Our History

About Border Voices

The 26-year-old Border Voices Poetry Project banked its future, and its hopes for San Diego kids, on the art of poetry.

Our belief (or suspicion, or theory-based-on-instinct-and-a love-of-words) was that poetry, if introduced into the classroom by talented poets, would inspire kids scholastically and personally.  We also thought poetry might lead to increased test scores, though that was never our first goal.

We also suspected that annual literary fairs, featuring literary lights from around the world, would lead kids to dream – re-visioning their futures in ever-more-hopeful ways – while entertaining the general public.

It all worked, far beyond our expectations, beyond even our wildest hopes.

The theory and implementation were validated as Border Voices published data showing “huge and continuing increases in scores on standardized English tests” following Border Voices workshops and related programs at Pershing Middle School.  The study also showed that new, cutting-edge methods of teaching creative writing, based on the latest educational theories, increase the positive effects, and that teachers tend to adopt these Border Voices methods after the poets leave.

Although the Pershing workshops and related study (funded by the California Art Council) received the most attention in the media and the schools, Border Voices especially prides itself on sending talented and caring poets into schools districts throughout San Diego County.  The kids’ resulting enthusiasm can be seen on our weekly TV show, and in our annual anthologies.

In 2007, we also published The Best of Border Voices, a collection of the best poems and essays from the first 14 years of the project.

Finally, in late 2009, Border Voices received a singular honor from the state of California.  Its director, Jack Webb, was invited to join the governor’s committee to help select the next poet laureate of California. Also appointed to the panel were Robert Hass, former U.S. poet laureate; Susan Hildredth, state librarian of California; Dr. Opal Palmer Adisa, Jamaican-born author of It Begins With Tears; & Jack Hicks, former director of the Graduate Creative Writing Program, UC Davis.

 Literary Liminaries

Border Voices has brought Pulitzer Prize winners, several U.S. poet laureates, and a Nobel Prize winner to San Diego – along with scores of other literary luminaries, and one controversial filmmaker.

The Nobel Prize winner was Poland’s Czeslaw Milosz who appeared in 1998.

The poet laureates included Robert Pinsky (2007); Robert Haas (1997); and Billy Collins (2000 and 2002).

The Pulitzer Prize winners included Gary Snyder, one of the giants of American poetry in the second half of the 20th century.

And we mustn’t forget famed essayist Susan Sontag; controversial filmmaker Michael Moore; and Maya Angelou, who drew an overflow crowd to Cox Arena in 2002. And on and on …

To see the complete list of poets featured at Border Voices poetry fairs since the program started click on the Critically Acclaimed Anthology page.

Also listed are some of the special events held separately from the fair, such as the Milosz and Maya Angelou appearances.

Click here to view: Border Voices Anthologies

Click here to view: Border Voices Awards


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