Poetry News

University of Arizona Poetry Center Receives $500,000 Grant to Further Its Work in Criminal Justice Reform

By Harriet Staff
University of Arizona Poetry Center

This week, in a serious move to end mass incarceration and make room for poetry in conversations around it, the Art for Justice Fund announced that the University of Arizona Poetry Center has received a $500,000 grant to fund a three-year project that, in collaboration with poet and lawyer Reginald Dwayne Betts, "will comission new work from leading writers in conversation with the crisis of mass incarceration in the United States, with the goal of creating new awareness and empathy through presentation and publication." More from this exciting announcement:

Over the three years of funding, the project will:

  • commission and present new work in the Reading & Lecture series at the University of Arizona, in conversation will local organizations working for change in the criminal justice system;
  • commission found-text poems and responses created from the language of representative federal and state legislation that has disproportionatly affected people of color;
  • seek to publish works created thorugh [sic] the above commissions in leading publication venues through publishing partnerships
  • create a single-source archive for all new works on the Poetry Center’s website, including interactive platforms to encourage public participation in the found-text project.


The Poetry Center has a long history serving system-involved writers, and has administered the Arizona Prison Writing Program led by writers Richard Shelton, Ken Lamberton, and Erec Toso for many years.  Recently, the Poetry Center has begun serving writers incarcerated in area juvenile detention centers with poetry readings from visitng poets and with writing residencies through the Poetry Center’s Writing the Community program.  “We are so excited to leverage this support from the Art for Justice Fund to expand the conversation about the role incarceration plays in American life.  We’re grateful to the Fund for believing in the powerful role poetry can play as an agent for conversation and change,” said Tyler Meier, Executive Director of the Poetry Center.

Reginald Dwayne Betts said of the project, “This is an exciting opportunity to not only bring poets to the Arizona community who have been socially engaged while writing at the highest levels - but also to play a role in making that poetry truly exist as a part of larger and more public conversations around social justice in the United States.”

Read more about the fund, and the project, here. Congratulations to the UA Poetry Center! Our admiration knows no bounds.



Originally Published: November 17th, 2017