The great English Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning left an indelible mark on the world with her universal sonnet to everlasting love in, Sonnets from the Portuguese 43: “How do I love thee. Let me count the ways.” Yet much of her personal life and creative work seems obscured and overshadowed by her famous husband’s acclaimed verse. In this brief film collage, we set forth to honor the buried personal history of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. By reimagining her meditative garden strolls in Florence, Italy, this poetry video unfolds her abiding love with her husband Robert, her connection to nature, her later experiments with the occult and her ability to transcend the boundaries of time.
Mary Russell and Gerard Wozek have worked for years as artistic collaborators. We have always wanted to develop a tribute video that honors Elizabeth Barrett Browning, her life as a writer and what informed her creative process. Our keen interest in the life of the poet really hit a peak when we were teaching in a study abroad program offered through our university that took us to Florence, Italy. We set up a pilgrimage to visit Barrett Browning’s Florentine home known as Casa Guidi. We were enchanted with what we discovered about the life of the poet in Italy. We began to put together the idea of “restaging” the poet’s walks in the adjacent Boboli Gardens alongside a narrative that would serve as an homage to her craft and genius. Rob Kurland was brought in as editor and production manager, along with Rob Kosin as cinematographer and D. Edward Davis as composer.
Poetry video unites spoken text (or sometimes text that is written on the screen or text that is simply interpreted by the visual artist) with imagery and music. When a resonant image couples with the poet’s text, alchemy can occur between the two disciplines of poetry and film. The visual images often deepen the author’s meaning, provide startling contrast, or locate new alliances within the inherent metaphors of the poet’s text. An accessible medium like poetry video can effectively reintroduce a classic poet like Elizabeth Barrett Browning to a contemporary audience.
Jamie Stoik as Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Robert Kurland as Robert Browning
Stephen A. Wrzesinski Jr. as Medium
Cinematography by Rob Kosin, Robert Kurland and Stephen A. Wrzesinski Jr.
Edited by Robert Kurland
Sound Design and Original Composition by D. Edward Davis