Poetry for your eyes

Motionpoems co-founders and their team of artists come to present their new film initiative

Motionpoem still from Robert Blys Wanting Sumptuous Heavens.

Photo courtesy Angella Kassube

Motionpoem still from Robert Bly’s “Wanting Sumptuous Heavens.”

Carter Haaland

What: Motionpoems

When: 3:00 p.m.Friday

Where: Lind Hall Room 207A, 207 Church Street SE

Cost: Free

Poetry was once the very foundation of cultural expression. Now it rests on an island off the coast of dominant cultural practices, all but quarantined from the lonely world it contemplates.

However, Motionpoems co-founders and acclaimed poets Todd Boss and Angella Kassube are inviting modern readers to revisit this ancient art. In 2008, Kassube approached Boss at one of his readings with the idea to start a new film initiative that sought to translate poems onto the screen while adding a new visual interpretation.

âÄú[Angella] kind of used my poems as guinea pigs, and after I saw what she could do with them, I was just sort of inspired to bring that to other artists,âÄù Boss said. âÄúIt was such a great artistic experience for me, as a poet, to see what another artist could bring to my work.âÄù

Motionpoems are typically short whirlwinds of colorful animation accompanied by the narration of the poem. A seamless blend of literal and metaphorical interpretations flows to the tune of originally composed music.

The pair launched their own website and have since collaborated with a wide range of poets, animators, designers and musicians to enact their plans. The poets generally volunteer their work as the foundation of the films, while the animators and designers are given full control of the reigns to create the final product.

âÄúWhen I invite a filmmaker or an animator to create a motionpoem, we offer to put them in contact with the poet, but they donâÄôt have to if they donâÄôt want to,âÄù said Kassube. âÄúOne of the attractive things about creating a motionpoem is that itâÄôs all theirs. They donâÄôt have a client, so they get to do what they want.âÄù

University of Minnesota RegentsâÄô professor and poet Madelon Sprengnether volunteered her poem âÄúThe Angel of DuluthâÄù and was content with her seat on the sideline for the creation of its visual interpretation.

âÄúI didnâÄôt really know what the outcome would be or what the finished product would [be] like, but I basically felt very comfortable working with [Angella] and kind of trusted her judgment,âÄù Sprengnether said.

The source of this comfort and trust was the fact that the artists treat each new poem as an individual project.

âÄúOne of the things that most interested me is that they donâÄôt have a one-size-fits-all idea. In other words, itâÄôs not âÄòYou give us your poem, weâÄôll throw our stuff at it, and it comes out looking pretty much the same as everybody else,âÄôâÄù***** she said.

Kassube makes sure to emphasize that the films are not a substitute for the original words on paper, nor do they attempt to make poetry better. Rather, they serve as an invitation to people who donâÄôt often read poetry. The films on the website are accompanied by a link to the poem in print.

âÄúWe can present a poem in a way thatâÄôs less intimidating and is easier to access,âÄù she said. âÄúItâÄôs a way to pull somebody in.âÄù