1. "The mission of Poetry Slam Incorporated (PSI) is to promote the performance and creation of poetry while cultivating literary activities and spoken word events in order to build audience participation, stimulate creativity, awaken minds, foster education, inspire mentoring, encourage artistic statement and engage communities worldwide in the revelry of language."
How do you plan to help this organization grow and accomplish this mission? Please be specific.
I seek to work with others in answering a barrage of questions about where we’re going and where we want to take our events. To do this, I’m interested in live streams, open access. I’m interested in developing a broader database and archive of both older material and new material with pieces to refer to online. Is there a slam historical timeline with texts, pictures, audio? There are books with this information, it should also be linked to the PSI site or re-directed from it. I will state here how much work I know that is or will be and that I am not a web developer, but I can help assist in finding or tracking content. There could be folders for different purposes, like poems and writing workshops for different age groups. there could also be a database of the workshops presented at PSI events and some of the content produced from them.So often I hear calls for writing prompt from among poets or workshop ideas from sms, it would make sense to have some of these accessible from our home base. This is where pairing with our own colleagues in poetry and matching them to this work could really help. So I advocate outreach and pairing tasks within our community.
That’s a long-range vision and concern I have~here and how is all the content we’re creating year after year going to live in the long term and be more accessible in a digitized era? I’m an idea machine. I ask a lot of questions, work well with others and want to find solutions.
In terms of the actual events we hold, I’m interested in grounding them and rotating them between regions and select cities.
2. What experience do you have with non-profit organizations - as an employee, as a volunteer, as a board member? I am especially interested in hearing about experience working with non-profit ARTS organizations, but I do think that all of your professional experience is relevant.
A lot of my history is in starting/founding things and curating/scheduling/booking. I began Cliterati almost twelve years ago, in a bar, as a place for people to speak. Open mics at that time were predominantly male, predominantly acoustic music. Since that time, we’ve performed in diners, hosted workshops for events like Southern Girls Convention, and now work in partnership with Charis Books & More, the country’s oldest feminist bookstore. It was through this that I came to slam & served on boards for Ladyfests, Estrofest & most recently, Girls Rock Camp ATL. In the latter, I served as a non-musician and attended 501c3 workshops and mainly assisted in plotting daily schedules and the pairing of people with various activities (like self-defense workshops, screen printing) from outside musician circles. As I describe these involvements, it occurs to me that I am used to working with non-profits whose aims are toward diversity and not necessarily hierarchical in structure. I am used to taking turns with leadership and consensus in decision-making. My strong suits are with arrangement, plotting event design, matchmaking (who can do what), scheduling, conducting and booking. My weaknesses are technological (I’m not a programmer, that’s for sure), graphic design (I can provide content better than implementation), and selling in a broad sense (I’m much more convincing with one-on-one than generally).
My day job is in an academic library, in acquisitions & receiving. I work with accounting, orders, and invoicing. I receive new titles, pair them with invoices, notate them & match database records. The university has a gigantic, obscene endowment. I don’t manage actual funds, but mark for accuracy in a high volume department. I’m detail oriented and my specialties are German records, titles, vendors and orders. Benefits of my work are—I speechlessly bump into Kevin Young in the elevator off the 8th floor & Natasha Trethewey sometimes features at open mics around town. Every once in awhile, the archives department treks out poetry titles I try not to drool on. It also gives me an eye toward preservation concerns and accessibilty.
To answer Nicole’s question, Have you previously volunteered for PSI? If yes, in what capacity? I think I’ve always seen myself as a volunteer for PSI by virtue of being a slam ma’am, attending all the sm mtgs in the last…7? 8? years, but also, I’ve volunteered as a merch table person, I began as a judge—scoring slams for KJ Simms & Lucy Anderton, I have hosted, kept time, kept score and maybe bout managed. I volunteered as a regional representative for new slams (which I still do, even if it’s fallen off the map). Most recently, I volunteered for the protest committee (which I’ll continue to do). I do not equate not being on the EC with not participating.
3. How many hours a week do you have available to dedicate to PSI? And what is your typical availability (days/evenings/weekends)?
I haven’t really counted the hours, though I’m generally available on weekends. My Mondays and Tuesdays are typically blank slates. I view poetry management as my half-time job. Cell phone reception is bad for me M-F 9-5 from within the concrete walls of the library, so best times for texts and calls are evenings during the week or on the weekend. I’m more wired and productive online during the week, though I have internet access points at home & the coffee shop down the block. I host mics, generally, on 2 Fridays, a Thursday & a Wed. I consider myself a mostly available person. Some points on the calendar skew toward the hectic—April, May, August, October for poetry events; September & April for work.
4. What would you most like to see changed about PSI? What would you most like to see preserved?
The unique opportunity for rookies and novices to perform/share/compete with more seasoned poets on a level field is something I’m interested in serving and maintaining. The events, like NPS, IWPS & WOWPS, affording both teams and individuals opportunities to share and connect with anyone who walks in the door of a venue—the populism of poetry slam. I would like to preserve the spaces those among us in our community want to create as tangents to the slam, to help us practice what we preach. I guess by that, I mean making sure there are open mic spaces for marginalized voices even among us, spaces to talk about social justice issues or to interact with marginalized segments within the cities we visit. I appreciate it when these things happen or are encouraged by host cities. Writing/craft workshops that would otherwise be unavailable to segments within our own community (I know, for example, that some poets on teams have rigorous works schedules or are unable to afford writing workshops & retreats to help improve their own work, that the only workshops they are able to attend outside of team practices, are the ones provided in PSI affiliated spaces).
Changes. I actually think PSI gets it right more often than it is afforded credit for. However, I feel like some of the same questions and frustrations keep surfacing.
