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5 Cinepoetry Adaptations of My Poem, "The Gone Missing"

Only months ago I shared multiple short film adaptations of Raymond Carver's enigmatic short story "Little Things" in class with my high school students. Little did I know I would be viewing multiptle adaptations of my own writing in just a few months to come. 5 diverse film adaptations of my haibun poem "The Gone Missing" were directed by producers from around the globe and selected for screening on June 29th in Cincinnati at North America's first Haibun Film Festival by Moving Poems and Haiku North America. If anything, it only confirms there can indeed be multiple viable readings of a work, and that "the haibun form and the short film have always been meant for each other," as I had written to David Bonta of Moving Poems who was also a coordinator of the Haibun Film Festival. To quote Bonta himself: "We chose five different films that used his haibun, “The Gone Missing,” intrigued that so many filmmakers chose to work with it, and eager to show the variety of approaches that poetry filmmakers can take." One of the directors, Pete Johnston, echoes this sentiment when he noted:

“Aversano’s piece, the shortest of the bunch, obviously evokes a lot for so many people, hence why it was adapted so many times! I was no different and got to use some old footage and create some new footage to go with it. I’m fascinated to get to see all the versions and it highlights what makes cinepoetry or filmetry a favorite mode of mine, the way cinema can interpret and reinterpret poetry in unique ways artist to artist.”

Peter Johnston also skillfully directed a short film based on Bob Lucky's intriguing haibun, "The Longest Journey".

All this being said, here is the link for the 5 posted adaptations of "The Gone Missing":

And here is the link for all 9 films screened at the festival:

Both links include both directors and judges' comments. I would, however, like to quote director Janet Lee's comment regarding the call of the void she sensed in the poem:

“I use the camera as a storytelling machine rather than a documenting device. I think film, photography and poetry are among the most important means of creative expression in the Anthropocene. Joseph Aversano’s intriguing haibun ‘The Gone Missing’ seems to me to encapsulate so much of the nature of humanness and life in these times; a sense of living on a knife edge of destructive compulsions. As a photographer and filmmaker I am drawn to damaged, dangerous places, so this piece absolutely struck a chord.”

Meanwhile, Marylyn McCabe's comment reveals an interesting way of looking at the haibun form itself:

“The haiku portion of the haibun form often sounds to me like a whisper. Mr. Aversano’s piece felt so intimate to me that a soft delivery of the prose portion and a silent haiku felt appropriate for the video, and fit perfectly with the video footage of moving mist I captured in the Adirondacks one day.”

The two other engaging films were made by Beate Gördes and EnD (aka Nigel Wells).

At this point, it would make sense to see the poem:


It happens all the time. I point. Then say, I am going up towards there. And less determined than bewitched, I go at once. And without the proper footwear. And without telling anyone. Other than the ones who would come, ones who would never think to call me back.

the act in its cataract self

It was originally written in direct response to an unpublished poem by my friend John Levy in which he describes swimming too far out while visiting the poet Robert Lax on Patmos. I also had a number of personal experiences in mind from when trekking in Turkey. In addition was all the folklore concerning people who have inexplicably disappeared in American national parks. One lazy day I indulged myself in a youtube channel where such stories were divulged one after the other until they all merged into one and the same story.

Finally, I would like to thank the coordinators of the 2023 Haiku North America Conference along with David Bonta and all the directors who have worked to hold my poem at various angles and in new light.

For a lively discussion including Timothy Green, editor of Rattle, and David Bonta of Moving Poems about both haibun in general and haibun in connection with film, listen to The Poetry Space_: Haibun .


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