This week, my copy of Kate Marshall Flaherty’s new book Titch (Piquant Press) arrived, a thought-provoking and enjoyable read indeed. What an intriguing surprise at the bottom of certain poems to find printed a URL to their audio-visual recreations online.
Sitting down at the computer, I was glad to have read the poems beforehand when my focus was solely on the words themselves and the images their own power inspired. What impact, I wondered, would a video narrated by Flaherty have on those images? How would combinations of words, voice, music, pictures, and even aspects of dance interplay?
I was not disappointed. For instance, in “Canoe” the serene music and filmed scenery of northern lake and shore easily enlarged my original vision of an actual landscape, with Flaherty’s gentle voice backgrounded more as a guiding echo. In “Rose Quartz”, the poet’s persona was foregrounded as she moved through and reflected on the ancient rock surrounding her. “Jack Pine” incorporated two more arts: the Group of Seven Tom Thomson painting formed a backdrop, before which an Indigenous dancer interpreted Flaherty’s words as gestures. “Practicing Like Water” was also different, combining abstract images, music, and questions not as literal mirrors of the physical, but as evocations of the state of half-waking. Each multifold experience was unique and in marked contrast to the singular directness of a live poetry reading onstage.
On Flaherty’s web page https://katemarshallflaherty.ca/poet-2/video-audio-poems/ there is much more to enjoy but also to think about. What is the potential for other elements from art forms to be mixed and balanced with words to create an even larger poetry?