Bringing Poems to the Big Screen

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By Rich Tupica

Inspired by notions of ‘home’, filmmakers, poets, readers, listeners and viewers will converge for the 4th annual FILMETRY Festival, which features 12 short films adapted from poems – all informed by explorations of ‘what it means to live somewhere’ .

Hosted at the Lansing Public Media Center, this year’s theme centered on building relationships on campus by linking the FILMETRY project to the MSU Libraries Short Edition project and engaging with a recent home-themed exhibit at the MSU Broad Art Museum.

This year, filmmakers and poets from around the world will be represented at the event for the first time. Co-founded in 2018 by Cindy Hunter Morgan and Peter Johnston, both professors at Michigan State University’s College of Arts and Letters, this fourth-year festival features its most diverse roster.

“This year, for the first time, we invited and received submissions from around the world,” said Hunter Morgan. “The films are all short – less than five minutes each – but they are all different. They are nourished by different poems, different experiences and different aesthetic choices.

“We are thrilled to have Kate Darnell, a local filmmaker, as part of the festival this year,” added Hunter Morgan. “She adapted a poem by Wally Swist, who lives in Massachusetts.”

Kathryn (Kate) Darnell found film poetry after decades as a professional calligrapher and illustrator in mainstream media. According to his biography, his “animated calligraphies” originated from experimental work on paper – layering translucent words to create abstract manuscripts and calligraphic paintings. The intention is to express the forms and rhythms inherent in the act of writing and the poetry it represents.

Darnell said interpreting and animating another person’s work for FILMETRY is a welcome challenge.

“When I write a poem in calligraphy, whether it’s animated or not, I ‘hear’ it and understand it in a way that I couldn’t with just reading.” Darnell said. “’Grace’ struck me with its vivid imagery but also with the way the words changed perspective. I felt both an inner and outer landscape against which something quite like a jewel could appear. This is what informed my process as I progressed through this lively poem.

Of course, there are plenty of other artists on the diverse line-up. And while many locals are represented, Hunter Morgan is thrilled with the international lineup of poets and filmmakers.

“We received submissions from all over the world,” she said. “Charles Olsen, a New Zealand filmmaker who now lives in Spain, adapted a poem by Christine Jones, who lives in Massachusetts. Olsen’s films have won numerous awards and screened around the world. Lori Ersolmaz, a filmmaker from Naples, adapted a poem by Linda Nemec Foster, who lives in Grand Rapids.

Also on the FILMETRY program is Jim Hall, a two-time Peabody Award winner for his work on television as part of an investigative team. He adapted a poem by Brian Gilmore, a Lansing resident for many years but now living in Washington, D.C.

FILEMTRY is sponsored by MSU Libraries, MSU English Department, MSU Film Studies Program, and Lansing Public Media Center. For more information, visit filmetry.org.


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