Irreducible: a study on the concept and genre of poetry film
While browsing the vast library of content at Dave Bonta’s Moving Poems website, which is an amazing resource for both creator and lover of poetry videos, we came across a link to: irreducible: a study on the concept and genre of poetry film. The site was created by Laura Theobald, a teacher who is also pursuing an MFA in Poetry at Louisiana State University. What we discovered was a crash course on where poetry film/video has been as a genre and where it is going, and in what forms. We contacted Laura for the basics.
1. Why did you create Irreducible?
I started the blog as part of an independent study I was taking with a film professor at my school: Zack Godshall. It was his idea to start the blog as a way to share my research and writing. I had never heard of a class that dealt primarily (or even substantially) with poetry-film before, so I decided to invent one. One professor said the project sounded "ambitious"; I thought it just made sense. Zack was kind enough to take me on and allow me the time and space to explore the genre, and offer advice and feedback where he could.
The idea was to trace the development of the genre of poetry-film throughout the last century-plus—to follow its roots up to its present condition—and to find out more about how the genre is faring contemporarily. I also wanted to see if there was a way to categorize the genre—to create a set of terms that would help to define the genre more precisely—which I think I was able to do for myself to some degree. Another thing I wanted to do was find scholarly or critical works about the genre; that was much harder. I wasn't really able to find a lot.
2. What will folks find on the site and what are some of they ways they can be used or applied?
They will find the few texts that I found in response to my search for criticism on poetry-film. They will also see a kind of rough filmic timeline: a series of analyses of films that I think had something to do with the movement towards poetry-film as an identifiable genre. They will see a few of the poets/filmmakers I think are really blowing up the scene. Mostly I hope they will see a brain looking for other like-minded brains. I try to encourage a lot of feedback and response in my posts. I hope people will read the posts and see the kind of questions I'm posing and the way I'm looking for information and want to respond. There has been a little of that, and it's been really nice to know that people are interested in talking about this subject, and watching me talk about it, in a critical way.
The point is to jumpstart the discussion, to look at the work and say, "This is happening. Let's see it for what it is and talk about it." It's funny sort of how some artistic endeavors lack this critical component.
3. What role has the poetry film played in the past and where does it lay in the landscape of modern technology and it's effects on the culture of today's society?
I think the genre as we know and understand it today is really new (which explains, in part, the lack of criticism). In the past it's been really utilitarian, I think: a way for people to just hear and "see" the poetry they couldn't in person (think of the million videos of poets simply reading their work aloud in front of a camera), but what it's becoming is a lot more interesting. It's becoming a new way for poets to create poetry, really, and to reach new audiences. But for everyone I think the goal is a little different: for some artist/poets it can be sort of like an extension of the selfie, a way to establish their brand; for others, it's about creating a kind of harmony between word and image; some people just want to make something no one has ever made before—because the technology is there. For everyone who’s into it, I think it's mostly about making something beautiful.
It's funny kind of: this project began with a desire to learn where boundaries lie, like "What IS a poetry film?" but I think during the process of bearing down on these distinctions, I realized that I think the future wants us to shed this kind of desire for delineation. I think a progressive future isn't about making more categories for things we want to understand better, but about embracing the borderlands and "fuzzy" areas when they are doing something meaningful (and I think this applies in a lot of ways), and just like celebrate the fact that they exist. I still have a lot of questions though. And I hope to keep using the blog as a way to continue to talk with artist and poets and to take their work seriously.