When Meshworks began in 2005, I introduced it as “a site dedicated to documenting writing in performance.” The sentence was baggier than that, actually, but that was its essence. I explained that the site’s name had been taken from an essay by cris cheek, who had recently joined the Department of English here at Miami University. In an essay for Additional Apparitions: Poetry, Performance, and Site-Specificity, cheek writes, “Each poetry reading is a meshwork, a gathering, of differentially inflected components.”
Documenting poetry readings was and is the main purpose of Meshworks. But, from the beginning, other agendas have been folded in. Meshworks is part of an older and ongoing effort to introduce British and Irish writers to an American audience. Then, too, with cheek’s arrival on the faculty we began developing an expanded idea of creative writing practice and pedagogy, and I wanted the site to reflect that; the archive of what we first called “Video Art” is part of a new interest in multi-modal writing and performance here. As I update this colophon, I have renamed that archive “Video Poetry” to better indicate what is present there, which is anyway more than one kind of thing.
From the beginning Meshworks has relied upon the energies and interests of graduate students in creative writing, and it has benefitted from the support of my colleagues cris cheek, Cathy Wagner, and William R. Howe, who taught at Miami during the years most of this site was built. It has operated on practically no budget at all, and work on the site—the videotaping and processing of videotapes, writing text for and building the site—has been a labor of love. The Department of English has provided a few resources, thanks to Debbie Morner and the chair Kerry Powell. Don Moeller of the College of Arts and Science has provided assistance with the Miami servers.
Justin Katko helped imagine and build the site. daniel Ereditario took over for Justin and brought his own creative energies and expertise. It was daniel’s idea to build a parallel YouTube site at http://www.youtube.com/user/meshworks, so now Meshworks is two sites—only some of their content is shared. We built the YouTube site because we learned that many of our British and Irish friends were having difficulty streaming the video at the other (this) site. As an aside, I’ll say that I sometimes find it just a little depressing to know that the British and Irish work we hoped to bring to an American audience has been most watched in Britain and Ireland. So much for internationalism! So much for the uprooted and “altermodern.”
After daniel Ereditario received his master’s degree, Quincy Jones took over. His many services to the site included completing daniel’s work toward putting up the best surviving video from the Diversity in African American Poetry conference in 2003, which had been filmed that year on dinosaur cameras using VHS. After Quincy left us for a job in Cincinnati (like daniel, he still advises us) Jade Hudson came along and volunteered to keep Meshworks alive as the economic meltdown made that a most difficult task. Much of what Jade videotaped has yet to be put online, including readings and performances from the recent post_moot convocation, which Jade videotaped in April 2010 with the help of Meghan Prichard and Jonathan Lohr. We hope to put some of that video up later this fall.
Mentioning post_moot reminds me to say that, together with readings and performances by writers invited to Miami, there are a number of conferences or festivals represented on the two Meshworks sites. These include the SoundEye Festival in Cork, Ireland; the 2003 Marjorie Cook Diversity in African American Poetry Conference; the 2006 Contemporary Women’s Experimental Poetry Festival in Cambridge, England; the IMAGEworks/WORDworks exhibition at the Miami University Art Museum in 2007; post_moot 2005; and Translating Cultures, a 2009 Miami conference bringing together Latina/o and Latin American writers.
I was excited about the possibilities of this archive when we began and imagined it eventually would include a textual archive featuring essays and notes about performance and about documenting writing in performance. But there’s only so much time. Now that videotaping poetry readings and putting them up on the web is much more common, Meshworks feels like a less urgent project. I contemplate giving the project a new shape and purpose, time and money allowing. We have put up fewer readings in the last year, not only because it has been harder to find the time and the labor to put them up but also because I am less interested in preserving what might be most valuable as truly ephemeral. For some years now I have wondered why poets don’t project video of their earlier readings as they read “live.”
Still, I’m pleased with what’s available here for those who want to watch it. We will put up highlights of the post_moot 2010 convocation as soon as possible. After that, I think we’ll be hibernating for a bit as we figure out the next move.