“I think we can… you can sort of talk generally about the forms of life: birth and death, and need for sustenance, and language, and breathing and all that. But nobody has the right to say how it is for anybody else. That’s a luxury that no one has.”
Paul Ebenkamp, October 1, 2015
The first eight Poetry Center programs that took place this Fall 2015 are each now available as professionally recorded streaming video documents (with downloadable audio files) at Poetry Center Digital Archive. This is the first time in the 62-year history of The Poetry Center that we’ve been able to make what we do so readily available to people beyond the live audience, present in the room. The work is posted online quickly, it can be seen and/or heard by anyone on the planet with an internet connection, it comes at no direct cost to the viewer, and it looks and sounds great.
Here’s how our new archival situation works. We’ve initiated an arrangement with the Documentary Film Institute (a.k.a. DocFilm) at SF State, and we’ve hired one of their best graduate students in Cinema, Russ Kiel, out of Atlanta, who’s becoming known within the program as a valued cinematographer. Russ is charged with recording each video, working with sound correction and minimal editing, selecting brief video “highlights” from each program (clips anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes), saving archive-quality uncompressed video files plus an MP4 version readied for streaming, preparing comparable audio files, and forwarding each finished program to our partners at DIVA — where some fifteen collections based at San Francisco State are housed and made publicly accessible online. Meanwhile in the background, Poetry Center staff are generating catalog notes on each program to accompany the new video and audio documents. We’ve been working with Kimberly Gomes, graduate student in Creative Writing, our Associate Director Elise Ficarra, and myself, to write and edit helpful and accurate notes: metadata. The video highlights, with descriptive captions, get posted at DocFilm’s Vimeo page (accessible in sequence at our Vimeo channel: Poetry Center Video Highlights) and are publicized via the Poetry Center Facebook page. The finished programs are posted, under the heading Current Season, at our dedicated online collection, Poetry Center Digital Archive.
As of November 22, just two months after our initial program went online, our first eight videos have been played 1,757 times. Just under 100 people have downloaded audio versions of these eight programs. I like the audio option: it’s a fairly unique aspect of our Digital Archive. Audio’s easy to play on earbuds or in the car, the files are small enough to keep, and — since for everything we post online we’ve secured Creative Commons Atrribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licensing — people can do pretty much what they like with the audio: remix it, play it on non-commercial radio, create animations, splice it into “mixtapes,” etc. As long as you don’t start charging anybody for it, the audio is free to use and re-use. So is the video: show it in classes, at parties, impress your friends.
A quick view of the first four of these eight programs, eight occasions:
Brilliant anthologist, autodidact, jazz head, musician, teacher, poet, David Meltzer reads from and discusses the newly revised and reissued edition of his book Two-Way Mirror: A Poetry Notebook (City Lights Books, 2015), a kind of “book of books” culled from avid reading, mostly in the deep shelves of UC Berkeley’s Dow Library, from the days before they buried it under the landscape, when ordinary folks could still roam the stacks at will and stumble on the unfound. We also convinced him to read some poems from his early book Harps (Oyez, 1975), and David’s Copy: The Selected Poems of David Meltzer (ed. Michael Rothenberg, Penguin Poets, 2005). Clips include the opening and a later excerpt from Two-Way Mirror, and a reading of “Lamentation / for Jack Spicer,” an on-the-spot eulogy from 1965.