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October 08, 2004

Poetry Foundation Uses Megawealth to Emulate Corporate Bloat

by Ron Hogan

Six months ago, when NYT reporter Stephen Kinzer checked in with the Poetry Foundation, they will still figuring out what to do with their $100 million bequest. Apparently, they decided to start by throwing a party and handing out prizes. "West Village bohemian" Samuel Menashe has his Neglected Master status salved by a $50,000 award, while former poet laureate Billy Collins gets $25,000 for the Mark Twain Award for humorous verse.

I'm all for cash prizes, but somewhat skeptical about the plans also being laid for a national poetry bee for high school students and "the biggest and baddest Web site for poetry out there," which no doubt has the folks at Poetry Daily either quaking in their boots or planning how to spend their buyout dividends. But wait, it gets better: the foundation will spend a year and who knows how much money conducting a survey on "American attitudes about poetry," which is supposed to be some sort of "reality check." And they're taking on a staff member whose sole responsiblity will be to call non-poetry magazines and ask them if they'd please run some poems, pretty please. This supernumerary should thank his or her lucky stars not to be working on commission and keep cashing the paychecks until the position gets eliminated in the eventual audit.

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