Meeting Notes 6.10.09


Meeting Held by Conference Call: 3:30 – 4:30 pm CDT

Meeting Summary

The working group of the Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute’s inaugural Poetry and New Media project convened for the sixth time by conference call. The meeting opened with discussion of the revised draft of the “Educational Barriers to Access to Poetry and Suggestions for Overcoming These Barriers” section of the working group’s developing document, “The Case for Expanding Access to Poetry across New and Existing Media: Recommendations, with an Eye toward Best Practices.” The group was pleased with the draft and quickly turned their attention to actionable recommendations. It was acknowledged that this working group and the Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute do not have either the mandate or the ability to fulfill the actionable items themselves. Given this, the group discussed ways to encourage and support the poetry community as a whole to take action on the document’s recommendations. The group talked about various organizations that might be interested in collaborating on implementing the recommendations to create a poetry community legacy beyond the working group’s document. The group went on to consider the idea of convening interested parties to discuss the recommendations and create structures for implementation either at AWP or elsewhere.

Katharine Coles then turned the working group’s attention to the economic considerations that the group had raised in relation to expanding access to poetry. The group suggested augmenting conventional ways of thinking about economics by expanding the term “value” to include non-economic values, including aesthetic and cultural values or values that may be specific to a person, a field, or an approach. For example, it was noted that an academic might value the opportunity to add a prestigious vita entry more highly than a $100 check. The group used this opportunity to explore the ways in which the discussion of value in the document’s education section might intersect with that in the legal, copyright, and fair use section. K. Coles referred back to the gift economy as described by Lewis Hyde in The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World. The group members agreed that they had reached consensus about how to handle economic language for the final document. Noting that the best way to think about revision is to think about action, the group eagerly returned to the discussion about how to implement its recommendations.

K. Coles reviewed the discussion and drafting process to this point, reminding the group that while this meeting had focused on education and economics, the project document as a whole is about access, and that it had originally stemmed from the group’s thinking about poetry and new media and the opportunity provided by the rise of new media to rethink the ways in which access to poetry is created. The working group acknowledged that many other organizations and individuals have long been thinking about and working on the different ideas and concerns contained in the draft documents, and that this group should work to cultivate collaborative relationships and learn from what has gone before, while at the same time honoring the effectiveness of the individual efforts and inspiring work that has been and is being done. The group observed that, given the size and scope of the draft document, one group might not be able to undertake all or even many of its recommendations, but groups coming together could. Group members decided to reach out to people in their communities to gather stories of regional and local efforts. The group generated a list of possible organizations to contact, including those that serve poetry and poets, librarians, technology interests, publishers, and educators. In particular, the group emphasized the importance of tapping into the experiences of teachers with poets and poetry and vice versa, and bringing those experiences to the education section of the document. The group then generated a list of questions for working group members to ask in their individual communities, paying particular attention to the recommendation that poetry organizations work together, in consultation with educators, to develop and make available a modular K–12 poetry curriculum that could be continuously refreshed for interested teachers. The meeting concluded with the idea that the working group’s next action, after creating the case for an access document, might be to hand off the recommendations to a body made up of varying organizations to strengthen their individual actions through collaboration.


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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