Pennsylvania Center for the Book announces 2020 Public Poetry Project selections

May 01, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Selected poems of Rachelle Bowser, Rachel Mennies, Erin Murphy and Eleanor Stanford have been chosen to represent the Pennsylvania Center for the Book’s 2020 Public Poetry Project, with poetry interpreted into art posters for the annual event.   

This year’s selections have been carefully chosen by a panel of three poets selected by the Center’s Public Poetry Advisory Board. This year’s panel is Sarah Blake, award-winning author and poet currently living in the U.K.; George Looney, author, editor and distinguished professor of English at Penn State Erie; and Cassie Garrison, a Seattle-based poet pursuing a master of fine arts in English from University of Washington.

During the selection process, each panelist nominates two poets and highlights a few offerings from their collective works. From this pool, the panel deliberates until they agree on one poem from each of four poets, to be interpreted into an annual series of art posters. This year’s poetry selections are:

“Suburbia, or Replications of Natural Environments,” by Rachelle Bowser

A poet from DuBois, Pennsylvania, Bowser often writes about sharing walls. She received her bachelor of fine arts degree from Penn State Behrend and her master of fine arts degree from Georgia College, and currently resides in Buffalo, New York.

“First Draft of the Teenage Girl,” by Rachel Mennies

Mennies is the author of ”The Naomi Letters,” forthcoming in 2021 from BOA Editions, and ”The Glad Hand of God Points Backwards,” winner of the 2014 Walt McDonald First-Book Prize in Poetry at Texas Tech University Press, and finalist for a National Jewish Book Award. Her poetry and nonfiction have appeared at American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review, The Millions, The Poetry Foundation, The Believer, and elsewhere. In 2016, Mennies was named the series editor for the Walt McDonald First-Book Prize in Poetry; she also serves as AGNI's reviews editor. 

“Vow,” by Erin Murphy

Murphy is the author or editor of 11 books, including her eighth book of poems, “Human Resources,” forthcoming from Salmon Poetry, and “Assisted Living,” a collection of demi-sonnets, a form she devised. Her most recent edited anthologies are “Creating Nonfiction” (SUNY Press), winner of the Gold Medal in the 2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award; and “Bodies of Truth,” a collection of narrative medicine essays (University of Nebraska Press).  She serves as Poetry Editor of the Summerset Review and is a professor of English at Penn State Altoona.

“Sombre Hummingbird,” by Eleanor Stanford

Stanford is the author of three books of poetry, “The Imaginal Marriage, Bartram's Garden,” and “The Book of Sleep,” all from Carnegie Mellon University Press. Her poems and essays have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, the Iowa Review, the Kenyon Review, and many others. She is a 2019 NEA fellow in poetry, and was a 2014/2016 Fulbright fellow to Brazil, where she researched and wrote about traditional midwifery. She lives in the Philadelphia area. 

The 2020 Public Poetry Project poster series was developed into art posters by Christopher Blaska, Penn State University Libraries award-winning graphic designer. Poems from each of the winning Pennsylvania-connected poets have been interpreted into art posters, available for viewing online, where viewers can also find biographical information about the poets and judges’ comments.                

The Pennsylvania Center for the Book sends the posters throughout the commonwealth — to schools, libraries, bookstores, coffee houses, and other businesses and also distributes 2000 posters each year at the National Book Festival, sponsored by the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Since 2000, more than 80 poets have appeared on the poster series, and more than 100,000 poem posters have been distributed.

About the Public Poetry Project

Started in 1999 by the late Kim Fisher, the first Paterno Family Librarian for Literature, the Public Poetry Project seeks to make poetry more available in the daily lives of Pennsylvanians by placing poems in public places. Since 2000, more than 80 poets with a connection to Pennsylvania, either by birth or long period of residency, have had their work displayed as part of this series.

The Public Poetry Project is under the direction of Ellysa Stern Cahoy, assistant director, and Caroline Wermuth, outreach coordinator, for the Pennsylvania Center for the Book. The Public Poetry Project at Penn State 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.

About the Pennsylvania Center for the Book

The Pennsylvania Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Center for the Book, established in 1977 at the Library of Congress, encourages Pennsylvania’s citizens and residents to study, honor, celebrate and promote books, reading, libraries and literacy. In addition to the Public Poetry Project, it also administers the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award; the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel PrizePoems from Life; Wordstruck; Micro Essays on Literature that Redefined YouA Baker’s Dozen: The Best Children’s Books for Family Literacy; and the interactive Literary and Cultural Heritage Map of Pennsylvania.

For more information about the Pennsylvania Center for the Book’s Public Poetry Project, contact Caroline Wermuth at or 814-863-5472, or visit the Pennsylvania Center for the Book website at

Last Updated May 04, 2020