Foundation News

Commitment to Our Community Update: Progress Toward Equity, Inclusion, and Transformation

Foundation Updates

The Poetry Foundation made a public Commitment to the Community in 2020 to transform into an organization that better reflects, respects, and represents the poetry ecosystem. Since that Commitment, the Foundation has worked continuously to become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive in its programming, services, staffing, board members, and engagement with communities of poets and artists who are central to its work.

The Foundation recognizes the significant role it plays and the space it takes up in the literary landscape as it pursues its mission to celebrate and share poetry widely. Periodic updates on the Foundation’s progress are part of the Commitment to the Community, reflecting an increase in transparency; this update provides a recap of the Foundation’s work since the One-Year Commitment anniversary.

Key updates include: 

  • The Poetry Foundation will launch a new grantmaking strategy in 2022 that will distribute $9 million over three years to support:  
    • Continued funding to literary and poetry organizations impacted by the pandemic
    • Building the capacity of BIPOC-led literary, publishing, and poetry organizations, management, and programs
    • Cultivating and engaging new, diverse audiences for poetry
    • Fostering new collaborations and partnerships, as well as innovation and new technologies in the field
  • The Poetry Foundation, in partnership with Lord Cultural Resources, has launched the process for a new Strategic Plan, the Foundation’s first since 2006
  • The launch of the nationwide search for a new editor of Poetry magazine
  • Increased diversity in leadership and staffing with new promotions and hires
  • Other significant announcements that were shared in July and September


Changes in Foundation Grantmaking
The Poetry Foundation is a private operating foundation, meaning it is a non-profit organization that devotes most of its resources to programs that serve the public; grantmaking, by regulation, is not one of those programs, and so is only one facet of the Foundation's work as a charitable organization. That said, the Foundation recognizes the importance of grants funding in the arts, and has been reimagining how it can serve the poetry ecosystem in sustainable ways.

The Poetry Foundation pledges to distribute $9 million in grants over the next three years as part of its continued evolution, focusing on ongoing support and new efforts.


Renewal and Recovery
As part of its commitment and in support of poetry and affiliated arts organizations struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Poetry Foundation distributed $2 million in emergency funding June 2020 and September 2021, doubling its initial commitment amount in half the time originally stated.

Emergency funding, while crucial in times of crisis, is not a sustainable model. Organizations who received emergency grants from the Poetry Foundation will be eligible to apply to the Renewal and Recovery program in 2022. One million dollars will be allocated to support Renewal and Recovery grants.

Equity in Verse
Equity in Verse is a new grantmaking initiative born from the community letter requesting that the Foundation examine its historic cultural debt to poets of color, and Black poets in particular. This program will support creative communities by investing to increase the capacity and sustainability of literary organizations run by and for people of color. Funding will also be available to publishers and printing companies of color, and those publishing significant works by poets of color.

The Poetry Foundation acknowledges that the art, ideas, and labor of BIPOC people are integral to its work and to poetry as an art form, and that those contributions have gone underrecognized. Honoring the legacy of past BIPOC poets and making space for living and future poets are key to the Foundation’s evolution. One million dollars will be allocated to support this initiative in 2022, with plans for funding to increase in 2023 and 2024.

Internal Capacity Enhancements
In keeping with its commitment to accountability and transparency, the Poetry Foundation will hire a full-time Grants Management Associate. The associate will manage the grant applications and establish an external peer review panel process. The Foundation envisions this structured process as one that will help clarify and demystify how decisions are made regarding the awarding of grants.

Details on the application and reporting processes for the above grantmaking programs will be released in 2022, pending the hiring of the Grants Management Associate.


Strategic Plan
Working with Lord Cultural Resources, a global practice leader in cultural sector planning dedicated to making the world a better place through culture, the Poetry Foundation is embarking on a strategic planning process to set the future direction of the organization. This commitment is one of many steps the Foundation is taking to better serve poets and audiences in a more equitable manner. The process will entail several touchpoints, including analysis, research, assessments, planning workshops, and the development of a strategic plan.

Additional information on the strategic planning process, including opportunities for feedback from the public, will be shared in 2022.


Personnel Changes
The Poetry Foundation is pleased to announce that long-time staff members Ydalmi Noriega and Fred Sasaki have been promoted; they are now the Vice President of Programs and Engagement, and Creative Director, respectively. In addition, new team members at the Foundation include Moyo Abiona (Media Assistant), Hannah Doherty (Executive Assistant to the President and Board Liaison), Lawrence T. Mangan (Vice President of Finance and Administration), and Marilynn Rubio (Director of Strategic Initiatives & Special Projects.) 

In continuing its Commitment, Poetry magazine welcomed several poets as guest editors; the guest editor role provides meaningful opportunities for poets to collaborate with each other, and for the Poetry staff to produce monthly issues of the magazine. 2021 saw beautiful issues guest edited by Ashley M. Jones, Su Cho, and Suzi F. Garcia, who will also edit the January and February 2022 issues. Srikanth “Chicu” Reddy and Esther G. Belin will guest edit later issues in 2022 as the magazine continues its search for a new full-time editor.

More opportunities will be open in January 2022; details will be shared on the Poetry Foundation website as they become available.

The Road Ahead to Transformation
The Poetry Foundation has made impactful and positive progress throughout the past two years, and the road ahead is an opportunity to do even more to be of service to poets, writers, artists, and communities. Listening to better understand the needs of this ever-evolving poetry ecosystem will help the Foundation make better decisions and help guide its transformation on the road ahead.

Ongoing key priorities include:

  • Completing and implementing of the above mentioned strategic planning process
  • Rolling out the new grantmaking approach and processes
  • Hiring a new Poetry editor or editors
  • Updating and reopening the Poetry Foundation building with poets and communities at the center
  • Studying and implementing learnings from resources related to accessibility, antiracism, and best practices in editorial, digital, and programmatic spaces
  • Continuing to provide ongoing updates on organizational progress throughout this process on a biannual basis 
  • Identifying new meaningful ways for poets to have a stronger voice and role at the Foundation 


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Originally Published: December 16th, 2021