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Laura Hinton

 

Yellow by Laura Hinton

Making "Yellow"

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The prose poem "Yellow" was conceived years ago in a dream. The space of the dream, which seemed to exist as a real-life meadow near my weekend abode in Woodstock, NY, provided the context for a radiant sunlit "story." This story as scrawled in a notebook became the prose poem's raw text.

When I later took up and revised this raw text or dream material, I found that the "story," per se, was not its interesting element. What inspired me was the vision I held in my internal eye, in my dream-memory, of the radiant field, its image of a setting and rising sun, the extreme shapes and shadows of "yellow" as they fell across and filtered over the meadow whose location I recognized and was not far from my house where I have created my own "Upstate" garden. Those images and shapes became the truer content of my written piece, as did my own gardening procedures and practice. "Yellow" also grew to become a meditation on a book I was reading at the time, Wittgenstein's Remarks on Colour, making it one of a series of "color"-based prose poems drawing on Wittgenstein's beautiful written lines.

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The still and moving images of the video, however, were photographed thousands of miles away from the lovely meadow represented in my dream. I recorded these images when I came upon them one summer day, hiking in a field on the San Tropez Peninsula in the South of France.

San Tropez may be known for its glamour and glitz and its chic summer-tourist harbor, cafes, and pricey boutiques—a "village" full of a few hapless movie stars who want to make the local newspapers and too many strutting Parisians remembering Brigitte Bardot movies from the '60's—but far out and away from the scrambling little town is a long-reaching, vine-covered peninsula. And it hosts not only famous trendy beaches but a much more secluded coastal wilderness—as "wild" as any coastal region of the French Riviera can be. It is a protected seashore today, and its hiking trail follows pathways of gorgeous white sands and blackberry bushes ripening under their Mediterranean sun. Within the azure water, multi-colored fish swarm underwater grottos and dash playfully in late-day light. My photographs and short film footage were all taken in a field that lies just off the coastal beach sands, where low-lying mountains roll up from the watery shores and spring forth the waving yellow grasses. The motion picture clip repeated in the poetry video rhythmically, along with the stills (against a yellow pasted background), reveals the actual kind of winds that can whip around this peninsula from the far-reaches of the Rhone, driving west to the "Var." These winds are called "mistral." They are not pastoral and can be dangerous.

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The still photographs I had taken of the St. Tropez field were "pasted" into the Microsoft Word page of the prose poem. When I submitted the hybrid text to Marc Vincenz at Mad Hatters’ Review, he had the insight to ask for a full-fledged film version.

Building such a poetry video was another story. My son, Paul Daniel Lyon, known in New York artist circles as Vickers Gringo, had helped me produce a slide show for a poetry reading in New York City a few years back. When he died a year and a half ago suddenly at 32, I was left with digital files of this work in multiple programs, combined with his master's touch. He had been, among other artist feats, a professional video artist.

In Paul's honor, I wanted to publish this poetry film he had once helped me construct–and per Marc's suggestion. I worked and worked, but the overlays of my son's earlier files were technically "corrupted" –they wouldn't play in anyone else's computer—as I tried developing a full video in a software program I scarcely knew.

Strangely, perhaps not coincidentally, I was vacationing in the Var and near the San Tropez Peninsula when my son died one sunny Sunday in New York City.

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Recently, I started over with my son's original digital files. I called in the spirits. I sat working at a French kitchen table in the dark of the early night, in the winter of my second January without Paul, again in the south of France and on break from teaching. I told myself I would become Paul. Or he told me he would become "me." I gently plowed through layers and layers of the Final Cut Pro editing process, which became for me a feeling much like digging in my Upstate New York garden, only with digital pointers and virtual tools. I was sitting at my table with this Angel and I worked. He was sunny and bright yellow, my Angel -- the color of my son's hair when he was a brilliant young child. At my angelic table, in the glow of my Angel, I thought of Janet Frame, who must have known a similar transport when her closest family members died, when they left but also stayed; and that one day perhaps they helped her become the writer she always was.

This poetry film is dedicated to Paul "Vickers" Lyon.

 

 

 

 

Laura Hinton is the author of a poetry book, Sisyphus My Love (To Record a Dream in a Bathtub), published by BlazeVox Books, and a critical book, The Perverse Gaze of Sympathy: Sadomasochistic Sentiments from Clarissa to Rescue 911 (SUNY Press). She is also the co-editor of We Who Love to Be Astonished: Experimental Women’s Writing and Performance Poetics (University of Alabama Press). Her critical essays, poet interviews, and reviews have appeared in journals including Contemporary Literature, Postmodern Culture, Textual Practice, Women’s Studies, Rain Taxi, Jacket, The Journal of the Academy of American Poets. She also has edited several special journal editions, most recently a special issue in Postmodern Culture on the topic of poet’s theater (co-editor).

Hinton's individual prose works, poems and performance works have appeared in anthologies and journals including Feminist Studies, Bird Dog, Sonaweb, How2, Poets for Living Waters, Nth Position, and Esque. Hinton edits a chapbook series for Mermaid Tenement Press. She publishes a blog about multi-media poetry, Chant de la Sirene. She is a Professor of English at the City College of New York. She lives in Manhattan, Woodstock, and the South of France. Contact author.

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