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Monday, 4 June 2012

My first YouTube video

Robert Herrick, poet, 1591 - 1674.
Every day people load hundreds or thousands of hours of video to YouTube but despite having joined with an account in February 2007 I only loaded my first video to the site yesterday. It wasn't planned, it's just that I had time and I was tired of reading all the usual stuff in the news. You can skip this written intro and go down to the embedded video to watch it if you prefer, but in it I talk about the reason for doing the video, at the beginning. It's a bit of a ramble, this video. The structure was determined at the outset, I guess. After lunch I just turned on the voice recorder and started talking about Robert Herrick, and specifically about a book of Herrick's poems I had purchased some ten years ago, and which I had mailed to my father to read when he was still alive. So the narrative divagates somewhat. It's like this blog; there's no specific aim or goal. It's not an investigative piece. It just serves to illustrate the way I like to talk about poetry.

To get to such a point you need more than knowledge, though. There's the issue of production and that was covered about six months ago when I bought a copy of the Sony Vegas video editing software program. My intention at the time was to do a video about Jane Austen. I had grand plans. Naturally, as happens often in such situations, real life intrudes and scuppers the dream. So I'd never used the Vegas software before yesterday, when I found it surprisingly easy to manipulate. Assembling the images for the video was not hard, just time-consuming, and this took the form of rapid Google image searches as I moved along the timeline filling up the space; the audio recording is about 18 minutes long. The quality is not great, with lots of bonks and sighs to irritate the viewer, but it is fit-for-purpose. Once the timeline has been filled up with images you need to make the video, and rendering it took about 90 minutes. After that, loading the video to YouTube took another 30 minutes.


As always with these kinds of things - with a blog post or with a video - the idea is to provoke discussion and to contribute to the stock of knowledge available online. Some people might call it 'engagement', which is a bit of a catchphrase nowadays in the era of social media. There are errors, of course. At one point I talk about Shakespeare's Macbeth being performed in the 1590s, which is not true. But it's almost true. It would be a pity if a viewer picked up on that one fact and made that the sole target of his or her comment. But then, at least you'd know someone had watched the whole thing. You'd also know that someone knew the truth. I guess if people find things to disagree with and make a comment to that effect you find yourself engaged in a debate, and I think that is the main thing.

What else is important? There would be two sets of people who might be interested in my video. One is people who like Herrick. These people will appreciate the fact that someone in my country has taken a shine to a fairly obscure poet. That someone likes his poetry for its own sake, and finds things in it to enjoy. The other set of people who might appreciate my video is those who like reading history and literature from ages past. For these people, the video contains quite a lot of my ideas on changing styles in literature over the centuries. And then there's the personal dimension, when I talk about the fact that I sent the book of Herrick's poems to my father, who died just over a year ago. The video also talks, therefore, about me and my past life, in an oblique but not a difficult way.

Alas, poor Herrick. I knew him not, but I have come to know something about him. The only reason this is possible is because he published poems. As with the ancient Egyptians, who built with stone that has lasted down the millennia, our dead poets endure in their work and in ancillary writings such as history, biography, and criticism. If there is a Dead Poets Society, perhaps I should join. But perhaps I will just continue making rambling digressions on our shared cultural inheritance.

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