Fifty and Forward

2020 is the fiftieth anniversary of Poets & Writers’ founding in 1970. In celebration of this jubilee year, fifty acclaimed authors have joined the 50th Anniversary Writers Committee, chaired by Sue Monk Kidd. Throughout the year we’ll be sharing their reflections on this page.

Join the party by sharing your story! If Poets & Writers has inspired or informed you—encouraged you or connected you to opportunities—we’d love to hear your story! Send it to or post on social media with the hashtag #PW50Years.


Michael Cunningham


“Having once been a young, unpublished writer myself…the idea of having any kind of life in letters—or, for that matter, of publishing so much as a single story—felt a little like trying to fly to Jupiter in a spacecraft made entirely of whatever happens to be around the house. Poets & Writers was a crucial resource for me in terms of the otherwise-mysterious process by which a story or novel gets, as it were, to Jupiter. It remains every bit as crucial to the new generation of the young and unpublished.”

Claudia Rankine


“Poets & Writers plays a unique and vital role in the life of American letters. It is a space where writers both emerging and established, students and teachers, are able to seek out community, readership, and resources.”

Emma Straub


“Every issue of Poets & Writers Magazine is an MFA master class—the writers talking about craft, the editors, the agents, the contests. I gulped down every word for a decade before I published my first book. It’s an invaluable resource, and I’m so grateful for its company.”

Joy Harjo


“Poets & Writers has accompanied me on my whole journey to becoming a poet and a writer.”

Neil Gaiman


“Poets & Writers—as a magazine, as a project, as events, and as an ideal—helps people. It answers the questions that beginning writers and poets have, the ones we don’t even know enough to ask. It spreads information that we wouldn’t know to look for. It celebrates achievements that the world at large might be blind to. And it tells each of us that, if we are prepared to do the work, we are poets, and we are writers. It’s invaluable. Here’s to the next 50 years!”

Tayari Jones


“Poets & Writers is a great leveler of the playing field…[and] gives a beginning writer living in a small town the same access to information as a connected veteran living in Manhattan. Poets & Writers gave me, as a young writer, a crash course in the writing life, giving me access to the opportunities that changed my life.”

Barry Lopez


“For five decades Poets & Writers has supported and promoted the work of American writers, especially younger writers, and has played a major role in ensuring the kind of diversity that bodes well for the future of the nation. The writing community is blessed by their collegial presence.”

Vijay Seshadri


“I first heard of Poets & Writers in 1988. My wife and I had moved to Brooklyn, to a pre-gentrified Carroll Gardens, and had started a storefront reading series in a learning center on Court Street. Someone told us that there was an outfit that provided funds for series such as ours across the country, an organization that nurtured grass-roots literary ventures (the series, as it happens, was called Recrossing Brooklyn Ferry). We applied, we received funds to pay our readers (one of our first readers was Patricia Spears Jones, who recently won Poets & Writers’ Jackson Prize), and that was the beginning of my relationship to one of the most exemplary American institutions. For as long as I’ve been a working writer, I’ve watched Poets & Writers build out our literary world, and create communities of writers from one reading series to another, one outreach program to another, one communication venture to another, all over America. I’m incredibly proud to be associated with an organization of such unfussy integrity and effectiveness, whose work is so essential to our literary and human civilization.”

Jenny Xie


“Poets & Writers was, for me, an invitation to a literary life: one that was extended without regard to my publication record, my level of experience, or my knowledge of what the life of letters entailed. It is a democratizing force in the literary world, and an enlarging one. The resources and community Poets & Writers has offered me over the years has made me take myself more seriously as a writer, at times when I was most in need of its steadying and vital guidance.”

Christina Baker Kline


“When I was an emerging writer, Poets & Writers gave me a community when I didn’t have one. The essays and interviews exposed me to a world of people whose preoccupations and obsessions mirrored my own, people who took writing seriously and talked about it in ways I found both inspiring and challenging (which is, by the way, a terrific combination for motivation). In short, Poets & Writers gave me a sense of identity—and with it, the courage to pursue a life of creative expression.”