Wednesday, February 14, 2007

What would you do with $200,000,000 for poetry?

What can two hundred million dollars do for poetry?
Issue of 2007-02-19
Posted 2007-02-12

Michael Lewis, a journalist and the author of “Liar’s Poker” and “Moneyball,” appeared in the magazine Poetry for the first time in the summer of 2005, with a satirical piece called “How to Make a Killing from Poetry: A Six Point Plan of Attack.” It offered its advice in bullet-point businessese: “1) Think Positive. Nobody likes a whiner. And poets always seem to be harping on the negative. . . . 2) Take Your New Positive Attitude and Direct It Towards the Paying Customer. The customer is your friend. Your typical poem really doesn’t seem to pay much attention to the living retail customer. . . . 3) Think About Your Core Message. Your average reader might like a bit of fancy writing, but at the end of the day he will always ask himself: what’s my takeaway?” So it was slightly odd, and unintentionally comical, when, last September, Poetry published a manifesto, “American Poetry in the New Century,” recapitulating Lewis’s lampoon as a serious position. The author was John Barr, a former Wall Street executive and the president of the Poetry Foundation, an entity created after the Indianapolis heiress Ruth Lilly gave some two hundred million dollars to Poetry, in 2002. The foundation, which “exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience,” also publishes the magazine.

Read the rest here.

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