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Poetry Foundation

Coordinates: 41°53′43.8″N 87°37′47.9″W / 41.895500°N 87.629972°W / 41.895500; -87.629972
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Poetry Foundation
FoundedJanuary 1, 2003 (2003-January-01)
TypeIndependent literary organization
Coordinates41°53′43.8″N 87°37′47.9″W / 41.895500°N 87.629972°W / 41.895500; -87.629972
ServicesPublication; conferences; library
Key people
Michelle Boone, President
Formerly called
Modern Poetry Association

The Poetry Foundation is a United States literary society that seeks to promote poetry and lyricism in the wider culture. It was formed from Poetry magazine, which it continues to publish, with a 2003 gift of $200 million from philanthropist Ruth Lilly.[1]

Its mission, which was updated in 2022, is "to amplify poetry and celebrate poets by fostering spaces for all to create, experience, and share poetry."[2] In partial furtherance of this objective, the foundation runs a blog called Harriet.[3] Poets who have blogged at Harriet on behalf of The Poetry Foundation include Christian Bök, Stephanie Burt, Wanda Coleman, Kwame Dawes, Linh Dinh, Camille Dungy, Annie Finch, Forrest Gander, Rigoberto González, Cathy Park Hong, Bhanu Kapil, Ange Mlinko, Eileen Myles, Craig Santos Perez, A.E. Stallings, Edwin Torres, and Patricia Smith. In addition, the foundation provides several awards for poets and poetry. It also hosts free workshops, readings, exhibitions, and is home to a 30,000-volume poetry library.

The Poetry Foundation is a non-profit, charitable, 501(c)(3) organization.[4]


The foundation is the successor to the Modern Poetry Association (previous publisher of Poetry magazine), which was founded in 1941.[2] The magazine, itself, was established in 1912 by Harriet Monroe. Monroe was its first publisher and editor until her death in 1936. The Poetry Foundation is one of the largest literary foundations in the world.[2]

Poetry Foundation Library and courtyard

In 2003, Poetry magazine received a bequest from the estate of Ruth Lilly originally said to be worth over $100 million, but which grew to be about $200 million when it was given out.[5]

The magazine learned in 2001 that it would be receiving the bequest. Before announcing the gift, the magazine waited a year and reconfigured its governing board, which had been concerned with fundraising. The foundation was created, and Joseph Parisi, who had been editor of the magazine for two decades, volunteered to head the new organization. Christian Wiman succeeded to the editorship in 2003. Parisi resigned from the foundation after a few months.[5]

The new board used a recruiting agency to find John Barr, a former executive and published poet, to head the foundation.[5] Robert Polito, the poet and critic who founded and directed the graduate writing program at the New School, succeeded Barr in 2013 and served until 2015. In December, 2015, Henry S. Bienen, President Emeritus of Northwestern University was named president.[6][7] Bienen served as the president of the Poetry Foundation from December 2015 until his resignation on June 10, 2020, following criticism of the foundation's support for marginalized artists. In April 2021, the foundation named former Chicago commissioner for cultural affairs, Michelle T. Boone, as its new president.[8]

Poetry Foundation building[edit]

Part of the Lilly bequest was used to build the Poetry Foundation's building in Near North Side, Chicago. The building, designed by John Ronan, opened in 2011. It houses a poetry library, reading spaces, and free events, all open to the public, and provides office and editorial space for the Poetry Foundation and Poetry magazine staff.[9]



In 2022, the Poetry Foundation instituted a new grants program]with an initial commitment of $9 million over the first three years. The grants program is part of the Foundation's commitment to more robustly support the field of poetry and the literary arts in ways that are both more equitable and transparent.


The Poetry Foundation hosts a schedule of poetry events that are open to the public, free of charge, and often available in-person and via livestream. Events include poetry readings, writing workshops artist collaborations, and exhibitions.


The 30,000-volume library presents a wide selection of modern and contemporary poetry in English or translation. It includes original author works and rare volumes. It also includes representative samples of earlier eras, and includes a 3000-volume children's section. In addition to the reading room, there are listening booths for poet audio recordings and broadcasts related to poetry and interactive displays. It is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday.

Poetry Out Loud Competition[edit]

The Poetry Out Loud recitation competition was created in 2006 by the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts to increase awareness of poetry through performance and competition. It engages high school students in public speaking and the literature and performance of poetry. Poetry Out Loud offers more than $105,000 in prizes and school stipends each year.


The foundation's awards seek to promote and bring recognition to poets and poetry. The Pegasus Awards are a series of awards to poets and poetic forms (the winged horse, Pegasus, was used to illustrate the early magazine covers, and is part of the foundation and magazine’s branding). They are generally given annually. The Young People's Poet Laureate (formerly the Children's Poet Laureate) is a two-year appointment to an author of children's poetry. The Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize is an annual award given for lifetime achievement in poetry to U.S. poets. The Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism is an annual award that seeks to honor an outstanding book-length work of criticism published in the U.S. in the prior calendar year. The Pegasus Award for Service in Poetry, which was established in 2023, is bestowed in recognition of commitment and extraordinary work in poetry and the literary arts through administration, advocacy, education, publishing, or service. The Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships are awarded to five aspiring U.S. poets to support study and writing. The Emily Dickinson First Book Award was an award that recognized an American poet, not under the age of 40, who had not yet published a poetry collection in book form; Kristen Tracy won the 2017 award, consisting of $10,000 and publication and promotion of her collection Half-Hazard by Graywolf Press.

Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute[edit]

The Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute provides an independent forum to convene discussions about poetry. Poets, scholars, educators and others are invited to share ideas about the intellectual and practical needs of the poetry form, and to generate solutions to benefit the art.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fisher, Daniel (17 January 2011). "No Rhyme Or Reason". Forbes Magazine: 30.
  2. ^ a b c "About Us: History and Mission". The Poetry Foundation. poetryfoundation.org. Retrieved 14 August 2017.
  3. ^ "Harriet Blog". Poetry Foundation. poetryfoundation.org. Retrieved 14 August 2017.
  4. ^ "About Us: Financial Information". The Poetry Foundation. poetryfoundation.org. Retrieved 14 August 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Goodyear, Dana (February 19, 2007). "The Moneyed Muse: What can two hundred million dollars do for poetry?". The New Yorker. Condé Naste. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  6. ^ "Poetry Foundation Names Henry S. Bienen President" (Press release). Poetry Foundation. December 10, 2015. Archived from the original on 2016-01-07. Retrieved 2015-12-31.
  7. ^ "LIT 50 2017". Newcity Lit. 25 May 2017.
  8. ^ Day, Jennifer (2021-04-28). "Poetry Foundation names Michelle T. Boone president following controversies". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2021-04-29.
  9. ^ Kamin, Blair (2011-06-24). "Much more than a one-liner". Cityscapes. Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 2011-06-25. Retrieved June 24, 2011.

External links[edit]