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New verse: Incoming director wants to grow Poetry Center's reach

The University of Arizona Poetry Center will see a change of meter this fall with the appointment of its first new executive director in over a decade

Tyler Meier will leave his post as managing editor of the Kenyon Review, a prestigious poetry journal, to take over the center beginning Aug. 5, a move he calls "a tremendous opportunity."

Meier said he wants to expand the center's reach, engaging audiences both online and in the community.

“The staff is already doing a tremendous job with outreach in the schools and discussion sessions accessible hours, I hope to maintain that sense of being a public, cultural resource for Tucson while expanding our presence internationally,” Meier said in an interview.

Hoping to develop different ideas to increase the center's online presence and find  opportunities for growth, Meier said his first moves will include listening and thinking together with those involved in the Poetry Center.

“It's such an exciting and thrilling opportunity being able to think what should we do next, where should we go next,” he said. “It feels like the greatest gift being able to work with the staff, volunteers and community members.”

"It's a big move, but we were excited to move to the Southwest because of the regional culture and the literary scene; it's also a different adventure for us," said Meier, who will move to Tucson with his wife Katie and their two children.

In addition to running the poetry journal, Meier has experience teaching as the co-director of the Young Writers Summer Program at Kenyon, and is himself a published poet.

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"I think what came up when Meier was floating to the top of the candidates was his background as a poet himself, his enthusiasm, and his depth of understanding of what a space like the Poetry Center is and can be," said Mary Wildner-Bassett, UA dean of Humanities.

“The big reason I was interested is it’s just a tremendous opportunity to work in this job and because of the ambitions of the Poetry Center,” said Meier.

Meier credits the outgoing executive director, Gail Browne, with the success of the Poetry Center.

Browne led the project that relocated the center to a new $7 million facility, the Helen S. Schaefer Building, 1508 E. Helen St. Since opening in 2007, the center has won multiple design awards, and features one of the nation's largest open-shelf collections of poetry, with over 70,000 items.

"In addition to building the physical space, [Browne] also expanded and built the Poetry Center's profile within the community and internationally," said Wildner-Bassett. "It's a beloved and beautiful space that she contributed very much toward."

Browne, who is moving to Phoenix, announced last year that she would step down at the end of June. Meier, who was selected after a national search, will be paid $76,000 per year to run the center.

Founded in 1960 by writer and philanthropist Ruth Walgreen Stephan, the Poetry Center has evolved since its humble beginnings. The original home of the Poetry Center was a cottage nearby campus that was donated to the university by Stephan, along with hundreds of books.

Today, the library's extensive collection is housed in a 17,500-square-foot facility that features library areas, a reading room, children's corner, a garden and an outdoor amphitheater.

"We're working with an over 50-year tradition in the Poetry Center that is uniquely integrated with a university that is very science-oriented" said Wildner-Bassett.

The Poetry Center is not only a place for classes for UA's 300 creative writing undergraduates, but a place for the community for readings, workshops and other events, the Humanities dean said.

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Tyler Meier

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Reception honoring Gail Browne

A free public reception will recognize the work of outgoing Poetry Center Executive Director Gail Browne on Monday.

The 7 p.m. event, to be held at the Poetry Center, will feature university and community figures, including Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, who will "cheer Gail on as she goes off into her newest adventure."