Poetry Foundation President Henry Bienen and Willard Bunn III, chair of its Board of Directors, have both resigned following heavy criticism from the poetry community over its response to ongoing anti-racist protests.
A June 6 open letter to the Poetry Foundation and Poetry Magazine, which called for Bienen’s resignation, said the foundation’s recent four-sentence statement on the protests was “worse than the bare minimum,” with signatories noting that they would not be submitting to or otherwise working with the organization until it made a meaningful commitment to addressing racism within the poetry community.
The letter called the organization’s current leadership “woefully unfit to respond to the crises of our times,” having allocated an inadequate amount of resources toward engaging with Black, indigenous, Latinx, queer, and disabled poets. It added that more equal distribution of those resources could go toward boosting local programming, greater contributions to organizations that support communities of color, and “deeper partnerships with spaces that support artists from marginalized communities.”
Signatories included more than 1,800 people, including 27 former Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellows, including Ocean Vuong, Kaveh Akbar, Fatimah Asghar, Eve L. Ewing, Franny Choi, and Danez Smith.
A statement from organizers today said they “are glad to hear this momentous news and we look forward to seeing how the Foundation responds to our remaining demands in coming days,” according to The New York Times.