Junior Fellow Builds Access to Postwar Poetry Archive

This post is an interview of Antonio Parker, a 2018 summer intern with the Junior Fellows Program. He is a recent graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature. This summer, he is interning with the Library’s Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

Antonio Parker

Tell us a little about your project.
I am working on the St. Mark’s Poetry Project archive housed in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. The project is part of a community arts program that has operated out of St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery neighborhood of New York City since 1966. After a split with the Café Le Metro, a coffee shop once popular for hosting poetry readings, many poets from the Beat and Counterculture generation searched for a new venue for their readings. They found a home at St. Mark’s Church, and it has remained a venue for not only poetry readings but also film screenings, musical performances, writing workshops and many other creative arts endeavors for the past 50 years.

The St. Mark’s Poetry Project has cultivated both emerging and established poets since its inception. Allen Ginsberg, Paul Blackburn, Anne Waldman, Ron Padgett and many other poets have contributed to the development of the project through readings, workshops and administrative work. The project has also served as an escape for alienated youth from the dangers of street delinquency. It offers writing workshops for children and has a recreational area for children to play in a safe environment.

The Rare Book and Special Collections Division recently digitized the project’s archive, and my job is to help organize it to enable greater public access.

A flyer from the archive advertising a 1973 poetry reading by Ted Greenwald and Peter Schjeldahl.

Describe your typical day.
My day consists of organizing audiocassette tapes of readings, musical performances and screenings from as early as the 1970s and entering metadata for the tapes and their contents into a spreadsheet. In addition, I organize and enter data for the flyers from poetry readings and different events at the church into a Library database, and I scan images.

Have you discovered anything of special interest?
Among the most exciting things I’ve found are the elaborate and creative flyers made during the 1970s and 1980s. In addition to the flyers, members of the St. Mark’s Poetry Project collaborated to create book covers and illustrations. George Schneeman’s designs stand out to me within the collection of illustrations and flyers. I’ve also had the opportunity to listen to hours of audio recordings of poetry readings that have not been heard since they were recorded.

What attracted you to the project?
I was interested in learning about the St. Mark’s Poetry Project from my background in creative writing. I was also familiar with some of the poets who have given readings at the project, such as Allen Ginsberg and Sonia Sanchez, through poetry workshops. In addition, being an English major, I have a lot of familiarity with researching library databases such as WorldCat and JSTOR, and I developed an interest in archival conservation and access through my research.

What has your experience been like so far as a junior fellow?
My experience at the Library of Congress has been amazing. The staff has been nothing but kind and helpful to me, and every day has been a learning experience. Not only is the work engaging, but I have enjoyed the many informative sessions and events at the Library that have made me feel involved in the community.

For more information about the Junior Fellows Program, visit the Library’s website.

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