'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: http://brendaclews.com


'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: http://youtu.be/w4Xs2dIt2m4

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: http://soundcloud.com/bjarneo/bjarne-o-chinese-sunrise

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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: gabrielleroth.com/

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. 
Comments (11)

In the Hands of the Garden Gods

One of the poems I'll be reciting in the video poem I am still working on, "Tangled Garden." I wrote In the Hands of the Garden Gods when I was 27 years old, and it fits beautifully. I guess I've been working with the themes of a Tangled Garden most of my life. It will be the poem in the middle, after A Floral Opera, and before, Tangled Garden. The video poem is 21 minutes long, and I have been working on it for quite awhile. As many hours, days, go into it I see it emerge slowly, slowly.

You'll have to email me for the password.

Encrypted poem:

Still from my video poem, Tangled Garden, which I'm currently working on.
(click on image for larger size)

A draft form of the video is up at YouTube (update Thurs June 16th).

direct link: Garden Gods

This video is not finished. It has no title or credits and is 'Unlisted' at YouTube. The final version will be much higher resolution. I've posted it for critique purposes only.

It is a clip from a long video poem, Tangled Garden, that is 22 minutes. The footage is mostly all like this cut. There are three poems: 'A Floral Opera,' which I recently wrote; 'In the Hands of the Garden Gods,' which I wrote when I was 27; and 'Tangled Garden,' which I wrote in 2006. This clip is the 'Garden Gods' one. It's still quite raw. I am seeking feedback, critique.

From my perspective - the dance in the background needs to be re-done. I need to get my costume and myself back to High Park for another round, perhaps without my daughter. Though can I go and dance alone? I'm hesitating. There are very few people I'd feel comfortable with doing this. If I manage it, it'll be like the one here, only perhaps a little better (I hope).

The voiceover poem was done one night, reading straight from the journal I wrote the poem in so many years ago. It probably needs to be re-done too. I'm not sure about the saturation of the voice and whether it distorts. The reading itself, though, is just about right in emotional tone, so I'm not sure I should do another.

Since this is an 'art' video I am not worrying about catering to any kind of popular taste. Um, I guess I move to my own drumbeat, or something like that.

What I am looking for are responses, and ideas that I may incorporate into the final version.


Music, 'First Night (Lilith's Seduction)' from Catherine Corelli's album, 'Seraphic Tears': http://www.jamendo.com/en/album/79547

Another update:

I realized it's better full screen, also 720p. Tonight I walked by the house where I rented a small bachelor's back when I had the dream that became this poem. And as the dream itself comes back, I realize that the way I've done the footage of the Garden God (or goddess) is incredibly close to the dream I had so many years ago. That was a wow moment, on the street corner tonight.
Comments (1)

"Green Goddess" Masque

direct YouTube link: "Green Goddess" Masque
"Chthonic goddess of the greening earth. Wrinkled, like tree bark, painted, an exotic glade. Process, the recycling of Nature, life emerging from death. An organic art. The mask's fronds as if growing out of the forest floor in the Spring. Papier-mache, mulch: paper, or leaves. The face as landscape; the face carrying the landscape with it. Flower colours framing her face; the iridescence of insects, sheen of dragonfly. Feathery wings, plumed serpent, vestiges of living vines. A vision of a Nature spirit, Summer Solstice, a Midsummer Night's Dream. Shaman of the forest. Tutelary guide in the rainforest. Jungle of the imagination. Then the Surreality of the sky-blue mask on the greening gold fields of her face: I offer you a masked mask."

After the papier-mâché green goddess masque was finished, I wrote some of the thoughts I had while making it. That became the prose poem.

Last Spring I had wanted to make a dancing video with the mask and the prose poem, but it didn't happen until a few days ago. The footage is from a 4 min clip of the only usable footage from a shoot in High Park in Toronto with my daughter not actually on camera, but affecting things.

A blog post from 2009 with photos documenting the process of making the masque, along with the writing: http://brendaclews.blogspot.com/2009/11/green-goddess-papier-mache-masque.html

This video is part of my multi-media work, 'Green Fire': http://www.brendaclews.com/green-fire

The background birds and forest track is a mix I made mostly from http://freesound.org/


In a class once, where the professor had taken us through a very dense reading of a movie, someone asked, 'Did the director think of all that when they made the movie?' While we would like our work, poems, photographs, artwork, videos, to stand on their own, sometimes we also like to discuss some of the thoughts we had while composing them.

