This is the first video I’ve made for the Canada Council’s Digitals Originals program. My plan is to release about a dozen of these over the next three months. The goal is to provide an experience of my new collection, Moving to Climate Change Hours published by Wolsak and Wynn, through a video gallery of selected poems. As well I will provide a blog post discussing each poem, its poetics and something around my thinking in the making of the video for the video gallery.
The poem On Leaving was written after hearing a discussion on the use of steep enjambment in poetry. Poetry Foundation gives us this definition of enjambment: “The running-over of a sentence or phrase from one poetic line to the next, without terminal punctuation”. Or another way to think of it is the line ends in the middle of a phrase with the continuation being enjambment on to the next line.
For example the poem Trees by Joyce Kilmer:
You can see the break is taken in such a way that each line has syntax with some clear meaning. Steep enjambment though goes further by disrupting the poem in ways that don’t respect that need for meaning. A William Carlos Williams example:
the back wings
In the Williams example he has no fear of breaking on words like “the” allowing “the” to just hang out at the end of the line. He also is breaking into very short line units which enhances the steep enjambment or perhaps forces it. So steep enjambment does not necessarily mean short lines but the short lines in some cases will help create it as well as perhaps enhance the effect.
On Leaving is that kind of poem, a combination of short line units with very steep enjambment. There is a lot of discussion on how to read such a poem out loud. Many people read through the enjambment in the poem (the back wings of the hospital where nothing…) so their listeners can fully appreciate the main line syntax of the poem, other people prefer the disruption of the steep enjambment and want to hear each line as its own unit, which creates an unusual effect.
So in this video I decided to do it both ways. And the visuals and visual style also change between the two versions in the video, which I am hoping reflect the effects of the readings.
So the poem is disorienting in its syntax and that reflects the contents of the poem too. It’s title is about leaving but it isn’t clear if the narrator is leaving and he is mentioning all these other entities that have left. He never mentions a significant other but that seems to be possibly a factor in the loneliness that pervades the poem. The “not mentioning of the other” operates as a kind of reflection on a leaving.
In making the video there are really two modes of movement, a franticness that is what I think of as regular time. And then the aloneness of the On Leaving state. But that’s me, of course it’s up to the viewer to lay in their own reactions.
This poem was part of a suite of poems that was a finalist for the 2016 CBC Poetry prize.
Hope you enjoy the video gallery.