Gabriel Welsch and Bonnie MacEwan brought the Public Poetry Project to fruition in 2000-2001 to memorialize and continue the efforts of Kim Fisher, the first Paterno Family Librarian for Literature, who also collaborated on the project. PPP, now administered by the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, continues to make poetry accessible to everyday Pennsylvanians by placing poems in public places. As Russian-American poet Josephy Brodsky stated, we hope to make poetry "as ubiquitous as the nature that surrounds us ... or as ubiquitous as gas stations, if not as cars themselves." It "is the only insurance against the vulgarity of the human heart. Therefore it should be available to everyone in this country, and at a low cost."
The project produces posters that are sent to locations throughout the Commonwealth, including public and school libraries, bookstores, coffee houses, and other businesses. Since 2000, poems by over 80 poets have appeared in the poster series. Over 100,000 poem posters have been distributed.
Please note that unsolicited poems and/or collections are not considered for this project.
Poems are chosen by a committee composed of poets and those with expertise in the field. The committee is charged, year-to-year, with finding poems by poets with a connection to Pennsylvania—either by birth or a long period of residency. Other than that criterion, there are no other restrictions put on the committee. The resulting series reveals much about Pennsylvania as a place, but it also reveals much about the expansive qualities of poetry.
The Public Poetry Project is sponsored by Penn State University Libraries and the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.