The New School / “A Line Break is Like a Cut: The Impulse for Disruption in Poetry and Experimental Film”

“A Line Break is Like a Cut: The Impulse for Disruption in Poetry and Experimental Film”
Lynne Sachs
The New School
Graduate Program in Creative Writing
Oct. 25, 2023

Organized by Margaret Rhee
Assistant Professor of Writing Across Media and Chair of Arts Writing

Working with memoir text as lines of poetry,
Using the 2nd person as the subject
“how do you ….?”
Gives some distance from the subject.

Film About a Father Who
74 min. 2020

a film by Lynne Sachs

Essay on the film by Ela Bittencourt:

Over a period of 35 years between 1984 and 2019, filmmaker Lynne Sachs shot 8 and 16mm film, videotape and digital images of her father, Ira Sachs Sr., a bon vivant and pioneering businessman from Park City, Utah. FILM ABOUT A FATHER WHO is her attempt to understand the web that connects a child to her parent and a sister to her siblings. With a nod to the Cubist renderings of a face, Sachs’ cinematic exploration of her father offers simultaneous, sometimes contradictory, views of one seemingly unknowable man who is publicly the uninhibited center of the frame yet privately ensconced in secrets. In the process, Sachs allows herself and her audience inside to see beyond the surface of the skin, the projected reality. As the startling facts mount, Sachs as a daughter discovers more about her father than she had ever hoped to reveal.

Short Poetry Films by Lynne Sachs

Celebration of words and sounds of words in rhythm with images, not working with interpretation in anyway, no precise intersection, instead there is parallel reading.
“Starfish Aorta Colossus” (Lynne Sachs, 4 1/2 min, unsplit 8mm to digital transfer, 2015)
Poetry watches film. Film reads poetry. Paolo Javier’s text is a catalyst for the digital sculpting of an 8mm Kodachrome canvas. Syntactical ruptures and the celebration of nouns illuminate twenty-five years of rediscovered film journeys. NYC poet Paolo Javier invited Lynne to create a film that would speak to one of his poems. In response, she travels through 25 years of her 8 mm films. 
Website: to an external site.

Listening to poetry as action, playing with objects in response to words, working with someone else as performer who also interprets.
“Girl is Presence”  by Lynne Sachs and Anne Lesley Selcer (4 min, HD Video, 2020)
During the global pandemic, Sachs and Selcer collaborated remotely to create Girl is Presence, a rhythmic visual poem tinged by gender and violence. Against the uncertain and anxious pandemic atmosphere, inside domestic space, a ‘girl’ arranges and rearranges a collection of small and mysterious things. As the words build in tension, the scene becomes occult, ritualistic, and alchemical. 
Homage to Mayer’s home. My shooting and reading is entering Bernadette’s life experience.
“Visit to Bernadette Mayer’s Childhood Home” (Lynne Sachs, 3 min, 16mm, B&W, 2020)
In July 1971, avant-garde writer and language poet Bernadette Mayer produced Memory, a multimedia project in which she shot one roll of 35mm film each day and kept a daily journal. In honor of the project’s compilation and release as a book, Sachs embarks on a study of the memory and language of place. Journeying to Mayer’s childhood home in a Queens neighborhood of New York City, she pays homage to Mayer in a collage of architecture, light, and rhythm. 

Poetry meets painting. I timeless image lands at a moment in history or a current event through the text.
“Orange Glow” by Lynne Sachs and Laura Harrison (1 ½ min, HD Video, 2021)
“Orange Glow” began in September 2020 as an exchange between two friends in two different cities who decided to come together in the making of a film.  From her home in Chicago, Laura Harrison animated each stroke of a painting. She then sent her 90 second video to Lynne Sachs in Brooklyn.  Horrified by the television images of San Francisco enveloped in wildfire smoke at the time, Lynne interpreted Laura’s painting gestures with these thoughts in mind.  She hit the play button of the video and began writing a poem in response to what she saw.
I wanted poetry to become language, like a mode of communication but sometimes also not. Place it in Queens. Place it in the pandemic.
Swerve” (7 min, HD Video, 2022) 
a film by Lynne Sachs with poetry by Paolo Javier
A Queens market and playground become the site for the shooting of a film inspired by Paolo Javier’s Original Brown Boy poems. Wearing the tell-tale masks of our daunting now, five NYC performers search for a meal while speaking in verse. The film itself transforms into an ars poetica/ cinematica, a meditation on writing and making images in the liminal space between a global pandemic and what might come next
Website: (trailer only)
Vimeo: (full film)

