A famous Black artist who spent many childhood years growing up in Pittsburgh, is interpreted and reflected by poets, many of whom also have Pittsburgh connections.
“As children, we were told all these wonderful stories about the bridges, about the mills, and Pittsburgh was exciting. At night, it used to be that you could lie in bed and hear the trains and the furnaces, whistles going off and big explosions when they blow the plug on them. Then the sky would light up with crosses and lines and things in the sky. It was an industrially spectacular city, a live environment. The people were always up to something, too. Everybody was always working at something, plugging away at building something.
It was a good productive neighborhood.” – Ed Roberson, interview in Callaloo, 2010
Pittsburgh has its own vibrant literary scene that morphs and mutates according to new people arriving, reading series stopping and starting, and new journals popping up here and there. Just take a look at the number of poets listed in Littsburgh’s Literary Roster. Young writers are nurtured through initiatives citywide—including our own Ralph Munn Creative Writing Contest (currently open for submissions).
In this list we celebrate poets that have lived in Pittsburgh, either growing up here or coming here later in life, and whose work is informed by this city. Whether the influence is obvious or more subtle, the crucial worlds that they spin with their words have the power to evoke these landscapes we live in every day.
Poetry is like a very concentrated essence of writing. You can treat it like a quick shot of ginger juice or linger over it like an expensive liquor. Check out one of these volumes of poetry and find out what notes of Pittsburgh linger in your mind.
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A chapbook of poems focusing on the poet interrogating his self and work.
Family photos in industrial Pittsburgh area landscapes are paired with poems.
Poems that explore being a Black man in the world today.
Inspired by Pittsburgher Mary Lou Williams – a Black jazz composer and pianist – these poems inhabit their subject and also the idea of the female self.
A journey in poetry through the author’s experience of race, gender, class and sexuality. It was a finalist of the 2019 National Book Award for Poetry.
Spanning an over-twenty-year career, this collection traces the author’s evolution of voice and style.
Unlike most collections of new and old work, this one does not place its poems in chronological order, but rather in conversation with each other by theme.
Poems that delight in the play of language and form to explore the Aristotelian ideas of being and passing away.
Poetry that maps the city of Pittsburgh and speaks in tribute of it.
Poems of growing up in Pittsburgh and keeping a relationship with the city after leaving.
A collection of poems full of humor and the details of daily life, and the nostalgia of the young leaving youth.
Photographs of Pittsburgh provide the starting point for pieces of flash fiction and poetry that interrogate moments from the past.