Pittsburgh Poets

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“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.

Check out our other Pittsburgh-centric lists for Mysteries and Thrillers, Realistic fiction, Sci Fi and Fantasy, and Historical fiction.

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Collected Poems

A sense of place always anchors Gilbert’s poems – whether his childhood home of Pittsburgh or any of the places he went in the world. All of his work is collected here. You can also check out this title as eBook on OverDrive/Libby.

Hemming the Water

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. 

“I”: New and Selected Poems

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. 

The Nerve of It: Poems New and Selected

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. 

Restoring Sacred Art

Poems of growing up in Pittsburgh and keeping a relationship with the city after leaving.  

Unattended Fire: Poems

A collection of poems full of humor and the details of daily life, and the nostalgia of the young leaving youth.