Saturday, November 16, 2013

Poetry Scores history lesson: the Polaroid Broomstick Selfy

Poetry Scores is still winding down from our successful celebration of Anne Sexton's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which we translated into music, visual art, food, cocktails and even a psychotherapeutic relationship (more on that later).

We also added a new medium, for us: the Selfy (sometimes referred to as "Selfie," by people who don't like the letter "y" as much as I do). Since "Snow White" is a poem about what happens after someone looks in the mirror, we asked people to make a Mirror Selfy -- a self-taken photograph of yourself in the mirror. Since Poetry Scores translates poetry into other media, we needed to get the poem into the new medium somehow, so we asked people to title their Mirror Selfy after a direct quote from Sexton's poem.

This open commission resulted in a nice gallery of Snow White Mirror Selfies. It also made us want to add a Selfy poetry score component to all of our projects from now on. It seemed to connect with more people where they are. Not everyone will want to take the time to write a song, make a painting or shoot a film from a poem, or have those skills, but people are always updating photographs of themselves and anyone can do it.

As a matter of fact, for those who want to get a head start on the next one, our Spring 2014 project is going to be Ten Dreamers in a Motel (1955) by Josephine Miles, and soon we will issue an open call for Motel Selfies. Since it's a ten-part poem, we will encourage people to shoot a ten-part sequence of Motel Selfies, with each Motel Selfy taking its title sequentially from one of the ten parts of the poem.

The Selfy score may become an important part of our future in making Poetry Scores more accessible to more people, but it's really nothing new for us. Poetry Scores was producing selfies before we were Poetry Scores and before selfies were selfies.

Poetry Scores evolved from the field recording collective Hoobellatoo (which evolved from the folk rock band Eleanor Roosevelt, which evolved from the alternative country band Enormous Richard, which evolved from the arts organization Single Point of Light).

In the years when the rock band Eleanor Roosevelt was mutating into the field recording collective Hoobellatoo, we made a series of sweeps up the East Coast with a mobile recording studio packed into a cartop carrier, doing field recordings of ourselves and others on location.

This was before everyone had a camera in their pocket. Our portable camera back then was a Polaroid. One of the guys had learned the trick of posing for a Polaroid portrait, then hitting the little button on the camera to take the picture with the other end of a broomstick. Call it a Polaroid Broomstick Selfy.

This is me, in an era of longer hair and larger eyeglass frames, wielding the broomstick as Elijah "Lij" Shaw and Joe Esser pose with me on a Wayne, New Jersey back porch where we were probably getting ready to eat a bunch of food. Lij, Joe and I were in this thing going back to our Washington University campus rock band Enormous Richard. We had been refueling our bodies on the road in Joe's hometown of Wayne, New Jersey since our first East Coast tour, ca. 1992.

I keep turning up Polaroid Broomstick Selfies and will be posting others that feature the Grebo raconteur Nymah Kumah, jump blues legend Rosco Gordon, and the editors of Curbstone Press, publishers of Latin American revolutionary literature (and Vietnamese fiction) in translation. (Our Fall 2014 project, Tavern (Conversatorio) by Roque Dalton, was published in English by Curbstone Press. You guessed it .... Tavern Selfies.)

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