Vintage Internet: EPC@20 celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Electronic Poetry Center

The online poetry database originated at UB and archives poems starting in 1913


The world of poetry exists on one UB website.

With pieces dating back as far as 1913, one UB professor said it would take about 20 years to read through all of the Electronic Poetry Center’s massive online archive.

The Electronic Poetry Center – also known as EPC – is a 20-year-old website that contains thousands of poems, some dated as recently as yesterday. The database of works is constantly being updated by poets from all over the world, of varying levels of expertise.

EPC@20 was the anniversary celebration of the poetry catalogue.

The two-day event featured speakers praising EPC’s online selection on and poetry as a language. Professors from around the country, including UB, discussed how EPC has affected their lives and read pieces of their work.

The event was on campus in the CFA during the day. At night, the dialogue featured performances and readings at the Burchfield Penney Center.

“When I did this 20th anniversary event, I wanted to do something special,” said Loss Glazier, the director of the EPC, E-Poetry president and artistic director and a Department of Media Study professor. “All of these people just agreed to come, great people, too. I think the greatest blessing is to see people appreciate it. It’s not even techy people, because it’s bigger than that … we’re being techy for life, not for the sake of using technology.”

The event began on Thursday with an introduction by Steve McCaffery, an English professor at UB and the David Grey chair of poetry and letters. Other speakers included Danny Snelson, a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, Laura Shackelford, an English professor at Rochester Institute of Technology and Elizabeth Willis, a literature and creative writing professor at Wesleyan University.

Glazier concluded the first afternoon with his “Making Not-Moth” presentation – enlightening the spectators of his current creative endeavor.

The presentations resumed at 7 p.m. at the Burchfield Penney Center and varied from readings of poetry to discussing the evolution of the website and poetry as a whole.

On Friday, English Professor Myung Mi Kim came to the CFA prepared to read original work. After reading for about half an hour, Kim spoke about her writing, where she derived inspiration as well as her method for delivery.

"I don’t know that it’s deliberately added, it’s that I’m very acutely aware of all ways that meter or pausing present itself,” Kim said. “Almost always for me, I tend to try to work with [history]. There’s a lot of praying, Shamanism, ancient rituals … mourning rituals, cross cultural frames for that.”

Joan Retallack and Charles Bernstein, both of whom were instrumental in the creation of the website, followed.

Retallack discussed Gertrude Stein, an American poet of the 20th century who continues to be an inspiration to writers today, while Bernstein spoke of his involvement in the electronic poetry center.

Students who attended the lectures were impressed by the presentations, especially Kim’s pieces and the discussion that came afterward.

“It was really cool; it was different,” said Edward Spangenthal, a junior English major. “The poetry readings I’ve been to, people don’t ask as many questions. It feels like you’re taking away some of the magic, trying to break down that fourth wall. [Kim’s] poems were so experimental that it was OK to talk about them, it’s not going to ruin the experience or take away from them at all.”

The event took months of planning on a limited budget. The presentations were all recorded and will be available online for those who couldn’t attend the two-day poetry celebration.

Sergio Niedo Uribe, an adjunct instructor in the Department of Media Study, was in charge of the videography for the project and arranging the performances at the Burchfield Penney Arts Center.

“It’s overwhelming, the amount of information that is there will take you perhaps 20 years to see the whole thing,” Niedo Uribe said. “The website and the design of web is from the early 1990s, it’s nice that it’s simple, clean and vintage in its own way. It’s the definition of the real meaning behind EPC. It has been an amazing effort, and these people should be recognized deeply.”

The not only celebrated an organization that has been present for decades, but it also exposed the site to students who had never heard of it before.