Poetry and Prose by Wess Mongo Jolley
I am proud to be the Founder and Executive Director of P4.
The Performance Poetry Preservation Project is a community-supported, grass-roots effort that protects and preserves the recorded history of the poetry slam movement. P4 possesses a living, growing, and carefully curated performance poetry archive, and our ambition is to collect and catalog a broad representation of the slam poetry movement. We believe in the power of the poetry slam to change lives, and we are dedicated to preserving the great poetry that crosses hundreds of slam stages, all over the world.
The Poetry Slam movement is a relatively new development in contemporary culture, one that showcases and encourages numerous under-represented poetic voices. Its spontaneous and grass-roots nature, however, means that critical live performances are often not collected or adequately archived.
But there is hope…
Many reading series, slams, and open mics across the country are now recording their events, and the technology to do so is coming within reach for many more each year. Changing technology is leading to a popular wave of poetry recording that is sure to dwarf all of our past efforts.
…and there are fears.
The challenge is that this is rapidly evolving technology, and very few of those capturing poetry in performance understand the extremely ephemeral nature of the recordings that they make. Even more critically, the performances captured over the past 25 years of the movement are, for the most part, languishing on aging media, in the closets and attics of slammasters and venues around the world. Without proper storage, care and stewardship, many of these recordings will simply become unreadable in as little as five to ten years. The media will deteriorate, formats will change, or they will simply be discarded due to a lack of a repository to properly preserve them. Simply put, that stack of CDs on the Slammaster’s shelf will one day be as useless as a drawer full of computer punch cards or a box of 5 ¼ inch floppy disks. A whole generation of poetry history and performance is in danger of being lost.
P4 was formed to tackle this problem, by creating a digital home for the creative output of the poetry slam community.
For more information, visit The Performance Poetry Preservation Project Website.
Interview by Charlie Rossiter, for Poetry Spoken Here, 2016. (Interview starts at 27:45.)