Poetry Institutions Although poetry

institutions have existed since the early 20th century, with the advent of writing programs in American universities, these institutions have greatly proliferated, becoming crucial for readers to decide which poets are important. The need for such institutional guidance has grown as poetry itself has fragmented into disparate schools and subcultures. As Dana GIOIA states in his seminal essay "Can Poetry Matter?" (1991), "American poetry now belongs to a subculture. ... To maintain their activities, subcultures usually require institutions, since the general society does not share their interests" (96, 103). Gioia is referring largely to academic institutions, though other organizations devoted to poetry have also emerged, differentiated from schools of poetry (such as the imagist or the black mountain school) in this crucial aspect: While the schools are largely initiated and sustained by poets, poetry institutions include critics, poetry-readers, and even nonspecialists, thereby creating effects on a much broader social scale.

The nation's oldest poetry organization, the Poetry Society of America (PSA), was founded in 1910 and once counted among its members Robert frost, Langston hughes, Edna St. Vincent millay, Marianne moore, and Wallace stevens. Unlike other organizations with a more elitist agenda, the PSA has evolved to take the wide dissemination of verse as its purpose. one of its recent endeavors has been the creation of "Poetry in Motion," a campaign that mounts poems on posters in places of public transportation across the country, begun by Molly peacock in New York City. Another populist project, launched by Robert pinsky during his term as poet laureate of the United States, the Favorite Poem Project archives and promotes poetry's role in the lives of everyday Americans, irrespective of age, profession, ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic background.

The largest institution in the country dedicated to poetry is the Academy of American Poets, founded in 1934 by Marie Bullock. While the academy shares some of the breadth and scope of the PSA—having, for example, named April "National Poetry Month"—the organization exists more to support American poets at various stages of their careers. To that end the academy sponsors numerous contests, poetry readings, and poets' residencies, in addition to providing resources for poetry teachers, offering financial support to poetry publishers, and archiving text and audio recordings of established and emerging poets. The academy's pervasive sensibility over the years has been tilted toward lyrical and narrative poetry not very experimental in structure or disjunctive in voice. Nonetheless, as the most financially sufficient poetry institution in the country, it can be considered the most influential. It has a board of chancellors, composed of preeminent American poets in the latter stages of their career, and this board is responsible for conferring some of the country's largest literary awards. In 1998 two chancellors, Carolyn kizer and Maxine kumin, very publicly resigned to protest the absence of minorities on the board. A longstanding perception exists that the academy is an insular, elitist institution, a kind of old boys' club, and Kizer and Kumin's resignation called attention to the facts that there had never been an African-American chancellor and that the annual academy fellowship had been awarded disproportionately to white males of a certain generation. As a result of this protest, the composition of the board of chancellors has since become more heterogeneous; the 2003 board included Nathaniel mackey, Yusef komunyakaa, Michael palmer, and Susan HOWE.

There have been a number of alternatives to the mainstream poetics espoused both by the PSA and the Academy of American Poets. one such institution is the National Poetry Foundation (NPF), created in 1971 by Carroll Terrell, the foremost publisher of scholarly work on Ezra pound and the Pound tradition, including objectivist and, recently, language poetry, as well as an occasional book of verse. The NPF also hosts international conferences on modern poetry. Another nontraditional organization is the Naropa Institute in Colorado, which was founded by Buddhist scholar and artist Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche on principles that combine contemplative Eastern studies with traditional Western scholastic and artistic disciplines. Inaugurated as the Jack kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics by Allen GINSBERG and Anne waldman, Naropa offers academic degrees in poetics with an aesthetic model inseparable from the cultivation of mindfulness and awareness integral to Buddhist ideals of existence. Such principles as synchronicity of body and mind and the need to transcend egoism to arrive at ethical consciousness are thought to be applicable to living and to writing. The writers initially associated with Naropa were considered beats, and the kinds of poems produced there today are still influenced by Ginsberg, Waldman, Gregory corso, Diane di prima, and Lawrence ferlinghetti. Naropa also hosts readings and other nonacademic functions.

During the 1930s, Black Mountain College was formed out of a dispute over pedagogy and academic freedom. It did away with such bureaucrats as deans and provosts so that the locus of power resided with the faculty themselves. The school came to be known as a sanctuary for artists, musicians, and writers, both as teachers and students who participated in collective labor, maintenance work, food preparation, and so on. The poet Charles olson arrived to teach during the 1950s, and others, including Robert creeley and Robert duncan, followed. They were known as the black mountain school of poets, and while they and the other poets associated with the movement, such as Denise levertov and Edward dorn, wrote dissimilar kinds of poems, they shared a disdain for baroque, romanticized, end-rhymed poems, seeking instead to use plain-spoken diction to present a view of reality derived from science rather than religion. Though the college became defunct in 1956, its influence was felt deeply by a generation of American artists and writers.

