Mission & History

Poetry is vital to language and living.

Copper Canyon Press publishes extraordinary poetry from around the world to engage the imaginations and intellects of readers.

Since 1972, the Press has published poetry exclusively and has established an international reputation for its commitment to authors, editorial acumen, and dedication to the poetry audience.

Copper Canyon Press publishes new collections of poetry by both revered and emerging American poets, translations of classical and contemporary work from many of the world’s cultures, re-issues of out-of-print poetry classics, anthologies, and prose books about poetry.

Copper Canyon has published over 400 titles, including works by Nobel Laureates Pablo Neruda, Odysseas Elytis, Octavio Paz, Vicente Aleixandre, and Rabindranath Tagore; Pulitzer Prize-winners Ted Kooser, Carolyn Kizer, Maxine Kumin, W.S. Merwin, Theodore Roethke, and Jericho Brown; National Book Award-winners Hayden Carruth, Lucille Clifton, Ruth Stone, and Arthur Sze; and some of the most original contemporary poets and translators such as Jim Harrison, C.D. Wright, Red Pine, Norman Dubie, Arthur Sze, Lucia Perillo, Ocean Vuong, Jericho Brown, and many others.

Like many arts organizations, Copper Canyon Press was launched with abundant passion and vision by a few dedicated individuals. Sam Hamill, Tree Swenson, and other associates founded Copper Canyon Press in Denver, Colorado after relocating from the University of California at Santa Barbara, where they had received an award for the best college literary magazine in the nation. Using the $500 prize money, the friends bought printing equipment in 1972 and began work on the first book, which came out in 1973.

In 1974, the founders moved Copper Canyon Press to Port Townsend, Washington, where it established a permanent residency with Centrum, a nonprofit arts agency, at Fort Worden State Park. In its early years in Port Townsend, the Press issued mostly small editions, providing broader distribution for the work of new and well established writers. In 1983, the Press suspended the publication of the handbound, letterpressed limited editions in order to concentrate fully on producing and marketing trade books that would maintain the highest possible standards of typography and design. In 1990, Copper Canyon became a 501(c)3 nonprofit, created a Board of Directors, and began receiving financial support from individuals and foundations.

After decades serving Seattle through readings, events, and book distribution, Copper Canyon Press opened a second office in Pioneer Square to allow for deeper involvement in the city’s thriving literary community. Many of our Board members, staff, readers, authors and community partners call Seattle home, and we regularly co-sponsor events with other literary organizations including Seattle Arts and Lectures, Richard Hugo House, and bookstores including The Elliott Bay Book Company and Open Books.

Over the past twenty years, the Press has developed an active fundraising program, and approximately fifty percent of annual revenues are contributed. Major support has come from Lannan Foundation, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Washington State Arts Commission, Humanities Washington, the Breneman Jaech Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Lila Wallace / Reader’s Digest Fund, the Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, and the Starbucks Foundation. The Press is also supported by hundreds of individual donors from fifty states.

Because of this community, Copper Canyon Press has thrived for over forty years.

Please join us.