Meeting Notes 5.1.09


Meeting Held by Conference Call: 12:30 - 1:30 pm CDT

Meeting Summary

The working group of the Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute’s inaugural Poetry and New Media project convened for the fourth time by conference call. Katharine Coles expressed her delight with the progress made at the 4.15.09 meeting in Cambridge, MA, and the resulting approach to a recommendations document organized around varying types of access. K. Coles asked those on the call to think beyond the legal barriers to distributing poetry in new media, such as copyright and fair use, and invited them to discuss other types of barriers such as location, economics, race, ethnicity, gender, class, disability, age, language, culture, and education.

A group member observed that often rights-holders do not respond to requests for permission in a timely manner. Members made various recommendations related to this common occurrence, including the idea that granting permissions might, in some cases, generate money for the rights-holder; the idea that reflexively valuing money over access to poetry might not be in the best interest of many poems, poets, or rights-holders; the idea that rights-holders may save costs on permissions over time if an efficient process for approving requests is created; and the possibility of creating a poetry rights clearinghouse.

The group went on to discuss various barriers to access to poetry, including the inability to receive broadband services in some rural areas; libraries reducing hours of operation or offering materials only in English because of economic cutbacks; the lack of freely available updated poetry curricula for teachers, including rationale for teaching diverse canonical and living poets and poems; the lack of poetry readings and events in smaller or inner-city communities; the link between age and abilities in accessing information available through newer technologies; and obstacles associated with disabilities, both physical and learning, in accessing poetry. In response to a question from K. Coles about the most important barriers to access, a group member then observed that disparities in economics and/or education were central to almost all of the non-legal barriers to accessing poetry. At this point, the group decided to refocus this portion of the document to concentrate on education and economics as the most important barriers to access.

The group then turned to a broader discussion of education, pointing out that education cuts in both directions, and that it is as important to educate potential advocates for poetry, such as teachers, government officials, poets, and publishers, about the importance of championing access, as it is to revise classroom curricula. The group spoke about the need to create, or inspire others to create, documents that provide legislators, teachers, and interested parties with useful tools to help them understand why access to poetry is critical and to affirm decisions that will help remove barriers to access.

The meeting was adjourned with a few housekeeping notes and the possibility of conducting the next working group conference call the week of May 17, 2009.


The Poetry and New Media project’s working document reports and meeting summaries reflect a process to collect information, consider ideas and develop recommendations in preparation of a final report. Because the new media environment is ever-changing, some of the assumptions discussed early on became outdated or were seen as no longer relevant as process progressed and new information was considered. Thus, the materials presented here must be considered working, in-process documents which are provided only so that those interested in understanding the approach and interim discussions of the working groups can have a look inside those deliberations. As you read them, please consider them to represent an evolution of a free-flowing conversation about a timely topic and not as substitutes for the final report and the recommendations it contains.

The various views presented herein are not necessarily the views of the Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute or the Poetry Foundation. We look forward to sharing the working group’s final report in early 2010.

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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