The Poetry Foundation’s mission is to discover, celebrate, and promote poetry and to raise it to play a more influential as well as visible role in our culture. The foundation aims to lead the way in cultivating a receptive climate for poetry through various initiatives.
The Poetry Foundation operates across the globe from a website and hosts various events in the United States.
The Poetry Foundation supports causes that shape a more receptive climate for poetry through initiatives that:
- Develop new audiences interested in poetry
- Encourage the development of new types of poetry
- Create new avenues through which poetry may be delivered
The Poetry Foundation backs projects that encourage adults and children to explore and enjoy poetry.
- Awards – With the goal of promoting poets, the foundation launched the Pegasus Awards through which under-recognized poets are given the opportunity to receive awards. The Young People’s Poet Laureate provides a two-year appointment to a children’s poetry author. The Ruth Lilly Prize is awarded to American poets for achievements, and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship is given to aspiring American poets to assist with studying and writing.
- The Poetry Center – The organization funded the construction of the Poetry Center in Chicago, which was opened in 2011. The center is home to a public library and offers services like reading areas, editorial and office space for the foundation as well as Poetry Magazine, and tours for schools and other groups.
- The Poetry Foundation Website – One of the most active projects by The Poetry Foundation is the organization’s website. The site features an archive that contains thousands of poems and information about poets. It also contains podcasts, articles, video and audio recordings, educational material, and information about events and poetry tours.
- Harriet – The Poetry Foundation website is also home to “Harriet,” a project in the form of a blog that features monthly posts and poetry-related news features.
- Events – Events such as readings and lectures, poetry performances, screenings, celebrations, workshops, and discussions are regularly held. The foundation also hosts Kids and Ya events. Aimed at children aged between two and five, these events involve a weekly “story time” held at the library.
- Poetry Magazine – The oldest monthly magazine dedicated to poetry in English.
The Foundation's History
The Poetry Foundation was originally known as the Modern Poetry Association, which also previously published Poetry Magazine. In 2003, the organization evolved and adopted its new name after philanthropist and poetry enthusiast Ruth Lilly made a substantial contribution of around $200 million. The foundation was initially managed by Joseph Parisi, who was the magazine’s editor for over 20 years. After a few months, Parisi resigned and published poet and former executive John Barr was recruited to head the foundation. In 2013, the respected poet Robert Polito succeeded Barr and in 2015, Henry S. Bienen, previously the president of Northwestern University took over.