“In the huge democracy of our age,” said Monroe, “no interest is too slight to have an organ. Every sport, every little industry requires its own corner, its own voice that it may find friends, greet them, welcome them.”
In 2002, Ruth Lilly, then 87, gave $100 million over 30 years to establish The Poetry Foundation which has since published the magazine, a gift that made many gasp since the magazine had often teetered on the edge of a financial cliff. Among other things, the gift was spent on the erection of a $21.5 million building that some have called the “poetry palace.”
Sign up for our free newsletter
Subscribe to the NPQ newsletter to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.
Lilly had submitted her own poetry to the magazine and been rejected on a number of occasions but apparently did not take it personally. Of course, she was up against some serious competition, since the magazine has published T. S. Eliot, Carl Sandburg, Dylan Thomas, Robert Frost, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, John Ashbery and Wallace Stevens, among others. Lilly had made a number of previous donations, including providing an endowment for a prize named for her.
In this interview, listen to a radio discussion of some of the ways in which the money was spent, the effect on the organization, and the current place of poetry in our lives. –Ruth McCambridge