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University of Arizona Poetry Center

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Founded in 1960 by Ruth Walgreen Stephan, the University of Arizona Poetry Center combines a world-class special collections poetry library with vigorous outreach programming, including a reading series that features nationally and internationally known writers, children's programming, writers' residencies, and community classes and workshops. The Poetry Center houses one of the largest collections of contemporary poetry in the United States, and it is among the few such collections that are entirely accessible to the public.

Poetry Center founder Ruth Walgreen Stephan (1910-1974) was a writer and philanthropist who began visiting Tucson in the 1930s. In 1960 she donated her Tucson writing cottage to the University of Arizona in order to found the Poetry Center, a space where the public could "encounter poetry without intermediaries." She also seeded the Poetry Center's collection with several hundred volumes of poetry. The Center was dedicated on November 17, 1960, with a reading by Robert Frost; Stephan, University of Arizona President Richard Harvill, and Arizona Congressman Stewart Udall presided.

The Poetry Center's Reading Series began in 1962 with a reading by Stanley Kunitz. Since that time, over 100 writers have given readings at the Poetry Center, including most major contemporary U.S. poets, significant international visitors, and emerging artists. In 2007, the Poetry Center moved into a new home, the Helen S. Schaefer Building, which has won numerous design awards and features an architectural principle called "progression into solitude."

The Collection

Our collection features over 80,000 materials, including a comprehensive collection of over 50,000 volumes of poetry; over 800 poetry broadsides; over 1500 recordings of poetry readings, beginning with a reading by Robert Creeley in 1963; and over 3,000 photographs of visiting writers, beginning with the photographs taken in the 1960s by the first Director of the Poetry Center, LaVerne Harrell Clark. The Poetry Center subscribes to over 250 current literary journals, including American Poetry Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, Callaloo and The Paris Review. Serials holdings also contain more than 25,000 back issues of journals, including Arizona's celebrated Ironwood. The Poetry Center's Rare Book Room houses a number of treasures, including a set of poetic "Christmas cards" written by Robert Frost, a 1900 edition of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, Ezra Pound's The Pisan Cantos, and a wide variety of artist books and fine press books.

Voca, the Poetry Center's online audio/video library, contains a unique collection of hundreds of recorded readings dating from 1963 to the present. This online resource, which is freely accessible to the public, includes full-length readings by many of the best-known voices of contemporary poetry, including W. S. Merwin, Lucille Clifton, Billy Collins, Robert Hass, Ellen Bryant Voigt, and Allen Ginsberg. Visit voca online at

Outreach Programming

The Poetry Center's Reading Series brings renowned writers to the Southwest every year. The readings are always free and open to the public. The Center also hosts a number of other readings throughout the year, including readings by local writers, University of Arizona faculty readings, readings by graduate and undergraduate students, and the Prose Series, curated by the University of Arizona Creative Writing Department.

The Poetry Center also hosts classes and workshops available to community members and university students, faculty, and staff. These classes and workshops are offered in both poetry and prose genres and typically function as focused craft seminars for writers of all experience levels. In addition, the Poetry Center hosts a series of informal literary discussion groups, including a book club and a "Shop Talk" series on the work of individual poets.

The Poetry Center also offers educational programming for children, university students, and adult learners. Field trips are available for groups of any age; the Center also hosts a series of Family Days for children and parents on selected Saturdays during the school year.

Contributed Collections


University of Arizona Poetry Center
1508 E. Helen Street
Tucson, AZ 85721-0150

Rights & Reproduction

Permission to use must be obtained from the University of Arizona Poetry Center, 1508 E. Helen St., Tucson, AZ 85721-0150. (520) 626-3765.

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