UA Poetry Center names new executive director

Tyler Meier says he sees job as caring for cultural institution
2013-05-19T00:00:00Z UA Poetry Center names new executive directorKathleen Allen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 19, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Poet Tyler Meier can barely contain himself.

"I am completely thrilled about this opportunity," says Meier about his appointment as the executive director of the nationally recognized University of Arizona Poetry Center.

"I'm really excited to be part of the center and the poetry scene. It's a lovely and vibrant place."

Meier leaves his job as managing editor of the prestigious Kenyon Review, a poetry publication out of Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, about 60 miles from Columbus. He also taught summer poetry workshops to high school students through the publication.

A national search was launched in October after Gail Browne announced she would step down July 1. Meier's salary will be $76,000 a year.

Browne, who will stay on to help with the transition, leaves Meier with a plum organization - under her 11-year tenure, the Poetry Center moved into a $7 million building financed with close to $5 million in private donations.

Browne also digitized readings by more than 500 poets who have read at the center over the past 50 years and made the readings accessible online. Community involvement has also soared, with about 30,000 using the library services and attending workshops and readings annually.

"(Meier) is incredibly enthusiastic, and profoundly connected to poetry and to the mission and the spirit of the center," says Mary Wildner-Bassett, dean of the UA College of Humanities.

Meier, 34, knew of the center and often made use of its digital library, but his first visit to Tucson came when he interviewed for the director's job.

"What an impressive building to walk into and be in awe of immediately," he says in a phone interview.

"The first time I was there, I walked around the building three times."

Meier gives Browne credit for raising the center's national reputation and leaving it in such a solid state.

"I think the center can be aspirational about what happens next, and that's a real luxury," says Meier, who will move here with his wife and two children in early August.

"It's a peerless library; there are few places with such a comprehensive collection."

He'd like that collection to become more accessible to users around the world.

"I think one way the center can grow is to think about creative ways to engage audiences online, to use the resources there and find ways to leverage that so people can experience the center if they are in Kansas, New York, Phoenix or Columbus, Ohio."

But he is adamant that the center's direction will result from discussions with staff, volunteers and others in the community.

"There's a great opportunity to learn, brainstorm, think about goals we want to accomplish," he says. "There's a strong sense that part of what this job is stewardship of a Tucson cultural institution. My job will be caring for that, listening to the people, and making sure we are doing the best we can to honor the history."

Meier graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in English and promptly joined AmeriCorps, where he spent two years building houses for Habitat for Humanity.

"That's when I really developed a love of writing," he says.

Meier, who received his master's from the University of Washington, has had works published in several journals and is working on his first volume of poetry.

Did you know?

Robert Frost arrived in Tucson by train to read at the dedication of the new Poetry Center in 1960. It was during this visit that Arizona Congressman Stewart Udall asked Frost to consider reading at the upcoming inauguration of John F. Kennedy.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@azstarnet.com or 573-4128.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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