In 1973, The University of Arkansas’s Poetry in the Schools (PITS) program was created by MFA student John Biguenet and Professor James Whitehead. PITS grew rapidly while remaining steadfast in its mission of bringing creative writing to young people across Arkansas. In 1989, PITS changed its name to the sharper, more optimistic, and more inclusive WITS (Writers in the Schools). Every year since 1973, graduate students in the University of Arkansas MFA Program in Creative Writing and Translation have visited public and private elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and juvenile detention centers throughout Arkansas, teaching in pairs and conducting 2-day creative writing workshops.
Since its inception, WITS has conducted a total of 1920 2-day workshops, visiting 746 unique schools & institutions in 264 towns & cities across the state of Arkansas. During the 2015 – 2016 schoolyear, WITS visited 35 schools and served approximately 4500 Arkansas students, ranging from grade 3 to grade 12.
Every school year, an anthology featuring student poetry is published the subsequent fall. Our archives date back to the 1973 – 1974 schoolyear, and the printed anthology from every year (with the exception of this one) is available to read online or download. Today, every student whose work is published (as well as his or her school) receives a complementary copy of the WITS anthology.
In 2013, we began publishing additional student poems on our website. WITS Magazine, an online poetry magazine, was founded in 2015 by former program director Megan Downey. WITS Magazine is updated once a month (September – May) and features student work from recent visits. Today, Professor Geoffrey Brock serves as the WITS faculty adviser, and MFA student Elizabeth DeMeo serves as program director.