'Split Mask' videopoem published in CrossBridge

Split Mask is a political poem. It is an interlaced, layered, multi-media piece that took 3 years to complete. It is about dictators and refugees, about the masks we wear, what the torn mask hides and reveals. It is about what I hear on inside of the mask.

My performance videopoem has been published in the inaugural issue of CrossBridge, an International Journal of Multidisciplinaryand Progressive Research. It's on page 21. The journal looks wonderful, and I'm honoured to be included. (The link will open a free PDF of the journal on-line; there is also a print version that can be purchased.)

direct link: Split Mask

Dr. Robert Caine sent an email responding to my submission to their journal, CrossBridge:
Your creative and artistic video is layered with powerful and thought-provoking messages that truly gives your viewers much to contemplate regarding an array of global issues....Again, thank you for your accomplished work.
Another comment that I received that I thought offered insight into Split Mask was from my friend, John Oughton, who I first sent the finished version to for feedback:
It's hypnotic. That prismatic beating heart, the overlays, the found stills and videos of suffering in Syria, the voice full of feeling... it made me realize that the split mask is a portal, not a disguise, a way to how everything/others are broken themselves, split from peace, from safety.

The story of how Split Mask arose and developed from a single burning image:

In the spring of 2013, an 'image' appeared in my mind of a 'split mask', and it obsessed me. Thinking I would have to build a mask from scratch, I put off constructing what I saw so clearly in my vision. But I found a cardboard base at an art store. I ripped it roughly and, with masking tape and cotton wading, papier-mâchéd it with white glue and water so that it was strong, and painted it white.

After the mask was made, I was compelled, in the way the muse compels, to write a poem so that I could create a performance piece wearing the mask for poetry readings. The poem was beating on the inside of my head and gave me no peace until I began to write it. The poem, 'Split Mask,' took a year to write, and went through a number of readers and poetry workshops until it was honed to the version here. The poem was completed in the summer of 2014.

In the meantime, I had a solo show at Urban Gallery in Toronto in January and February 2014. I needed one more painting for the show. For 3 days, just before New Year's, I turned my computer and phone off, and painted a 5' square painting, a self-portrait of the split mask and the art skeleton wearing the yellow lace that I stored it on. Earlier that fall, I had had one of those 'visionary' moments - I saw a large canvas with a diagonal mass of gold rising. 'Split Mask' is a copper and metal gold leaf, charcoal, graphite and acrylic painting and was ready for its early January 2014 installation.

In the summer of 2014, I was memorizing the poem, Split Mask, for a poetry feature at 100,000 Poets for Change in Toronto. I set up a video camera and performed it in front of the painting. This rehearsal became the core of the performance videopoem you see here.

Asked to feature at a fundraiser for a Syrian Refugee put on by the United Church in Toronto, I decided to show some of my unpublished videopoems. I made a very rough cut of Split Mask, adding war footage I found on The Internet Archives. Note: although I began writing the poem the summer the dictator of Syria began using chemical weapons on his own people, nowhere in the poem does it mention him or Syria specifically. The poem, rather, refers to these issues in a more universal way.

Wishing to complete the Split Mask video, a friend offered me a deadline to present it at a private poetry salon in January 2016, and so I locked myself away for weeks producing it. I added a number of effects. Looking through an old hard drive, I found various photo shoots in the split mask taken over the years (I use myself as model because I'm free - can't afford to pay actors or models). I also had an echocardiogram done in 2014, and obtained a medical CD of it because I wanted to use it in a videopoem - it was challenging, but somehow I transferred some footage onto my Mac (the medical imagery is Windows-based). I woke one morning knowing that I had to use that footage in Split Mask. The echocardiogram clips are untouched: the blue is blood from my veins, the red is oxygenated blood pumping out through my arteries, the pace is the actual pulse of my heart.

Split Mask, then, is a layered poem and performance videopoem.

I have a chapbook, Performance Poems (Epopeia Press 2016), with the poem, 'Split Mask' that I sell at videoperformances around town. Please contact me through my website if you would like to purchase the chapbook:

'Three Poets, Three Chapbooks, Three Visions' video is finally live!

direct link: Three Poets, Three Chapbooks, Three Visions

Simply cannot believe that this video is finally live! Wow, what I've been through with buggy FCP X! The video is simply done: Lisa Young reads two poems from her forthcoming chapbook; I read a prose poem; and Pat Connors reads two poems. Then animated blurbs on our chapbooks with the cover photos. And finally the three chapbooks with the website of the publisher, LyricalMyrical Press. And credits, thanking Luciano Iacobelli, the publisher. I only played a wee bit with colour (Lisa and Pat are, um, rather bright and I'm more black and white) and some, uh, sidelights. :) ::laughing delightedly:: Enjoy a lovely poetry reading in the comfort of where you are. And, if you're in, or near, Toronto on June 13th, come to Q Space at 382 College for the launch!

