Libraries Open Center for Verse in PCL
Even modern moves towards ever more transitory forms of communication – from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram – draw on a long history of poetry as community.
The University of Texas Libraries continue to weave together new media with books on the shelves with the opening of the new UT Poetry Center in the Perry-Castañeda Library.
The Center was developed through a partnership with the Department of English, the New Writers Project, and the Michener Center for Writers to highlight the Libraries’ significant holdings in poetry — much of which was founded upon a collection donated and funded by editor, poet and publisher Ruth Stephan in 1965 — and to encourage an ongoing interest in reading, writing and presenting the art in its myriad forms.
Though the UT Poetry Center has its roots in collections that have been with the university for a number of years, the prospect of reinvigorating the form through efforts to establish a new space have already resulted in development of new materials. The Stephan Poetry Collection boasts over 4500 volumes of poetry; now, a recent gift from local poet Ken Fontenot as well as a major collection rebuild funded by the English Department, the New Writers Project and the Michener Center for Writers pushed the total to over 6000 volumes in the new space. The growth of the collection focuses on contemporary university and local poetry with a special focus on building dialogue with poets of color and LGBTQ poets.
The UT Poetry Center will also have relevancy to numerous writing programs across the university — both long-standing and recently developed. The Michener Center for Writers lures some of the top creative writing talents from around the world, many of whom are prolific poets themselves and will benefit from an enhanced and centralized collection. The Department of English recently established the New Writers Project MFA program, which has already gained a national reputation, and will be able to use the Center as a reading space for fiction and creative non-fiction. MFA programs in the Department of Theatre and Dance draw on poetry and poetics for multiple genres and audiences. And faculty poets with ties to the local and state poetry communities — including Texas Laureate Dean Young, New Writers Project Assistant Director Lisa Olstein and CantoMundo co-founder Deborah Paredez — have voiced excitement about the Center and the potential impact it will have on their students and the larger poetry community.
The Center will further help to highlight the importance of humanitites-based education through its incorporation into the larger Learning Commons project set to begin construction early next year. More information about the development of the Learning Commons will be presented in the coming months.
The UT Poetry Center held an opening celebration on Wednesday, September 3, which featured readings from the collection and discussion with a bevy of poets and writers from the campus and local community, including Ariana Brown, Celeste Guzmán Mendoza, Dean Young, Devon Howard, Drea Brown, José Casas, Layne Ransom, Lisa Olstein, Matt Richardson and Meg Freitag.
The event was co-sponsored by the Center for Mexican American Studies, the Center for Women’s & Gender Studies, Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities, the English Department, LLILAS Benson: Latin American Studies and Collections, the Michener Center for Writers, the New Writers Project and the Warfield Center for African and African American Studies.
Photos from the event are viewable on the Libraries Flickr page.
Upcoming events at the UT Poetry Center
Slam Poets at the UT Poetry Center: Spitshine Poetry — Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - 8:00pm to 10:00pm
New Writers Project MFA presents Peter Gizzi — Thursday, September 25, 2014 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm
The Bagley Wright Lecture Series on Poetry: Timothy Donnelly — Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm