Poetry Center Archives

Poetry Center Digital Archive makes available newly recorded and historic video recordings documenting the Poetry Center Reading Series, together with significant portions of the early audio recordings from the Poetry Center's American Poetry Archives collection, 1954–1969. New programs are added incrementally as recordings are prepared for online access. Optional downloads are provided for audio mp3s and video stills.

All programs are posted ©© American Poetry Archives. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. For all other uses please email poetry@sfsu.edu.

The Poetry Center, founded at San Francisco State College (now University) in 1954 by English professor Ruth Witt-Diamant, has been recording and archiving tapes of its public events for seven decades. The Poetry Center's archives constitutes one of the most significant public collections in the USA of original recorded performances by poets and related artists performing their work. In 1974, with poet Kathleen Fraser as director and with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Poetry Archives was established within The Poetry Center, to maintain the collection and provide public distribution. This collection, housed within the College of Liberal and Creative Arts, today holds some 5,000 hours of unique original audio and video master-recordings, 1954 to the present, an inestimable cultural asset.

Poetry Center Digital Archive is a project in collaboration with San Francisco State University's Digital Information Virtual Archive (DIVA), a division of Academic Technology, and is funded in part by the College of Liberal & Creative Arts, San Francisco State University, among other sources.

The Digital Archive includes:

Poetry Center Digital Archive, debuted in 2011, makes available significant streaming and downloadable audio recordings from the American Poetry Archives collection, 1954–1969.

New Poetry Center programs are recorded to digital video (since September 2015 in collaboration with DocFilm Institute) and are available as streaming video, with a downloadable audio option. Historic videos from the 1970s and 1980s are also being added to the digital collection: Poetry Center Archive Goes Live!

Video highlight clips culled from new full-program video programs are posted at YouTube.

Additional Recordings

Poetry Center Archive News

Poetry Center Digital Archive represents a portion of the American Poetry Archives collection. Currently available for open public access are some fifteen years of early audio recordings, 1954–1969; new digital video recordings, posted as streaming video and downloadable audio; and special feature collections tapping the historic archive. Additional videos, both recent and historic, will be added as resources are available for post-production and metadata cataloging. Check Poetry Center Archive News for occasional updates.

Noteworthy Information

Because of issues involving access to fragile original master tapes, frequently in antiquated formats, and costs related to digital transfer and preparation, many of the original recordings in our collection are not presently available for general public access. While in the process of migrating this extensive collection of recordings to the online archive (an ongoing multi-year project), access to any recordings not yet available online must be determined on a case-by-case basis. SF State faculty who plan to offer courses involving archival recordings not presently posted are asked to contact The Poetry Center four to six months in advance.

For specific inquiries email the The Poetry Center at poetry@sfsu.edu.

Note that historic Poetry Center videos produced for the American Poetry Archives are raw documents, made live on site generally with one microphone, one camera, and minimal post-production. Archives recordings provide documentation of the event as it occurs; flaws in the original recordings do exist. Typically, these are unique recordings: no second takes, and few edits.

The Poetry Center’s public programs, the basis for these recordings, are supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Sam Mazza Foundation, the Poetry Coalition, SFSU College of Liberal & Creative Arts, the Dorothy A. Fowler Trust, the John F. Norton Trust, anonymous donors, and Friends of the Poetry Center.