Joseph Brodsky in his 1987 Nobel Lecture stated, “There are, as we know, three modes of cognition: analytical, intuitive, and the mode that was known to the biblical prophets: revelation. What distinguishes poetry from other forms of literature is that it uses all three of them at once (gravitating primarily toward the second and the third). For all three of them are given in the language; and there are times when, by no means of a single word, a single rhyme, the writer of a poem manages to find himself where no one has even been before him, perhaps than he himself would have wished to go. The one who writes a poem writes it above all because verse writing is an extraordinary accelerator of consciousness, of thinking, of comprehending the universe.”
The director, Richard Kroehling, and I want viewers of BE•HOLD to see how the weaving of film and poetry can be an accelerator of consciousness and a way to comprehend a world in which there is the persistent presence of genocide. I believe in poetry and what it can do. It is behind so much of the philosophy of my life and teaching. I’ve seen people’s lives change because of it.
We envision BE•HOLD as a cinematic film where each poem has its own style, its own visual island. Capturing a wide range of experiences, including the horrors, the beauty, the incomprehensible, the struggle, and even some small moments of transcendence, we will take viewers to a parallel world where those lost still walk. Through the power of movie making, we will pull the audience into this deeply examined and re-created world so their lives will resonate with the poet’s, allowing viewers to engage with history through a vibrant and contemporary lens. In BE•HOLD, language itself becomes a character. Modeled loosely on the PBS series, “The United States of Poetry,” the film is designed as a poetic anthology like Wim Wender’s dance anthology film “Pina.” Shifting focus to the interior states of each work, poems lift off from the page to the screen. Viewers will follow each performer into a time when good and evil, life and death walked the razor’s edge. It is our hope that new personal meanings for the audience will emerge out of the juxtaposition of the poems, the unique approach to each piece, the performances, cinematography, art direction, music and uses of sound and silence. In BE•HOLD, language itself becomes a character.
Creating a strong social media presence that will tap into the innate collectivity of the web, we want to create a community. We want to foster conversation. Facilitating exchanges between filmmakers, poets, survivors, their descendants, educators, students and visitors, we will also encourage and solicit work from writers and filmmakers.
Wilfred Owen wrote of his WWI poetry: “My subject is war, and the pity of war. The poetry is in the pity. Yet these elegies are to this generation in no sense consolatory. They may be to the next. All a poet can do today is warn.” For the next generations, we need inventive ways to ensure Holocaust memory. It is our goal for BE•HOLD to be a living legacy and an innovative way to remember.
BE•HOLD was accepted to the Independent Film Project’s Documentary Film Week held at Lincoln Center in September 2013 where we showed our progress reel and received strong interest. We are forming an Advisory Board for the film. Current advisors are poets Mary Stewart Hammond and Edward Hirsch, as well as Rabbi Irving (Yitz) Greenberg, Chairman Emeritus of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. Currently, we are working with a casting agent to engage an actor for filming. Last year, we completed a successful campaign on Indiegogo and raised enough money to make the progress reel. We are still accepting contributions to complete production, and they are tax deductible. For anyone interested, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today, I am posting our progress reel which features Taylor Mali, Cornelius Eady, and me, along with my mother. Please note that it has not been fine edited yet. The password for the video is: perform
I would like to thank Stacey Harwood, Managing Editor, and The Best American Poetry Blog for asking me to be guest author this week. It has been an honor to write about my journey to poetry and where it has led me. If you’d like to learn more about the film, contribute or become part of the team, please be in contact on the BE•HOLD Facebook page or by email at email@example.com.