Small Press Traffic

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Small Press Traffic Receives Preservation Grant from the Mellon Foundation

We are pleased to announce that Small Press Traffic is the recipient of a $150,000, two-year grant from the Mellon Foundation’s Public Knowledge program to ensure the long-term preservation and stewardship of our current and future archives. SPT has hired Peggy Tran-Le, Research and Technical Services Managing Archivist at UCSF, as archives and preservation consultant to oversee the project and lay the groundwork for best practices moving forward.

As our 50th anniversary approaches in 2024, SPT has been working to catalog our print collection and digitize audio files, redressing longstanding issues of limited visibility for the diverse, multidisciplinary, and intergenerational communities of poets, artists, and audiences we have served since 1974. The archive, which currently includes approximately 2,500 print and digital holdings, will be accessible to researchers and the public with visitation hours and a newly developed section of SPT’s website dedicated to digitized materials and audio recordings.

“It is an incredible honor for our small, community-centered organization to be trusted by a prestigious funder such as the Mellon Foundation,” says director Syd Staiti. “This generous grant allows us to pay nearly a dozen individuals to collectively safeguard and surface the rare and dynamic materials generated across a fifty-year history of poetry, poetics, and language arts in the Bay Area. We look forward to sharing not only our organization’s story, but a larger narrative about the cultural, economic, and political conditions in which Small Press Traffic emerged, struggled, and persisted.”

The two-year project involves four areas of focus: a print collection of rare and small press books, chapbooks, journals, magazines, and zines; audio recordings of poetry readings that have taken place in the Bay Area over the past fifty years; organizational materials and ephemera such as flyers and programs; and oral history interviews with founders, past directors, and community members. The grant will support the inclusion of historically underrepresented constituencies and a special edition print publication with materials and testimonies documenting SPT’s history. Highlights include:

  • Issues of the underground stapled zine Mirage #4/Period[ical] (1992–2009), edited by Kevin Killian and Dodie Bellamy 
  • A full run of Lyn Hejinian’s Tuumba Press (1976–1984); 50 limited edition chapbooks 
  • Clamour: a dyke zine (1996–1999), edited by Renee Gladman; full run, four issues
  • Hundreds of audio recordings of poetry readings in the Bay Area from 1978 to the present, including Diane di Prima, Ted Berrigan, and Mei-mei Berssenbrugge (donations by David Highsmith, Owen Hill, and Andrew Kenower)
  • Video interviews with four founders of the organization — Jim Mitchell, Denise Kastan, Robert Glück, and Beau Beausoleil — as well as past directors and community members representing the rich diversity of Bay Area poetry in the past half century.

“In the context of San Francisco’s boom and bust economy, and its deleterious effect on the city’s arts community, it is vital that the histories of organizations like Small Press Traffic be documented and preserved,” says Tran-Le. “Without them, our understanding of the evolution of cultural movements in the region — and the country — is incomplete at best. We want to inspire future poets and scholars by increasing access to SPT’s rich resources, and create a road map for SPT to document its vital work into the future.” 

This ambitious archival project is one of several initiatives Small Press Traffic has undertaken in the lead up to our 50th anniversary next year. While SPT’s programming and audiences have expanded, a grassroots ethos continues to ground our work; through experimentation, adaptability, and dedication, we maintain our legacy as a crucial resource for innovative poets and language artists in the evolving San Francisco cultural landscape.

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