Poetry Society of Oklahoma had its beginning February 9, 1934 in the library of
the YWCA in Oklahoma City. About thirty poets came together in response to a
newspaper request made by Zoe Tilghman, who worked as a literary editor for a
newspaper. The group approved Mrs. Tilghman's plan for a State Poetry Society,
and a month later the participants elected officers and they chose Mrs. Tilghman
as the first President of the Poetry Society of Oklahoma.
Our PSO purpose is our PSO Mission Statement: An association for education in, appreciation of, and the mutual enjoyment of poetry ~ To encourage members in improving knowledge
and skill in writing and reading of poetry ~ To make mutual contribution to a general
interest in and for quality of poetry in our society and the world ~ To provide educational instruction and guidance to those interested in the art of poetry.
PSO has had twenty-five women and seventeen men serve as our Presidents since 1934 – some serving more than one term. They are: Zoe, Tilghman, Florette McNeese, Bess Truitt, Laressa Cox McBurney, Rudolph Hill, Leslie A,. McRill, Julius L. Medlock, Allene Mize, Reba Estes, Vera Holding, Charles Kizer, Custer King, Bess Mae Sheets, David Soule, John Murphy, Barbara Rasmussen, Leslie A. McRill, Charles Price Green, Esther A. Robinson, Marj Bennett McAlister, Helen Downing, Billie Menifee, Carol Hamilton, Lois R. Lindblade, Edith Roper, Harold R. Hartley, Maxine Sanford Austin, John W. Coppock, Violet Amy Davis, W. E. Elliott, Flo Mason, Vivian R. Stewart, Betty Personette, Charlie Cahill, Wilbur Mason, Lew Taylor, Jo Taylor, Vivian R. Stewart, Billy Pennington, Mikki Pennington, Rob Burgess, Eddie Wilcoxen and Joan Wilcoxen.
The Poetry Society of Oklahoma currently has fifty-seven members from all across Oklahoma, and also Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.
PSO hosts an Awards Banquet every March where contest results are given, poems are read and our Poet Laureate is honored for the current year. In 2003 PSO started honoring a yearly Poet Laureate. They are awarded a certificate and a plaque with their name and winning year. It is important to recognize the efforts our poets make each year.
A workshop in July is a time of both learning, hands-on work and results and awards for our PSO contests for July. Finally, an annual business meeting is held every October and officers are elected and installed every two years. This is also when we celebrate National Poetry Day by reading our favorite poems and awarding winners of the contests for National Poetry Day. And, all of PSO’s events are held at the lovely Twin Hills Country Club in Oklahoma City with a delicious buffet luncheon.
In 1969 PSO sponsored a Statewide Youth Poetry Contest open to Oklahoma Public School students grades one through twelve. In 2000 the Poetry Society of Oklahoma introduced Vivian Ramsey Stewart and Wilma Goodman's concept: The Annual Oklahoma Lore Statewide Youth Poetry Contest. Students who were enrolled in public, private, and home schools were eligible to enter. Our goal was to encourage youth to read and appreciate poems, and to find joy in writing poetry -- while at the same time learning more about our state. An Awards Ceremony was held each April, and Youth Poets Laureate for Elementary, Primary, Junior, and Senior grade groups were chosen. We felt it was very important to support our youth, and PSO did this as an organization through 2016 when it was put on hold to regroup and reorganize.
In April 2012 the City Council of Oklahoma City Proclaimed April as National Poetry month for Oklahoma City and the State Legislature of Oklahoma passed a House Resolution making April National Poetry Month for the State of Oklahoma. The City of Oklahoma City and the State of Oklahoma have continued with a Proclamation and Resolution every year since. And once again this April—PSO celebrated National Poetry Month as the OKC City Council presented a Proclamation proclaiming April as National Poetry Month in Oklahoma City (for the seventh year in a row!). Also, our Oklahoma State Legislators presented a Resolution stating April as National Poetry Month for the State of Oklahoma (again, for the seventh year in a row!). We in PSO do like to celebrate National Poetry Month in Oklahoma! In fact, we in PSO like to celebrate poetry!
The Legislature of Oklahoma also adopted October 15th as Poetry Day in Oklahoma. PSO has celebrated that day since the law was enacted in 1955. PSO affiliated with the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, (NFSPS) in 1971. It hosted National Conventions in 1968, 1989, and 2007. We are very proud to have poems by PSO members at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.
PSO has a newsletter “Oklahoma Rose” which is published bi-monthly. This keeps members aware of current events in PSO, member news, a new poetry form each month and coming events. We are also on Facebook and our web-site (http://www.angelfire.com/poetry/pso/) is a plethora of information regarding poetry not only in Oklahoma but NFSPS and other states and venues. The Poetry Society of Oklahoma believes in promoting poetry.
We are also proud to have Past Poets Laureates of Oklahoma, Bess Truitt, Rudolph Hill, Leslie McRill, Carol Hamilton, Carl Sennhenn and Eddie Wilcoxen as PSO members. Our Poetry Society of Oklahoma is growing, one new member at a time! Chinese philosopher, Lao-tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” And, that is exactly what PSO is doing - moving forward, one step at a time. The Poetry Society of Oklahoma is all about poetry and uniqueness of each of us as we learn and grow.