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Reel to Reels at college radio station WMFO

Radio Poetry and the Archiving of Acoustic Space

Lisa Hollenbach is a literary scholar interested in poetry broadcasts from the 1950s to the 1970s. In her recent post for Antenna Blog‘s Radio Preservation Task Force series  she describes her work as dealing with “several neglected cultural fronts at once, examining forms long declared dead” including poetry, radio, spoken word recording, and the Pacifica Radio network.”

Hollenbach shares her findings from the Special Collections reading room at the University of California, San Diego and she describes listening to tapes of radio broadcasts made by the poet Paul Blackburn, who produced a poetry show for the Pacifica station WBAI in New York City. Her post continues key themes of this Academic Series so far, namely the role of archival research to add a tangibility and materiality to our understanding of media history.

While listening to Blackburn’s tapes, Hollenbach describes the acoustic spaces that these tapes convey and their levels of mediation: “I can hear a typewriter in the background, and suddenly I’m placed in a room with dimensions. I wonder, though there’s no way to know, if he’s working on a poem.” She argues that the ability for Blackburn’s radio program to bring listeners to spaces where poetry was performed helped to introduce listeners to literary scene that was instrumental in the writing of the poems themselves.

You can read Hollenbach’s entire post titled “Poetry by Radio: Paul Blackburn and WBAI” on Antenna Blog.


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