This week I officially announced my decision to step down as executive director of the Poetry Center. I will continue through the end of this fiscal year, vacating the office on June 30, 2013.
As I begin my 11th year at the Poetry Center, I am filled with gratitude because, thanks to your support, I have achieved what I was hired to do. Now is the ideal time to step aside and make room for new leadership. I know that we all hope to hand the job over to a skilled and determined poetry lover who can build on our resources and collective knowledge to chart the course the Poetry Center will take in its next half century. In October, the College of Humanities will launch a national search in an effort to find and hire just such a person.
Each decade since the Poetry Center’s founding in 1960 has brought change.
Each decade since the Poetry Center’s founding in 1960 has brought change. I was privileged to be here during its most profound transformation. It is hard to believe that my first office was the front bedroom of a charming-but-crumbling adobe bungalow. The house next door held our library collection, half of which languished in off-site storage for lack of shelf space. A third house served as the guest cottage for visiting writers. We were a small staff, doing our parts to advance a big dream held by many that one day our priceless poetry collection, our distinguished reading series, and our nascent educational activities would reside in a permanent home worthy of our riches. In 2007, we all realized that dream when the Center moved into a light-filled, landmark building, designed by Line and Space with you in mind. Over the course of these ten years, we expanded the Center’s organizational capacity to maximize community engagement opportunities made possible by our space.
This has been, by far, the most rewarding work of my life.
I can’t begin to tell you how difficult it is to leave the Poetry Center. This has been, by far, the most rewarding work of my life. Here I have partnered with some of most committed and gifted people I have ever known. It bears repeating that none of what has been accomplished would have been possible without the faith and effort of the Center’s staff and its many volunteers, who serve at every level, from reception to fundraising. Nor would it have been possible without the remarkable community of friends who attend our readings and classes, bring their children on weekends, and generously sustain us with their resources. In recent years, we have welcomed a growing national audience through our poetics symposia and our online digital library, voca. Our work is vital to the mission of the University of Arizona, and the Poetry Center’s home in the College of Humanities offers opportunities for initiatives we have only begun to explore.
Some years ago, when we broke ground for our new building, one of my favorite poets, Dan Beachy-Quick, wrote to us: “It feels to me that the founding of a building to house poetry and the founding of a poem are deeply parallel gestures—both offer a place in which to dwell, and in dwelling think, and in so doing, step back into the world more capable of understanding and accepting its difficulties, its wonders.” The Poetry Center is an exceptional dwelling and a unique place for contemplation and wonder. I have become deeply located in this house of poems, and I will take from it a changed perception of what it means to live vibrantly in this world.