One of the things I’ve been working on this season is coming to delightful fruition and I’m excited to tell you about it.
Even if you were watching the innovation called cable TV in 1977 and 1978 what are the chances that you saw a show titled “Public Access Poetry”? Produced by Poetry Project stalwarts Greg Masters, Gary Lenhart, David Herz, Didi Susan Dubelyew, Daniel Krakauer, Bob Rosenthal, and Rochelle Kraut, PAP programs featured half-hour readings by a wide range of poets and performers who could roughly be categorized as ‘downtown’, or linked in one way or another with the Poetry Project. The television series lasted two seasons (one live, the other recorded for later airing) and was produced with little-to-no broadcasting experience by the PAP personnel.
More than 50 fragile open reel video tapes of these shows thankfully still exist and were donated to the Poetry Project by Greg Masters. Last year, a grant and subsequent anonymous support supported the preservation and digitization of 30 tapes. We decided to build our Spring fundraiser around a two-program screening series to take place at Anthology Film Archive; one that features “Public Access Poetry” highlights (April 28) and another that shows 3 full episodes (April 29). The Poetry Project is proud to partner with Anthology to present this historical footage of poets reading their work to our community. Please see our calendar here (April 28-30) for details on all of events that comprise our last fundraiser of the season.
Some of the gems you will see: rare recordings of Jackson Mac Low reading “phone”, Alice Notley reading “January”, Ted Berrigan reading poems from “Easter Monday”, and Peter Orlovsky playing banjo and yodeling with some glimpses of Arthur Russell on cello. Literary merit aside, (and to paraphrase a line I heard Ann Lauterbach read the other night) everyone was pretty in the 70s! Eventually all of the transferred “Public Access Poetry” material will be posted online via our website, but until then please come and be dazzled by these poets on the big screen.
[Pictured above: Bernadette Mayer & Lewis Warsh with host Bob Rosenthal, episode 50, 1978 and Ted Berrigan with host Didi Susan Dubelyew, episode 13, 1977]
Funding to preserve “Public Access Poetry” was made possible through a Consulting Fund re-grant from the New York State Literary Presenters Technical Assistance Program (LitTAP). LitTAP is made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), a State agency, and administered through Just Buffalo Literary Center. Additional funding was made possible through the generosity of two anonymous donors. All videos transferred by The Standby Program at MercerMedia with consulting support from Anthology Film Archives.