Poetry Society of America

The Poetry Society of America is a literary organization founded in 1910 by poets, editors, and artists. It is the oldest poetry organization in the United States. Past members of the society have included such renowned writers as Witter Bynner, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Marianne Moore, and Wallace Stevens.

Poetry Society of America
TypePoetry organization


In 1910, the Poetry Society of America held its first official meeting in the National Arts Club in Manhattan, which is still home to the organization today. Jessie Belle Rittenhouse, a founding member and Secretary of the PSA, documented the founding of the Poetry Society of America in her autobiography My House of Life writing "It was not, however, to be an organization in the formal sense of the word, but founded upon the salon idea, a place where poets would gather to read and discuss their work and that of their contemporaries, the group to be united largely through the hospitality of our hosts at whose apartments it was proposed we should continue to meet...When, after much enthusiastic speech-making, a committee was appointed to retire and discuss the details, I had no hesitancy in saying—though at the risk of seeming ungrateful to our hosts—that it was much too big an idea to be narrowed down to a social function, into which it would inevitably deteriorate, and if the Society were developed at all, it ought to be along national lines, and should meet in a public rather than a private place."[1]

Within the first few years, poets such as Amy Lowell, Ezra Pound and W.B. Yeats regularly attended meetings.[2]

Poetry In MotionEdit

In 1992 the Poetry Society launched Poetry in Motion along with the New York City MTA in the New York City subway system, a program which has since placed poetry in the transit systems of over 20 cities throughout the country such as: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Portland, and Salt Lake City. The program has been honored with numerous awards including a Design for Transportation Merit Award, the New York Municipal Society's Certificate of Merit, and in 2000 a proclamation from the Council of the City of New York that honored the program for its "invaluable contribution to the people of New York City."[3]

Establishment of the Pulitzer PrizeEdit

The Poetry Society was instrumental in the establishment of a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In 1917, after the first Pulitzer prizes were awarded, Society member Edward J. Wheeler petitioned the President of Columbia University to include poetry as an award category. After receiving a reply from the President that there had been no funds allocated to award a prize in poetry, Wheeler secured $500 on behalf of the Society from a New York City art patron in order to establish the prize. The Poetry Society continued to provide this support until 1922 when Columbia University as well as the Pulitzer Board, voted to regularize a Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.[4]

Awards givenEdit

In 1915 the Society began conferring awards honoring innovation and mastery of the form by emerging and established American poets.

  • Frost Medal — for distinguished lifetime achievement in American poetry. Inaugurated 1930; awarded annually since 1984.[5] The medal was first presented in 1930 to Jessie Rittenhouse, and to the memory of Bliss Carmen and George Edward Woodberry. For the following 53 years, the Frost Medal was awarded only eleven times, to poets at the end of their careers. In 1984, it became an annual award to a living poet. Since 1995, the recipient of the Frost Medal has delivered the Frost Medal Lecture. Medalists receive a prize purse of $5,000. Robert Frost was the fourth recipient of the Frost Medal, in 1941, after he had retired from Amherst College.[citation needed]
  • Shelley Memorial Award — offered by the society to a poet living in the United States who is chosen on the basis of "genius and need." Awarded annually since 1930, with the exception of 1933.[5]
  • Four Quartets Prize – for a unified and complete sequence of poems published in America in a print or online journal, chapbook, or book; presented in partnership with the T.S. Eliot Foundation. Awarded annually since 2018.[6]

Chapbook FellowshipsEdit

Beginning in 2003, the Society began sponsoring an annual chapbook contest, awarding four fellowships to poets who have not yet published a full-length poetry collection. These fellowships include:

Annual AwardsEdit

In addition to the Frost Medal and Shelley Award, the Poetry Society gives out the following awards.


  1. ^ Jesse Rittenhouse, My House of Life (Houghton Mifflin, 1934)
  2. ^ Poets & Writers, "Poetry Society Celebrates Centennial." May/June 2010 Issue.
  3. ^ "MTA Website". Archived from the original on 2010-05-14. Retrieved 2010-05-20.
  4. ^ The Pulitzer Prize Archive, vol. 11: Poetry / Verse Awards 1918-1995. Edited by Heinz-Dietrich Fischer (K G Saur Munchen, 1997)
  5. ^ a b "Frost & Shelley Awards - Poetry Society of America". www.poetrysociety.org. Retrieved 2018-09-20.
  6. ^ "Four Quartets Prize - Poetry Society of America". www.poetrysociety.org. Retrieved 2018-09-20.

External linksEdit