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The Sonnets Remixed and Kill Shakespeare | Bard in Multimedia

By August 25, 2014 No Comments

Scholar and poet D. Gilson’s obsession with Shakespeare’s sonnets ultimately lead him to create “Out of Sequence: The Sonnets Remixed” published in “Upstart: A Journal of English Renaissance Studies”.

Last summer, Gilson, the project’s editor, went to visit a friend in South Carolina. While sitting on the porch, he started thinking about writing his own responses to the sonnets, but tackling all 154 sonnets alone seemed daunting. “I thought it would be much more interesting to see how 154 different people” would remix the sonnets. So he decided to invite artists and academics to submit their artistic vision of the world’s most famous poetry. Submissions include musical and poetic interpretations as well as visual—paintings, drawings, photography, cut-up poems, and selfies.

“First and foremost I am a poet, more than scholar,” says Gilson, who is a PhD. student at The George Washington University and the poetry editor of Weave Magazine. “I am most interested in completely tearing down that binary between the creative and the critical, not negating one over the other. A creative can think critically, and the academic can be creative.”

Proving his point, Gilson has academics, photographers, painters, composers, poets, essayists, and more–all tapping into their creativity for this project. Opening the multimedia installation is a poem titled “Remixed” by Jordan Stein, who teaches English at Fordham University. His comic take on Sonnet I spoofs social media. Here’s an excerpt:

“From all our social media we desire increase,
That thus our everyday might never die,
And as clever quips by time become mere set-piece
Re-perusal can inspire creativity:

Reblogged memes the iPhone amplifies,
Feed’st Facebook’s feed with self-substantial fuel,
Hashtagging every picture where #nofilter lies,
And tweeting all thy foes, with thy sweet tweet too cruel…”

The re-imagining of Sonnet 87 takes readers back a few centuries. Jonathan Hsy, a Chaucer scholar, has translated the poem into Middle English. Photographer Adam W. Clifton uses the image of a barely-clad lad behind a chain-link fence to express Sonnet 3’s ode to the “fair youth” who “dost beguile the world.” “This captures the youth’s immortalness in photography,” says Gilson, “whereas Shakespeare was trying to immortalize the youth with words…cage the youth.”

Author Stephen Mills, who wrote the book He Do the Gay Man in Different Voices remixes Sonnet 8 in his poem “A Gay Man Ponders Having Children.” English professor Ari Friedlander has created a mashup of Sonnet 110 and Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al”. Wayne Koestenbaum, also an English professor, writes a tongue-in-cheek response to Sonnet 154 titled “I Don’t Understand Shakespeare’s Sonnet 154.” His witty essay laments, “I don’t know who the love-god is or why he’s asleep. I don’t know why a branding-iron inflames his heart… I don’t know why virgins keep their virginity…”

Among the edgiest is Sonnet 68, which is written about the famous gay porn star Colby Keller. In this poem, C. Russell Price, the senior poetry editor of TriQuarterly, deals with the false faces, the false masks that people put forward. The poem delves into “the roles [Colby] has played, with real life lovers and lovers on screen,” explains Gilson. But images of film stars aren’t always what they seem. Keller’s persona/mask in the porn world doesn’t tell all there is to know about him. “I know Keller personally,” says Gilson. “He has an MFA in sculpture. He loves poetry and literature, and he is filming his trip across America called “Colby Does America”.

Gilson tackles Sonnet 135 in a brief three-act play with a final volta. This piece, somewhat autobiographical, explores an intimate friendship that never blossom into a sexual relationship because both were in committed relationships when they meet. This tender piece speaks intimately about Gilson holding the man in the crook of his body, but taking it no further. Gilson also co-authored Crush, a collection of queer poetry–often erotic–with Will Stockton, as well as wrote Brit Lit from Sibling Rivalry Press.

The sonnet project, which currently is only available on the internet, will be in print by Parlor Press this fall.

Kill Shakespeare: The Mask of Night:


Comic book artists Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col have come out with their third installment in their Kill Shakespeare: The Mask of Night series by IDW Publishing. King Richard III has put 30 ducats on poor Hamlet’s head and 25 on Juliet’s. Both are wanted dead or alive. Our heroes Hamlet, Juliet, Othello and Shakespeare are being pursued by blood-thirsty scoundrels such as Lucius Andronicus on Titus’ ship The Lavina.

Shakespeare geeks will “recognize Lucius as Titus Andronicus’ kindly grandson who tries to end the circle of violence in the play by helping a child,” says McCreery. But “THIS Lucius isn’t the sort to save a baby – he’s the sort of monster who’d rather EAT it. And with the pirate duo Viola and Cesario’s love and mission in disarray, it’s up to Hamlet and Juliet to drive off this toothy menace – well, it would be if they could stand the sight of each other.”

This weekly column publishes each Monday and covers books, films, recordings, web content, videos, video games, radio, television, and all emerging mediums. Send all press releases and comments to the Associate Editor for Multimedia, Deborah Voorhees at multimedia@theshakespearestandard.com.

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