Field Guide: identification of poems in their natural habitat –
Part 1: Videopoeia
The imagination imitates. It is the critical spirit that creates.
– Oscar Wilde
Ideation – (n.) the process of generating and communicating new ideas. As a poem is literally a “made thing,” from the Greek, poein: a thing made from the imagination, I thought it would be interesting to take a critical look at how poems develop. To start us off, I “borrowed” a collaborative project, termed a “videopoeia” (coined by Omer Zalmanowitz, the videographer, who is one of the collaborators) — that is, a video-graphic re-presentation of the poet, Carleen Tibbetts, reading her own work aloud. Tentatively titled “Sad Grammar” or “An Idea Plumping in Salt Water,” the piece exemplifies the collaborative nature of “ideation” as it allows for the creation of an entirely new form of creative communication:
Critical thinking – also termed “higher order thinking skills,” (that is, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, according to Bloom’s taxonomy) the actual “work” in making a poem begins after the initial drafting of a piece. This is where the poet/writer/artist begins to look at his/her own work through the lens of the “critical spirit” Wilde refers to in the opening quote. Toward that aim, I asked each of the collaborators (Carleen Tibbetts, the poet; and Omer Zalmonowitz, the videographer), a short series of questions regarding the creation of the work. Their answers demonstrate critical thinking skills in action:
Question 1: What was the initial impulse for creating this piece?
Carleen: The initial impulse was reading Ron Silliman and looking through my language journal for fragments, sentences, phrases, images, etc. that struck me and then experimenting with a repetitive pattern and then trying to structure the poem as many of his book-length poems are structured: block text format.
Omer: The impulse behind the videography was to capture Carleen’s performance so that the relief image of the performance wouldn’t be lost to those unable to attend the reading and thus, to keep the dimension of Carleen’s performance of the poem be part of the text. I have wanted to make a community of readings, the more readings that are available the better and I have wanted to do so for formal and informal readings since the vocalization, the spoken word, the reading and the performance is invaluable to poetry and it should be kept as part of the process of poetry-making whenever the performative aspect is present, whenever the spoken word of the text takes place on the tip of the tongue.
(Note: these answers epitomize analysis, in that they examine the work, and break it into parts by identifying motives or causes)
Question 2: What are your thoughts about the piece? Is there anything you’d like the audience to know about it?
Carleen: I wasn’t sure how long to make it. It was a first draft, so I just stopped at one page.
Omer: As the photographer/videomaker I am circulating throughout the world the gift of the text that Carleen is embodying, but it is not my poem, my body of text. This videomaking exists as a stamp on the letter — the text — and the envelope: the performance — of Carleen’s poem-making — with this stamp — a mechanical stamp, or in this case, a digital stamp — Carleen can send her text — the poem — in the envelope of her performance to various digital locations by using the digital stamp — the video. In that sense, by using this analogy, I am just the mailman, the postal worker who stamps the parcel. I’ve stamped Carleen’s poem with the ability to circulate it through the world as a video/digital/visual-auditory performative act.
(Note: these answers deliver synthesis, in explaining the production of a unique communication)
Question 3: What are your thoughts about this piece as a cultural artifact? Where will you take it from here?
Carleen: I’d need to gather more language to work into the recursive pattern in order for it to be a long poem, or a VERY long poem, in Silliman’s case!
Omer: I had noticed the complimentary property of the graphic/visual to the auditory — this is nothing unique, language works that way, a sign and a sound, and yet I was surprised how each line’s contour, length, number of letters, syllables, implied rhythm as it relates to the audio performance, how the lines were in themselves performative, already always having a suggested form about them, and yet how open-ended the process was as the possibilities at captioning the poem were plentiful — in that sense, in the captioning, I had tried to mimic the rhythm of the spoken word with the visual presentation of the captions. Even when a writer reads from a block of text, there is idiosyncratic parsing of the words into sound bytes that form sentences over the duration of speech, and although I’ve imposed a foreign parsing of the sentences of the poem onto Carleen’s vocal performance of the poem, it is the reading out loud of the poem, the spoken words, that guided me in the captioning process.
(Note: here we find probative evidence of evaluation,in that both collaborators offer their opinions, by making judgments about information, validity of ideas, or quality of work based on a set of criteria)
Brainstorms – critical thinking is integral to the making of poems (as well as all artistic works) in that it allows the creator to clarify his/her initial goals (or impulses) in the origination of a work, to examine his/her assumptions, to discern hidden values, and to evaluate his/her conclusions. Over the next few weeks, I will publish a series of posts entitled “thinking out loud,” which will examine the process of poem-making from ideation to publication. I think that critical thinking is just as important as “creativity,” and in fact, probably contributes to the overall definition of what it means to be “creative.” Over the next few weeks, I intend to test that assumption.
Kudos – I would like to thank my colleagues, Carleen Tibbetts and Omer Zalmanowitz, for allowing me to “kick off” this series with the generous contribution of their collaborative work and their thoughts on its inception.
Carleen Tibbetts received her B.A. in English from Loyola Marymount University and her M.A. in English from CSU Northridge. Her poems have appeared in L.A. Miscellany, The Northridge Review, Redheaded Stepchild Magazine, BluePrint Review, Ancora Imparo, and Zocalo Public Square.
Omer Zalmanowitz is a graduate of Cal State University, Northridge, awarded a B.A. in Music Studies and an M.A. in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. He is interested in literary theory, cultural criticism, performance art, creative writing pedagogy, interdisciplinary studies, and travel writing, and also is interested in acoustics/sound theory.