Thanks for posting this thread, Suzi! 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 believe that this mission must be worked toward from multiple angles, some internal (taking stock of various organizational redundancies, streamlining a year-round volunteer process), and some external. The most important, or certainly the most beneficial in the long term, is an increased focus on creating a professional, engaging internet presence: a quality set of online resources that we can actually direct new poets and audience members to. Along with many other candidates, I believe a quality youtube channel (with a selection of live and produced performances) is a huge part of this. I go into more detail about my specific ideas for this in my bid.
However, I believe that internet presence should not be solely focused on marketing ourselves/our art to new potential audience members, but also on accomplishing the other factors of the mission statement. For example, we could have a workshop forum/area for new/young poets on the redesigned PSI website. I’m sure there are a lot of experienced poets, myself included, who would be able to stop in and give constructive criticism. This would be a great way to help draw new poets into the community, and to foster their creative talents, especially for poets who don’t have access to a nationally associated local slam scene.
In terms of cultivating our regular events, I think we can find ways to increase the quality, profile, and attendance of those events beyond just raising our national profile. For example, if we could find a city in each region in the country that's interested in putting in a longer term bid, so that our major events could rotate between these cities (for example, City A could have NPS one year, IWPS two years later, WOWPS two years after that, then back to NPS...) Creating long-term relationships with those cities would cut down on a huge amount of the organizational work from year to year, and would be a great way to keep steady audiences at our major events while letting other cities focus on regional events, and potentially putting in larger bids after gaining success at the regional level. 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.
My main volunteer work was with PSI for NPS in Saint Paul, which I will go into later. I don’t have a great deal of previous non-profit experience, though I have worked with numerous other local arts organizations, in leadership and volunteer roles. I founded and currently run the Macalester College Poetry Slam, I am co-president of my college’s sketch comedy troupe, I volunteer my time monthly to the Saint Paul and Minneapolis city slams, and I do internet and other organizational volunteer work for Button Poetry and Poetry Observed. Whether or not I get elected to the EC, I am interested in continuing to volunteer a great deal of my time to PSI projects going forward.3. How many hours a week do you have available to dedicate to PSI? And what is your typical availability (days/evenings/weekends)?
I am currently finishing up my final semester of undergrad education, so my specific times of availability will shift come summer. That said, I currently have 15-20 hours a week available to dedicate to PSI, largely on weekends though also most evenings and at scattered times throughout the day. After I graduate in early May, I will have even more time available. I already keep a close eye on the forums, and as I said above, I will continue to do so and to dedicate my time to these discussions whether I’m elected to the EC or not.4. What would you most like to see changed about PSI? What would you most like to see preserved?
Above everything else, I want the sense of community and the sense of communal respect to remain. We are a group of incredibly creative people, and while sometimes our ideas and visions may seem to clash (the unnecessary dichotomy of focusing on the competition vs. focusing on the art), we all ultimately have the same goals and interests in mind: the preservation and progress of this art form, on every level.
I believe the changes I would like to see are largely articulated in my response to the first question, but I’ll summarize here: I would like to help PSI gain a stronger control of its inner workings, both organizational and financial, so that the incredible variety of brilliant ideas proposed by its members can be fully implemented. I would like to see PSI become a model for other arts organizations in terms of internet presence, successful events, education, and community outreach, and for us to investigate other organizations that are already successful in these regards so we can learn from that success. 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?
Having just entered the scene four years ago, I believe the concept of legacy is very important to PSI. I personally want to help preserve a better record of all parts of that legacy. PSI, and through it slam poetry as an art form, has gone through so many changes over the last twenty five years, in terms of style, competition, careers, etc. I want that path to be documented, and in an engaging and publicly available way, hopefully as part of the website redesign (for example, we could have a timeline-like graphic, interviews with and information about previous national champions, both team and individual, a record of workshops from past national events, and links to the poets who ran/run them, etc.)
The knowledge of where you’re coming from and where you’re entering into an art form is important, and would be incredibly helpful for new poets. A deeper sense of what came before will help inspire new writers, and give them ideas for what they can do artistically and organizationally going forward.
In response to Nicole’s questions:
Luckily, I have not had to deal with that on a serious level at my local college slam, though after one slam I did personally talk with a first-time performer who made female members of the audience uncomfortable, and warned him that we wouldn’t tolerate that kind of content in the future. On the national level, I believe that we absolutely have to put the interests of safety first. There are predatory poets who are still extremely successful in our community, because they are well connected and many poets/shows put the interests of publicity and connection over concerns about the poets themselves. It’s a difficult issue, as we don’t want to start witch-hunts after specific people who haven’t been proven guilty of anything, but I think that it needs to be a much more public and prevalent discussion, so that incidents don’t get swept under the table.
As for PSI work, I volunteered as the Street Team Coordinator for NPS in Saint Paul in 2010. I go into more detail about that in my bid, but in summary, I sat in on all of the Host City committee meetings, gave input on marketing and organizational decisions, organized the street level publicity effort and spent a great deal of my own time interacting with local businesses about promoting the event.
If anyone has more specific questions in response to what I said here or in my bid, I’d love to address them. My bid can be found here: http://www.poetryslam.com/forum/index.php?topic=7447.0