direct link: Tangled Garden, a triptych of nature poems by Brenda Clews, 2012.
Tangled Garden: a triptych of nature poems, a video/filmpoem by Brenda Clews
-A Floral Opera (2011)
-In the Hands of the Garden Gods (1979)
-Slipstream, the Tangled Garden (2006)
(with impromtu speaking between the poems, which each end with ~~~ in the subtitle track.)
Beautiful singing by the musician, Catherine Corelli mixed from her album, Seraphic Tears (2010) on Jamendo (with her permission).
Note: This video is subtitled. Click on the CC on the play bar to activate or de-activate the subtitles. YouTube will also automatically translate the subtitles into 25 languages if English is not your main language and you would like to get the gist of the poetry.
In contrast to the zippy, fast cuts and commercial-like flavours of many video/filmpoems, Tangled Garden is a slow virtually single-shot video. It is an 'art film.' It is 22 minutes of slowed-down footage. It does move through a process that is Surreal and dream-like. Not much happens, but a lot passes by, if you know what I mean. Tangled Garden is the opposite of an action film.
It has taken 9 months to produce this video. I used some of the footage - you might recognize it - for two 'Solstice' videopoems, non-religious celebrations, one commemorating the beginning of my favourite season, Summer, 'Green Goddess' Masque and one celebrating finding the light in the darkness of Winter, Shadow Cave, because I liked the dance clips, but they were always intended for this videopoem. Tangled Garden is a major piece for me.
Tangled Garden unfolds in a spatial and painterly way; it is not narratorial or linear. I often work with doubles, dopplegängers and reflections, with subjectivities, the selves that compose us, and there is little of that here, but minimally. Rather, the focus is the poetry itself. Three nature poems are spoken as a voiceover, poems that span 30 years. I made a subtitle track (that took 3 days with lots of subsequent corrections), so you can read along if you like.
Three clips form the visual tracks of the video poem. The initial background was shot in early May 2011 in Niagara Falls and the two dance clips on different days in High Park in Toronto (accompanied by my daughter who read while the tripod held the camera videoing me dancing) in June 2011. Both of the dance clips have been worked extensively in Final Cut to arrive at the visual patterns that you see here. As an artist, my video work is very painterly, and I find I compose video canvases based on the static, pictorial vision of a painting. Perhaps they are paintings in motion.
After I shot the initial footage of the plant foliage on May 9, 2011, during a sleepless night on that trip I watched the clip over and over on the small viewfinder of my video camera, wondering what I would do with it. Without seeing earth or sky, a breeze blowing through the tangle of leaves and stalks, light breaking through when the wind was stronger, I found it very rhizome-like, and it reminded me of my memories of my life in that I could enter or exit anywhere and still arrive at an understanding of who I am.
I wrote 'A Floral Opera' (2011) for that initial footage, and for Catherine Corelli's voice in her incredible neoclassical metal album, Seraphic Tears, which I had listened to enroute to Niagara Falls.
Tangled Garden is composed of three earth poems. 'A Floral Opera' is, I feel, one of my most successful poems. Later in the year, having collected 20 years worth of my journals in a large basket, I began going through them, and found a poem written in 1979 based on a dream I had had. 'In the Hands of the Garden Gods' (1979) describes that dream, and it seemed to match the footage and was another approach to the themes 'A Floral Opera' alluded to. I decided to include the older poem. Currently I live near the rooming house where I had rented a small ground floor apartment as a graduate student and where I wrote 'Garden Gods,' and one night, quite far along in the editing of the filmpoem, I had a 'Eureka moment' on the street corner near the house where I once lived: the strange central figure that I have created in the video, the one who moves slowly through the 22 minutes, almost exactly duplicates the transforming earth muse figure, the "lady, lady, lady" who appeared in the dream I had in 1979! Our lives are a strange unity. The final poem that I included was another earth poem, 'Slipstream, the Tangled Garden,' (2006) about hungry ghosts, time, death and the resurrection of life that continues through us even if when we shall no longer exist.
In between the three poems is some ad-libbed talking that I initially did while watching the footage and which my daughter encouraged me to include in the final version. The impromptu speaking is a bit repetitive, but perhaps that's a welcome refrain from the densely packed imagery of each of the poems. After each of the 'official' poems I have put '~~~' in the subtitle track to note their ending and that what follows is a speaking between poems.
The themes in the poems are quite complex, but also they are rich with imagery that I hope holds your attention. They are strange, Surreal, dream-like, body-based, earth-centred, full of reflection, passion, living. The three poems together cover the span of a lifetime of rumination on Nature, the meaning of being alive, having a woman body, birth, life, death, amidst the heritage of our intellectual culture and the extraordinary creativity of our planet which I call the "green fire." A planet we are busy overrunning with our extreme fertility as a species and our polluted ways. I don't, however, push the 6th mass extinction that we are in, though the outlook for our species is gloomy. Emphatically, the "green fire" is far stronger than us. We are merely representations, minuscule embodiments of the earth's creative energy. I embrace the earth's deep and fecund creativity. In the tangled garden of our lives on our natal earth there is beauty, grace, love, compassion, sorrow, fear, caring, and sweetness, sweetness.