Calls for literary organizations and individuals flush with money to support individuals suffering lost jobs and income from the coronavirus crisis are growing. A new one is a Change.org petition which has garnered nearly 1,500 signatures asking the Poetry Foundation to dip into its deep pockets—it holds in excess of $250 million in assets—to support poets and independent publishers who are struggling economically because of the pandemic.
"With their uniquely deep pockets, it would be amazing to see the Foundation step up with innovative initiatives to support at risk writers in this difficult time," says the petition. It notes, "The Foundation has already signal boosted Pen America's Writer's Relief Fund. We'd like to see them go further."
The Poetry Foundation was established after a 2002 windfall when Ruth Lilly, an heir to a fortune built by pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, donated $200 million to Poetry magazine. The Foundation's guidelines mandates that the organization never spend more than 5% annually of the total market value of the endowment in a given year.
With the recent stock market crash, the Foundation's capital is likely to have shrunk somewhat. Nevertheless, the petition is asking the Foundation to spend $5 million, which it says "could meaningfully support the livelihoods of hundreds of writers and literary workers who need it most."
As of Wednesday morning, the petition had nearly reached its goal of 1,500 signatures.