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A night to celebrate Pittsburgh’s poetry history | The Homepage

District 5 City Councilor Barb Warwick helps Pittsburgh Poetry Exchange mark 50 years

A light-skinned woman with straight hair pulled back from her face stands at a podium with a red curtain behind her
Councilor Barb Warwick reads from the City Council proclamation designating May 18, 2024, as “Pittsburgh Poetry Exchange Day.” Photo by Ray Gerard

By Ziggy Edwards for Junction Coalition

About 100 people packed South Side Presbyterian Church on May 18 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Pittsburgh’s longest-running poetry workshop, Pittsburgh Poetry Exchange, also known as PPE. They applauded and cheered when Councilor Warwick presented a proclamation naming the date “Pittsburgh Poetry Exchange Day” in Pittsburgh.

She got an even more jubilant reaction by following up with her reading of the Shel Silverstein poem “Melinda Mae.”

The event also featured the debut of a commemorative anthology, “50: Pittsburgh Poetry Exchange 1974 – 2024,” and readings by current and former members of the workshop.

Where poets can find their voices

Michael Wurster, one of the workshop’s five founding members, still leads the workshop today. He told Pittsburgh City Paper in a May 16 article that PPE has stuck with its mission to “promote poetry and poets, provide workshops and information so people can find out about poetry events, and support all poetry activities in Pittsburgh.”

PPE’s workshop is open to anyone and accommodates poets of all experience levels.

“The PPE (and Michael's encouragement in particular) gave me the space and the incentive to keep poetry as a significant and rewarding part of my life,” wrote longtime member Shaheen Dil in a May 21 email.

A white-haired and white-bearded man in a tweed suit coat stands at a podium with his hands resting on it.
PPE founding member Michael Wurster addresses the crowd. Photo by Ray Gerard

“PPE is unique in that it stresses development over ego,” wrote PPE member and 50th Anniversary Planning Committee chairperson Stuart Sheppard in an email. “The workshop focuses on strengthening the poet's work, rather than just trying to find the fastest way to get published.”

The workshop meets on the first Monday of every month at 7 p.m. in the Brentwood Library at 3501 Brownsville Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15227.

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