Poet-in-residence Daniels Discusses Adapting Poetry into Film

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Poet Jim Daniels said when people think of literary film adaptations, they often think of franchises such as the Harry Potter series.

With his Brown Bag, “Turning Poetry into Film,” Daniels will discuss a different kind of adaptation.

Daniels is the poet-in-residence for Week Five at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center. His Brown Bag will be at 12:15 p.m. July 26 in the ballroom of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.

Writers’ Brown Bags are usually held on the front porch of Alumni Hall, but Daniels needed a little extra technology for his talk.

“You never know what the weather’s going to be like at Chautauqua, but we should be safe in the ballroom,” Daniels said.

He’ll screen a short film, “The End of Blessings,” and read the poem the film was based on for his audience. Daniels wrote both the poem and the screenplay.

“It’s an interesting process for anyone who considers themselves an artist — to cross over into other disciplines and face the challenges involved,” Daniels said.

Daniels is a frequent workshop leader at the Writers’ Center, having first visited in 1992. He’s the author of numerous works and writes poetry, fiction and screenplays. Daniels will draw on those different experiences for his Brown Bag. He plans to talk about how a writer’s material can change as they cross disciplines.

Daniels said any time poetry is read by someone other than the poet, it shifts in a way. He said he experienced that when one of his poems was read by Garrison Keillor on his radio show “The Writer’s Almanac.”

It’s a transfer from one medium to another, Daniels said, and the same magic happens when poetry is adapted into film.

“Any time you take poetry and put it in another form, it changes in some way,” Daniels said.

Daniels said film has become a more inclusive medium in recent years because the technology needed is much more accessible.

“They can do most things with a small digital camera and your laptop in terms of editing and filming — not the kind of expensive thing it once was,” Daniels said. “Poetry in particular is a very visual medium.”

Daniels said something he’s interested in discussing is that the audience for film is much larger than the audience for poetry.

“People will go see a movie at the drop of a hat, but when somebody says, ‘Do you want to go to a poetry reading?’ there’s a little more hesitancy,” Daniels said.

Daniels said he hopes his talk will draw people interested in poetry and film so he can show how the two disciplines can work together. He said he thinks his Brown Bag will be especially involving for writers who are interested in experimenting with their work in that way.

“Some people talk about poetry as being painting with words, and I think there’s a real similarity there,” Daniels said.


The author Ryan Pait

Ryan Pait gets a different haircut every summer to keep the people of Chautauqua guessing. This is his fourth summer at The Chautauquan Daily, so if you’re tired of him, that’s OK. He recently graduated with his master’s degree in literature from Western Kentucky University. Don’t ask him about what he’s doing after this summer, but do ask him about the Nicole Kidman renaissance, the return of “Game of Thrones” and what he’s reading.