On March 29, West Chester dedicated the former residence at 823 South High Street as the new home of the Poetry Center, which hosts the country's largest annual summer poetry conference, held this year June 6 through June 9.
Following the ceremony, Dana Gioia, chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, gave a free poetry reading. The reading included the premiere of songs based on Gioia's poetry composed by five of the University's music faculty: Robert Maggio, Larry Nelson, Mark Rimple, Alexander Rozin and Adam Silverman.
The Center's new location and its ambitious program are made possible by a $1.2 million National Endowment for the Humanities endowment. The NEH awarded the West Chester University Poetry Center a $300,000 challenge grant that the University matched three-to-one, creating the endowment to support poetry activities at the University.
Established in 2000 by West Chester professor of English Michael Piech, the Center attracts more than 300 people every summer who are interested in studying traditional methods of poetry. It sponsors an annual poet-in-residence and a series of poetry readings--most recently by 2007 Pulitzer-winner Natasha Trethewey -- as well as student poetry workshops and readings and administers the Iris N. Spencer Poetry Awards.
The Center is also home to Aralia Press, a teaching press that exposes students to the traditional craft of bookmaking, using hand-set type and a hand press to print contemporary poetry in finely designed limited editions.