(Button Poetry live streams on the first Monday of every month on their YouTube page. Check them out!)
Most people think of poetry as dead white guys from 19th century literature books with strict metres and specific rhyming conventions. But most don’t understand that poetry has always been a form of expression - written and spoken in ways that turn language into art. And it’s always been around - but it’s an art form often neglected by more mainstream arts.
Enter Button Poetry, an organization dedicated to bringing poets and poetry aficionados together by hosting and broadcasting live shows all over the country. Founded in 2011, the St. Paul-based poetry group was formed by a group of hopeful literature lovers who wanted to see this type of art form flourish.
“I’ve been writing poetry and running live shows since I was 16 years old, but it wasn’t until college that I really started taking poetry more seriously,” said Sam Cook, Founder of Button Poetry. “I started Button Poetry with the idea that poetry and digital media can integrate extremely well together, and to help poetry find audiences that really appreciate this classic art form.”
Since starting Button Poetry, Cook has had tremendous success in not only keeping poetry relevant, but also helping it to flourish. Every week, live events are held in St. Paul, Minnesota where veteran and rookie poets come together to practice their poetry in front of huge audiences. These performances have always been recorded and posted on the organization’s YouTube channel, with each video garnering thousands of views.
But in order to move beyond simple on-demand YouTube videos, Cook decided in 2016 to take the group’s events in a new direction: live streaming.
“We always wanted to try out live streaming because it opens up so many opportunities for this beautiful art form,” explained Cook. “It means we can show more performers to more people without needing to worry about editing. Also, our organization is all about live performance! Live streaming is different in that it puts people in the moment - as if you’re right here in the audience.”
The only challenge was to be able to do this without having to make any costly or technical additions. Since Cook and his team owned a set of cameras already, all they needed was to get a feed pushed to YouTube. For this, they chose to use the Teradek VidiU Pro streaming encoder. Here’s how it works.
Cook and his team live stream on the first Monday of every month. At the venue, 4 Canon XA20 cameras are placed around the stage, each recording performances from different viewing angles. The VidiU Pro is placed on top of one of the cameras, which is fed an Internet connection via hardwired Ethernet line. Connected to the camera via HDMI, the feed is streamed directly to Button Poetry’s YouTube channel at 1080p at 4Mbps.
The live streams last for the duration of the poetry night, which can go up to 2 hours each. These videos typically garner over 6000+ viewers, with over 3000+ comments on the video. However, at special poetry events where Button Poetry is commissioned to handle broadcasting such as the Rustbelt Poetry Slam, views can reach over 2.4 million.
Rhyme and Reason
Because poetry is all about performance and rhythm, live streaming acts as a perfect outlet for the poets to deliver their work. Where traditionally, performers were limited to the audiences in attendance, live streaming opens up the performance to anyone in the world who can’t attend. In addition, because of the live nature of a poetry show, viewers watching from home get a greater sense of immersion as opposed to watching pre-recorded and edited on-demand video.
But even more importantly to Cook, using live streaming and social media is an excellent way to bring this historic art form into an increasingly new digital era.
“Social media hasn’t changed poetry, but it has changed the way people consume art,” explained Cook. “In the past, you pretty much needed a distribution company in order to find an audience. But with live streaming and social media, artists can publish their work directly to their fans and take control of their own expression.”
Thanks to the VidiU Pro’s capacity to stream high-quality live video, Button Poetry can help deliver poetry that can captivate and immerse viewers in the show. For Cook and his team, live streaming is an excellent extension of their in-house attendance, and Teradek gives them an opportunity to distribute their content worldwide.
“When we could make our content worth watching, it completely immerses the audience and allows them to experience the passions and emotions of poetry with everyone else. Because the VidiU Pro has been so reliable and easy to use, it’s been a tremendous addition to the success of our organization and the thriving of poetry in the world.”