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the poetic and the pandemic

If you find the text a bit blurry in this video, you can click on the ‘settings’ symbol at the bottom of the video & choose 1080p.

During the early weeks of this COVID-19 pandemic, in between listening to daily updates and being worried about how others were doing, I, like many, was baking more sourdough bread than usual and sewing cotton masks, as I also tried to keep up practices of self-care.

One of the ways that I was trying to stay in touch with others was by writing postcardie letters, using my ongoing everyday poetics postcard series. And this led me back to asking – why do I still feel that everyday poetics is important? And why is it that it continues to feel like the heart of my creative practice? Here, I’ll simply say that it’s an appreciation of life – including an acknowledgement and deep valuing of what might often be overlooked by some or even dismissed, as having no value – things like simple gestures, quiet beauty, everyday interactions, and the felt and the found.

In recent years, those of you who know my practice or have read other pages on this website, know that text walking (not to be confused with walking while texting on one’s phone) has been a key part of my creative process. Gathering bits of text that I feel compelled to photograph (signage, grafitti, garbage, whatever, …), I then try to write a piece using only these found and gathered words/images.

All the restrictions and limitations we are living with during this coronavirus pandemic, had me wanting to take on the challenge of working with the limitations of haiku in a new text walking video. I don’t normally write haiku. However the 5, 7, 5 syllable format felt like a good challenge for someone who usually works more with free verse. As a Japanese Canadian writer and artist, I have a rather complicated and somewhat emotional relationship with the thought of writing haiku. I feel a connection with the form’s sense of openness and embracing of beauty and poetics in everyday life. And with what feels to me almost like a quirky sense of quiet awareness and at times humour that haiku can highlight. I also however, can find myself feeling a kind of unease with the thought of writing haiku. Like I said, it’s complicated. All the more reason, I suppose, to take on the challenge to see where this process might lead me, I thought. Afterall these current coronavirus times are full of unease and unknowns. Besides, I know that locations and circumstances of unease can also be sites of comfort. They carry that possibility, at least.

So I took on the challenge of building haiku and feeling my way through this pandemic, by returning to my practice of text walking.

And now after six months of living in this strange time, the poetic and the pandemic video (which is part one of this project) is ready to share. The video is close to 25 minutes in length. I initially wanted a much shorter piece, but after awhile the slow pace and the ongoing sense that this length offered felt right, given the circumstances we are living with. And so, the video is what it is.

If you have any questions about my process, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll try and respond as best I can.

stay safe


continue acts of kindness

(September 1st, 2020)

This still from the video is at the beginning of the haiku (unknown linings).

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Part one of the poetic and the pandemic project was created with support from the Canada Council for the Arts, through a ‘Digital Originals’ grant.

5 thoughts on “the poetic and the pandemic”

  1. Alda, thanks for spending time with the video and for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate it.

    In your email you mentioned that you wished at times, that you could also see the written words of the haiku alongside the images and spoken poems. Actually I do plan on adding a caption layer to the video. I am thinking that this would be useful, especially if someone has trouble hearing. It would be an option that one can choose when viewing the video. Not sure exactly when I’ll have this layer/option added, but I can let you know what it’s done, if you like.

    I didn’t want to build the written text directly into the images because I thought it would be too visually “busy” and distracting, but I think that making it an option would work.

    I hope you don’t mind that I’m responding to part of your email here. I just thought that others might also want to know if I plan to add captions. Thanks Alda.

    1. Alda, finally this video has the written lines of haiku embedded. As I mention in the blurb on the ‘fall into winter’ post, I tried adding closed captions but I really didn’t like the way they looked or felt. In the end I decided to build the written lines directly into the video piece. It’s taken me awhile, to tweak and test, trying out various options.

  2. This is a beautiful piece. Thank you for creating this, Baco. It makes me want to pause and look at beauty or as you say ‘poetics’ of everyday things that are so important, esp. in these uncertain times and often overlooked. I loved how you combined different texts from your walks and actually created captions/statements/words that are so well connected that make you wonder and think. I am so curious to know more about ‘haiku’…beautiful!

    1. Sukh, thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience of this haiku video piece. I really appreciate it.

      Neighbourhood walks have certainly been one of the things that have helped to keep me grounded during this pandemic, even though these walks have often been shorter than my ‘text walking’ walks in the past.

      Working with whatever I have (in this case with the felt and found, on a walk) has been something that I seem to find myself thinking a lot about. This way of working is something that applies to all aspects of life, I suppose. Whenever I’m challenged by something (whether by some health issue, a lack of materials or supplies, a shortage of time or limited energy, by the restrictions in place due to this COVID-19 pandemic, or something else), I know it’s still possible to appreciate the wondrous things that are such a part of everyday life. And I guess the challenge I set for myself, is to try and create something from here, from wherever I am and with whatever I have.

      Sukh, I’ll come back later to say a bit more about haiku or maybe this is one of the things that we can talk about in person, once in person visits are again possible.

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