Poetry magazine started in Chicago in 1912, and during the ensuing century, the magazine’s history and the history of American poetry often were joined at the hip. It published an unknown T.S. Eliot, gave early support to Langston Hughes, discovered Wallace Stevens, James Merrill, Gwendolyn Brooks. What Poetry rarely had was a history of picking fights, rising blood pressures or heated controversies.
Until the money arrived.
In 2002, Ruth Lilly, an heir to a fortune built by Indianapolis pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, donated $200 million to Poetry magazine, which then had a modest circulation of 10,000 and annual budget of $700,000. "I was one of those people in an arts organization who thought, ‘Wow,’" said Tree Swenson, executive director of the New York-based Academy of American Poets. "That’s a lot of cash for one group. So out of proportion to the scale of the magazine. In one swoop, it basically made them the largest poetry organization in the country."
To administer the gift, the magazine set up the nonprofit Poetry Foundation and created a raft of initiatives to promote poetry. Today, the foundation has a budget of more than $6 million. The magazine gets $1.5 million a year, and $2.2 million goes to educational programs. Poetry’s website alone receives a hefty $1.2 million, a point of contention in literary circles. Then there’s $1.3 million for administrative costs, including salaries for the 20-person staff. "We have a guideline that forces us to never spend more than 5 percent (annually) of the total market value of the endowment," said John Barr, president of the Poetry Foundation.
"But poetry is not a moneymaker," he added. "And so the grand experiment here was to throw money into this art form that had no history of making money and see if poetry would be OK at the end of the day."
The answer is complicated.
You have no idea how much I hate the phrase “Those People” when referring to the homeless and the poor… or anyone actually. I find it so incredibly offensive, especially when used by Christians and church leaders I know because it’s so theologically vulgar and yet I hear it all of the time.
This poem by Julia Dinsmore articulates my dislike for the phrase better than I ever will be able to. We are in this together.