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Poetry Center


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Poetry Center

823 South High Street
West Chester, PA 19383

Mailing Address:
817 South High Street
Swope Music Building
ATTN: Cyndy Pilla
West Chester, PA 19383

Phone: 610-436-3235

  • Poetry Center Sign and building in background
  • Speaker on stage in Philips standing at podium
  • Teachers conversing
  • People in audience laughing at what Speaker said

View photos from the 2017 Poetry Conference Gala.

The Poetry Center offers a variety of programs and activities that help expand its mission of bringing poetry to an ever-widening audience.

The West Chester University Poetry Conference (WCUPC) is the nation's premier all-poetry writing conference. WCUPC is unique because it offers workshops in traditional poetic craft, and provides a national forum to discuss major trends in contemporary poetry. As critic Carlin Romano noted, it is "the nation's most intellectually rigorous conference for poets." (Philadelphia Inquirer). The conference is June 7 - 10, 2017.

The Poetry Center administers the following awards and activities:

  • Iris N. Spencer Poetry Awards, including the Donald Justice Poetry Award, the Iris N. Spencer Undergraduate Poetry Award, the Myong Cha Son Haiku Award, and the Rhina Espaillat Award. To learn more about each award visit the Contests and Awards page.
  • Poet-in-residence
  • Poetry reading series
  • Mini-conferences on topics related to poetic craft.
  • Art song concerts in collaboration with WCU's School of Music and Performing Arts.

The West Chester University Poetry Center offers an active, interesting, and diverse slate of activities. We invite you to join us and discover the joys of poetry.

Mission Statement

The West Chester University Poetry Center was created in 2000 to further the study and appreciation of poetry. The goals of the Poetry Center are to:

  • provide the nation's finest instruction in the diverse traditional techniques of poetry.
  • provide an international forum for the discussion of poetic form and prosody.
  • train teachers in the art of teaching poetry and poetic form.
  • foster the necessary dialogue between practicing poets and critics in a culture that too often separates them.
  • recognize poetic achievement through the Iris N. Spencer Awards.
  • illustrate the important connections between contemporary poetry and fine printing.

Poetry Center Advisory Board

The West Chester University Poetry Center Advisory Board supports the overall objectives of the West Chester University Poetry Center, including the Iris N. Spencer Poetry Awards, through promotional and fund raising activities.

Board members are identified and recommended by the members of the WCU Poetry Center Advisory Board and the Program Director of the Poetry Center in consultation with the West Chester University Advancement Office. All appointments to the Board are approved and made by the President of West Chester University. The Board is composed of members/advocates of the arts community, University alumni, and local and national business and civic leaders.

Current Board Members:
Suzanne Blair
Lorna Knowles Blake
Michael Cantor
Rhina Espaillat
Dana Gioia
Darcie Goldberg
Lester Lennon
Muriel McDaniel
Kean Spencer
Kyle Spencer

WCU Faculty Advisory Committee

The Faculty Advisory Committee’s purpose is to support the mission of the WCU Poetry Center, as articulated in its founding NEH endowment grant: "to create an environment in which humanities and arts are integrated, and focused on the broader implications of Poetry".

Specifically, the committee’s charge is to:
  • Work with the Program Director to integrate the activities of the Poet-in-Residence and other visiting poets by helping to design the events and facilitate connections to classes, coursework, academic calendar, student organizations, faculty/student research, etc.
  • Advise the Program Director and Dean on WCU faculty and student priorities and how they can be addressed through the Poetry Center’s activities.
  • Ensure the participation of WCU faculty and students by supporting and promoting the Poetry Center’s activities.

Current Faculty Advisory Committee Members:
Kristine Ervin, English
Len Kelly, Theater
Ruth Porritt, Philosophy
LuAnn Smith, English
Sarah Kate Stewart, Art & Design
Van Stiefel, Music

Poetry Conference Fiscal Review

2017 Poetry Conference
June 7 - June 10, 2017

Poetry Conference Video

Poetry News

We were very honored to learn that one of our resident poets at this year's poetry conference has a poem about attending West Chester in the June issue of the New Criterion.

Ryan Wilson is the winner of the 2017 Donald Justice Poetry Award. Wilson, a Baltimore resident, is a widely published poet and translator, and is currently completing graduate work at the Catholic University of America. The award includes publication of his manuscript, The Stranger World, a $1500 cash prize, a full scholarship to the West Chester University Poetry Conference, and a reading from the book at the awards panel on the afternoon of Wednesday, June 7. The judge for the competition, award-winning poet Chelsea Rathburn, remarked that Wilson’s manuscript “clearly stood out from the other submissions.”The Justice Award is funded by the Iris N. Spencer Endowment. The endowment, a subsidiary of the West Chester University Foundation, was created by Kean W. Spencer in honor of his mother’s commitment to reading and literacy.

Bruce Bennett's poem, The Princess of War, The Queen of Nowhere, was featured on the Poetry Daily website on January 4, 2017.
Bennett, this year's Poet-In-Residence, will be at West Chester University March 26 - 29, 2017.

West Chester Poetry Conference is mentioned in article on Robert Conquest's muses - Link

Poet Sam Gwynn on Robert Conquest's Literary Achievements - Link

Dana Gioia, co-founder of the West Chester University Poetry Conference, named Poet Laureate of California.
View the press release here.