I’m happy to present “Arrhythmia,” a video poem created by Marc Neys (aka Swoon) from a poem I wrote. Michael Dickes, editor of Awkword Paper Cut, recorded the poem, and I shot the video. Here are some process notes about this project:
The poem started with a note I wrote in my journal on May 21 of this year: “My Son’s Heart.” On July 1, I added these lines:
speaks its own language
code rolling out of machines
has frightened some, intrigued others
is slightly larger than normal
a heart ahead of its time
refusal to beat like other hearts
From these lines the poem wrote itself, basically. I finished it on July 2. A couple of weeks later in New York City, I met up with Michael Dickes (editor of Awkword Paper Cut) and asked if he would record the poem. He made a wonderful recording, exactly what I wanted: a dramatic reading totally lacking in the “poetry voice.” Marc and I began to discuss making the video into a poem. After a few emails back and forth, we came up with an approach.
The poem is about my son, Max Peters, whose heart has concerned more than one doctor. I wanted Max in the video, but not in an obvious way, and nothing about hearts or doctors or EKG machines. I wanted to show Max doing what he loves, which is making art. I shot about thirty minutes of footage using my Sony camcorder of him creating a painting, from pencil drawing to paint. Marc advised shooting from different angles, so I did some scenes with a tripod and some without. I sent him the whole file and, as usual when I work with Marc, I waited to be amazed.
Amazement came a week later when Marc sent me a draft of the video. I love how Marc remixed the video I sent him, showing the painting in various stages of development. He cut and matched the different angles, changed color to black and white, and arranged the video so it appears in a central location and then concurrent corners. The only reference to hearts is in the soundtrack, where a slightly echoing heartbeat taps away in the background. It’s a moving piece of work, and all the more effective for its restraint. Inventive and playful, the video is also dark and serious: the perfect blend.
It’s always a joy and a privilege to work with Marc Neys. My gratitude also to Michael Dickes, whose recording underpins the visuals. And finally, thanks to Max, who very patiently allowed me to film him one warm summer day.