300 Poets and 90 Nonprofits: My Two-Summer Internship with the Poetry Center of Chicago

Thanks to the Sigma Tau Delta Summer Internship Stipend, this summer I had the opportunity to finish a project I began last year as a Digital Archive Intern at the Poetry Center of Chicago, a not-for-profit organization. Since their founding in 1974, the Poetry Center has held hundreds of public poetry readings, presented writing workshops, and launched an in-school poetry program that puts creative teaching artists in schools that would otherwise not be able to teach poetry to their students.

The Poetry Center

Poetry CenterThe Poetry Center is a proud member of the Chicago Literacy Alliance (CLA) and functions in the CLA’s Literacenter—the first not-for-profit building in the United States devoted to a fun and wacky shared workspace for literary organizations. There are over 90 other organizations that call the Literacenter their home, encouraging free-flowing collaboration between the literary devotees of the Chicago area. Spending each workday in a space that nearly sparkles with literary enthusiasm was beyond inspiring, and opened my eyes to over 90 potential avenues of not-for-profit work in the post-English-major realm.

Creating a Public Record of Readings

The project I began (and completed!) at the Poetry Center over the past two summers was one I never imagined I would have the opportunity to tackle during my first college internship. Readings at the Poetry Center have been ongoing since its founding, adding up to a bit over 300 poets. The range of poets who read for the Poetry Center is huge: our history sports famous names such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Margaret Atwood, Stuart Dybek, John Ashbery, Li-Young Lee, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Garrison Keillor, Isabel Allende, Agha Shahid Ali, Amiri Baraka, and the list goes on!

Poetry CenterBefore my internship, the only public record of these readings was a long list of names on the Poetry Center website and various vintage posters and poetry broadsides for sale from select readings. My job was to build a web database for the readers, incorporating any audio recordings in our file cabinets and external media for each poet. After researching as much as I could on WordPress and website building, I designed a searchable, cross-referenced platform to host the database as an extension page of our main website. I spent the rest of my internship researching poets, pulling quotes from poems, listening to interviews, and building profile pages of each reader who graced the Poetry Center’s microphones since 1974. Now that I’ve completed the 300+ profiles and triple-checked the website, all that remains is some external quality checking before the site goes live. Look out for the site’s announcement in the coming months.

Without the Sigma Tau Delta funding, I would not have been able to afford a second summer of unpaid internship with the Poetry Center of Chicago. Most not-for-profit arts organizations cannot afford to pay their interns, but with the stipend from Sigma Tau Delta, I completed a colossal project for the Poetry Center and learned more about the many styles of poetry than I could have from a poetry class at my college. More importantly, though, I experienced the inner workings of a not-for-profit literary organization, which is a career path I definitely will consider pursuing after graduation, and made connections with the many other organizations housed in the Literacenter. I acquired a greater appreciation of the work and sacrifices made for the arts by those who care. If you don’t know much about not-for-profit literary work, I hope you explore it a bit more and uncover the extraordinary opportunities to bring what you love to the rest of the world.

Fuleihan headZeena Fuleihan
2016 Sigma Tau Delta Summer Internship Stipend Recipient
Alpha Rho Theta Chapter
Macalester College, St. Paul, MN


Sigma Tau Delta Summer Internship Stipend

Applications are due by April 10

Sigma Tau Delta offers funding for current undergraduate and graduate student members accepting non- or low-paying summer internships. The Summer Internship Stipend is a competitive program providing a limited number of stipends of up to $1,500 each.

The internship must involve working for an “organization” while being directed by a supervisor/mentor within that organization, and the internship’s duties must be consistent with the applicant’s level of education, area of study, and career goals. Financial need will be taken into consideration in addition to internship length. Applicants are responsible for obtaining and providing verification of the internship. Please review the application guidelines for additional information.

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McIntosh & Otis Internship: Preparation for a Dream Career
An Eye-Opening and Goal-Affirming Internship: My Time with Penn Press
My Indie Summer Internship at Wise Ink
Winning an Internship with About.com

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