Discharged into Clouds

Angella Kassube donated to Dean Young’s heart transplant fund. Two years later, she found herself animating his poem about it.


Dear Reader,

I read several wonderful poems from Dean Young’s book, Bender (Copper Canyon Press), but the first line of this poem caught me. The poem was intriguing and mysterious. A challenge because I did not know what type of visuals I wanted to use. I saw blood and injury and pain. The poem gave me visuals, but I didn’t want to use them.

When I first read the poem, I saw dark rooms, dirty hallways. Where is this person? What is happening to this person? What happened to the woman down the hall?

Surprisingly I read the poem several times before I realized it was about Young’s heart transplant surgery. I had contributed money to the fundraising campaign to help Young during that time. I have a heartfelt postcard from him tucked in one of his books thanking me for my help, but for some reason I hadn’t seen his surgery experience in the poem.

I decided I wanted to work with shadows and I knew I did NOT want to use images of a fire in a closet or an eye in a cut open apple. And I wanted real shadows. So it was all shot in a studio. I printed sheets of acetate and strung them from fishing line. Friends DJ Johnson and John Burgess helped me shoot the shadows. The laser-printed sheets have nice texture and when you light them you get layers of  image—the printed layer, cast shadows, some glare. The sheets don’t hang flat and you can fan them to make them move; the words distort and bend. (In the motionpoem, you can see the edges of the acetate, the fishing line, the not-perfect laser printing…)

Cutting. How could I show cutting? Old scissors and an old paper heart seemed right. The bird was important. I bought the stock footage of the bird online. Such a beautiful and lucky find. Then a few crisp words to support the thoughts.

My entire experience creating this motionpoem was rewarding. Discovering the poem, using great techniques to create the visuals, then adding Tim Nolan’s voice, and the music. Carly Zuckweiler added another subtle layer with the sound effects.

When Todd shared the motionpoem with Dean Young, I was nervous. I created the motionpoem I wanted to create, but I wanted him to like it.

Ironically, Young and his wife watched the motionpoem on the second anniversary of his heart transplant surgery.

And he liked it.

And that makes me happy.

Angella Kassube