The Poetry Society of Texas was organized November 5, 1921. It is one of the largest state poetry societies in the United States and the oldest society extant. The charter for the Poetry Society of Texas was issued January 26, 1922. The mission of PST is to encourage the writing, recognition, and appreciation of poetry. Therese Lindsey, poet and patron of the arts, brought the idea of a state poetry society home from New York in the autumn of 1921. She had spoken with and been encouraged by Edwin Markham, then President of The Poetry Society of America. At the time only South Carolina had a state poetry society. Ms. Lindsey was one of the seven charter members. The other six members were Hilton Ross Greer who served as President for the first 20 years of the Society, Karle Wilson Baker, Clyde Walton Hill, Whitney Montgomery, Louella Styles Vincent, and Jewel Wurtzbaugh.
Dallas, Texas, was named the permanent headquarters of the Society in 1922 and by the end of that year membership had risen to 182; membership now numbers around 300, some belonging to chapters, of which there are about 25. The Society published its first A Book of the Year in 1922 and has produced a book each year since. This contains the year’s prize-winning poetry and information about the Society. The permanent book collection of the Poetry Society of Texas is housed in the public library in downtown Dallas. This includes thousands of volumes of poetry produced by members of the Society as well as two volumes of holographs published in 1955 and 1963. The illustration for the bookplate, designed by Carl Benton Compton, became the official logo of the Society.
The Society has celebrated Poetry Day each year since it was first proclaimed by Governor Beauford Jester in 1947. In 1995 the state organization met to celebrate the lives and contributions of the nine living former Presidents of PST. In addition, chapters and individual members all over the state celebrate October 15 with contests, workshops, and poetry readings.
Since 1969 the Poetry Society of Texas has held a Summer Conference in July. The host chapter or individual members prepare the programs and invite members from all over the state to their area. These Conferences are three day immersions into poetry. In addition, the Society has hosted the National Federation of State Poetry Societies Annual Convention five times (1965, 1975, 1985, 1996, and 2006) since joining NFSPS as the sixteenth affiliate in 1965.
PST and individual members offer an impressive number of annual prizes in poetry for both adults and children. Adult prizes have been offered since the beginning of the organization and have been presented at the Annual Awards Banquet that has been held every November since 1957. Student awards are made at a Student Festival in May each year, an event begun in 1970 and held consecutively since 1989. In addition, the Society encourages young poets to enter other competitions. Each year Texas students do well in the Manningham competition of NFSPS, and the Student Award of the Federation usually has many entries from Texas. From 2003 through 2010 a Texas student was the first place winner of the Student Award of NFSPS.
Seven women and fourteen men have served as President of the Poetry Society of Texas. They are Hilton Ross Greer, David Russell, Arthur M. Sampley, William D. Barney, Martin Shockley, Marvin Davis Winsett, William E. Bard, Richard Sale, Jack E. Murphy, Pat Stodghill, John D. Vaughan, Marvin Hirsh, Marjorie L. Yelton, Don R. Stodghill, Marcella Siegel, Budd Powell Mahan,
J. Paul Holcomb, Linda Banks, Marilyn Stacy, Jeannette L. Strother, and Catherine L’Herisson. Mahan was both the 16th and 19th president, the only president to serve non-consecutive terms.
Six members of the Poetry Society of Texas have served as President of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies. Marvin Davis Winsett, sixth President of PST, was the first Texan to serve as NFSPS President. Both Catherine Case Lubbe and Nancy Baass served as NFSPS President without being PST President. The other three National Presidents were Jack E. Murphy, Pat Stodghill, and Budd Powell Mahan. The years of NFSPS presidency were: Winsett 1964-1966, Lubbe 1976-1978, Murphy 1983-1985, Stodghill 1990-1992, Mahan 2004-2006, and Baass 2008-2010.
In 1939 a Councilor program was initiated. Councilors were and continue to be named on the basis of their service in promoting poetry and the Society. Through the years these Councilors have been a who’s who among members. There are currently councilors from all over the state. They are activists in the advancement of PST’s programs.