I would ask that you please not consider this personal essay as an explanation of the videopoem, though. The response and thoughts of the viewer can and should differ from my own - the artist is never responsible for the meaning of a work, only the viewer, reader, audience has that privilege.

A good poem, for me, is always a repository of a body of knowledge. A poem is a condensation of part of our history, be that political, social, personal, or intellectual. A poem carries a body of knowledge with it, and this knowledge can be unlocked by the reader/viewer who cares to delve into the background of the poem's images.

All I'm doing here is talking a little of my thought process while making the masque and composing the videopoem. Some of the knowledge I have gathered and woven into this piece. Your responses to the final product, the videopoem, will, of course, be different.

Here are some of my meandering notes:

My masque wears the landscape of the green goddess. I sought to create a figure representing the processes of life, death, recycling/rebirth in the performance - through the costume with its mask, the movement, and the prose poem. I hoped to achieve a videopoem that was ethereal, earthy, surreal and entertaining.

In the process of making the masque, planning a videopoem, sewing a costume, and the 30 hours of editing the footage into the video you see here, many thoughts crossed my mind. I'll briefly touch on a few themes: a resonance with the Green Man motif, Minerva's owl, a little on subjectivities or notions of the self, that this is also a Solstice celebration, and about my discomfort with producing 'creative movement/dance' videos at my age.

My "Green Goddess" masque reminds me of the Green Man: a drawing or sculpture "of a face surrounded by or made from leaves. Branches or vines may sprout from the nose, mouth, nostrils or other parts of the face and these shoots may bear flowers or fruit." The Green Man is usually an architectural ornament on churches, buildings or gates in parks, and so on. The article in Wikipedia continues, "The Green Man motif has many variations. Found in many cultures around the world, the Green Man is often related to natural vegetative deities....Primarily it is interpreted as a symbol of rebirth, or "renaissance," representing the cycle of growth each spring." The 'Green Goddess' masque has leaf-like fronds in her headdress and the colours of the wilds on her painted face. My prose poem refers to many of the same vegetative processes of nature. The dance is meant to be of a nature spirit. She is like a counterpoint to the Green Man. They are fertility figures, emblems of the fecundity of Nature.

I included the sound of an owl hooting; though the video was shot in daytime, I created darker clips in the editing to create a motion of light and dark throughout the video. Always in the jungle there is danger (I lived in an African jungle in Zambia as a child so know this), and the owl carries that haunting in its birdcall. The owl is also sacred to the Ancient Roman goddess, Minerva: "She was the virgin goddess of poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, crafts, magic, and the inventor of music. She is often depicted with her sacred creature, an owl, which symbolizes her ties to wisdom." All of which is appropriate to this videopoem.

Being a 21st century woman, concepts of subjectivities, construction of the self, the ego, in the midst of the natural abundances of the earth, the way as individuals we are part of the larger processes of life and death is important. Hence the masque. Who are we?

During the days it took to make the papier-mâché mask, I thought about how our masks enable us to be who we are. Our performative aspects reveal us to ourselves and others. We construct ourselves through our masques, and reveal ourselves more fully to each other when we are disguised. Yes, I know it is a bit of a double take, and the opposite approach to the Buddhistic peeling of layers of the self to arrive at essence. Yet, like the Buddhist practitioner sits in the semi-lotus pose of the Buddha meditating, and thus takes on the pose (or mask) of the Buddha to achieve selflessness, the masque also removes individual personality and reveals the archetypal nature of our essence.

Masqued or un-masqued, wearing a mask to represent the deity, to represent the spirit being called, or peeling away layers, perhaps we arrive at the same realization of 'selfless self.'

A forest doppelgänger appeared in the footage, in the imprint of a large woman of leaves, a reflection of the dancer, and I have no idea how that happened, and was not able to produce it in other sections, but I really grokked it. That vegetative figure has resonances with resurrection motifs, perhaps even the horror genre of movies when plants take on human form and come to life. A bit humorous, yes. Yet it is as if the masqued shamanic dancing called the spirit forth. A large figure emerges like a forest angel, the manifested double of the woman dancing a medicine dance, a potent force of the power of nature, a little dangerous if not directed properly by the shaman to become the energy of a spirit of healing. The appearance of a doppelgänger has made me very happy with this little video.

It is nearly Solstice, and a celebration of the sun at its zenith in the sky in the Northern Hemisphere here in Canada. I edited the video to culminate in a moment of solar worship, an adoration of the light of life, perhaps the figure becomes a solar priestess for a moment (for she has long since stopped being me), along with the overall representations of the fertility, decay and recycling of greening Nature.

