About The Poetry Center at PCCC

The Poetry Center, founded in 1980 by award-winning poet, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, its executive director, has hosted thousands of poets over the years at its readings, workshops and conferences. These include Poet Laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, inaugural poets and others of national and international reputation. Readings at the Center have included Allen Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka, Lucille Clifton, Stanley Kunitz, Ruth Stone, Marge Piercy, Billy Collins, Richard Blanco, Patricia Smith and many others.  

The Poetry Center is housed in the historic Hamilton Club Building on the campus of Passaic County Community College in Paterson, New Jersey.

The Poetry Center has been awarded several Citations of Excellence and is funded in part by a grant from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. 


The Distinguished Poets Series, held at the Center's Hamilton Club Building in Paterson, features readings with well-known poets.  Open readings paired with this series and other events give local voices the opportunity to be heard by writers and editors.

The Distinguished Poets Series is also paired with poetry writing workshops. Participants have the chance to work with some of the distinguished poets and other visiting poets.

The Center also offers fall and spring workshops for Mature Adults (over 50) at PCCC's Wanaque Campus.

Literary Contests

Three literary contests – the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards, The Paterson Poetry Prize and the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People – are offered by the Center.


The Poetry Center publishes the annual Paterson Literary Review. Founded in 1979 by Maria Mazziotti Gillan, the Paterson Literary Review began as a mimeographed publication and, in the more than three decades since, it has become one of the most well-respected resources for poetry in the country.

PLR has published many poets, including Allen Ginsberg, William Stafford, Ruth Stone, Sonia Sanchez, Jan Beatty, Laura Boss, Marge Piercy, Martín Espada, David Ray, and Diane di Prima.

The Poetry Center also publishes the monthly New Jersey Poetry Calendar.

Specially-themed anthologies, such as the Great Falls Anthology and The American Voice in Poetry: The Legacy of Whitman, Williams, and Ginsberg, are occasionally produced through competitions.

The Distinguished Poets Series is broadcast via a New Jersey cable network as POETRYWORKS/USA and selected videos are currently being uploaded to the Poetry Center's YouTube channel.



Poetry and the Arts

The Passaic County Cultural & Heritage Council was established in 1980 by Maria Mazziotti Gillan, who is its executive director. PCCHC is the officially- designated county arts, cultural and heritage agency. It distributes state funds through grants annually to about 40 Passaic County non-profit organizations.

As part of the Cultural Affairs Department at Passaic County Community College, the Poetry Center partners with other arts entities:

The Theater and Poetry Project (TAPP), which presents an aesthetically exciting and comprehensive program including theater, music and dance performances, poetry writing workshops, and Meet-the-Author sessions to students of the Paterson Public Schools.

The Art Galleries at PCCC present monthly exhibits of contemporary art by regional, national and international artists in the college’s Broadway, LRC and Hamilton Club Galleries.  The Hamilton Club Art Collection, The Federici Studio Sculpture Collection and the Passaic County Community College Contemporary Art Collection are on permanent display in the historic Hamilton Club Building and are open to the public free of charge.   Guided tours are available to schools, community groups and the general public. 


Maria Mazziotti Gillan

Maria Mazziotti Gillan







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"The Poetry Center is an example of how passionate and dedicated leaders can take culture in their own hands and create an institution of permanent value. Maria Mazziotti Gillan has proved that one person can change the world, starting in one city, and that can spread nationally like a good and holy movement of poetry for the people."
- Grace Cavalieri, Producer/Host of The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress

"The Poetry Center, founded by Maria Gillan, is the poetic art's equivalent of Paterson's Great Falls: beautifully vibrant and nourishing all it encounters."
- Charles H. Johnson, Dodge Poet, poetry instructor

"The Poetry Center has been an essential resource for the City of Paterson because it offers working class people and recent American emigrates a new way of looking at American life through literature, art and culture. It affords residence of northern New Jersey and New York City area to see and hear major award winning authors in an accessible and welcoming environment whether that be at The Center itself or in the many classrooms in the Paterson School System."
- Professor M.L. Liebler, Poet, Wayne State University-Detroit

" I have great respect for The Poetry Center because of Maria's longstanding commitment to the concept that words must touch and affect readers to help keep the human fire alive."
- Vivian C. Shipley, Poet, Connecticut State University

“The Poetry Center is New Jersey’s 92nd Street Y. It is a beehive of readings, workshops, literary publications, and contests, and Maria Mazziotti Gillan is its queen bee, whose vision and dedication created it.”
- Laura Boss, Poet