Friday, April 10, 2009

A John Ashbery poem in film

Evidently April is National Poetry Month, and the Poetry Foundation is sponsoring a huge number o events, including readings, contests, etc. One particularly interesting initiative they're taking meshes film and poetry. Via Silliman, here is an article on the program:

They link to this video in the article itself, but I want to include an isolated link to it here. It's a video accompanying a John Ashbery poem, and it's pretty interesting. Now lets see if I can embed this sucker... I can!

I like the way this poem plays upon the fleeting and always removed qualities of language, how in its very essence it is a failure to be what it describes, merely signifying instead of being. I think the video captures this nicely through its surreal and ephemeral graphics that are constantly disappearing and flowing into themselves. The way the words become other words, like the "I" that becomes "deeper," works with the water effects and imagery to effect the fluidity of the whole experience of language, albeit in a cliché way.

But then I'm a sucker for clichés. It's the same reason I like the part of the poem when the girl is introduced, both in terms of the video and the words. That's something I can grasp tangibly, both through cliché and experience, which itself is highlighted by clichés. I'm going to stop using that word now.

The water effect that reminds me of rain on a window pane creates a nice atmosphere of nostalgia (that of rainy days spent indoors, both lived and imagined) that is accentuated by the invocation of "you," which in this case becomes a beautiful one-eyed girl. The whole thing ties nicely into the theme of language, which itself is a bit of a nostalgic enterprise through the expressed and focused removed quality of the concept.

It's a beautiful poem, and the video accentuates the verse elegantly.

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