The video is delicately layered and looks best on HD. Different parts of it play in differing speeds of slow motion. The video itself is composed like a compressed poem of images, and is one of my best video poems, I feel. It is, of course, not without humour.

If I'd had this technology 20 years ago! It is hard to produce 'dance videos' at my age, especially in a culture that focuses on youthful beauty, and while there are two more planned (since musicians have sent me music for specific performance pieces), I may not be able to do these types of "creative movement/dance" videos much longer. If I get those last two done, this year will have seen 5 dance videos, wow. A long-time dream, to do this, to create poetry dance videos.

The woman in the "Green Goddess" masque, therefore, wishes you the courage to realize your dreams.

Joining July's Festival of the Trees with this video poem on the shaman of the forest.

Little update: I also took this video poem with me last Sunday, along with some photos of the making of the masque, to a Digital Storytelling workshop (I can't find a direct link, but it's at NFB Mediatheque) with my independent film group at NFB (National Film Board), and was surprised at the positive comments from other participants and NFB staff that I received. Unfortunately, the computer I was working on there froze, so I don't have the piece I produced to show you - though I will link to the video slideshows produced by our group when they become available.
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Testing Video Lightbox to showcase a few pieces of the new album

I am testing Video Lightbox, a freeware application for home users. I have to add some code to my blog site html for the embeds to work as their site shows, but, if what I have done here works for you the way it does on my computer, I'm quite happy.

I've created two poetry albums so far. The first, Dance of the Solar Wind, was a collection of different pieces that had music accompaniment. The second, Starfire, was thematic, and I culled all my love poems and recorded them with music of musicians who share their work on Jamendo. For my next album, I thought to create a longer poem and find an album in the 40-60 min range to work with.

When José Travieso released his album, No More Faith, I thought, wow, this album travels all over the place musically, from neo-classical to minimalism to an anti-music bordering on noise in the last piece. The range of styles in this album appealed to me. I wrote to him asking his permission, and he said yes. Then I thought, it is a long album, what shall I write, it might be too much work to try to fit my poetry into the format of the tracks on the album, and I'll remain open to finding other music. But this album, No More Faith, has made a deep impact in my imagining psyche. Already two videos, with a third planned, and a voice recording.

The Video Lightbox test is to see if I can display the collection that is growing in little thumbnails that open into videos.

I've linked the images to the videos. The videos open on my computer in a new tab of full-screen browser size, which I prefer to YouTube's full screen option. They are set at 720px HD resolution, but you can change this once the player opens.

I hope this works! Click on the images.

dance/ ...indigo folio leaves (with poem)

(direct YouTube link): dance/ ...indigo folio leaves (3:04min);
music, the first track, 'Monster,' on José Travieso's album, "No More Faith."

A reading of my poem, Wear White Paint for the Moon (2:53min);
music, the ninth track, 'Shinigami's Dream, No. 6,' on José Travieso's album, "No More Faith."
José has kindly created an 11:24min version of this track for a video poem I am planning.

(direct YouTube link): The Dancer's Backskin (1:30min);
music, the final track, 'Shinigami's Dream, No. 1,' on José Travieso's album, "No More Faith."

The Dancer's Backskin

direct link: The Dancer's Backskin

An accidental drawing - in a new Moleskine notebook, I brushed water over watercolour pencil. The paper shredded badly and cracked like an eggshell when dry. Intrigued with the effect, and having seen Natalie Portman's incredible performance in Aronofsky's 'Black Swan,' the desire for pure art, its passion and self-effacement, and the self-mutilation, hallucinations, madnesses, I thought of the underside of the dancer's life. Or her backskin.

I am working with the album that the music comes from (see also dance/ ...indigo folio leaves), with the musician's knowledge and tacit permission. No More Faith is an album of such variety I felt it could work for a longer project - literally, from neo-classical to this strange fingernail-on-the-blackboard minute and a half of scratchings. The strangeness that I might have felt on first listen has worn off and the sound seems less grating and more intriguing- perhaps, and who's to know for sure, that's the musician making anti-music for his possessive slave-driving muse who doesn't seem to realize he has a day job as a teacher. The tension is in this piece. His work has such energy. It was the perfect choice for my video.

Jose wrote back to me today:

Hello Brenda!

I've had opportunity to watch your video just right now. Your wrote:

"that's the musician making anti-music for his possessive slave-driving muse who doesn't seem to realize he has a day job as a teacher."

