University of Arizona Poetry Center

Leading academic poetry institution

Grantee Cohort Fall 2017, Spring 2021

Location National

The Poetry Center at the University of Arizona was founded in 1960. It is one of the country’s leading academic poetry institutions, and hosts programs including a reading and lecture series featuring nationally-known contemporary poets, outreach programs for writers of all ages, and a library with one of the country’s most extensive collections of contemporary English-language poetry. The Poetry Center administers a prison writing program that includes writing workshops in local state and federal prisons, a weekly writing workshop for formerly incarcerated writers, and a journal featuring works from writers incarcerated and formerly incarcerated called Walking Rain Review.

With Art for Justice’s previous grant, the Poetry Center commissioned and published new work from dozens of poets across the country focused on racial justice, the experience of incarceration and the need for systemic reform. It also expanded Free Time, a workshop that pairs community members with incarcerated writers through written correspondence. The course now has 40 active mentors working with more than 60 writers.

Through its new Art for Justice partnership, in Spring 2023, the Poetry Center will publish an anthology of the most notable new work created through its partnership with the Fund. This anthology will collect poems by the project’s poet ambassadors, who use the power of artistic expression to create new empathic, radical and solution-centered thinking about carceral justice: Randall Horton, Evie Shockley, Patrick Rosal, Nikky Finney, Natalie Diaz, Tongo Eisen-Martin, Angel Nafis, Patricia Smith, Ada Limón, Hanif Abdurraqib, Raquel Salas Rivera, Vanessa Angélica Villareal, John Murillo, Nicole Sealey, Frank Johnson and Reginald Dwayne Betts.

Through collaboration with The Million Book Project and others, the anthology will be distributed to libraries in carceral facilities so it can be read by incarcerated readers and writers. Publication will be accompanied by a three-city tour.