Erin Lyndal Martin’s Response to the Anonymous Letter Addressed to Sandra Simonds in Response to Her Open Letter to The Poetry Foundation
Dear Buzz Poet,
One basic fact missing from your letter is that you seem to forget that poetry is work: “The difference between poets and the general public is that some of us, like you, Sandra, are fortunate enough to have an audience and a platform to reach them. In today’s rocky economic climate, one governed by debt and political deficit, I do not think it is in the best interest of your audience or the poetry community to model such irresponsible behavior in asking for a financial handout from the Poetry Foundation to support the poets you hold in such romanticized esteem.” Simonds has an audience and platform, mostly from within the literary community, because she has worked hard to build those connections through her work and social networking. Much of the work associated with poetry is thankless and unpaid; Simonds’ audience includes many of her peers who face her same financial reality. They may put in hours editing literary magazines that don’t make a profit, or they may write countless unpaid book reviews in an attempt to garner support and audiences for other poets. They publicize and promote poetry. Is it, indeed, a “handout” when one is asking to receive support from a foundation for forwarding the same work as that foundation? The Poetry Foundation’s website says that they are “committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture.” Is Simonds, who writes, teaches, and reviews contemporary poetry not furthering the same agenda?
One question that lingers for many poets who founder without the support of the Poetry Foundation or similar arts organizations is what those organizations do with their money if not support poets. In President John Barr’s 2011 Year-in-Review letter posted on the foundation’s website (no similar letter for 2012 seems to be available), Barr is directly evasive: “Not all of the ‘hard metal’ that nurtures and contains the poetic energy at the Foundation is visible to the naked eye. The strategic plan, the annual forty-page operating budget, managing the endowment.” So why not make it visible to the naked eye? Why not publish the budget or the strategic plan? And why is the latest Audited Financial Statement READ MORE >