My friend Dave quietly started a project that I think is fabulous, called "Moving Poems" - it's a blog where he posts video expressions of poetry. We've both been inspired by the audio versions of authors reading their own work on qarrtsiluni, and by the submissions of multimedia works we occasionally receive there (we'd like more!) Dave has been experimenting with video presentations of his own poetry for a while now, and though I've only published one of my own, I'd like to do more too. I don't know where Dave is finding all these videos, but they're terrific, well worth a look and a bookmark.
Recently (especially for me, he says, thanks, Dave!) he put up two videos of C. K. Williams reading his poem "Cassandra, Iraq" and speaking about that war, the exercise of sheer power, the way people felt silenced, and the political writing that's happening in our time. Readers here will know this is a subject close to me, and as Dave probably sensed, seeing and listening Williams was an encouragement to do more, and to try new ways of reaching a receptive audience. Please take a look.
Having just recently re-read Aeschylus' Agamemnon, the death of Cassandra remains quite vivid in my head. As Williams points out in this video, Cassandra prophesies Agamemnon's death, caught in a net - his wife, Clytemnestra, ensnares him in a robe while he's taking a bath and then stabs him. In the great soliloquy Aeschylus wrote for Cassandra, after Agamemnon has made his fateful entrance into the house where he will be murdered but before she too goes in, to certain death, she speaks to the chorus about the terrible vision she sees. For the first time, she is believed, but the chorus is powerless to stop fate. Williams, I'm sure, hears the echo, but what's interesting to me is the way Cassandra's name has come down to us in history from the pages of the Iliad, and from this one majestic Greek tragedy. You'd think, perhaps, that this frenzied seer would have become the archetypal hysterical madwoman, but instead she's become a symbol, I think, for all innocent people who see and speak the folly of human violence, but are not heeded. Cassandra becomes tragedy itself, but doesn't perish as a victim; at the end of the play, absent and silent, she looms above all the other characters and it is her death that feels like the great wrong. Maybe if I feel ambitious I'll try to do something one of these days with this text, and some video.
(Coincidentally, last night J. and I were watching a DVD of some footage of The Doors playing in Europe in 1968. There was Jim Morrison, stoned and beautiful and raving, reciting poetry into the microphone, and singing "The Unknown Soldier" during the height of Vietnam: another seer who would end up dying in his bath.)