Also, I put the launch date and so on in a few YouTube "Annotated Notes." Quite fun, I tell you. But I can remove them after June 13th, and then the video will remain to float around YouTube in the years to come, itself launched. :)


'Ink Ocean' performed live at HOWL@QSpace

Ink Ocean:

On Nov 25, 2012, I performed my prose poem 'Ink Ocean,' on the Gulf Oil Spill, as one of the featured poets at Nik Beat's HOWL@QSpace in Toronto. I had memorized the prose poem. The image of the ink drawing, from which the poem emerged, only appears in the still for the video (I've included an image at the end of this post for you). I'm actually quite happy with the performance itself - passionate, intense, and yet clear enunciation.

Ink Ocean is about the oil spill that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 when nearly 5 million barrels, or 210 million gallons, of crude oil were spilled into the sea due to an explosion of an off-shore drilling rig. It remains the largest marine spill in the history of the petroleum industry.

Over 5 months, hydro-carbon eating bacteria devoured 200,000 tons of oil and natural gas in the Gulf, and then stopped. Despite the massive cleaning efforts by the oil industry and governments, and the efforts of the bacteria, as of 2012, 40% of the spill remains in the waters.

This prose poem began as writing in an ink drawing. It took 6 - 8 months to finish, and was revised in preparation for this reading.  It is an experimental poem structually. A poem of utterance, of cross-currents and paradoxes. It is composed of many voices, and perspective shifts.

There are two parts. The first is on the oil spill, and the second is about love in a world bordering on oblivion, a world that's half spirit. We are in the 6th Mass Extinction on the earth. This is the backdrop.

The poem starts out in the Gulf and moves with the Gulf Stream to the Atlantic Ocean where it becomes a love poem. Can we love in a world inviting extinction? Yes, of course we can, and must.

With thanks to Nik Beat, Q Space and Luciano Iacobelli. It was a great evening.

Ink Ocean, 2010, 13" x 16", India ink on archival paper. My prose poem on the Gulf Oil Spill, Ink Ocean, emerged from this drawing. The poem was revised in 2012.


PL: P(ink) L(ady)

direct link: PL: P(ink) L(ady)

PL: P(ink) L(ady)

once, the sakura tree
blossoming cloud 
of pink

like split cherries

a pulp of wounds

I, fleshy stone fruit
soft under his fists

brazen, the road
where I walk

brazen, my ripe cherry


A creative treatment on the theme of violence against women. The ending is meant to be positive - she's no longer hiding, is defiantly living from her source of nectar.

Shot with an iPhone4, and edited in FCE. The text had a lot of treatment, and took as long to create as the film itself. Normally I don't like text in videopoems, unless the text is a pictorial element in the composition.

The track, Chinese Sunrise, by bjarneo on SoundCloud:

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A Dance Videopoem: Shadow Cave

direct link: Shadow Cave.  [The video is subtitled, so you can read along if you like, or have Google automatically translate the text into one of 25 languages. The option appears after you press play. If the cc in the play bar is red, the subtitle track is on; if black, it's not. Mouse click to toggle. Click on this image to see the steps to opening the subtitle/caption file:

This videopoem is a postmodern fairy tale. Sort of Jungian. Integrating the shadow into the self. I re-wrote a piece I'd written many years ago of an inner journey though a land of strange figures representing repressed selves.

And I did everything in this video. What a lot of work! Shot the clips with a tripod. Edited the footage so many times that it's like a Samurai sword, beaten, and wrapped onto itself, over and over again. At one point I so overloaded my video editing software that it crashed every few minutes. But I pushed it, until the effects I was seeking emerged.

That she becomes quite pixelated in it is fine - it's all reflection, image, celluloid, burned light, a digitally composed moving image.

As an artist, I cannot help but think of the screen as a canvas, and so I expect that some of the all-over appearance is influenced by Color Field Painting, like a Larry Poons, has an abstract art quality to it. Meaning, while there were probably 50 cuts, I didn't do any zooming or duplicating or other fascinating video possibilities.

Also the tribal influence is strong. That's my childhood in an African jungle in Zambia, it comes out from time to time. This is the first video that I've attempted to create a sound track for. I used rattles, a singing bowl, a bell, two different drums. Since it's all quite primitive, the story, the dance, even the reading has a colloquial quality to it, I wasn't too worried about melody. My postmodern fairytale needed a strange and primitive soundscape, which it certainly has. ::smiles::

The dance footage was shot for my forthcoming videopoem, a triptych, Tangled Garden. (Which I have been working on for 5 months and hopefully will one day finish.) But, see, I had this abstract pastel clip that emerged from another project... oh, background, I thought, so went looking among my clips for something that might work with it. That's how it goes...

