Etheridge Knight (1931 – 1991) lived in Worcester and hosted his Free People’s Poetry Workshops for part of his life. These workshops were free and were open to anyone who wished to attend. Those who wanted to learn bought Knight drinks throughout the night, and in return, he would look over their poetry and offer advice. Apocryphally, Knight explained that if someone ís reading poetry and can stop a drunk man with a bladder full of beer on his way to the bathroom, you know it ís a good poem. A version of the Free People’s Workshop continues today with artists, poets, musicians, dramatists, and others meeting to discuss and share their work.
In September 2018, the WCPA honored Knight by renaming the performance portion of the WCPA’s Annual College Poetry Contest. The “Etheridge Knight Performance Prize” is awarded to a single individual each year and includes a cash prize. College and universities in central Massachusetts chose a participant to represent the school at the event. Craig Blais of Anna Maria College is chairing the contest again this year.
You can find additional information about Etheridge Knight in the Literary Tour section of our website.