I am a stickler on myself and on others about deadlines. If, for instance, there’s a delay on a deadline, or there is going to be a known delay on a deadline, I would like some better communication from the top down, or, at least, a designated person on the EC to field questions, publicise internal issues or broadcast problems. I think the ED should have a back-up person and that all the SMs (or all the sms who are paying attention) know who that person is & if I were on the EC, I would volunteer to be that person who becomes the messenger for technical difficulties--maybe not necessarily the assistant to the ED (a temp role, not advocating for a whole new position necessarily), but the loud mouth. I guess this boils down to an amplified chain of communication across the board & out.
I know Scott called me out on this (indirectly, in his departure thesis), but I would like transparency on some decisions--financial reports being primary among those. I’ve been a slam master for more than five years and I’m still vague on the operations and struggles of the EC (less so on the roles as I’ve seen various people in action). I feel like I see the results, but I’m a person who likes to see the mechanics, too.
Exploring revenue streams via downloads, creating visual files and interfaces, particularly to answer the question, “I have a workshop in a high school and I need ten slam poem samples, anyone have links?” I feel like there should be accessible files on the PSI website to answer these questions--if not on the PSI website, than as a redirected page/site. I am not a technical person per-se, but I would volunteer for a content-gathering group/assistance. Everyone who has made a bid has discussed this & I would like to share in the answer-making toward this topic. Upgrading digitization & accessibility issues which would relocate PSI events closer to open access---which I acknowledge from live streaming Finals is already underway. I realize there are probably copywriting & staffing issues attached to this topic.
Other conferences (ALA, AWP, NWSA) rotate between regions and cities every year. Several among us have mentioned grounding NPS/IWPS/WOWPS in one city. I am an advocate for rotating cities between regions to make it alternately easier to travel. I also understand cities burn out after hosting. Some festivals (Dodge Poetry Festival) happen every other year.I have thought about Individual competitions one year, team competitions another year (kinda like winter & summer Olympics), or WOW one year, IWPS another year, or some other variables. These discussions have been happening for several years and I think we should---if we’re not already—earnestly consider which scenes can manage what and in what kind of rotation. I don’t think the way we operate now is sustainable, it’s too uncharted. I like the balance the EC and host cities seem to have struck with more recent events. It seems like there’s less pressure on one arm or the other. If we plot out regions and areas, the event can become more of a destination/vacation for not just poets, but also entourage and fans.
There are a host of questions I put in my bid that serve as less agenda, but more of what I would like to answer in consort with others, such as how we can better serve the needs of our community or potential communities. Such as:
Can we call ourselves a poetry festival? Can we merge more activities with writing programs? What are some non-profit partnerships we can make or already make? What are some collaborative, sustainable, profitable outlets/businesses/arts groups/social organizations/project makers who we can tap for resources or potential sponsorships?
What can our role be in advocating for members of our community in crisis or who don’t have health insurance, etc.?
How can we provide learning opportunities to practice what we preach better, in terms of internalized –isms & -phobias & how shall we better handle and address them as they happen at our events (constructive incident response)?--***Nicole just asked a question toward this. I think we should continue to explore workshop spaces and poet panels to address these concerns and safety issues. Some in our community have a head start on this and have created outside creative spaces~ Caroline Rothstein’s Body Empowerment & Sonya Renee’s Body is not an Apology being two of them. Tatyana Brown posted a dialogue that was really constructive after last year’s WOW.I want to make sure those discussion rooms and circles carry forward and can even be improved upon.
~Also, to answer Nicole’s question about what actions were taken/are taken at the local level when an incident occurs: we have respect for others written into our mission statements, with consequences written in (in team contract, it is through consensus of the team, with the SM & team captain making the final call). We have had to cancel poets out of our venue, asked them to leave, banned poets from slamming for periods of time. In one particular incident, male members of the community---both poets and non-poets, stepped in to have conversations with the person we had to throw out. It was emotional for everyone, but it also set up a precedent for what is unacceptable behavior in our scene. We have made it known that if anyone feels unsafe or uncomfortable, allies can be called upon to step in and have the conversations we are often too tired to have ourselves, or too close to to feel safe in confronting the issue.
I am interested in creating a kind of panel (and I feel like there is an unwritten one at play already) and keeping up a dialogue on it. That sounds kind of vague---I think there are likely social worker-teachers among us who we can call upon to facilitate discussions/bring them up at event orientations, etc.
There’s also been an idea of creating a “safe map” for poets on tour. I think this would be extremely helpful and I would be happy to contribute to plotting that map or making a kind of “tips for traveling poets.” We could put this information in poet bags.
At this point I would like to say WHATEVER I AM WRITING IN MY BID, I WILL BE HAPPY TO COLLABORATE/FOLLOW THROUGH WITH REGARDLESS OF BEING ELECTED ON THE EC
5. Do you believe that the concept of legacy is important to PSi? If not, why not? If so, how would you see that manifested?
Reference “works in a library.” Legacy is very important to me. I’ve lost a poet on my team, poets in our community, friends and mentors. Unearthing and preserving our poems and making them available or how we’re going to store all the miles of bout recordings over time is a concern and interest. I actually kind of dream of having a library, an archive, a digitized collection of poetry slam. It would be really cool to have some kind of downloadable or area like IndieFeed, but on a website, with video & born digital material. I encourage and support the scheduling and participation of slam poets who have moved on or rotated out to other experiences, whether that’s in workshops, hostings, sacrificing bouts, showcases, merch material, etc. One of my greatest memories is of a younger poet bouting and hearing Jack McCarthy for the first time—heck, it was a thrill for me, too! I’m on the Legends Fellowship Committee & although we’ve been in a suspended kind of state, I really would like to push that through to fruition. I see my main contribution to that project in constructing the criteria-template and being part of the selection process.