The following is a post by Rob Casper, head of the Poetry and Literature Center.
Last fall, I was honored to travel to Arizona to participate in the Poetry Coalition’s annual gathering. The coalition, which numbers more than 20 members in 11 cities across the country, was founded three years ago to raise the profile of poets and poetry in the United States. Its inaugural programming began in March 2017 with “Because We Come From Everything: Poetry & Migration,” named after a poem by 21st Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera. This joint effort reached 100,000 individuals with publications, readings, and social media projects.
My old friend Amy Stolls, Literature Director for the National Endowment for the Arts, joined up with me to participate in the convening. The first day, we all arrived at the University of Arizona Poetry Center on the University of Arizona campus. It was the first time I’d seen the Center, which has inhabited its gorgeous current home since 2007, but I’d known about it for years. For one, there aren’t too many such places around the country—university-funded spaces that maintain sizable poetry libraries and produce poetry programs and outreach efforts of all sorts, literary centers able to offer visiting poets a few nights in a “Poet’s Cottage” (I’ve seen many photos of great poets lodging there!), and organizations that have been doing such good work for over a half-century!
I was also happy to see one of the sweetest and most dedicated leaders in our field, Tyler Meier. Tyler, the executive director of the University of Arizona Poetry Center, was host and organizer of the convening, and thanks to him we had a wonderful time eating and drinking and talking about how we can continue to help one another (we even hatched up a few plans—stay tuned!).
While we were in Tucson, Amy and I also got a chance to do something for dear Tyler: we both made cameos in a local PBS station’s feature on the Center. Both us of tried our best to sing Tyler’s praises, as well as talk about the Center as an inspiration for all of us trying to promote poetry. I’m happy I can now picture the place and think of how wonderful it must be to look through its open stacks, sit in on one of its classes or readings, or even volunteer as an intern or docent. If you live anywhere near the Center, don’t hesitate—go visit!