Since 1991 the Society has awarded its highest accolade in the form of The Hilton Ross Greer Outstanding Service Award. This prize is given to the member, other than a board member, who has given the greatest service to the Society. From nominations that come from all over the state, the Councilors determine three finalists. By vote, the members of the Society determine the year’s recipient. The announcement of the winner is made at the Annual Awards Banquet in November. The members who have been honored with this sterling recognition are Marjorie L. Yelton, Dallas – 1991, Faye Carr Adams, Dallas – 1992, Peggy Zuleika Lynch, Austin – 1993, Violette Newton, Beaumont – 1994, Mildred Vorpahl Baass, Victoria – 1995, Nancy Baass, Victoria – 1996, Beb Fulkerson, Wylie – 1997, Roberta Pipes Bowman, Fort Worth – 1998, Leona Welch, Denison – 1999, Budd Powell Mahan, Dallas – 2000, Nova S. Bair, Garland – 2001, Lois V. Chapman, Denton – 2002, J. Paul Holcomb, Double Oak – 2003, Marianne McNeil Logan, Amarillo – 2004, Naomi Stroud Simmons, Fort Worth – 2005, Evelyn Corry Appelbee, Henderson – 2006, Linda Banks, Mesquite – 2007, Freeda Murphy, Dallas – 2008, Pat Stodghill, Dallas – 2009, Valerie Martin Bailey, San Antonio – 2010 and Don R. Stodghill, Dallas – 2010.
In 1941 the Society began its monthly newsletter called The Bulletin. It has been published continuously since. The Bulletin reports on the month’s happenings in the local chapters and of individual members, as well as information about the state meeting.
The Society has held a monthly poetry contest since its first meeting in 1921. The contest is open to all members of the Society and offers a cash prize, currently $25.00 for first place. There is no entry fee. At the end of the year the monthly winners are judged to select The Annual Critics Award for which the prize is $50.00.
The history of the Poetry Society of Texas is treasured by the membership. Fortunately, much of the history of the group is held in The Bulletin and A Book of the Year. In 1995 the board established a contest in recognition of Therese Lindsey. The award was open to all poets. The Lindsey award and the Hilton Ross Greer Outstanding Service Award help keep alive two of the most significant names in PST history. There are book awards that honor others significant in our history. There is a concerted effort to keep the history of the Society alive and to continue to honor those, both living and dead, who have done so much in the advancement of the Society and its goals.
The Society has had many of its members named as Poet Laureate of Texas. Presidents Russell – 1945, Sampley 1951, Winsett 1962, Bard 1967, P. Stodghill 1978, and Barney 1982 were each named to the post. The list of those who have served as Poet Laureate includes some whose life and work are significant in thehistory of PST. They include Grace Noll Crowell – 1936, Lexie Dean Robertson – 1939, Kathleen H. H. Curry -1968, Robby K. Mitchell – 1970, Ruby Gresham – 1972, Violette Newton – 1973, Florice S. Jeffers – 1976, Ruth E. Reuther – 1987, Mildred Vorpahl Baass, who served two terms, 1993-94 and 1994-95, Alan Birkelbach- 2005, and Karla K. Morton – 2010.
The Poetry Society of Texas continues to be one of the most viable in the nation. It influences poetry throughout the state and, by its participation in The National Federation of State Poetry Societies, around the country as well. Since it was founded in 1921 the Society has encouraged writers to write, read, and esteem poetry, and it has been successful beyond even the most fanciful dreams of the seven charter members. The Society cherishes its history of commitment to the original goals on which it was founded. It also prizes the inspiration it has provided to many generations of poets who have found Texas a nurturing place for the expression of their art. The members of PST are writing a history of the Society one day at a time, and in so doing they are writing a history of us all. The Society will continue its mission in the 21st century.
Submitted by Budd Powell Mahan, February 2011
16th and 19th President of the Poetry Society of Texas