The American Poets' Corner was created in 1984 to memorialize American writers of the highest repute. It is housed in the extraordinary confines of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City and modeled after a similar alcove for writers at Westminster Abbey in London.
Academy of American Poets Founder Marie Bullock was a champion of this new honor for poets and was named the Honorary Chairman of the Poets' Corner on May 7, 1984.
Located in the cathedral’s Arts Bay, the Poets' Corner is made up of stone slabs, both on the wall and on the floor, each bearing the writer’s name, dates of birth and death, and a memorable quotation from the writer's work. For Hart Crane, his words "Permit me voyage, love, into your hands" were chosen, and Edna St. Vincent Millay is remembered with "Take up the song; forget the epitaph."
The Poets' Corner is not the only place where poetry can be found in the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. In 1976, poet Muriel Rukeyser founded The Poetry Wall in the ambulatory of the Cathedral as a place where poems will always be accepted. Rukeyser explained "the whole idea is openness, a free giving and accepting of poetry. Poets meet so many rejections in their work. This is the place where poems will always be accepted. They can be signed or unsigned and in all languages."
To date, over thirty writers have been inducted. Before 2000, the cathedral’s board of electors chose two new writers each year (one poet, one novelist) but have since limited election to one writer a year, alternating between poet and novelist. Those thus far commemorated in the Poets' Corner are listed below.
2018: Carl Sandburg
2017: Jean Toomer
2016: Eugene O'Neill
2015: Zora Neale Hurston
2014: Flannery O'Connor
2013: John Allyn Berryman
2012: Katherine Anne Porter
2011: James Baldwin
2010: Sylvia Plath
2009: Tennessee Williams
2008: Phillis Wheatley
2007: Robinson Jeffers
2006: Emma Lazarus
2005: W. H. Auden
2004: Robert Hayden
2003: Robert Lowell
2002: No inductee
2001: Gertrude Stein
2000: Edna St. Vincent Millay
1999: F. Scott Fitzgerald
1998: Theodore Roethke and William Dean Howells
1997: Louise Bogan and E. E. Cummings
1996: Langston Hughes, Ernest Hemingway, and John Greenleaf Whittier
1995: William Cullen Bryant and Elizabeth Bishop
1994: Hart Crane and Anne Bradstreet
1993: Stephen Crane and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
1992: William Carlos Williams and Edith Wharton
1991: Marianne Moore and Edwin Arlington Robinson
1990: Thomas Stearns (T. S.) Eliot and Willa Cather
1989: Wallace Stevens and William Faulkner
1988: Henry David Thoreau and Henry James
1987: Ralph Waldo Emerson and Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
1986: Robert Frost and Nathaniel Hawthorne
1985: Herman Melville and Edgar Allan Poe
1984: Emily Dickinson, Washington Irving, and Walt Whitman