San Francisco State UniversityA-ZSearchCalendarNeed help?News

SF State News
SF State News Home
SFSU in the News
Events Calendar
Gator Sports News

Expert commentary
Expert Commentary 1
Expert Commentary 2
Expert Commentary 3

For Journalists
News Releases
Faculty Experts
Public Affairs Staff

For Faculty
Submit a News Item
Be an Expert Source
Working with the  Media

SFSU Publications
SFSU Magazine

Public Affairs

Poetry Center: 50 years of literary history

February 19, 2004

Image of a flier for the spring 1957 Poetry Center readings featuring Charles Olson, Robert Lowell, Jack Spicer and Helen AdamLegend has it that on Feb. 21, 1954, Theodore Roethke stepped onto the SF State campus and stated, "These poems are part of a spiritual history," before reciting several of his works. Little did he know his words that day would mark the beginning of one of the most long-lived, prestigious and nationally renowned literary arts institutions in the United States.

The Poetry Center and American Poetry Archives is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, starting Saturday, Feb. 21, with readings by Adrienne Rich, Ishmael Reed, Robin Blaser, Etel Adnan and SF State alumnus Michael McClure in Knuth Hall of the Creative Arts building. Tickets, which range in price from $15 to $50, are available on the Poetry Center Web site or by calling 1-866-468-3399.

Photo of Robert Duncan, Charles Olson and Ruth Witt-Diamant walking across campusThe public archives hold more than 2,000 audio and videotapes of writers performing their own works, dating to the Beat era. Luminaries who have read at Poetry Center events and are included in its archives include Langston Hughes, Allen Ginsburg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Amy Tan, Salman Rushdie, Louise Glück and Alice Walker.

"From the beginning, the Poetry Center continued the internationalization of San Francisco as a major literary center," McClure said in the Feb. 19 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle.

The center hosts 25 to 30 public poetry readings and events each year featuring a diverse range of artists from around the world. SF State Professor Ruth Witt-Diamant founded the center, with encouragement from her friend Dylan Thomas and a gift from the great English poet W.H. Auden. California Poets in the Schools, a landmark outreach program that has introduced creative writing to half a million youth, was founded at The Poetry Center in 1964.

Other events to celebrate the 50th anniversary include an April 17 poetry festival at the Unitarian Center in San Francisco, and an original exhibit focused on 50 years of art and poetry interaction in the Bay Area opening in November at the California Historical Society museum in San Francisco.

-- Matt Itelson
Photos: Courtesy of the Poetry Center and American Poetry Archives


San Francisco State University

Home     Search     Need Help?    

1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132    (415) 338-1111
Last modified July 27, 2004 by University Communications