By Yael Ozsinay
It’s really hard to get people interested in poetry. At least, that’s what I used to think.
A few years ago, when the political and cultural climate in Israel was getting pretty heated, I felt that a lot of it was due to the thinning-out of the language we use – in the media, in politics, and even to describe personal emotions and experiences. When we stop using language creatively and thoughtfully, we eventually also dilute our thoughts, our feelings, and our capacity to comprehend complexity. It is as if we are slowly becoming colour-blind, and stop noticing the gentle hues that surround us. Reading poetry, making it part of our lives, can help us find all those ‘colours’ again.
And so, I tried looking for ways to get poetry through to more people and to younger audiences. But poetry is often perceived as quite ‘scary’ – it is complex and lengthy, and so it is sometimes harder for people to connect to the medium. But when poetry is served in new forms, it can find its way back into people’s hearts and minds.
For example, over the past 6 years, spoken word has become increasingly popular in Israel – Poetry Slam events were PACKED with young audiences who wanted to listen, understand, learn-by-heart, and connect.
When I listened to the spoken-word poem ‘Common Room’ by UK artist Talia Randall (who happens to be my cousin), which speaks about the loneliness and seclusion that many experience as adolescents, I knew that it needed to be shared. Along with 12 other Israeli animators, we created a short animated film that accompanies the poem, depicting our own feelings and experiences which were evoked by the text. The film was quite successful, and got loads of responses from youths around the world. That’s when we got it.
We realized we had the tools to make poetry enjoyable and draw new readers. Only this time, the readers were also viewers. As poetry filmmaker Erica Goss said, “The future of poetry is in poetry films […] in order to bring poetry to young people we have to put it where they’re watching. Their eyes are already on the screen – put poetry there! They deserve it too…”.
Working on poetry film projects with ARTS By The People has pushed this concept beyond my wildest dreams!
This collaboration started with ‘Time’, a project in which poetry, animation and dance were brought together in a mixed-media performance, and continued through to international collaborations in which Israel design and animation students produce short films based on ABTP’s writers, like Revolving Doors and Moving Words (which is now in it second round). And just to emphasize the importance of this last project – it means that for the past two years, dozens of poetry films were created in Israel (29 in 2017, and 12 in 2018), by art students who then fall in love with the concept, and carry on working with poetry after graduation!
I thought it was really hard to get people into poetry. Working with ABTP has made it easy.