The Poetry Center is the best living room in America for reading poetry. —Steve Orlen
Designed by Line and Space LLC, the Helen S. Schaefer Building, our 17,500-foot landmark facility, brings a contemporary note to the University of Arizona campus. Architect Les Wallach employed a design principle called 'a progression toward solitude.' As visitors move from west to east through the building's meeting and gathering spaces, they experience a gradual retreat into the peaceful solitude of the library collection.
Named in honor of leading arts supporter Dr. Helen S. Schaefer, the building has received prestigious design awards:
- 2012 Honorable Mention, New Landmark Libraries, Library Journal
- 2009 AIA Arizona Citation Award for Design
- 2009 Tucson’s Favorite Public Architecture, Tucson Home
- 2008 AIA Southern Arizona Award for Design
- Southwest Contractor Best of 2008 Award for Interior Design
- Arizona Masonry Guild 18th Annual Excellence in Masonry Design Award
Wallach’s belief that 'the space where poems are housed is itself a sort of organism, or environment in which poets are made' is borne out in poetic gestures such as the unexpected paradox of a 'turning wall' allowing filtered sunlight to enter the library. Spaces within the Helen S. Schaefer Building are as follows:
Michael and Helen Dobrich Library / Ruth Stephan and Myrtle Walgreen Library Collection
One of the most comprehensive and fully accessible contemporary poetry libraries in the nation, the collection holds over 80,000 items, including books, journals, recordings, broadsides, and an archive of approximately 3,000 photographic portraits of poets.
Jeremy Ingalls Gallery
Library and art exhibitions are mounted throughout the year. Here you may view treasures from the Poetry Center’s Rare Book Room and visual work featuring Tucson artists as well as traveling exhibits. Permanent exhibitions include the 'Wall of Poets," images of visiting poets since 1962, and a Leo Cherne bust of Robert Frost and a fifth-century B.C. Grecian urn, both gifts of the late Stewart Udall.
A haven for children of all ages, the Anika Burns Children’s Collection in the Children’s Corner features books of poetry for young people and pedagogical materials.
L.R. Benes Rare Book Room
The climate-controlled Rare Book Room, accessible to the public with assistance from a librarian, holds special materials such as artist-poet collaborations, signed first editions, and works singled out for their age, aura, and physical beauty.
Peggy Shumaker and Joseph Usibelli Creative Writing Alumni Room
The Alumni Room offers an ideal space for University of Arizona graduate and undergraduate students, as well as students enrolled in the Poetry Center’s Classes & Workshops program, and a community writing group. Students gather in the adjacent Copenhagen Lounge before and after class.
Mary Dearing Lewis Garden
One of the finest places to encounter 'the spirit of poetry' in solitude, as Ruth Stephan suggested, is this airy garden of bamboo and river rock. The Shelton Wall offers a literal interpretation of the term 'concrete poetry'; a line of poetry from University of Arizona Regents Professor Emeritus (and former Poetry Center Director) Richard Shelton has been translated into binary code using the line and space of a concrete block wall.
This outdoor amphitheater accommodates a range of community events, from performance poetry to student recitations. The stone benches east of the Odeum and in the Mary Dearing Lewis Garden are Coconino sandstone, brought to Tucson from Ash Fork, Arizona, and are estimated to be 270 million years old.
Dorothy Rubel Humanities Seminars Room
The Helen S. Schaefer Building is also home to the Humanities Seminars Program, a distinguished community program for adult scholars. Named for the program’s founder, the Dorothy Rubel Room houses Humanities Seminars as well as Poetry Center readings and lectures. The floor-to-ceiling glass doors may be opened to accommodate as many as 250 people.
The Lois Shelton Poet’s Cottage
Adjacent to the Dorothy Rubel Room is a true 'writer’s retreat': a studio apartment used by Poetry Center visiting and resident writers. The Poet's Cottage is named in honor of former Executive Director Lois Shelton. For twenty years, Lois hosted poets from around the world, and examples abound of her penchant for building lifelong friendships and fostering deep connections between the Poetry Center and poet’s community. During her tenure, Lois put the Center and its small but growing library at the forefront of institutions worldwide, and she worked tirelessly to bring financial resources to the Center, ensuring its future viability. Her efforts further built the foundation on which the Poetry Center stands today.
Other Named Spaces
- Bert and Mary Darling Educational Wing
- Miriam Endicott Emley Room
- Aisling Room
- Carol D. Whiteman Wall of Poets
- Diamond Benches
- Margaret E. Mooney Reading Area
- Humanities Seminars Coordinator’s Office
- Pearl Lenore Stinson Majors Computing and Library Information Center
- Randall Rodman Holdridge Reading Area
- Pauline Akins Rodman Reading Area
- John Hudak, Jr. Memorial Bench