Readings on 4/23/24 - 

For details of this April's SJSU Legacy of Poetry Celebration, visit

Legacy of Poetry



SJSU has a rich legacy of poetry dating back to the 19th century. Students, alums, faculty and poet friends of the campus built the legacy and help to continue it today.

Each year, we honor and celebrate this legacy during National Poetry Month (April).


  • Information on the many poets that are part of SJSU's Legacy of Poetry

  • SJSU Academic Senate resolution calling for every April 23 to be SJSU Legacy of Poetry Day

  • Past celebrations

  • Short video abut SJSU's Legacy of Poetry (April 2022)

  • What happened at the 2016 Legacy of Poetry Day? click here
  • See photos of the 2013 Legacy of Poetry Day (April 18, 2013) here

  • Spartan Daily article of 4/18/13

  • Videos from the 2012 SJSU Legacy of Poetry Celebration

  • How to read a poem - from the American Academy of Poets

  • National Poetry Month information


Overview to SJSU's Legacy of Poetry

San Jose State's Legacy of Poetry began in the 19th century as students studied works of great poets and began to publish their own creative works in The Acorn (1867), the Normal Index (1885), The Quill (1925), and others. Literary societies existed from at least the 1870s and around the start of the 20th century included the Browning Society with about 60 members meeting weekly to study the works of Robert Browning and to build community on campus. Students also interacted with famous poets including Joaquin Miller, Charles Keeler, Herbert Bashford, George Sterling, Ina Coolbrith and alum Edwin Markham through trips by literary clubs, honorary memberships in student clubs, campus visits, and contributions of poems to student literary journals. Since at least the 1920s, students have participated in campus poetry contests.

In 1899, Dr. Henry Meade Bland joined the English Department to teach creative writing. He remained until his death in 1931. He helped students develop a love of poetry and encouraged them to write. He helped students form literary societies including Browning and the Short Story Club. He helped the students create a professional quality literary journal launched in 1925 as The Quill (which continues to this day as Reed). He introduced students to famous poets, worked with Senator James D. Phelan to enable students to participate in public readings at Phelan's Villa Montalvo Estate and to obtain funding for literary awards for students.

Dr. Bland was born in California on April 21, 1863. He loved California and many of his hundreds of poems are about its beauty.  Dr. Bland was appointed California's Poet Laureate in 1929. He was the second poet to hold this title (Ina Coolbrith was the first).  There is a plaque on the west side of Tower Hall (near one for Markham) with Dr. Bland's poem about the Tower.

Edwin Markham, born on April 23, 1852, graduated from the California State Normal School in 1872 (a former name of SJSU). After he gained literary fame in 1899 with his poem "The Man With the Hoe" and moved to New York, he remained connected to the campus, most likely due to his friendship with Dr. Bland and his love of California where he lived and taught school for many years. His involvement included delivering lectures on campus in 1915 and 1933, judging the student poetry contest in 1928, and submitting some of his poems for inclusion in student literary journals.  When Mr. Markham delivered a lecture on campus in 1915, President Dailey introduced him to an audience of more than 400 as "the most distinguished graduate" of the school.  The campus held assemblies to honor Mr. Markham on his 70th and 80th birthdays.

Markham was often referred to as the Dean of American Poets. In 1910, he founded the Poetry Society of America.

Dr. Bland worked to have Mr. Markham's home on 8th Street near campus preserved. For some time, starting in Dr. Bland's tenure, the home was used by the campus. The home is currently at San Jose History Park, serving as headquarters of Poetry Center San Jose and a plaque remains at the original site (near the AS Child Development Center).

In addition to Mr. Markham, other famous alumni poets include Sandra McPherson and Lorna Dee Cervantes. In addition to Dr. Bland, faculty past and present include several published poets. In addition, in recent times, famous poets have frequented the campus through both the Center for Literary Arts and the Lurie Professorship including Carolyn Kizer, Al Young, Ishmael Reed, Adrienne Rich, Gary Soto, Mary Oliver and Billy Collins. Mr. Young, current California Poet Laureate, penned a poem in 2007 commemorating SJSU's Legacy of Poetry and 150th anniversary (Ways and Ways to San Jose).

In 2007, students formed the Poets and Writers Coalition, as a student organization to promote wider interest and participation in creative writing of students.  

  • State College Times article on faculty and student poets of note - October 6, 1926

Poppy Poems

At least 4 poets connected with SJSU have written poems about poppies:


SJSU's Fabulous Literary History  - 
Societies, Publications & Celebrity Poets!

SJSU has a history of students publishing magazines of their work - poems, short stories, essays, plays, parody and news. The first student paper began in 1867 called The Acorn. In 1880, there was The Class Paper and in October 1885 The Normal Index, a monthly publication began. This was followed by The Normal School Pennant, the The Quill in 1925, El Portal in 1932 and Reed in 1948 which is still published annually today.  Each of these magazines of student writings was also edited by the students with assistance from the English Department and occasionally a panel of outside judges.

In the late 1890's, students and faculty participated in several different literary societies including the Browning Literary Club to study the works of Robert Browning, the Shakespeare Club, and Ero Sophian to "cultivate a love of good literature." By the 1930's, these clubs that remained had become primarily social clubs. Ero Sophian eventually became Alpha Phi, a sorority which still exists on campus today. 

From 1887 to at least 1892, some alumni of the Normal School participated in the Alumni Reading Circle with extensive readings to help them in their teaching and lifelong learning.

SJSU can also boast some famous poets including 1872 Normal School graduate Edwin Markham, Dr. Henry Meade Bland - an English Professor who became the California Poet Laureate in 1929, Professor Roberta Holloway, and alum Sandra McPherson.  Click here for more information on SJSU's Legacy of Poets.


This page last updated March 29, 2024


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Last Modified: Mar 28, 2024