How We Got Started

I knew Valerie Fox from back when I was in grad school at Temple University and we both taught in the English Department. We became lifelong friends and worked on several projects together over the years, including editing and publishing an anthology of collaborative poetry called Synergism. Eventually Valerie moved to Japan to teach.

One summer (it must have been 2000), she attended UNO’s summer workshop and conference, held in Prague at the time. It was through Valerie, that I learned about the Univ. of New Orleans’ low-residency program. I went to Prague in 2001, and have fond memories of attending sessions at Charles University with amazing views of the castle that sits on a steep hill in the center of town. I eventually earned an additional degree through UNO, a terminal MFA. Since then, I’ve occasionally attended post-graduate conferences through UNO during the summer.

That’s where I met Dawn Manning. I introduced Dawn and Valerie in the spring of 2012. We all live in or near Philadelphia, our inspiration for the Poetdelphia site.

I’ve met with both Valerie and Dawn individually to workshop poems, always finding their critiques insightful and of much value. In March 2012, Dawn and I hosted a reading by Shelley Puhak, John Gery and Jeni Stewart at Moonstone Arts in Center City, Philadelphia (all of them are a part of our UNO connection). Following that event, Dawn and I started talking about hosting a possible reading series on a more regular basis.

The idea brewed and boiled. It was around this time I introduced Valerie and Dawn. My initial name idea, “Poetrydelphia” (borrowed from a 2010 column in the Inquirer by John Timpane) got elided by Dawn to Poetdelphia (she has a way of shaving off the unnecessary, which makes her a great editor friend). A tea and coffee shop in Queen Village, Cups & Chairs, seemed the perfect set-up for a crowd of writers. After a planning meeting at Sabrina’s Cafe in the Italian Market one hot July afternoon, we adjourned to Cups & Chairs to make a final decision on the venue. A date was set with Kylie, the Cups & Chairs owner. We began to line up writers for our September debut, with plans to hold readings and/or workshops approximately once a quarter. We hope to make Poetdelphia a hub for celebrating fine writing and we hope to connect writers from Philadelphia and beyond. Philadelphia is a city rich in history and rich with writers. We hope Poetdelphia makes history of its own!–Kelly McQuain, July 2012