Meeting Notes 8.5.09


Meeting Held by Conference Call: 3:00 – 4:00 pm CDT

Meeting Summary

The working group of the Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute’s inaugural Poetry and New Media project convened for the seventh time by conference call. Katharine Coles opened the meeting with a discussion about the pros and cons of providing detailed examples in the working group’s final report. Several contemporary poetry scholars had offered to speak about their experiences in trying to obtain poetry permissions for books. These conversations were planned for the near future.

The group decided to give the Poetry and New Media project final report a shorter, more practical title: “Poetry & New Media: A User’s Guide.” It then recommended that the report be revised to 1) enumerate questions people should ask/answer about literary estate planning, 2) add tools, perhaps in an online version of the document, to aid schools in using it as a source when shaping decisions about fair-use/copyright policies and curricular reform, and 3) include online clickable buttons to take readers to specific sections of interest. Additionally, the group raised specific questions, such as 1) how might a person dedicate work to the public domain, 2) what the current (though fluctuating) range of e-book royalty percentages is, and 3) what the benefits of registering a copyright are.

The group revisited the idea of including sample wills that address literary matters. While the group wished to provide actual examples of wills, members with legal expertise expressed concern that, since estate law differs from state to state, no templates would be relevant and useful for all poets. In addition, websites and templates providing general information about wills tend not to anticipate intellectual property and copyright law matters.

K. Coles asked the group whether the report properly balanced the specificity of the first section on legal and business issues with the more hortatory second section on creating lifelong opportunities for engagement with poetry. The group wanted to preserve the spirit of the second section but agreed that it should be cut and focused. Overall, members agreed that this document represented the group’s efforts for the past months. K. Coles said that her next steps would be to 1) condense the second section, 2) talk to community members about the document, 3) work with J. Urban and M. Youn on legal questions, 4) line-edit the document, 5) start to work on document design, and 6) confirm the 2010 AWP panel on the findings.

The meeting closed with a conversation about gatekeeping, both as it relates to the recommendations in the document and as it occurs within the poetry community and the universe of actual or potential poetry readers. In particular, the group noted the tension between its desire for poetry to be widely available in society and on the web for people to discover on their own, and its recognition that people may naturally and even properly look to gatekeepers to help them find poetry that might be relevant for them.

The group acknowledged that the question of gatekeeping is relevant to the document’s recommendation that the poetry community create a guide to help teachers and interested readers connect with poetry. One group member liked the idea that teachers or readers may someday be able to go online to create a packet of readings for students along with accompanying information related to the poems. Another member suggested that such a tool might be useful to some K–12 teachers, who might not know where to look for authoritative sources for contemporary poems, but less useful for post–high school teachers. Still another member noted that master’s-degree students or others teaching poetry for the first time might also be interested in such a resource. The group reemphasized the need for any group brought together to create such a guide to be broadly representative and collaborative, and for the guide to allow teachers and other people to pick and choose according to their own needs. The group also noted that such an online tool might allow for constant, real-time updating, unlike paper anthologies.


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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