FILMS TO WATCH IN CLASS that DO NOT explicitly use language

This could be an installation or a performance with language used like the music as punctuation.

“Window Work” (9 min, video, color, 2000)

A woman drinks tea, washes a window, reads the paper– simple tasks that somehow suggest a kind of quiet mystery within and beyond the image. Sometimes one hears the rhythmic, pulsing symphony of crickets on a Baltimore summer night. Other times jangling toys dissolve into the roar of a jet overhead, or children tremble at the sound of thunder. These disparate sounds dislocate the space temporally and physically from the restrictions of reality. The small home-movie boxes within the larger screen are gestural forms of memory, clues to childhood, mnemonic devices that expand on the sense of immediacy in her “drama.” These miniature image-objects represent snippets of an even earlier media technology — film. In contrast to the real time video image, they feel fleeting, ephemeral, imprecise.


Again the quotidian actually becomes pictures and words at the same time. If you look, you find poetry where you don’t expect it.

“A Year in Notes and Numbers” (4 min, HD Video, silent, 2018)
A year’s worth of to-do lists confronts the unavoidable numbers that are part and parcel of an annual visit to the doctor. The quotidian and the corporeal mingle and mix. Family commitments, errands and artistic effusions trade places with the daunting reality of sugar, cholesterol, and bone. Museum of the Moving Image, Museo de Arte Moderno Buenos Aires.


I used loud whispering and humming as poetry that moves across a generation, btwn a mom and her daughter.
“Maya at 24” (4 min, 16mm to digital transfer, b&w, 2021)
Lynne films her daughter Maya in 16mm black and white film, at ages 6, 16 and 24. At each iteration, Maya runs around her mother, in a circle – clockwise – as if propelling herself in the same direction as time, forward. Conscious of the strange simultaneous temporal landscape that only film can convey, we watch Maya in motion at each distinct age.

How might we use poetry here?
This is titled from a poem.

“She Carries the Holiday in Her Eyes” 4 min., silent, 2023
A picture of parallels and swirls, two women touch with eyes closed, use cameras in motion, discover a holiday of optics. 
“I have seen an individual, whose manners, though wholly within the conventions of elegant society, were never learned there, but were original and commanding, and held out protection and prosperity; one who did not need the aid of a court-suit, but carried the holiday in his (her) eye.”
— From Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Manners”

Plus this film which uses language on screen:

“E•pis•to•lar•y: letter to Jean Vigo” (5 min, HD Video, B&W, 2021)

In a cinema letter to French director Jean Vigo, Lynne Sachs ponders the delicate resonances of his 1933 classic “Zero for Conduct” in which a group of school boys wages an anarchist rebellion against their authoritarian teachers. Thinking about the January 6, 2021 assault on the United States Capitol by thousands of right-wing activists, Sachs wonders how innocent play or calculated protest can turn so quickly into chaos and violence. 


Discuss how this connects to YEAR BY YEAR POEMS.
Poetry on screen and voice.
Who is reading?

“Tip of My Tongue” (80 min, HD Video, 2017)

To mark her 50th birthday, Sachs gathers a group of her contemporaries—all New Yorkers but originally hailing from all corners of the globe—for a weekend of recollection and reflection on the most life-altering personal, local, and international events of the past half-century, creating what Sachs calls ‘a collective distillation of our times.’ Interspersed with poetry and flashes of archival footage, this poignant reverie reveals how far beyond our control life is, and how far we can go despite this. .

Poetry reading:

Year by Year Poems


“This Is Not How I imagine It But How It Is”
Talk about how this was written in response to one image.