Poetry in Motion
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Award winning director Ron Mann filmed over 75 poets and writers for what AMERICAN FILM called "the Woodstock of Poetry". Ginsberg, Burroughs, Baraka, Giorno, Ondaatje, Bukowski, and Di Prima are just a few of the "beat" poets featured for the first time in this groundbreaking film. Through the spoken word they reinvented language giving a fresh, loud voice to an era contending with major change. Like Walt Whitman before them, these poets felt their world deeply, and sought the assemblage of words to bemoan its injustices and celebrate its multitudinous beauty. For younger generations Poetry in Motion is one of the few remaining documents that capture the genius and innovations of post-modern American poetry. Home Vision Entertainment is proud to present this well-crafted documentary on DVD for the first time.
- Over one hour of additional performances seen here for the first time
- Interview with Ron Mann
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Can't believe I went so long as a word man not knowing about this 1982 flick. I like how it was young, old, black, white; all flavors of the human condition got a chance to read and shout.
Any Slam Poet worth his salt would have to have this flick in their holster for sure.
So many of these men and women are gone now. Need new poet warriors to step up to the line. Slammers and quieter folk, do you hear the bugle call for the rough stuff of street verse honored here? Study the masters but don't forget the street.
The Four Horsemen
the Four Horsemen
stood there making sounds
at the microphone
for what seemed like forever
a quartet of asses and philosophers
at a convention
speaking from their mouths mostly
but their asses, too
making and being sounds
poets all bundled up
like a four way smudge stick burning
smoking and making noise
a passion popsicle for the ages
and I could not make one from the other
nor really wanted to
because I burned to be like them
when I grew up
if I grew up
speaking wise things in mysterious ways
eternal truths that only wise men and bugs
in the floorboards could tell
if any meaning was there to be had at all
or if they were just placeholders of the absurd
they spoke with jaws and skin and faces
genuine in their screams
all serious like
I think maybe
In some of the most interesting parts of the film, Charles Bukowski bravely dismisses most poetry, including most poems considered to be classics, as boring and pretentious and lacking in any meaning to the average person, and is equally critical of most people making a living as poets. In fact, his rant strongly reflects the feelings (usually not so well expressed) of most people I knew in highschool. But while Bukowski makes a great point, the rest of the film manages to prove that at least some poets are not guilty of such crimes as it brings their works to life.
Most of the film consists of various poets, some unfortunately now departed, performing one of their poems, plus there are a few scenes wherein several of them explain their philosophies about poetry and its performance.
The performance styles of each poet varies as greatly as the contents of their poems. Some poets are accompanied by background music or actually turn their poems into songs. Others incorporate dance or other visuals. Others merely read out their poems (some, e.g. Jonathan Carroll, with more feeling than others), sometimes proving that a poem is an intrinsically beautiful thing without a big production. Of course very few people will enjoy all of the performances. I found a few (e.g. the Four Horsemen's) to be horribly pretentious, showing all style and no substance. However, even the less palatable performances do a wonderful job of illustrating that poetry can be given unexpected and exciting new form when removed from the page and given life and motion, and that one's experience of a poem can be significantly transformed merely by the way it is performed.
To mention a few of my favourite performances: Tom Waits performs a song, playing solo on an accoustic guitar (illustrating the fine line between poetry and music). William S. Burroughs delivers one of his poem/stories in his usual laid back, gravel-voiced, sardonic style. And, in an especially entertaining performance, Allen Ginsberg energetically sings an anti-government poem with a full rock band accompanying him while the audience dances and twists (Ginsberg sometimes joining in, wiggling and shaking on stage).
"Poetry in Motion" is an interesting documentary which should be especially enlightening to those whose exposure to poetry is limited to classroom dissections of those boring, stale poems Bukowski gripes about. But old converts will find it enlightening as well.