The Poetry Society of America is a literary organization founded in 1910 by poets, editors, and artists including Witter Bynner. It is the oldest poetry organization in the United States.


History[edit | edit source]

In 1910, the Poetry Society of America held its first official meeting in the National Arts Club in Manhattan, which is still home to the organization today. Jesse Rittenhouse, a founding member and Secretary of the PSA, documented the founding of the Poetry Society of America in her autobiography My House of Life writing "It was not, however, to be an organization in the formal sense of the word, but founded upon the salon idea, a place where poets would gather to read and discuss their work and that of their contemporaries, the group to be united largely through the hospitality of our hosts at whose apartments it was proposed we should continue to meet...When, after much enthusiastic speech-making, a committee was appointed to retire and discuss the details, I had no hesitancy in saying—though at the risk of seeming ungrateful to our hosts—that it was much too big an idea to be narrowed down to a social function, into which it would inevitably deteriorate, and if the Society were developed at all, it ought to be along national lines, and should meet in a public rather than a private place." [1] Within the first few years, poets such as Amy Lowell, Ezra Pound and W.B. Yeats regularly attended meetings.[2]

Poetry In Motion[edit | edit source]

In 1992 the Poetry Society launched Poetry in Motion along with the New York City MTA in the New York City subway system, a program which has since placed poetry in the transit systems of over 20 cities throughout the country such as: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Portland, and Salt Lake City. The program has been honored with numerous awards including a Design for Transportation Merit Award, the New York Municipal Society's Certificate of Merit, and in 2000 a proclamation from the Council of the City of New York that honored the program for its "invaluable contribution to the people of New York City." [3]

Establishment of the Pulitzer Prize[edit | edit source]

The Poetry Society was instrumental in the establishment of a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In 1917, after the fist Pulitzer prizes were awarded, Society member Edward J. Wheeler petitioned the President of Columbia University to include poetry as an award category. After receiving a reply from the President that there had been no funds allocated to award a prize in poetry, Wheeler secured $500 on behalf of the Society from a New York City art patron in order to establish the prize. The Poetry Society continued to provide this support until 1922 when Columbia University, as well as the Pulitzer Board, voted to regularize a Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.[4][5]

Awards given by the Society[edit | edit source]

In 1915 the Society began conferring awards honoring innovation and mastery of the form by emerging and established American poets. By 1930 the Society began awarding the Frost Medal for lifetime achievement in American poetry and the Shelley Memorial Award and stipend to a living American poet selected with reference to genius and need. In 1984 the Frost Medal became an annual award. The Shelley has been awarded every year since 1930, except for 1933.

  • Frost Medal — awarded annually for distinguished lifetime achievement in American poetry.
  • Shelley Memorial Award — offered by the society to a poet living in the United States who is chosen on the basis of "genius and need."

In addition to the Frost Medal and Shelley Award, the Poetry Society gives out the following awards.

Chapbook Fellowships[edit | edit source]

Beginning in 2003, the Society began sponsoring an annual chapbook contest, awarding four fellowships to poets who have not yet published a full-length poetry collection. These fellowships include:

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Jesse Rittenhouse, My House of Life (Houghton Mifflin, 1934)
  2. Poets & Writers, "Poetry Society Celebrates Centennial." May/June 2010 Issue.
  3. MTA Website
  4. The Pulitzer Prize Archive, vol. 11: Poetry / Verse Awards 1918-1995. Edited by Heinz-Dietrich Fischer (K G Saur Munchen, 1997)
  5. "Pulitzer Prizes: Poetry,", Web, June 28, 2011.

External links[edit | edit source]

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