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,” more often than not linked in one way or another with the Poetry Project. The cable TV 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.
Forty-six fragile open-reel videotapes of these shows were preserved and, in 2009, were donated to the Poetry Project by the PAP team. A grant and subsequent anonymous support supported the preservation and digitization of the first 31 of the original tapes. A successful Kickstarter campaign in Fall of 2011 allowed us to complete the transfer of the remaining tapes.
In April 2011, The Poetry Project, in collaboration with Anthology Film Archive, presented a two-program screening series at Anthology – one featured highlights from various episodes of Public Access Poetry and another showed three full episodes.
The Poetry Project, dedicated to making the Public Access Poetry archive available to the public, as envisioned by its producers more than 30 years ago, is happy to have collaborated with PennSound to make this possible. Poet Erica Hunt said it best, we must “reverse the decay of the the poetry record. Every one knows that watching a poet read is the 4th dimension of the text. As close to living witness as we can get pre-digitially.” Enjoy your journey into the 4th dimension!
The Poetry Project wishes to thank PennSound for its ongoing support in making these tapes available to the public on the internet.
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, as well as a Kickstarter camaign. All videos transferred by The Standby Program at MercerMedia with consulting support from Anthology Film Archives.