Ron Mann’s groundbreaking 1982 documentary feature, Poetry In Motion, remains a treasure-trove of performance and poetry, and poetry-in-performance, and features a stellar group of (mostly North American) poets (twenty-five from a group of sixty-five originally filmed), among them, Allen, Anne Waldman, John Giorno, William Burroughs, Amiri Baraka, Ed Sanders, Robert Creeley, Michael McClure, Gary Snyder, John Cage, and Jim Carroll. Introduced and punctuated by the acerbic thoughts of Charles Bukowski, the film also affords us rare glimpses of such legendary figures as Ted Berrigan and Helen Adam and – it was partially Canadian-financed – Christopher Dewdney (reading a, perhaps, Christopher Smart-influenced piece), and “The Four Horsemen” (Rafael Barreto-Rivera, Paul Dutton, Steve McCaffery, and bpNichol). It was re-released in 1994 in an innovative format on CD-Rom, and, in 2002, as a DVD. A second DVD, Poetry in Motion 25, was also made available (“a one-hour television special featuring out-takes from Poetry In Motion”), with many of the artists featured in the original film, (different poems, different settings), plus a bunch of new faces (Peter Orlovsky, Alice Notley, Eileen Myles, Spalding Gray, Tom Clark, Jerome Rothenberg, Joel Oppenheimer, and Philip Whalen, amongst others).
Allen’s appearance is suitably performative – “punk rock” with a full-scale back-up band (we’ve commented on it before). Allen introduces the segment with musings on the craft and an invocation of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche‘s “crazy wisdom”: “I have a Shelley-an, Gnostic, Buddhist notion”, he declares, “which is that the art is wild and the insight is wild and the behavior may be wild, but there’s that thing called “crazy wisdom”, which is breaking up an old form, but as gently as possible, and doing it in a way that you leave space for a new form to rise, or giving space for people to come out behind their cover, and, er.. speak more frankly, so I think it would be radical, but I don’t think it would be violently revolutionary. The whole point is that it’s all poets, all writers, all actors, making up their own prose, their own scenarios, so the poet is in a position to make up a scenario..that’s a lot more..vivid, actually, because it’s based on accurate observation”. (“I don’t like the government where I live/I don’t like dictatorship of the rich..”).
Digitally Obsessed‘s review of the DVD (DVDs) can be found here.