Hahaha! Very poetic, but of course everything is o.k. with me. There is no problem with everything you wrote. Just the contrary, thanks for writing so well about my music and album.

What about Shinigami's Dream, No. 1, it was just -as you wrote- an experiment creating something like "anti-music". With the Shinigami's Dream pieces I wanted always to create oniric impressions, unpleasant and disturbing feelings, always exploring the extreme points in the music and noises. #1 was the most extreme work and I was near not to add it to the album, but finally I decided to have it as last piece, just after the softness of A Tale for our Wasted Years, as an exercise of thesis (the search for the perfection and the balance in music) and anti-thesis. I like the effect in the album, it's so disturbing... :-)

Thanks for everything and, by the way, nice videopoem, as it's usual in you.

Best wishes,

Brenda Clews, art, poetry, voice, video; music, José Travieso's track, 'Shinigami's Dream, No. 1,' on his album, "No More Faith."

The Dancer's Backskin (album of photos)

I posted the painting, The Dancer's Backskin in February.

The Dancer's Backskin [video poem]

direct link: The Dancer's Backskin

Brenda Clews, art, poetry, voice, video; music, José Travieso's track, 'Shinigami's Dream, No. 1,' on his album, "No More Faith."

An accidental drawing - in a new Moleskine notebook, I brushed water over watercolour pencil. The paper shredded badly and cracked like an eggshell when dry. Intrigued with the effect, and having seen Natalie Portman's incredible performance in Aronofsky's 'Black Swan,' the desire for pure art, its passion and self-effacement, and the self-mutilation, hallucinations, madnesses, I thought of the underside of the dancer's life. Or her backskin.

I posted the painting, The Dancer's Backskin in February.

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Tree Bird Moon Ghost [microvideopoetry]

direct link: Tree Bird Moon Ghost

White fire spills from
the cauldron of the night,
where spirits gather
before they arrive
and after they return.

The site where I drew the image. The bamboo music is a snippet from Desert, a free download on LastFM.

(Yesterday I uploaded this micro video poem to Blogger, and to my album of 'Poem Paintings' at Picasa, but was unable to view either on my iPhone. I've uploaded to YouTube, instead.)

This slide went by too quickly to
include it in the micro video poem.

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Dinosaur Book of Green Fire Featured at Moving Poems

Featured yesterday at a great site for video poetry, I'm honoured, truly, and humbly, at Moving Poems... Dave is amassing a fine collection of the best videopoems on the NET and it is totally a site you should subscribe to... you'll find much inspiration for your own art in whatever genre you work in.

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Dance of Gold Canvas

direct link: Dance of Gold Canvas

A performance piece, hints of the epic, the metamorphosis that life is. Age and grace. Frivolity and art. Pain and laughter. Humor and seriousness.

In the dance I speak a poetry whose volume I dimmed to just below audible. A poetry below the threshold.

And of this nearly silenced subliminal speaking? It's part of the motion poem. A tantra. Dance, the journey of the soul, guttural, the women crying for help during the tsunami, women in war, survival, a Blakean crawl across the canvas at one point and I allowed some words to rise, utterances, Butoh not in style but expression perhaps in parts, and of strength, empowerment, and the fecund, the buds of spring about to burst, Boticelli's Primavera, the rich earthy tapestries of the natural world, and Zen, laughter at the absurdity of life, and love, love everywhere, enjoyment in the body itself, sensuality, a wit, humour. Dancing with shadows of the self was intriguing in the editing, as was slipping between colours of a rich Buddha saffron and the smudging shadows of black and white. Editing itself a psychic process, shaping a moving poem.

How a video comes to be is almost surreal. Magic in the editing. I enter a state where time doesn't matter and think it closest to the dream, the mind's most deeply creative process, where you're exploring something, and you're not quite sure what it means, or where it's going, but are fascinated, compelled.

A dance poem, an enactment, a one-act play. Perhaps in this piece something visionary, in that there is resolution to the conflict, the paradoxes, in the process of art itself, in the dance of the self.

Self-conscious but daring to anyhow, give everything you've got.

The dance of the self within Krishna's cosmic dance, the spinning painting of us on the canvas, the dance we all share.

Performed, videoed and edited by Brenda Clews.

Background music by arnoldsrecords, 'There's a hole, there's a wall.'

Without memory, the fragile present disappears.

blog: Rubies in Crystal
art and writings: brendaclews.com
Starfire, an album of poetry performance pieces
(listen, download for free)

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