A picture is worth a thousand words—not exactly music to a writer’s ear, especially a poet. Still, it’s hard to argue the fact that a picture can create an emotional reaction faster, deeper and longer lasting than words alone. When you read the words “E.T. phone home,” what do you see? How about “Here’s looking at you, kid” or “I’ll have what she’s having”? Yes, pictures leave a mark. And, after a lifetime in advertising, I should not have been surprised when a good friend and fellow writer suggested that my new poem needed to be put in motion. A movie!
So, I made a movie for my poem. Here’s the backstory of the video poem, When in Kansas.
This poem was written in reaction to social injustice that came to life so vividly these past many months. As I was feeling helpless, my writing turned to protest as I more fully realized that being a good person is not good enough. Silence is a complicit act. Many of us, especially in the Midwest, tend to think bad things happen elsewhere and what is required of us is to live our own lives—mind our own business. However, this level of injustice requires all good people to take action, even if it is just something small—like writing a poem, making a statement. This poem is my attempt at speaking up, and asking others to join in.
After I shared the poem with a few friends, it was suggested that I find some imagery to accompany the poem as a way of deepening the message. One thing led to another, and since I’m the founder of an advertising agency with a video department, I asked my associates for help. We took news footage as well as some unused b-roll from a TV commercial we recently produced, and we developed this short film (link at bottom).
When in Kansas has been selected for inclusion in the forthcoming “Pandemic to Protest” issue of The Poeming Pigeon annual literary journal, scheduled for release in October 2021. The Poetry Box released the video on YouTube and I posted it on Facebook (@poetpasquale). It has been shared or mentioned in numerous places, and I am quite sure that without the video, the words would not have gained the same audience.
The reaction has been mostly positive. A few people felt that it attacks the state of Kansas. That’s not the intention. My hope is that it will be seen as questioning one’s state of mind, not state of residence. And, for the record, Kansas is a wonderful state and home to some of the best, most fair-minded people anywhere.
I’ve also incorporated the video in a Zoom reading and the audience really seemed to like it. I was worried about the clumsy transition of live reading and switching to a video, but it went smoothly, and I plan to make it a part of future readings, Zoom or otherwise.
Now I’m hoping to produce a limited series of short video poems on the subject of social justice. And, guess what? The challenge is not the video component—it’s coming up with words worth a thousand pictures. When you do, try making a movie. All you need is a good poem and a camera. Here’s the video:
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