Located in St. Mark's Church in New York City's East Village since 1966, the St. Mark's Poetry Project offers many diverse readings and writing workshops. As Jerome rothenberg relates, "The Poetry Project vortex circa 1967—to which I was witness—included Beat poets, new YORK school poets, San Francisco poets [see san francisco renaissance], Black Mountain poets, deep image poets, Midwest & Southwest region-als, Fluxus poets, Umbra poets & so on . . . even—in this unusually most generous of vortexes—academic poets." Demonstrating a commitment to live poetry events, the project offers biweekly readings, marathon readings, and audio archives, including a recording of the only known joint reading between Ginsberg and Robert lowell. Another institution dedicated to the preservation of live recordings is the san Francisco-based Poetry center and American Poetry Archives, which was founded in 1954 on the basis of a gift from W H. auden at San Francisco State University. After the Library of Congress, the center has the largest literary recording archives in the nation, including more than 2,000 original audio, video, and film recordings of poets reading their works. The center also has an extensive reading series.

The tradition of slam poetry began in chicago in 1986 (see poetry in performance), when Marc Smith began a poetry reading series at a jazz club, the Get Me High Lounge, which gave birth to a phenomenon in which performance is highlighted and judges from the audience assign numerical values to poets' performances. In 1999 Poetry Slam, Inc. (PSI) became a nonprofit organization that oversees an international coalition of poetry slams. Another poetry institution dedicated to slam is the New York-based Nuyorican Poets Café, where performers are often of Puerto Rican, Dominican, or African-American descent. Largely overlooked by academia, slam has created a pantheon of its own stars, who have appeared on such programs as HBO's Def Poetry Jam and on Broadway as Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam.

Poets House, cofounded in 1985 by Stanley kunitz, is best known for its vast poetry library, which is free and open to the public. Poets House has more than 40,000 volumes of books, journals, chapbooks, audio tapes, videos, and electronic media, and anyone can find haven in its New York office. Poets House also sponsors public programs, including panel discussions, seminars, readings, and lectures, in such venues as public parks and libraries. More than any other poetry institution, Poets House is dedicated to new poets, as evinced in its annual showcase where the year's new poetry books are gathered, exhibited, and eventually documented in the Directory of American Poetry Books, the most comprehensive bibliographic resource for contemporary poetry. Poets House has also forged a partnership with the American Library Association to help increase the presence of poetry in libraries nationwide. Generally Poets House offers a kinder, gentler community than other poetry organizations.

The 92nd Street Y in New York has a broad range of social and cultural programs, of which poetry is just one small part. The Y, started in the 1870s as the Young Men's Hebrew Association, is largely considered the most prestigious venue for a poet to read in in America and generally the kinds of poets who read here, such as Seamus Heaney and Derek walcott, are at the later stages of their careers. The part of the Y dedicated to poetry, the Unterberg Poetry Center, offers workshops and seminars. Along with the Nation magazine and other organizations too numerous to mention, the Y also sponsors an annual poetry contest for poets who have not yet published a book. Past winners of the "Discovery"/ Nation prize include Mary Jo salter, Mark strand, Gary soto, and Lucille clifton.

The Dodge Poetry Foundation, created in Madison, New Jersey, in 1987, emphasizes helping educators incorporate poetry into the classroom. The foundation is responsible for a biennial poetry festival that is the largest in the nation. Since it has such broad popular appeal and takes "getting poetry off the page" as its mantra, the poets who are celebrated in the festival are mainstream in form and sensibility. One of the most noteworthy poetry film documentaries, Bill Moyers's The Language of Life takes place at the Dodge Poetry Festival. This documentary consists of interviews of 18 poets, including Michael harper, Adrienne rich, Naomi

Shihab NYE, and Carolyn forche, and was subsequently broadcast on televison, giving poetry one of its largest audiences. Subsequent documentaries with Bill Moy-ers, such as The Power of the Word, Sounds of Poetry, and Rita dove, Poet Laureate, have been filmed in part at the Dodge Poetry Festival and later broadcast.

Finally, the Electronic Poetry Center (EPC) serves as a hub for resources in electronic poetry and poetics at the State University of New York, Buffalo, as well as on the Web at large. The ambitious goal of the EPC is to provide the widest possible range of resources centered on "digital and contemporary formally innovative poetics, new media writing, and literary programming" ("Intro"). These include curated lists of readings, interviews, audio files, and other digitally archived texts. The EPC also hosts periodic festivals in poetics, with an emphasis on the way the Internet is changing poetic modalities. This emphasis includes hypertext and multimedia, where the use of links, audio, image, and interactivity conspire to create new species of poems (see cyberpoetry).

One of the most vital aspects of the EPC is the Poetics Listserv, which is a virtually connected network of poets, the most active and prominent of a number of such electronic poets' communities. The poets who compose the listserv can send email of any variety, be it an announcement of publication, call for submissions, theoretical question, political statement, response to a prior posting, or simply their latest poem, and this email will reach every other member of the listserv. As a result, collaborations and dialogue have been generated among poets residing on other sides of the globe, who might otherwise had no opportunity to encounter each other. On any given day, some hundred-odd poets will post messages to the listserv.

Poetry institutions, in all their different manifestations, are integral to the formation of what is known as a canon in American poetry. From practioners of new formalism to Language poets, nearly every aesthetic school has an organization to help support and to proliferate its ends. The largest institution, however, remains academia, where a majority of poets work when they are not writing. It is not hyperbole to claim that without the sustenance of these institutions, poetry, as we know it, would not exist.

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