University of Arizona Poetry Center Offers another 50th Anniversary Moment

April 22, 2014

By Arizona Center for Civic Leadership

By Nancy Welch

For my mother’s generation, memorizing poetry was as basic as learning to read and write. Conversations in our home as a result were often punctuated with quotations, particularly in humorous situations. Even with an affinity for poetry, I am sorry to say that I had not heard of the Poetry Center at the University of Arizona until I met Flinn-Brown Fellow Frances Sjobeg. Now an attorney at Polsinelli Shugart, Frances spent a decade of her career helping to make the Poetry Center a national literary leader and a state treasure.

This Arizona gem houses a huge poetry library and archive, and sponsors programs for some 30,000 students, writers, and community members every year. The Poetry Center also develops poetry curricula for Arizona schools and provides online resources for teachers and parents. More than 1,000 poets and writers, including the state’s first Poet Laureate Alberto Rios, have spoken to Arizona audiences through the Poetry Center. The 2014 Poetry Out Loud competition is just one recent event.

The Poetry Center celebrated the 50th anniversary of its founding by Ruth Stephan in 2010. Another 50th milestone for the Poetry Center, which comes up in November 2014, illustrates the depth of the center’s roots in community programs. The Arizona Daily Star reported on November 8, 1964 that award-winning Tucson poet Jeremy Ingalls would open the 1964-65 UA reading series sponsored by the Ruth Stephan Poetry Center. An author of four books of poetry, the author had been a long-time winter visitor who settled permanently in Tucson in 1960.

The Poetry Center has thrived for more than 50 years and continues to be a leader in education, scholarship, and enjoyment. I can just hear my mom quoting a few lines in appreciation. Check it out at