or scenes in which the dialogue represents a muffled and partial excursion into the thoughts of the film’s seemingly countless characters. Perhaps it is this sparseness, the keen attention to language that becomes apparent in these scenes, paired with the deeply personal nature of the character’s thoughts that reminds us of poetry here.
Indeed, the film was, for Wenders, at least to some degree, inspired by the poetry of Rilke—and a poem titled “Song of Childhood,” written by Peter Handke at the behest of Wenders specifically for the film, is repeated in a singsong voiceover attributed to the mind of its central angel character, Bruno Ganz (“Damiel”), throughout the film. Peter Handke, according to Wenders’ own account (follow link above), also provided much of the interior “dialogue” of the film: the glimpses into the minds of its characters that the audience is privy to.
Certainly, in addition to the language of the film, the ideas in Wings of Desire are also poetic: the idea of angels, for example, serving as “witnesses” to the inner-turmoil of mankind, the idea of one angel, then, falling in love with a human and consequentially sacrificing his powers and immortality in order for the chance to have his love felt and reciprocated by the object of his adoration. (As I am writing this, I am realizing that if you were to replace “angel” with “mermaid” and flip the gender signifiers in the preceding sentence, you would have the story of The Little Mermaid.) Visually, the film is stunning: full of high-contrast, invisible shots; fascinating portrait after fascinating portrait of individuals in the crowd; backdrops that seem to flow effortlessly into the contemporary out of the “old world...”  

Max provided a comment regarding Wings of Desire to the effect that he remembered only certain scenes of the film as “being a Poetry Film”—or maybe a portion of the film, like the first third. I agree that if you were to isolate certain sections of the film, you might have a very interesting poetry-film indeed; but (putting its merits as a film aside) Wings of Desire, like Dr. Caligari is ultimately bookended and held together by the mechanisms of a more traditional film—to the extent that even Hollywood saw its potential to appeal to large crowds as a straightforward romance blockbuster.

The X Is Black, (1996)
Amiri Baraka

The last of the films I’m discussing this round was also recommended to me by Max Greenstreet—before Amiri Baraka died last month. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to study (if only very briefly) this important poet near the time of his sad passing.


The X Is Black is the first of the films that seems, to me, to land squarely within the realm of the poetry-film. This short segment, featuring the performance and poetry of Amiri Baraka was part of a five-part series originally aired by PBS, which was also released in its entirety as a CD titled “The United States of Poetry” by the first poetry record label, Mouth Almighty. To refer to the assertions made in my former posts, and in terms of its categorization as a poetry film, we may say of The X Is Black the following:
  1. The film resists useful summary.
  2. A poem is the subject of the film.
  3. The film does not possess a traditional narrative structure.
To expand on these (very much in-process) criteria, I suggest that we go through them one-by one:

(1.) The film resists useful summary. One could reasonably summarize a work like Wings of Desire, by saying the following:
In the film, angels serve as “witnesses” to the inner-turmoil of mankind. One angel falls in love with a human and, consequentially, sacrifices his powers and immortality in order for the chance to have his love felt and reciprocated by the object of his adoration.
While this summary is, undoubtedly, leaving out a great deal of the complexity of the emotional and visual achievements of the film, it is effective in expressing the basic events of the film. Because the film is primarily narrative (it tells a story) and because the subject of the film is primarily that story, the film may be summarized in the manner that I have done without omitting necessary information about the plot. However, an attempt to provide a summary of the plot of The X Is Black would sound something like this: “A man recites a poem.” Since there is only one action in this summary, and no climax or resolution, the summary does not resemble a plot. Rather, since (2.—I'm jumping ahead here) the subject of The X Is Black is the poem “The X Is Black,” a summary of the film would involve the explanation first that the subject of the film is the poem, and then, possibly, an attempt to summarize the poem, which, in itself, should present a number of challenges.
(2.) The subject of the film is the poem “The X Is Black.” This is proven, I think, by the lack of any actors or performers in the film besides the poet/author of the poem and by the lack of attention visually to any subject matter besides the poet and poem.

(3.) The film does not possess any of the conventions of a cinematic film: this has been demonstrated, in part, by the difficulty of providing a summary of the action of the film.
I think these definitions can continue, then, to serve us for now. But there is perhaps at least one other aspect of The X Is Black that might help us to distinguish it from other types of film, and particularly as a poetry-film: namely, that (4.) it is short; specifically less than two minutes in length—much shorter than a feature length film and only very slightly longer than a straightforward reading of the poem would take. My prediction is that, when a film strikes us as being “more like a poetry film,” it will satisfy these criteria: (4.) it will be a shorter film (it will adhere to about the length of an average poem or poetry reading in its duration), (3.) it will resist a “useful” summary, (2.) the subject of the film will seem to be a poem, and (1.) the film will resist conventional narrative structures.