Young Cultural Innovator Creates Online Poetry Archive

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May 22, 2018
by Helena Santos
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Young Cultural Innovator Creates Online Poetry Archive

Maia Asshaq creates free audio archive to highlight the work of artists from all over the world Visitors exploring the 2017 Detroit Art Book Fair (Picture: Maia Asshaq)

A young cultural innovator (YCI) has created a free poetry audio archive where artists from all over the world can share their work in their mother tongue.

Maia Asshaq, a member of the Detroit YCI Hub, is hoping the Recording Reading Archive will provide a connection between artists that goes beyond the poetry readings she hosts in Detroit.

Asshaq, co-founder of the Detroit Art Book Fair and founder of DittoDitto, said, “Since many of those performances occur undocumented, and many of the performers live elsewhere my focus has shifted slightly from events to figuring out a way to connect these artists and make their work more accessible.”

The archive, which is available to access online, came about after Asshaq’s experience at the third session of the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators. During this session, Asshaq met a Japanese writer, Mariko Asabuki, with whom she connected through the power of poetry-reading.

Asshaq said, “Even though I can’t speak or understand Japanese, I was so curious as to how she may read her own work and what I could learn about it just by listening. I began work immediately on collecting recordings from friends and poets I was familiar with.”

After experimenting with playing pre-recorded poetry in both Paris and Berlin, Asshaq went back to Detroit where she designed a “sort of release party” with musician Matthew Conzett. Each month, Asshaq invites an experimental musician to incorporate recordings of their choice into a live performance. Musicians are then free to manipulate the recordings.

Asshaq timed the first official release party with the Detroit Art Book Fair, an annual event which draws thousands of people. This event featured performances from Detroit musicians Claire Cirocco and Matthew Conzett, which have since been added to the Recording Reading Archive.

The Recorded Reading Archive is available online, and even though the files cannot be downloaded, everyone can listen to the recordings for free. Asshaq said the archive gives “listeners a chance to not only listen to works by their friends and favorite writers but also to explore new work.” So far, the archive has more than 20 recordings.

This project was made possible after Asshaq received a follow-on grant after attending the YCI Forum at Salzburg Global Seminar. Discussing the next steps for the archive, she said, “In addition to building the archive and the monthly releases, my hope is that bookshops all over the world that I’ve built relationships with will feature the recordings as well. I am also trying to tap into existing archives and feature those sounds on my site as well.”