Poetry Brought to Life
Jonathan Schaper | London, Ontario Canada | 05/31/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Poetry in Motion" is an early documentary by Ron Mann, who is now more widely known for his documentaries "Grass" and "Comic Book Confidential". As with most of Mann's documentaries, he partly uses this film as an excuse to explore "alternative culture" by meeting with people he admires and capturing it all on film (something most people would love to be able to do for a living). But, as always with Mann, the product is meaningful and insightful, as well as entertaining and educational for anyone with an interest in the arts and culture, and not self-indulgent or fluffy.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."
The Musicality of Words
Rebecca Johnson | Washington State | 08/09/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Poetry in Motion is a blast from the poetry past and shows poets struggling to get their ideas across in a variety of musical mediums. While the methods they use are entertaining to observe, I started to miss the silence needed to contemplate the subtleties of the language being used. The words flew by so fast and were crowded out with music and a leaning towards a more speedy presentation. At times poets played with ideas and created musical instruments to give background music and dimension to the readings. One poet wore a tie that played like a miniature piano.
Some of the poets seemed to be somewhat uncomfortable with the transparency of being on camera. As if by reading their poems, suddenly they were more intimate with the audience than before. Helen Adams came completely unglued in front of the camera, as if possessed by some muse. Her highly entertaining and eccentric style is even more enhanced when you start to observe her office surroundings. She playfully feeds off her poems and hardly reads them at all. She truly performs her poems with an advanced memory and captures all the subtleties of the language and sends your imagination on quite a journey. There are two readings on the DVD, one is in the "additional footage" section and could be considered a bit of a ghost story.
Throughout this DVD you can observe poets stepping out of their private writing lives and in front of the camera where they tell their stories, explain how they became poets and explore their artistic freedom with audience participation. This may inspire you to attend a poetry reading, read your poems out loud or to record your poetry on CD.
~The Rebecca Review
A good look at poetry as performance art.
Annette | Kentucky | 07/27/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Poetry is subjective and therefore difficult to say what one individual finds good or bad another would agree with. My opinion of the poetry presented in the film aside, this film presented a good look at various styles of poetry. Some of the poets are so long winded that you lose interest in the performance and what they are saying. Then there are those whose poetry and/or style are well worth wading through the others. All in all this is a good retrospective of the emergence of and use of various styles of poetry and poetry as performance art."