I enjoy the stills, too. Crazy, how'd I create those scenes? Seriously, it's like it creates itself. Magic behind and magic in front. Movie magic, that is!

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FRIDAY FILM AND VIDEO POEM: A Hundred and Forty Suns by Jonathan Blair

A hundred and forty suns from Jonathan Blair on Vimeo.

Brilliant! From start to finish. I watched in delighted awe. The animation, the lights, the sound. I feel shaken out of my realism and like I've been to a hallucinatory summer cottage.

Let me describe my viewing.

The clicking rainbow lights flash on and in the male animated character's body upon waking, the fast cuts match the sound track of a kind of scurrying, insect-like scurrying on a hard floor. As the character rises and walks the dark room turns into machines, cog wheels, factories. Caught in the factory, in a time-marshalled setting, a vision seems to grow out of the man that is a pulsing red blob that perhaps represents anger. He begins to go crazy in the factory which seems more and more a nightmarish prison. Then it is as if the sun itself draws near as psychedelic visions take over. His body begins to dissolve into the lights. After the Kafkaesque beginning with insect-like noises that become a mechanical factory of looped wheels and cogs, the organic sound of drumming as the light increases is warm, comforting. And the light is shining, shining into the perception of the animated character who responds with joy, and into the screen where we as viewers feel that pleasure. Ultimately this film imparts joy, beauty, forgiveness, transcendence, the pulse of life renewed anew.

A brilliant little animated film, A hundred and forty suns, was a group effort. It was produced at Duncan of Jordanston College of Art and Design at the University of Dundee in 2009. The film was inspired by a poem by Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930), a Russian futurist: An Extraordinary Adventure which Befell Vladimir Mayakovsky in a summer cottage, and especially by this line:

"A hundred and forty suns in one sunset blazed,
and summer rolled into July;"

Thanks are given to a dozen people, as well as the all the students and staff in DoJ Animation.

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Three Readings at CENtRAL

Here are three readings at CENtRAL that I videoed and edited. There were more, but I ran out of disk space and had to delete them. The editing for each took approximately 2 days. Not something that I can continue to do for everybody -it was an interesting learning experience for me. They are presented in the order in which we read. I hope you enjoy these readings.

direct link: Brenda Clews reading Wear White Paint for the Moon. (*This video is subtitled* -after you hit play, hover your mouse over the CC in the playbar, when it turns red, the subtitle file is loaded and you can read along with the prosepoem if you wish- red is on; black is off.)

direct link: Jennifer Hosein reading I Love You.

direct link: Cammy Lee reading Tingly Fingers.

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On Fridays I am going to host a videopoem on my blog that I have found somewhere on the NET - Vimeo, YouTube, Moving Poems, etc. I will try to write something of my reaction to the videopoem in the post. My only rule is one videopoem per 6 months per videopoet (including my own work). Four posts a month is not very much, and there's lots to choose from. I can't aim for the best on the NET because I have no idea what that might be. My aim is simply consistently high quality, and my weekly criteria may change for what that is depending on what angle I'm exploring - ie perhaps the visuals are amazing and the poem ok, or vice versa. Videopoetry is a multi-media art where a number of arts intersect - film, text either on-screen or accompanying, music, voice - so visual art, writing, music and performance. A videopoem is, then, a juggling act. I am planning to begin posting on Fridays as I begin to prepare for setting up a site that will focus on Videopoetry Theory.

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Video poetry by Swoon: 'Welcome to hard times'

direct link: Welcome to hard times

What a haunting, evocative video poem... the footage quite perfect, it contains the emotion, buried in black seawater and suffused, washing up to the shore like an oil spill, an edge of threatening, and we must imagine the events as they occur in their surreality. Poem by Howie Good and reading by Nic Sebastian, amazing of course.

Swoon wrote (in response to my comment above, with his permission):

"It was a struggle to make though... I couldn't get the atmosphere right at first. Too much... In the end I stripped down a lot and stayed with only the 'washing' tides, the washed up seaweeds and stuff and the wood. I kept the 'foggy footage off course, that was the first idea."

Which caused me to elaborate a little:

Nic's reading is understated, and your video is understated, but wow, the emotion spills out in ways it wouldn't if the video were a more dramatic enactment of the poem. I think you've caught the dreaming, imagining mind at the crux where the river flows into the ocean, where emotive images become part of a thought-process, and the visual and verbal metaphors continue to work at that subliminal level after the video is over.

