My Personal Process for the Expanded Field

At the beginning of my journey as a poet, I had an incredibly narrow mind of what poetry was.

  1. It had to rhyme.
  2. It had to be on paper.
  3. It needed to sound classic, like Poe, Whitman, Dickinson, etc.

Luckily, since then I have grown my horizons to encapsulate different genres and styles found in poetry. I joined an MFA program with Stetson University and prepared myself to learn and create new and experimental art. At this time however, I was convinced I would stay true to the page; afraid of losing the comfort blanket that is black typed words on white paper. I told myself I’d never create videos, because I’m a poet not a film maker. I liked the page and dang it I was going to stay with the page. However through the interactions with brilliant professors, I was exposed to art in different mediums. Art that I could interpret and understand. Art that I wanted to emulate. Art that I could fall in love with. To my shock and bewilderment, four of my five pieces I turned in that month were videos.

And they were terrible. They looked more like PSAs or cute commercials, and I was embarrassed for showing them. What I didn’t realize then, was that just like poetry on the page, it has to be about something that speaks to you. Not something you think is experimental or political just for the sake of it. So I took a deep breath and decided I would try again.

A switch flipped on in my brain, and suddenly the ideas flowed. What did I care about? Women’s issues, social climate in the south, people’s eyes and emotions. So why wasn’t I creating about that?

I created a series called Ever Since, and it explored the plights of women while utilizing different languages and locations inside the home.

{“Lo Siento” from Ever Since}

I began to develop my own process and ideas about not only my style as a poet but as a videographer. My main focuses became message and “series potential”, colors, and timing.

Message/Series Potential:  Once I decided the message or point of my video, I considered how I could make it a series. I would consider all the different ways I could film a response to the message or point I was trying to convey. I looked at every segment of the video more as an anthology about women’s issues, or emotions, or nature etc. I wasn’t concerned about making them a cohesive statement, because each segment should stand on its own, while complimenting the ones before and after it.

Colors:  As a relative beginner in video poetry, there are certain things I still find difficult. Many of my videos are in black and white, because I haven’t developed a preference or style for handling different settings or colors. Nature looks great in color, because it’s natural. It doesn’t feel cluttered or fake. However when filming people, I like to use black and white because it seems cleaner and I don’t have to worry about how the audience will react based on color scheme, or whether colors are distracting.

Timing: My favorite thing about video is playing with timing. This is a great way to include techniques from written poetry such as urgency, escalation, and lulls. I like to play around with making videos faster, because they catch the eye better, and I like that the movements appear jerkier or more violent. This also helps to tighten up videos to hold interest, and prevent a segment from running too long and becoming boring. In future projects I hope experiment more with slowing down normal actions, and seeing how it affects the message.

I absolutely love experimenting with poetry through video. I just use my iPhone, movie maker on my computer, and whoever I want involved. It’s that easy. I purposely use these basic materials because I want to show that anyone can participate in this medium. You don’t need high tech software, or some exorbitantly expensive video camera. How lucky we are to be able to capture and create art at any time.

Nina Siso

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