Brief History

In 1946, Mrs. Fred Armstrong saw the need to establish “a facility for writers as a means for stimulating the writing of poetry.” She became Saint Louis Poetry Center’s first Chairman. Having continued since Mrs. Armstrong’s visionary inception, Saint Louis Poetry Center is the oldest poetry organization of its kind west of the Mississippi River. The first meetings were held on Sundays at the downtown Public Library. During the early days, writers attending included Tennessee Williams and William Inge, poets who would become luminaries! Eventually, Saint Louis Poetry Center relocated from the downtown Public Library to Bishop Tuttle Memorial in the renowned Christ Church Cathedral. Then, in October, 1974, the organization moved again, to Clayton Federal Savings Bank in Webster Groves, where monthly workshops were held on the second floor “at no expense to the Center.”

The first concert, now an annual reading of each year’s contest-winning poems, was held in 1960 at the Garden Club’s new building in Shaw’s Garden, now the Missouri Botanical Garden. Then in 1963, Saint Louis Poetry Center was incorporated with the assistance of the organization’s then-attorney, Mr. William Armstrong. The organization had two Boards: a Board of Directors for Center Administration, and a Board of Chancellors, “to act as advisors in literary matters.” Today’s Saint Louis Poetry Center retains only the Board of Directors, volunteers who oversee the organization, its readings, outreach programs, workshops and annual contests.

Some of the long-term members of Saint Louis Poetry Center are successful poets and artists, including Loy Ledbetter, Gaye Gambell-Peterson, Rebecca Ellis, Robert Nazarene, Lucy Hazelton, Eamonn Wall, Marlene Miller, Sally Van Doren, Michael Castro, David Clewell, Steven Schreiner, Ed Boccia, and Beverly Hopkins, after whom the high school contest is named. Many other St. Louis poets, professors, writers and lovers of poetry are members of Saint Louis Poetry Center.

Saint Louis Poetry Center continues its tradition of free workshops from September through April on the third Sunday of each month. They are currently held at High Low in the Grand Center Arts District. In addition, Saint Louis Poetry Center has grown to offer a number of significant education and community programs, fee workshops and popular, curated reading series: Poetry at the Point and Observable Readings. Since 1960, the month of May presents the annual Poetry Concert, a reading of the prize-winning poetry of the year’s contests, which are free and open to all. Saint Louis Poetry Center membership is open to all, and most events are free and open to the public. The organization relies on its members to help fund these important and enriching programs. To become a member, please click here.