White Petal

direct link: White Petal

After recording a few ad-lib voiceovers, and being unable to leave this project alone, finally I wrote something along the lines that I'd hoped for. Which was a discussion of relationship, reminiscent of Annie in Woody Allen's 'Annie Hall (1977)' or Cristina in his 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008),' or like a Wong Kar Wai character who simply can't commit, simply can't, like York in 'Days of Being Wild (1990).' The character Birkin's description of relationship in D.H. Lawrence's 'Women in Love (1920)' before he marries, along with Lawrence's writings of the sexual electricity between people was an influence. There's a little Germaine Greer here too, I think ('Female Eunuch (1970).' And all those women who became nuns during the centuries so they could gain an education and could write, paint, compose outside of the confines of marriage and having 16 children. Some of us dance to our own music. (Said with the grin of a Cheshire Cat.)

Don't forget that 'Faded opulence. Over-the-edge-of. Yet floral abundance. The flowers are the stars—beauty, that edge of fading.'

See also Erica Jong's article, 'Is Sex Passé?'

People seem generally to prefer no poetry voiceover with one of my creative movement/yoga dance videos, so I have, instead, written something that is more of a narrative, that has enough of a story and a philosophy, but is I hope embodied in the movement of the woman who's on the edge of.

I wrote a story that I hope is captivating, whether you agree with the point of view or not. There is a push/pull here. The flowers are like a visual refrain, a chorus throughout the piece. The beauty of flowers, the garden, the hidden utopia of Eden within the garden, the garden of sensuality that draws us in and then becomes a way to control women, the way matrimony can be. The text written (after waiting weeks for it to emerge) to discuss something far more serious - women's creativity, and for my generation at least, it remains problematic. Eros, creativity, a life force, arising out of eros (the body, passion), I believe an artist needs this. A woman's muse is not entirely the same inspirational configuration as a man's, and surely each is again differently configured across generations, cultures, ethnicities, sexual preferences, life experience.

In the video footage, experimenting... always learning! Trying this and that with the clip. Having fun, and it shows in the humour of the piece.

There are sections to this video: doubles (video itself a type of mirror or reflection of the world), single, layering, shifts in colour and style as the yoga dance continues.

Who are we? Repetitions of ourselves. Our memories create us in our fragmentary identities. I fold into who I was or who I will become. Uncertainty is confusing. People flee from my uncertainty.

White Petal

Look into a dissolving mirror
bones, skin, neurons

the self-image.

This poem is not neat as intact
petal veins, mysterious as garden

The poem writes,
rises from ruminations, dried
flowers on my spine
bursting seeds.

Danced, videoed, edited by Brenda Clews; background music by Gabrielle Roth and the Mirrors, from an old favourite, Initiation:

The words spoken in White Petal:

I live in the city in a small apartment - a doorway and shelves covered with fabric. I want to see myself dance before it is too late.

As I dance through the years I reflect on who I am. Every incarnation of love in my life remains with me and carries me to the next immersion, the next wave.

I don't seem to have lost any of the great loves of my life, yet I am a woman who prefers to remain alone. I am a recluse, a very private person, master of myself.

I've been married twice. The first time, a five year relationship in total; the second time, fifteen years, but we had children. Both times, that feeling, imprisoned, denied. Not them, but the nature of legal union. Owned. Like being throttled; my creative and intellectual freedom threatened. It was a struggle to stay and I kept ending things, unable to find my footing, my self in the annihilation of coupledom.

Was I there to be a foil to his light, to support him in his work and dreams? Did I feel this nurturing love reciprocated? Each time, I'm not sure why, I began to die, and I need to blossom.

Women blossom in their creativity.

Some of us find deep comfort in the continuity of nuptial relationships. Others find themselves choked out in the garden of marriage.

I am not a relationship type. I love, and love deeply, but go in fear of being caught, being hitched.

Every incarnation of love in my life remains with me, carries me to the next immersion.

I am sensual, but have spent vast stretches of my life alone.

When you touch the Tantric nerve, sweet pleasure moans. Do you remember?

It's like a saxophone and you wonder if everyone can hear it. The music, sinewy lightning.

Once the pleasure grabs you, the nerve pounds in your blossoming. Helpless, this vortex. Sink, this magnet's circuitry is on. The cells murmur.

Grind, lubricate. Thrust. Push yourself into infinity. Lose yourself in the moment; lose all moments.

I find it hard to dance with anyone else. My rhythms never quite fit, my movements an outer expression of an inner drama being realized through the dance. I dance for my muse.

My muse captivates me endlessly. My muse is demanding. My muse insists without respite until I do. My muse drags me into this dance and makes me write these words of my life. My muse keeps me half-hidden while revealing a vision in my art. I endlessly seek what moves inspiration into artistic form.

I seek the pulse, the core of mystery, the orgasm of the flower.

My life is a vision, of loneliness, love, dry deserts and blossoming oases. My drum is tribal and I dance shamanically with my gliding, writhing, undulating body of passion.


Each of those boxes is a video layer - 
to give you an idea of the complexity of the construction of the piece. 
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