Iíd like to officially submit my bid to run for a position on the Executive Council of PSI.
I first attended a poetry slam in the summer of 2008, in my hometown of Corvallis, OR, where I had the remarkably good fortune to witness a feature by Buddy Wakefield. After the feature, the bar became 21+, so I had to wait outside in the stairwell until it was my turn to go up and read. I was nervous and had written the bulk of my three poems earlier that day, but the poets who ran the slam were extremely welcoming and encouraging. They invited me out afterwards, and made sure I kept coming back to the show all summer.
Unfortunately, that slam no longer exists. There are many reasons for this, but irregular attendance was definitely one of them. As I see it right now, the biggest impediment to the success of slam poetry, on both a local and national level, is a lack of exposure. Our art form is unique, fascinating, intelligent and often inspirational. If you bring almost any arts-minded person to a high-quality slam, theyíll come away loving it, and interested in seeing more. Yet most people still have absolutely no idea what it is that we do.
The single most important factor in increasing the national exposure of slam is revamping/expanding our internet presence. Every time I talk to someone who wants to find out more about the national scene and see more high-quality work, I have nowhere appropriate to direct them. I have spoken to a number of people who were put off by the PSI website, unable to find relevant and up-to-date information. Some people even thought that the website was some kind of scam, due to its outdated format and aesthetic style. I respect all of the time and energy that goes into maintaining the website, but I feel like we as a community really need to move forward in this regard. How can we adequately promote our art form on a professional, national level when our main online presence looks so unprofessional?
I would love to be part of the process of redesigning our website. I have a lot of ideas for this redesign: a blog-like front page with videos and up-to-date news, links to social media sites, an increased separation of the public and private utilities of the website, a greater focus on promoting and linking to local slams, and a contemporary and eye-catching aesthetic design. As a member of the EC, I would also be very open to suggestions and ideas from the community about what could be made better with the site.
Another factor of internet presence, which I believe goes hand-in-hand with revamping the website, is creating and maintaining an official PSI YouTube Channel. I have been pushing for this on the forums for well over a year now, and Iím excited to hear that itís finally in the works. I would love to be a part of this process.
The main issue with slamís presence on YouTube right now is that itís incredibly difficult for a new poet or audience member to sift through the thousands of videos of varying artistic and technical quality for those that best represent what slam has to offer. Because of this, I believe the official channel should have a relatively small selection, so that it can serve as the concentrated, quality resource that we currently lack. I envision a system that is a two-way street, beneficial both to individual poets and to PSI: 1) The official YouTube channel should have a regular, limited, blog-like release of high-quality videos from national events (which could be featured on the front page of the PSI website), and 2) Any videos not on the channel should be made available to poets for free, with the stipulation that the videos carry a PSI watermark, and that if posted publicly, they include a link to the official PSI channel and website. Poets would get high quality videos for their own promotion, while PSI would suddenly have a vast network directing traffic to the channel and official site.
I believe that increasing the exposure of slam on a national level will not only help our large-scale events, but will unquestionably bring more people (both audience and poets) out to local events, and will help those local events and poets thrive. I am more than willing to invest a great deal of my own time into these and other projects. One of the best things about our community is the quantity, creativity, and variety of incredible ideas that we have. What I have listed above is just a small part of what could be done. Other projects I am interested in include creating an up-to-date, public guide of contacts and resources for traveling poets and event organizers, working on long-term sponsorships for our regular events, and increasing the artistic and professional relationships between the youth, college and adult poetry slam scenes. As a member of the EC, I would promise to always be open to discuss any suggestions from the community.
During the three-and-a-half years since my first slam, I have become intensely involved in slam on an organizational and performance level, both locally and nationally. During my freshman year at Macalester College, I founded the Macalester Poetry Slam. The slam has grown to be one of the most well attended events on our campus, with over 150 students showing up each month out of a student body of only 1,900. We also run regular workshops for students at the college, as well as members of the larger twin cities community. In 2010, I organized and was a member of the first Macalester team to attend the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational, where we placed third. In 2011, we attended the tournament again and took first place. Through my work in the college scene, I have made connections at colleges and universities throughout the country. I believe that increased communication and interaction between the college scene and the national adult scene would be extremely beneficial for both, and I would love to use my experience to aid in that process.
I attended the National Poetry Slam in 2009 and 2011 as a member of the SlamMN, Minneapolis team. In 2010, I was the Street Team Organizer for NPS in Saint Paul. In addition to managing a large group of volunteers, I did a great deal of groundwork myself, visiting dozens of local businesses in order to spread the word about the tournament and increase its visibility around the Twin Cities. I also participated in all of the host city council meetings, where I gave input on many marketing and organizational decisions, and gained an intimate understanding of the quality and quantity of work necessary for putting on our most successful large-scale events. Iíd like to continue to put my organizational experience and passion for slam to use, and I see no better way to do that than running for a position on the Executive Council.
I would love to discuss/answer any questions about what Iíve said here. I am excited about the prospect of volunteering my time to give back to this community that has given so much to me over the last few years. I appreciate your consideration, and look forward to the elections in March! Thank you,