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Unterberg Poetry Center

This long-running program inspires New York City public high school students to connect with contemporary and classic literature by attending Poetry Center readings and meeting with featured authors.

Founded in 1987, the Project engages approximately 1,500 students each year from 15 high schools and is free-of-charge for students and their schools.


In recognition of a generous gift from the Amber Walker Estate in memory of Christopher Lightfoot Walker, the Poetry Center’s Schools Project has been renamed the 92Y Christopher Lightfoot Walker Literature Project.

Chris was a longtime volunteer at the Poetry Center, making transcriptions of audio recordings from our archive that were models of their kind. This gift honors his commitment to the belief that widespread access to great literature can change young people’s lives.

Program Details

  • School-Based Learning

    Prior to events, the Project Coordinator visits participating schools to introduce students to the work of the authors they will meet via reading excerpts and creative-writing exercises.

    Writing Workshops

    The Project conducts a free weekly writing workshop for participating students that meets at 92Y throughout the school year.

  • Poetry Center Readings

    Students and teachers are provided free transportation to 92Y for informal dinners and discussion with the authors they have studied in school and then attend the authors’ readings. The students also receive souvenir copies of the authors’ latest books.

    Authors who have participated in the Project over the years include Salman Rushdie, Patti Smith, Jamaica Kincaid, Tony Kushner, Adrienne Rich, Zadie Smith, David Mitchell, Nadine Gordimer, Sandra Cisneros, Grace Paley, Mario Vargas Llosa, August Wilson, Arthur Miller, Lucille Clifton, E. L. Doctorow and many others.

Press & Testimonials

New York Times journalist Amanda M. Fairbanks wrote about the Schools Project. Read the full article.

The Christopher Lightfoot Walker Literature Project has enabled me, on a number of occasions, to meet groups of New York City high school students to discuss my work. These meetings have invariably been lively, direct, and extraordinarily interesting to me, and, I hope, also to the students concerned. I feel that I gained at least as much from the young people as I was able to give them, and I can't stress enough how important and valuable I believe these encounters to be.”

Salman Rushdie

One of my most memorable appearances involved meeting students from the Christopher Lightfoot Walker Literature Project at the 92nd Street Y. The students were fantastic listeners and participants. To see these young writers and artists at the beginning of their creative life was inspiring. It was truly a gift to me to be able to interact with such delightful young people.”

Claudia Rankine


Donor support allows 92Y to bring the resources of the Unterberg Poetry Center to more than 1,500 students from 15 New York City high schools each year. Readings by acclaimed authors animate the written word while classroom training and 92Y workshops provide a forum for students to transform their own thoughts into words on a page.

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The Poetry Center/Union Settlement Adult Literacy Outreach Project

The Poetry Center/Union Settlement Adult Literacy Outreach Project is designed to encourage students participating in the Adult Literacy Program at the Union Settlement Association in East Harlem to undertake the challenges of learning English through reading contemporary literature in a carefully structured program.

Selected authors appearing in the Poetry Center’s Reading Series visit the Union Settlement Association to lead a discussion/workshop with students, who are also invited to attend the authors’ 92Y readings.

For more information, please contact the Poetry Center at 212.415.5760 / email.