On Big Screens and Small, Filmmakers Enhance National Poetry Month

by Staff

As part of the all-out media blitz that ushers in National Poetry Month, the Poetry Foundation announced at the beginning of April that, in addition to a full slate of public readings, a national recitation contest, and a "multimedia tour of poetry written in and about the city of Chicago," the organization will be presenting a series of poetry films produced in association with WGBH in Boston and the docUWM media center at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. The series, Poetry Everywhere, features videos of poets such as Naomi Shihab Nye and Kevin Young reading their work as well as animated films of poems by Kay Ryan, Nick Flynn, and others. The short films are airing throughout April on public television and can be viewed at pbs.org, the Poetry Foundation's Web site, YouTube, and iTunes. Below is one of the films, an animated poem, by John Ashbery.


For those with slightly longer attention spans, there are several feature-length films focusing on the lives of poets that are getting some air time this month too. Ferlinghetti, a feature-length documentary directed by Christopher Felver, features archival photographs, historical footage, and interviews with Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Billy Collins, Dennis Hopper, Dave Eggers, Gary Snyder, and others. Felver explores the life and work of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who turned ninety last month, and reveals how the iconic poet, artist, publisher, and activist has served as "a catalyst for numerous literary careers and for the Beat movement itself."


Also out this month is Ram Devineni's Ginsberg's Karma, a documentary about Allen Ginsberg's trip to India in the early 1960s. In the film, poet Bob Holman traces Ginsberg's journey by visiting the places where he stayed and talking with the people he met. Inspired by Ginsberg's Indian Journals (Grove, 1996) and Deborah Baker's A Blue Hand: The Beats in India (Penguin Press, 2008), it features interviews with Synder, Joanne Kyger, Anne Waldman, and others.