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Poetry and Media #020

Henrik Nordbrandt is the subject of A Poet's Odyssey, a new film from Denmark's Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. It's an austere and compelling portrait of a man reflecting on the central themes and experiences of his life. Nordbrandt on being born in a warzone says: "I was born on March 21st, 1945. It was about two hours before the Royal Air Force bombed Copenhagen. When people asked me as a child why I was so nervous I said, 'I was born with shell shock.' It was a joke, but it's probably true." Nordbrandt's recollection of his earliest childhood memory: "I shit on the bed and spread it all over myself. It was a lovely feeling. My grandmother scolded me. She didn't like having shit on her bed. She put me in the sink and washed me with cold water. I clearly remember that." Here is Nordbrandt on becoming anorexic: "It was an unconscious desire to commit suicide. I didn't succeed because a psychiatrist saved me. He said to me when I came to the hospital, 'It's called anorexia. You are committing suicide. And I won't interfere because it's an existential decision. It's fine if you want to. But, in your present condition, I have to interfere.' It was the first time someone spoke to me like an adult. I appreciated it." Nordbrandt on Turkish poet Nâzim Hikmet: "The great 20th century poet. He was controversial because he was a communist and had to flee after many imprisonments. He went to the Soviet Union and died there." Interspersed between these various musings and recollections are recordings of Nordbrandt reciting his poems. Here's one of them, from early in the film:

Depression before Winter
The air is clear and the children have left.
It makes no difference
whether time keeps pace with the clock or stands still.
The garden outside has the same temperature
as the wood stove that last died out four months ago.
Untouched by humans and worms the apple tree's last apple hangs
in the aftergleam of sunset.
The elder tree's berries are black like the notes to the music
the silence has driven out of the world.
The key to the postbox is in the postbox.
I've cleaned up my whole life.
And now, the Poetry and Media digest:
  • Hanan Issa and Bertel Martin were guests on the fifth episode of the Kiota Lab podcast, a six-episode series celebrating BIPOC artists in Bristol, UK. Click here to listen.
  • Jeff Gunderson and Nina Zurier, on behalf of the San Francisco Art Institute, have created the first-ever digital edition of the Berkley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive's MATRIX exhibition series. One entry in the exhibit is a box of chalk that once belonged to poet and art critic Bill Berkson. You might ask, "What's so notable about some chalk?" Well, the chalk becomes an entry point into the entire history of non-studio instruction at SFAI, and what unfurls is a catalog of ephemera from Mark RothkoJack SpicerKenneth RexrothKen LashAngela DavisKathy Acker, and many more. Click here to check it out.
  • Soji Kashiwagi provided some playful context in his introductory remarks for the Grateful Crane Ensemble's virtual production of Hiroshi Kashiwagi's Blessed Be. "Doing his thing... that's what my dad's short play is all about," Kashiwagi said. "It's about a Nisei poet who drives fifty miles out of town just so he can read and do his thing." Click here to watch Blessed Be. (After the play there's a video of the elder Kashiwagi's final poetry reading, which also begins rather playfully: "Piss on target / shake it / don't flush / that's ecology / in our house of boys / and one / sit down mommy.")
  • Lee Briccetti and Jane Preston were the focus of a viral social media post alleging discriminatory and exploitative practices at Poets House. The post comes just days after Poets House announced a temporary suspension of operation. Click here to read.
  • Caleb Femi, London's first-ever "Young People's Laureate," spoke to Complex recently about his debut collection Poor. The book explores Femi's experience growing up as a working-class Black boy and how that experience is connected to Britain's wider, shameful history, namely the murder of Mark Duggan and the Grenfell atrocity. "When everything around you is bricks and concrete, it limits your quality of life," Femi said. "Your perception of what's possible becomes narrower and narrower. And then when you see Grenfell happening, and you see that there is no one who takes the blame for it, no one who is penalized for it, it tells you how cheap your life is." Click here to read.. For more from Femi, check out his recent cinematic collaboration with Takashi Miike and Virgil Abloh, which debuted at the Louis Vuitton Men's Spring-Summer 2021 fashion show in Tokyo.
  • Valerie Hsiung has collaborated with The Gleaners Unpress (a self-proclaimed "purveyor of free and illegitimate books") in the unorthodox, digital-only release of Name Date of Birth Emergency Contact, Hsiung's newest collection. Click here for more information and a link to download. To listen to Hsiung reading selections from the book, check out The Gleaners Unpress Bandcamp page.
  • Paul Celan was born nearly a century ago. Thea LenarduzziLucy Dallas, and Mark Glanville marked the occasion by discussing some of Celan's early poems on an episode of The TLS Podcast entitled "Gagged with Ashes." Click here to listen. (And if podcasts aren't your thing, Glanville wrote an essay on Celan that you can read on the TLS website.)
  • John Trudell is the subject of Trudell, a documentary exploring the life of the poet and American Indian Movement leader. Trudell's virtual premiere is November 21st at 7 p.m. EST as part of the Smithsonian's Native Cinema Showcase. After the premiere the film will be available to stream through November 26th. Click here to watch. For more from Trudell, check out this 2013 recording of a reading and talk he gave at Knacka in Portland, OR. 
  • Khulekani Mayisa spoke to South Africa's Mail & Guardian about her recent cinematic collaborations with poets Tsepiso Mokobori and Dominique ChristinaClick here to read. Mayisa's poetry-infused films Power To The Purple and Scribbled In Red are both available on Vimeo. Click either title to watch.
  • Finally, two intriguing mashups of poetry and theater are currently streaming. Emilia Bassano, the "Dark Lady" of William Shakespeare's sonnets, tells her side of the story in the play EmiliaClick here to watch. Modesto's Prospect Park Theater Project is currently streaming An Iliad, a modern-day retelling of Homer's classic. Click here.
For tips, comments, questions, or anything in between, drop us a line at pswebed@unl.edu.